Michigan Hex Bust

I recently had the opportunity to head up to Northern Michigan for the fabled Hex (hexagenia limbata) hatch which happens around the end of June.  Hex’s are, as far as I know, the largest of the Mayfly species.  Their range is all across the continental U.S. but historically they are known for huge hatches and amazing trout action in Wisconsin and Michigan1.  For many years I have heard stories of the “unbelievable” Hex hatch in northern Michigan.  Fishing at night with large mayfly imitations, some three and four inches long,  to rising fish and ‘plopping’ your fly down where you think the fish might be.  If all goes well you hear a big SSSLLLUURRRPPP (I think it has also been described as the sound of a toilet flushing) and you have a large trout on your hands.  Apparently, the Hex hatch brings out the big ones.



I contacted a friend who has a cabin on the Au Sable river outside of Grayling and made plans to be there at the end of the month (June).  However, upon arrival I was informed that just two weeks prior they had frost and they have had so much ran that until a few days ago you could not even wade the river.  So, things did not look good for the Hex hatch.  Now, I could draw this story out and make you believe that the last hour on the last night the magic happened and fish were leaping out of the water after Hex flies and I caught the biggest Brown Trout of my life… but that would be bad of me.  The reality is, no Hex love on this trip.  We did see a couple on the last night and the report I received once I got home was there more were showing up so who knows.  Another age old story of “the hatch started right after you left”, “the fish ran in right after you left” and “everything turned on right after you left”.


However, not all was lost.  The first night we did have some Isonychia (Iso’s) come off but no rising fish.  We even saw a few Brown Drakes hanging around.  With the recent weather, and rain we had the first night and day of my trip, the fish were not rising to anything.  We swung some streamers but no luck.  The second day we decided to hit a near by lake and ended up having a pretty good day despite 15mph winds.  We ended up finding some willing fish over fallen timber close to shore in calmer waters.  A Muddler minnow and Rubber Legged Dragon were the hot flies.  We caught a large number of Smallmouth Bass with the biggest being about 14 inches and only a few Largemouth Bass, again the biggest being about 14 – 15 inches.  However, even the many 10 inch Smallies put a nice bend in the rod.  Throw in a heaping helping of Bluegill and Pumpkin Seed and even a nice Perch and it ended up a nice day on the water.


Our last day saw us floating the Au Sable from Mio to Comins Flats.  The thought was that in early spring they stock this section and we might be able to pick off a few stockers and have some trout to show for the rip.  No such luck, we threw dries, we threw streamers and we threw nymphs and no trout love.  The water did not seem too high and it was not as stained as many sections above Mio dam so we were stumped.  I did stop by Gate’s Au Sable Lodge on the way out of town and spoke with Josh Greenberg about that section and he said the water is too warm.  Turns out the water discharged from Mio Pond come over the dam and not from down deep.  Thus lots of warm water flushing down with all of the rain.

All in all a great get away (and the price was right) visiting with old and good friends.  For now, I can only dream of the day when the stars come together and I am there at the right time and have the right fly and set it down in front of the right fish.  Then I will know what all the excitement is about when it come to Hexagenia limbata.  The reality is, much of our time on earth is spent dreaming of fishing, why should the Hex hatch be any different?

I have yet to hear back from my sources about the Hex hatch.  I can only guess it is because the flies are hatching and he is too busy catching fish in the Hex frenzy to think about anything else!

2 thoughts on “Michigan Hex Bust

    • Thanks Dean. I heard from my sources yesterday (July 1st) and they said it could be on for tonight. I’ll see if I can get some photos from them.

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