Hex - First Time
A few years ago I read a story about Hex fishing behind a particular drive-in movie theater up north. I still think about this story every time we pass by the place. So the other night we were up north at Brigid's parents for the 4th of July holiday and decided to take the kids to see a movie. With a little time to spare before dark, we stopped at a road crossing to do a some recon. I made my way to the river and almost immediately I saw a few bugs. I ran back to the van and asked Brigid to give me a little time on the water, grabbed my rod and headed back out. Right as dark set in, I ended up stumbling upon a huge spinner fall of bugs . First cast and a big dude flushed the toilet on me, but nothing stuck. With the splashes of fish crushing the surface all around me and bugs filling the air, I started casting pretty hectically. Every few drifts I was getting some serious tugs, taking my fly underwater but nothing was sticking. After fishing longer than I should have with Brigid and the kids in the car, I reeled it in and head back up the bank. Right away I saw my problem. I'd tied the loop on my fly so big that it had fouled around the bend of the hook, essentially making the contact point with leader the rear end of the fly. Come to find out, I only really have confidence in one knot for big fish - a non-slip mono loop. Because of this mess, any sort of hook set would just be yanking the fly directly out of a fishes mouth - suck!
The next day I had that fishy feeling all day long. I nervously arrived back at the river about an hour before dusk. Once I got down to the water, I rigged up, sharpened my hooks and mentally mapped out the piece of river I'd be fishing - log jams, bushes, shallow bank (a good landing spot), deep slots. I set up all my back-casting options for when the fly got too water logged from my single-handed snap-t. I made a few practice casts and drifts. Rather than moving around a bunch and risk spooking fish, I took up position and waited like Qui-Gon Jinn during the pauses in his lightsaber battle with Darth Maul.
Eventually dark came and so did the bugs. There were a lot less bugs than the night before, but it was still game on. It's amazing how far you can cast an 8-weight bass line on a 4-weight rod and I sent a few casts flying towards some of the rises that I saw - no takers. I was standing pretty close to where Walter had flushed on me the day before. Then there was a splash about 10 feet straight across the river from my knees, was he was back? I instinctively dropped my fly into position using my hybrid high-stick dry fly dead drift approach that necessity had evolved a few weeks back while fishing the nighttime Gray Drakes on the Muskegon. Again, I swing streamers I'm not much of a dry fly guy. The fly drifted into place and smash he took the fly and pulled it back underwater with him. Then in a Matrix zen type moment that seemed to last a really long time, I set the hook and....tug! The line went tight, we had made contact. This guy pulled HARD! Right away I thought Steelhead - no way this was a brown. I pulled him away from where I remembered the logs being and he yanked back. We danced like this for a few minutes. I got him in close and scooped him. A Coho! Makes sense based on where I was fishing, but he was a few months earlier than I would have expected - but what do I know. He was bright chrome and likely fresh in from the lake. Did he have the hex hatch marked on his calendar from when he was a fingerling? In any case, he came in hot. I got him near shore snapped a few photos the best I could in the dark and set him back in the water. He was still fired up and took off none the worse for wear.
I knew Brigid needed me back at her parents place, she was solo with the kids. I launched a few more casts as I walked out of the river and then headed back up the bank towards the road.