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Correctly Matching the Hatch
Class Code: 3021
Professor: Steve Maslar
Skill Level: Advanced
Learn how to match the hatch, how to correctly use hatch charts, and how to distinguish perfect flies from generic flies. Learn how to avoid bad presentations and therefore increase the odds of catching trout.
If you prefer a video format, please see our video the bottom of this page.
First of all, you will need to get a good hatch chart to learn how to match the hatch. You will need a hatch chart specific to the stream/area you want to fish. Most hatch charts are not specific enough to the local areas. For example, there are many differences between the insect populations in the Western USA vs. the insect populations in the Eastern USA. Also, often they are not made from the proper stream samplings of the insects in the stream. As such, hatch charts are generic and thoughtlessly created., so don’t use them. Check out our hatch charts page for more info.
Learn how to use the hatch chart properly keeping in mind that the phrase “hatch chart” is a misnomer. The hatch chart actually tells when the insects fly away from the water as adults, not when the eggs of the insects actually hatch. For example, when you see that a fly should “hatch” at a certain time, keep in mind that you are actually seeing when the fly should change from a nymph to an adult. In other words, fish with a fly imitating the nymph stage of that insect in the couple of weeks immediately before the time of the “hatch” shown on the chart, and fish a fly imitating the adult stage (i.e. a dry fly) of the same insect at the time of the “hatch.” Also, you may want to fish a dry fly of the insects "hatching" now, with a nymph dropper of the insects that will be "hatching" in the near future.
Note that the trout only come into contact with the adult stage of the flies (imitated by a dry fly) for a very brief period of time, or not at all. It is important to realize that the trout will have a longer period of time to encounter the nymph stage of the insects. Therefore, learn the life cycle of the insect that you are trying to imitate. By doing this you will have a much longer time to match the hatch and you will be more precise in your presentations, and this will increase your odds of catching a trout.
Also, when using the hatch charts, please understand that the hatch chart may need to shift a little one way or the other, based on the year’s weather. A shift of several days in the hatch season may affect your success if you are not aware of it, so be mindful of the weather in your area.
Be careful to learn the habits of the most common insects in their various stages. For example, some insects hatch in the afternoon or at night; therefore, you don’t need to fish them during the early part of the day. Another example is that some species of nymphs are clinger nymphs, and as such, they can hold fast to rocks in swift water. This means that the trout would normally find them in swift water. Other species of nymphs are only found in calm water; therefore, you would not fish them in swift water. For information on the various insects, visit our flies section in our store.
Always use the most imitative flies. Sure, a generic fly may work just fine (or so you think) sometimes (especially in swift water, where the trout don’t get a chance to inspect the fly closely), but overall you will likely catch more fish from well-tied flies that closely match specific insects in the stream. This is why we offer the Perfect Fly brand of trout flies. Think of it as if you’re going to a restaurant and placing an order. When your food arrives, it looks like it was made last week. Depending on your mood (and/or your time pressure), you may eat it, or you may refuse it and look for something better. Furthermore, we offer great information on each of the insects and their respective flies, so that you will fish them appropriately and catch more trout.
Finally, take a stream sampling yourself, and/or pump a trout’s stomach to find the actual insects common in the stream that day. Take particular note of the stage of development, the size and the color of the insects that the trout has consumed. Then, look through your fly box, and find the one that most closely resembles those flies.
For more information the student is referred to the following:
Our podcast entitled Why Use Perfect Flies.
The student is urged to read a great blog right here on Trout University named "Identifying Aquatic Insects and Selecting the Correct Fly".