GRAYLING — The fish was feeding about three or four rod lengths away off the port side of the drift boat Chris Lessway had anchored in the middle of the Au Sable River. I gave it a cast, drifted, picked up, cast it again, a couple of inches further, drifted, and then cast it again.
Third time’s a charm. I heard the fish slurp, gave the line a quick strip, and shot the rod tip skyward. Gotcha.
It was a good fish. I held the rod tip high, picked up the slack, and got the line on the reel. It was only a matter of time before I brought it upside the boat and Lessway netted it. It was a nice brown, about 19 inches, the best I’ve caught so far this season.
It was our second fish of the night, Barney Wong, one of Lessway’s fishing buddies, put an 18-incher into the boat just a short while earlier. That fish had started feeding just before dark and Wong fished to it for a while with an Isonychia pattern — we could see Isos flying upstream in the dusk — before with no success. But once it was dark, he switched to a Hex pattern and got the fish to go on his second cast with the bigger fly.
Ah, the Hex hatch. When everything’s right with the world, eh?
“It’s a zoo sometimes,” said Lessway, who works out of Fuller’s North Branch Outing Club on the North Branch of this famed river a lot, but switches over the main stream when the Hex hatch is happening. “It’s big bugs and it brings out big fish. And it brings out the hard-core, die-hard anglers.
“Hex fishing is one of the best opportunities to get your trophy brown for the year. Those big fish seem to let down their guard after dark. “