The Hexagenia mayfly is a favorite of trout, a favorite of fly anglers, and a potential game changer for Lake Davis.
"You do not cease to fish because you get old, you get old because you cease to fish!"
I normally try to cover several of the local hot fishing spots in this column. But this week I am only going to focus on one. This column is about a special fishery and the news is so good, it deserves all the attention.
A couple weeks ago I said the big news on the local fishing scene was the comeback of Lake Davis. It turns out the news is even better than I thought. Much better.
The Lake Davis saga started several years ago when some genius thought they could improve the fishery by introducing a new species to the lake; Northern pike.
Northern pike are voracious predators that fed aggressively on Lake Davis trout posing a serious threat to one of the best trophy trout lakes in the state. If the pike escaped the confines of the lake, as fish often do, they would threaten fisheries and the ecological balance all the way to the Sacramento River Delta.
Lake Davis was poisoned to remove the pike.
The controversial project temporarily destroyed the trophy trout fishery at Lake Davis and did serious damage to the local tourist dependent economy.
For the past few years the fishery has been coming back little by little.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife planted plenty of rainbow trout. But only Mother Nature could bring back the complex web of aquatic life necessary to support the fishery that had once made Lake Davis such a special place.
This year Lake Davis has finally started to look like the Lake Davis of previous years.
And then something amazing happened.
Lake Davis now appears to have the beginnings of a healthy population of Hexagenia mayflies.
Hexagenia were not known to inhabit Lake Davis until this year.
Fall River and Lake Almanor are the most famous trout fisheries in California where the Hexagenia mayfly resides. Less well known populations of Hexagenia mayflies are found in Goodrich Creek, Butt Lake and Antelope Lake.
Wherever the Hexagenia are found, the trout grow large. For fly anglers, the Hexagenia hatch is an event not to be missed.
So why is this a big deal?
Well, if you are a trout, (yes, I know that very few trout actually read this column) the Hexagenia are delicious plump protein bombs. The hex hatch quickly becomes your favorite restaurant.
As the inch-and-a-half long bugs emerge from the muddy substrate and swim towards the lake surface they are like prime rib for the taking.
When the hex reach the surface they struggle to emerge from their nymphal shuck, dry their new adult wings and take flight. In the process they make quite a commotion on the surface of the water telegraphing their delicious vulnerability to the waiting fish.
It is like the best dinner bell of the year if you happen to be a trout.
So what does it mean for the angler? If you are a fly angler, I don’t need to tell you that there is no fly hatch that brings more large hungry trout to the surface. If you enjoy big bruising trout slamming your dry fly, this is your opportunity.
Before the adult fly hatch occurs just before dark, the nymphs begin emerging from the muddy substrate and rising towards the surface providing an exciting evening fishing opportunity.
Even if you don’t fly fish this is still great news. Crickets are a decent imitation of the nymph for the bait dunker. And if you never fish the hex hatch, the trout at Davis will be even bigger and fatter because they have one more outstanding source of food.
For the fly angler, just imagine what Davis has to offer this time of year. You can fish the very popular blood midge hatch in the morning. In the afternoon, the damselfly hatch provide some outstanding fishing.
If these hatches are on the slim side, there is always the Calibaetis mayfly.
Then in the evening, there is the hex hatch. It just doesn’t get any better than that for the fly fisher.
A lake with a couple of these fly hatches at the same time would be a real attraction for fly anglers. But with all of these hatches going on at the same time, Lake Davis is sure to be one of the very best angling destinations in the west.
With a healthy population of rainbow trout and such a combination of primo insect hatches all happening at the same time, it is very difficult to imagine a place that comes closer to heaven for the fly angler.
This is great news for the trout, the angler, and the local economy. All compliments of Mother Nature (and probably a good north wind blowing off of Antelope Lake.)