On my most recent fly fishing trip up through Iowa, Wisconsin, Canada and both upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan…the idea of matching the hatch became a factor that I just couldn’t ignore. Most often we associate the idea of “match the hatch” with the dry fly guys…possibly even those sub-surface specialist of the nymphing world…but too often the streamer or meat chuckers tend to forget how important it is to get as close as possible.
While fishing the Namekagon River west of Hayward, Wisconsin I landed a relatively small smallie of about 13 inches and while the fish was about halfway back I saw it lurch and spit up a frog that was a good 4-5 inches in length. In fact when my video from this trip (on the 4th of July) makes it on my website, you will be able to see this scene for yourself…I continued to strip in the smallie while watching the frog-I was stunned that it made it back to shore from 20 feet out…all while living in shark infested waters (smallies, pike and musky reside in the river). This smallish fish had just eaten a large frog and then by instinct decided it had to have the baitfish pattern that I was offering up as well. I didn’t switch to a frog pattern because my baitfish was killing it on the day…but it would have been the perfect time to do so and match the hatch.
A few days later while in Canada I was fishing a small lake…once again for smallmouth and landed a fish of about 12 inches on my 2 weight system; as I was stripping in this chubby fish…and it was giving me full battle on my light rig…I saw it belch up a small perch. I landed the fish and quickly nabbed the previous meal and the photos attached show that it was quite another good match for the hatch as this small pattern I had tied to flow with my 2 weight was exactly the same length as the perch…and the eyes matched almost perfectly. While I didn’t land any monsters on the night I did catch smallie after smallie and had a blast doing so on the light equipment. In fact before I released the above mentioned smallmouth it burped up one smaller perch and you can also see that in one of the attached photos. Wow…2 pretty good sized baitfish in its gullet and it was still ready to eat more!Lastly, a couple of springs past I stripped in a 14 inch small creek smallmouth and as I did I saw a very small, light colored minnow get burped up. Once again I nabbed the previous meal and laid it right by my small fly patch…bingo, I had a cream colored trout candy that was simply a perfect match. While I wish I had the next 15 minutes on video…please trust me that on the next 10 casts I landed 9 smallies; the smallest was 12 inches and the largest was 16. I made a cast upstream, above their hole, and simply allowed the pattern to dead drift down into the pool…it was nothing short of amazing and proved to me that if we streamer guys can get close…it will be pretty good, if however we get exact…watch out!
So, the next time you are out chuckin’ meat for one of your favorite species…think like the fish. What would or might it be eating and make sure you have a wide variety along with you…that is why if you ever run into me and see my lanyard, well let’s just say that it looks like I am wearing a Christmas wreath around my neck because needing a fly and not having it is bad, very bad. Don’t be bad…be good and match the hatch.