Clear, concise, hatch-matching knowledge.
We’re moving into big-time hatch season in the northern Rockies and that means newish anglers could soon be perplexed by emergences of Baetis, Callibaetis, caddis and pale morning duns. After that it’s the salmonfly parade, along with smatterings of golden stones, yellow sallies, green and brown drakes, and then Tricos, red quills, fall caddis, Hecuba and midges.
Some people regard those hatches, which often overlap on the stream, as a bummer—too hard to figure out. Don’t know which stage of which insect the trout are keyed-in on. But others, meaning the dedicated among us, wouldn’t trade the difficult scenarios for a private pond full of stocked five-pounders. We understand that hatch-matching and challenge are what keep us in the game, make us lifelong fly fishers who won’t run out of intrigue no matter how long we live.
Dave Hughes is one of those guys and saying that my copy of his book, Western Streamside Guide is well used is an understatement. I’ve packed this guide across thousands and thousands of lonely road miles and even taken it on the stream with me, tucked in a vest, back in the days when I actually wore a vest. This is a learner’s book, a tool to educated exploration and contentment on the stream.
I remember when I got into fly fishing and how intimidating it was to hear about a particular hatch and try to understand which two or three patterns I might need when encountering a bin full of hundreds of fly patterns. And I remember shop owners and their employees rattling through some complicated scenario that I never seemed to grasp. I’d say, “Well, maybe I’ll just buy a couple Royal Wulffs and Parachute Adams’ and call it good.”
It wasn’t any better when I got to the stream. I didn’t kow what was going on or how to read a hatch and match its particular stages. If I wasn’t throwing a Parachute Adams during an emergence I was throwing a oversized Hares-Ear during a spinnerfall. I see why some people quit the fly-fishing game before the sport ever sinks its teeth into them.
So, what to do? Fortunately, when I was in late high school or early college, my mother bought me a copy of Dave Hughes’ Western Streamside Guide. My mother was good like that, always buying fly-fishing books for me when I couldn’t afford much more than food. I still have that copy of Western Streamside Guide and was looking at it yesterday and thought, I should recommend it to all anglers, and especially those who are getting into the sport. What I like about the book is that it is not intimidating and it offers great information from a legend in fly fishing, presented in an easy to read and interesting form, straightforward without the technical jargon that so many hatch-matching books make us endure.
Hughes presents pertinent information in narrative form, starting most chapters with a story about fishing and how he recognized a hatch and proceeded to match it. Along the way, he catches quite a few fish, but Hughes is modest—there are places in the book where he admits he doesn’t know what he was doing as anglers around him, whether friends or strangers, catch fish like crazy. Those people offer suggestions and in some cases actual fly patterns and Hughes takes it from there. Wrapped in the narrative is clear information on which season and what type of water to look for particular hatches, what type of water to concentrate fishing efforts on, when to fish nymphs, emergers, dries and spinners, and when to throw in the towel and say, “It’s all over baby.” In addition, there are photos of the real insect and its imitation (with recipes to tie those imitations).
I packed this book in my gear duffel for years as I traveled and chased hatches in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest and it served me wonderfully. And I still find the book, at least that half of the book I can locate, because long ago it separated into two halves, to be great reference prior to hitting the stream with a particular hatch on my mind. The book is softbound, 4X8 inches and easily carried onto the stream if needed for a quick reference. Again, the stories are fun to read, they get you fired-up, and they send you to the river with a level of confidence—can’t ask for more than that. —Greg Thomas