Seeing as the Hex Hatch is just a few weeks away, I thought it would be good time to share the three most useful tips I have learned over the years about tying Hexagenia patterns. These patterns should, above all else, be fun to tie for fly fisherman. They are not complex and really no one is going to get a good look at them since flies hatch in the dark and the fishing of these flies occurs at night.
Go Big or Go Home
To tie great hex flies, first and foremost think about size. The real Hexagenia Limbata range in size from 1.5 to 2.5 inches and hatch off the lakes and rivers in huge numbers. If you want to compete for a fish's attention, your fly is going to have to stand out. All the hex patterns I tie are on size 2 or 4 streamer hooks with large hook gapes. The body length alone is 2.5 inches and with the split tail measuring around 3 inches. I want my flies to make an impression when they hit the water with a loud plop and cue the fish into where my fly is at. You have to remember that the hex hatch is at night so anything you can do to help the trout locate and favor your pattern, the better off you are.
Go Light on Colors (for Your Own Good)
Secondly, you should think about the color of the flies you tie. I know I have said the hex hatch takes place in the dark, but I am not talking about color for the fish's sake but rather yours! Light colored flies are going to be easier to pick out on the water's surface in low light and a lot easier to see if you have to turn on your headlamp. One of the keys to fishing the hatch at night is that the better you can see your fly on the water, the better chance you will have to catch fish. As you stand on the bank or sit in your canoe, you will hear many fish feeding and even see the rings from where they are breaking the surface. In this instance, finding feeding fish is the easy part and placing your fly in the feeding lane is what can be difficult. The easier and faster you can pick your fly out on the water the better you can mend your line to get the fly into the fishes feeding lane.
Go With Synthetic Material to Last Longer
Lastly substituting synthetics like foam, antron and rubber into the hex fly patterns you intend on tying will make your patterns float higher and last longer than you ever thought possible. The hatch is known for big fish, and these hungry predators punish flies. You want a pattern that will hold up to multiple strikes and keep floating no matter how many times it gets drowned by a big fish. While natural fibers in most cases look much more realistic than synthetics, this is the one case when you simply are looking for performance not aesthetics. Another point to note about synthetics is that they add the appearance of bulk to a fly while not adding actual weight, making casting and presenting these flies relatively easy for the large size.
Try a few of these tips as you prepare your hex patterns for this year's upcoming hatch. The nights will be hot, the fish will be active and hopefully your fly will be on the menu.