There are few things more rewarding than seeing a fish take your dry fly as it skates across the surface of the water. Laying down that perfect cast and watching in anticipation as your dry fly makes its way down the stream is a feeling beyond compare. While there does not need to be any particular bug hatch going off to take a fish on top, hatches drastically improve your odds of catching that highly coveted “dry fly fish”. And just like the fish that thrive off them, not all hatches are created equally. Some insect hatches only come around once a year, and while there’s always fun to be had fishing topwater on your local creek, there are certain times in an angler’s career where an explosion of wings and casings leave you in awe of life’s sheer magnitude. These natural events draw anglers from around the world to fish them and are considered by some to be milestones in one’s fly-fishing journey. Below are five hatches you must fish before you die.

1. The Salmon Fly Hatch

Hanfuls of hatching Salmonflies on the Madison
Photo Courtesy of Sunrise Fly Shop

Few things compare to the famous Salmonfly hatch. As Montana’s most notable hatch, these bugs begin their life cycles as small nymphs which eventually rise in the water column, crawl onto the banks, and begin hatching. Salmonflies have been seen to hatch as early as the last week in May, but are most abundant from late June to early July on the Madison River. Many consider the Salmonfly hatch on the Madison to be some of the most productive fishing throughout the whole year. In fact, many anglers travel to Monatan from across the country just to fish this hatch. When you combine heavy tippets, big foam flies, and hungry Brown Trout, who wouldn’t want to visit the Madison!

2. The Green Drake Hatch

Green Drake on a rod grip
Photo Courtesy of Gregory Allen Hoover

The Green Drake hatch is one of the most prominent mayfly hatches across the entire East Coast. While the Green Drake hatches in many different states, they are typically seen in larger numbers throughout the great state of Pennsylvania from June to early July. Besides the dark and light greens found on the insect,  this mayfly differs from the rest due to their incredible size. This hatch allows the angler to use large, bushy dry flies that are easy to see even from far away. Combine this with a smaller green nymph dropped off the back, and you’ve got a presentation that even the pickiest trout can’t resist. The Green Drake typically hatches just before dusk, but can often hatch sporadically during cool afternoons. Well, what are you waiting for? Go get em!

3. The Cicada Hatch

ciccada fly
Image courtesy of Fly Fish Food

Many Easterners consider the Cicada hatch to be one of their most memorable hatches. Not only does this hatch occur every 17 years, but it also allows anglers on the East Coast to get a taste of what it is like to throw big bugs to ravenous fish, much like some of the best West Coast fishing. These bugs spend the majority of their lives living underground and emerge only when the soil reaches approximately 64 degrees. Following their emergence, the Cicadas fly to cover, mate, and eventually drop to the water’s surface where they die. It is not long before the fish pick up on this and when they do, it’s game on. So, stock up on tippet and tie up your Cicada flies, or a Chubby Chernobyls because the next emergence is set to occur this summer!

4. The Hexagenia Hatch

lots of bugs
Image courtesy of Brian Tesch on CWTU

The Hex hatch is a mayfly hatch well-known for fishing big flies to hungry fish in complete darkness. Similar to the Green Drake, these mayflies appear in large sizes and tend to emerge during the night. This hatch draws anglers from near and far to the Midwest but is seen most abundantly on Michigan’s Ausable River. Die-hard anglers consider this hatch a tradition and plan annual trips around it. The hatch begins in early June but hits its peak between late June and early July.

5. Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch

The Mothers Day Caddis Hatch is synonymous with springtime in the Rocky Mountains. Often times it is the first solid dry fly hatch of the year before the higher flows of spring runoff begin to swell. Typically these bugs start showing themselves around mid-April and the hatch can last weeks at a time as it slowly progresses upriver. This is one of those hatches that will make anglers play hooky from work or book last-minute flights to catch it at its peak. Some prefer to cash in on the subsurface chaos while others try to ride the bleeding edge to watch trout aggressively chase down a skated caddis skittering across the riffle.

Original Article by Flylords Content Team Member, Owen Rossi. Additions by Dan Zazworsky.

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