Yes, I have done this before, sort of, both for Wisconsin and for the Driftless. My goal with this post is to put a bunch of information all in one place that is more specific to the Spring which I am calling April, May, and the first half of June. As we have seen, every year is different weather-wise. This year, we were way behind then we hit the 90's for a half a week and we are all caught up, all at once, it seems. But before we get there, my thoughts were to write a bit about why a blog - what does - what should - a blog offer that other mediums do not?
First, Why a Blog?
Trust me, I have asked myself the same question from time to time. After all, blogs are outdated and nobody reads anymore, do they? Based on my "reads", this is often true - not that I do it for the clicks. There are so many other effective modes of communication these days - mainly video. I watch the heck out of YouTube and it is a great platform for instructional fly fishing and fly tying. This blog, like so many things - new pets, sourdough starters, new fly anglers and tyers, blog readers (?), and probably more than a few children - was born out of COVID pandemic boredom.
Blogs are but one of many means of communication, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Blogs are an effective means of communication and they have some pretty significant advantages over other means of communication - and other means of communications have significant advantages over blogs. Videos are great - and I watch a lot of fly tying and some fly fishing videos - but it is easy to watch videos passively and not really gain much more than a bit of entertainment from watching them. Thus videos are often not always great for learning because most of us do not learn passively. If we did, we would be a lot smarter from the many hours of watching the old "the boob tube". The written word allows you to come back to it again and again. Can't remember what I wrote about the 5 hatches for the Driftless or my selection of flies for the Driftless, you can go look at them again and spend as much or as little time as you like look through those posts. As a reference, videos are more cumbersome and less effective.
Blogs also allow for a mix of media all in one place. This is probably how a blog or any online article is most effective - someone has done the research for you and hopefully put it all in one easy to access place. That is my goal with this post on spring hatches.
Wisconsin Spring Hatches
I am going to define spring a something pretty similar to meteorological spring (March through May) but with a bit of a fly fishing hatch twist. For the person chasing hatches, mid-March is a good starting point and most of our better hatches start to "peter out" around the middle of June. Yes, there are some good midge, stonefly, and some years, blue-winged olive hatches prior to mid-March but honestly, mid-April is when things tend to really pick up.
I could write a bunch about hatches but I did the research for a Coulee Region Trout Unlimited talk for our April membership meeting and you can watch below on your own.
There is a lot of information in that video - much of it is probably correct (but not all, I am sure). And I think it worked pretty well but I question how much one can imbibe in one sitting and how much the viewer can really take from a 45 minute long video. It, I hope, is quite informative but there are maybe better ways to present the same information to make it a better reference. Maybe a picture is worth a 1,000 words - and maybe 10 or so minutes of video?
To summarize, April starts with the Grannoms, probably the best hatch in the Driftless Area and really much of Wisconsin. On a good year, you might hit the Hendricksons (Ephemerella subvaria) but in all honesty, I have not found a good hatch in the Driftless in some years. It seems to be part of the decline myself and others have witnessed. Hendricksons are quite sensitive to pollution, organic pollution in particular. BWOs (mostly Baetis spp. but their taxonomy is a little "messy") are a dependable hatch, particularly on cloudy days. And maybe the most overlooked of the hatches are that of trout fry from their redds. Without question, trout will "eat their own" and this can be a great time of the year to catch some cannibal trout.
To dig a little deeper into the Grannom (Brachycentrus spp.) hatch, Tom Lager provided a fantastic presentation on the hatch focused on Central Wisconsin but the information pertains to the Driftless and elsewhere.
Tom's video is quite excellent and certainly digs a lot deeper than my presentation - but that of course, was the goal of his presentation, to attack a single hatch.
Hatches are generally a successional process; as stream temperatures warm, different bugs start to hatch and individual hatches move up and down river depending upon the thermal profile of the river. As we move into May, at least in most years, the Grannoms fade out and other hatches take over. This year (2022) has been an interesting anomaly due to the cool and wet spring followed by a few days of 90+ degree days caught us up in a hurry.
May brings a diversity of hatches - the craneflies, sulphurs, Hydropsyche caddis, and more. The sulphurs (Ephemerella dorothea and E. invaria) were once the best hatch in the Driftless but in recent years, craneflies have become much more numerous and dependable. Again, I do not know that we can pinpoint a particular cause of their decline but it has been documented by many other anglers, particularly in southern Wisconsin. Maybe the most consistent hatch are the net spinning Hydropsyche caddis. I encounter them most evenings from about the first week or two in May often through June.
June hatches are typically more weather dependent than the others - which are also quite dependent upon the weather. But June can be very "May-like" or it can be very "summer-like" as we saw last June when a early June heat wave basically moved us to summer in a hurry. Last June we went from pretty reasonable water temperatures to having most of the larger streams getting too warm in only a few days. It is not just the high, hot sun that does it but the lack of cool evenings and last June was a "doozy".
In a good June, you can expect the hatches that began in May to carry over to at least the first week, sometimes two, of June. Travel further north and you can get into some of the best mayfly hatches Wisconsin has to offer: Brown Drake - Ephemera simulans and the Hex (Hexagenia limbata) hatches. The Brown Drakes hatch is short-lived and typically around the 10th of June, give or take a week most years. The Hex hatch in my experience is a little more variable and may begin in the last week or even two of June or may wait until July to begin hatching in earnest.
Hopefully this post was a good example of the flexibility and utility of a blog. Sometimes it is just my semi-random thoughts and other times, hopefully much more coherent and thought-out posts. This one straddles the line between both, maybe.
As for the hatches of spring, the post was hopefully pretty succinct in covering each one and providing links to other sources of information. Sometimes I feel I am like the website, "Let me Google that for You" but at the same time, that is one of the things that a blog post can do, assemble a diversity of sources into a nice and tidy package.
Wisconsin Hatch Charts
Driftless Wisconsin Hatch Chart (one I did many years ago; Silver Doctor Fly Fishing)