The Sweet of the Year
I'm really not sure who coined the phrase "the sweet of the year,"
but here in central Pennsylvania, the month of May is it. The month
starts as April's biggest hatch, the Hendricksons, is coming to a
close. The early season mayfly hatches are over and the first hatch
of note is a green caddis. If May were March we would say it comes
in like a lamb. But by this time of year, the fish are definitely
looking up and though it's often more productive to fish caddis
hatches subsurface, the splashy rises of the trout as they chase
the naturals foreshadow the great dryfly fishing soon to come.
By Dave Pearson, PA
The inaptly named March Brown (it does not hatch in March, nor is
it brown) first appears about May 12th – plus or minus a week or so,
depending on the overall temperature of the year thus far. The
blooms of the Redbud and the Virginia Bluebells predict the
appearance of the March Brown with much greater accuracy than
I love the March Brown hatch. The bugs are big and floppy. They
hatch sporadically throughout the day – a couple here and a few
there – so the trout will take them all day long. And they are
large enough to move some of the larger fish in the water. In
the evening, the spinners will gather over the slower riffles,
or at the heads of pools and will almost always face downstream.
I assume these are the males waiting for the females, but I don't
know this for certain. When the females arrive, the flies will
get closer and closer to the water, then, just at dark, they all
disappear! And this goes on night after night. It's as if the
spinners fall, but they never land!
There are a couple of mysteries here. First, how do all the March
Brown spinners find each other? They hatch higgledy-piggledy all
day long, but come evening they travel from the corners of the
stream to find one another in great numbers. How do they know
where to go? Second, when and where do the spinners actually fall?
I have no answer to the first question; it remains a mystery to me.
But I think I've unraveled the second. Consider how the March Brown
hatches – in onesies and twosies all over the stream. It stands to
reason that the eggs were deposited all over the stream, and not at
the head of a riffle or the head of some pool, en masse. If there
were one big spinnerfall, then the bugs would hatch in one place...
as Sulphurs or many caddis do.
Rather, I think they deposit their eggs as they hatch – all over the
stream, a few here and a few there. The only evidence I can offer in
support of this claim is that I've seen this behavior in the morning,
after the sun has hit the water and ending at about nine o'clock. The
female lay eggs a few at a time in the first half of the morning, then
they die and fall on the water a couple at a time, here and there, all
over the stream. I know I've had great success with a March Brown
spinner imitation the first half of many May mornings. Many days it's
my "go to" fly if the fish aren't showing a marked preference for
something else. So I can use both the dun and the spinner as a searching
pattern for the next few weeks and have great success.
The Trillium and Iris bloom, the Sulphurs and Light Cahills are hatching.
And when you see the pink lady's slipper, the Green Drake makes its
appearance. In the last week of May, it is possible to see March Browns,
Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Green Drakes, Slate Drakes, Blue-winged Olives,
assorted caddis and a couple of different crane flies. The insects are
hatching and the trout are gorging.
At least once a year, my good friend Dr. Todd makes room in his busy
schedule for a full day of fishing with me on central Pa. waters. Some
years we do better than others and every year we vow to do it more often.
I really wanted this year to be something special. Todd's wife, Emily,
had placed an order with Pete Lawrence for a bamboo fly rod. It was a
Hanukah present. And it was a surprise. And Todd was delighted.
Todd arrived at my door the evening of May 18th. We fished the next day
from dawn till dinner. The first fish Todd brought to hand was a 14" brown
trout. It was a good thing too! Pete tells me if the first fish you catch
on a bamboo trout rod is a non-trout, you are required to break the rod!
I think he is joking. ~ Dave - (black gnat)
Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his
loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo.
His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar
for a living. You may contact Dave at:
Hemlock Headwaters Archives