This is a hard hatch to describe. They are all spiny crawlers, clumsy
swimmers all. There are at least six different species that fall under
this common name heading. I am only familiar with three of the eastern
hatches and about five days of the Western Pale Morning Dun hatch
abbreviated by PMD (probably Ephemerella inermis) in Alberta
I had arrived in Alberta during one of the worst springs in history
and just did without. Even the bathrooms were in flood. A fly shop
owner and author of a book on fishing the Bow River put me on to
a stream way north. I faced a narrow stream I could throw my rod
across that had a nasty silt bottom. I had to wade from one piece of
sunken brush to the next. Without the sunken brush I would still be
there. I fished a size 18 parachute on a Sage 2 wt with a 12 ft 6x
leader. Day after day, big fish up close and ugly, most of which my
2 wt and 6x leader couldn't handle. I will never forget that PMD hatch.
A cloudy week that let me fish the dun all day long, on a small,
narrow stream that wouldn't support any other presentation. Such
is the limit of my experience with the Western PMD.
I live in the East and most of my experience is in Michigan on the
Au Sable river. Every year the Sulphur hatch would stretch from
late May on into late June or early July. I will never forget those
times the sun peaked through and I could spot the duns on the river
thirty yards away by the reflection of the sun on their wings. Little
mirrors drifting leisurely down my river. That's why I tie the dun's
wings high with bright antron fibers.
Here in the East the Sulphurs are generally composed of three species;
Ephemerella invaria Walker, Ephemerella rotunda Morgan, (The
Light Hendrickson), both of which are known as the Sulphur Duns
which are size 10-12, or Ephemerella dorothea Needham commonly
known as The Eastern Pale Evening Dun, Pale Watery Dun, or Sulphur
Dun size 14-16.They live together and hatch together and look alike.
The only difference in general is the size, and the hatching order. The
former two insects hatch earlier and are smaller. Most of the time I
never differentiated between them, and it never seemed to make a
difference. A magnifying glass and a couple reference works could
differentiate each one but I doubt the trout would be able to. Dorotheas
seemed to prefer slightly slower water in my opinion.
I always suspected that E. invaria was the predominate species I fished.
Knowing the difference never seemed important.
The nymph has a pronounced amber cast on the bottom of the abdomen,
and the commercial ties usually reflect this, at least this is their
justification for tying them that way. All Ephemerella nymphs here
are tied with the pronounced amber hue. A dead drifted nymph under
an indicator fished upstream can be what's happening all day long.
Just ask Tim. An upstream nymph aggressively fished with a 12 foot
cast, can out produce all other methods. A real high percentage
presentation. I fish the nymph as a double pick during this hatch,
two identical nymphs the lower of which is connected to the upper
by a 14 inch leader tied to the hook bend fished under an indicator.
I now use a yarn indicator.
Lately I have taken to fishing the dun almost exclusively, even when
I know other methods will work better. This is my decision, but I will
try to fairly present all methods.
The Dun is the event of the hatch as far as I am concerned. Little yellow
to cream flies that on ugly wet days will hatch all day long. The best way,
a few at a time, hour after hour. These dun are tied red in parts of the
Catskills, a Detty tie I think. I fish the parachute and I never venture
out with out the bright red tie in my box. Some days people just stand
around and watch when they are on the red tie. The thorax tie and the
emerger produce better but I now seldom fish either.
Vince Marinaro's preference for an emerger (nymph?), fished just
under the surface should not be ignored. He tied and presented it so
that it floated perpendicular to the surface, hanging like the natural.
All those that fish Ephemerella nymphs and emergers should consider
this presentation. Don't forget to fish the emerger with a twitch.
Most of the spinners I have observed have had at least one wing
elevated, some times both. I like the tie with at least one wing up. It
lets the fish see the imitation from a greater distance, and helps old
men like me still play the game. I use the brightest antron I can find.
Currently I use Float-Vis from Dan Bailey for the wings on duns and
spinners. They currently have another material which was sent to me
by one of their employee's which may really change my tying habits.
Patrick, please send me some more. I hope it shows up in the catalog.
Look for the spinners over rocky riffles.
The perpendicular nymph or emerger and the bright winged dun or
spinner is it as far as I am concerned. Don't forget the red dun and
on a slow day try the spinner in a bright red tie also.
I have seen the dun and spinner come off together on many days. The
absence of hackle seems to define the spinner, always carry both.
This hatch occurs in swift rocky riffles and is best fished in the slow
water just below them. On hot days it will be pushed into the evening.
When that happens the hatch is compressed and the sky and water is
blanketed for an hour or so. Under adverse conditions the spinner fall
and the hatch can happen in the morning.
I see the flies tied from a 10 to an 18. I generally fish a 16.
The neat ties that I see out there are:
1. Floating nymphs with a ball of styrofoam enclosed in a nylon stocking.
Thanks Ron K. Never forget the double pick.
2. Al Troth's comparadun emerger with a trailing antron shuck.
3. The Harrop's tie, a cut wing case emerger that looks great. It's a cut
wing that looks like a stone fly wing case. It should fly off the table. They also
do a marabou shuck emerger that should be outlawed on most streams.
4. Swisher did a floating nymph and an emerger, along with a sidewinder
5. The dun is represented by a parachute, thorax tie and the Comparadun.
I didn't forget the traditional ties, I just don't use them. Carry a few of the
bright red ties. It can make the day.
6. Many like the cut wing duns, but I don't. If they are not balanced
just right, casting one of these monsters is frightening. They tend to twist
the leaders and remind me of those 12 inch wood things on a string we
used as a kid and twirled around our head with the "whump, whump,
7. Spinners are usually tied either antron, hackle point, or feather
wing. Tie one wing up.
8. I mentioned the amber nymphs earlier. I now use a yarn indicator.
With any luck this hatch can last for two months or more. It seems
to happen best on cloudy days. It's a 2 PM hatch and on hot days
like most Ephemerella it will compress around dusk, and under
adverse conditions the spinner fall will occur in the morning. Nasty
days tend to prolong the hatch, a few flies hatching out all day long.
I've done really well with an emerger in the film, fished down and
across with a regular rhythmic twitch.
A great hatch at a great time of the year. Book your rooms early.
The rest of us will be there too. Old Rupe
For tying instruction on the Marinaro Thorax Tied Flies click
For the tying method on the one wing up flies, click here.
Special credits: The two nymph illustrations and Pale Morning Dun are from
Mayflies by Malcolm Knopp and Robert Cormier, dorothea photos
by James Birkholm.