May 28th, 2007

The Sweet of the Year
By Dave Pearson, PA

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.

Virginia Bluebells

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 the calendar.


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.

Sweet Stream

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.

Sweet Stream again

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)

About Dave:

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: pdewey2@aol.com

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