June 11th, 2007

What's Working
By Dave Pearson, PA

I got the word on Memorial Day the Drakes have started on Penns. Or, more precisely, the Drakes have started on Penns at Weikert. As I expected, since we'd seen Yellow Flags (wild iris) out that morning along the creek a bit farther down. As of Monday, nothing was spotted upstream at Johnson's or Blue Rock and the Sulphur hatch was still coming off gangbusters at Ingleby. But the Green Drake hatch was gathering strength at Weikert and in a couple of days the first Coffin flies would make their appearance. The Duns and the Coffin flies will overlap for a few days, then the hatch will peter out in a light flurry of Coffin fly snow a week or so after the first Duns appeared at Weikert.

Wild Iris

A couple of days after the hatch starts at Weikert, it will begin at Johnson's and Blue Rock...and later still at Ingleby. And on up the entire length of Penns. The bugs' hatch time is governed by water temperature. Upstream remains cooler longer than downstream partly because upstream is at a higher elevation, and partly because the water upstream hasn't been out of the ground as long as the water downstream has. But bankside cover plays a part, too. Penns is smaller upstream and more remains hidden in shadow. The sun can't directly warm the water as much as it can downstream where the water is bigger and more open. So, the hatch migrates upstream.

Working flies

If you get the word early and have been granted access to the upper reaches of Penns, you can fish the Drake hatch for a full three weeks. But you have to follow the bugs...upstream.

Working flies

This year, I've decided to sit out the DrakeFest at Penns Creek. Really. There are altogether too many people and too many bugs. And I mean too many bugs in number and kind. The Drakes may be on, but they are far from the only bug gracing the waters of Penns Creek. Golden Stones are about. The Isonychia are starting to make an appearance, The Sulphur hatch is starting to wind down, but is still a presence. At least two major hatches of Craneflies are still going strong. The Blue-Wing Olives are revving up. There are enough Caddis to provide a distraction and the occasional ant is plopping into the water. I need a place where the fish have fewer choices and where they haven't seen every bug imitation under the sun presented with wildly varying degrees of finesse by an army of anglers. So, I went to a smaller less well-known stream where the Drake hatch is more of an actual event for the fish and not just one more ingredient in a bug stew.

Dave before the rain flies

Here is what I've found thus far. In the first couple of days of t he hatch the fish are feeding on emerging Drakes. Dun imitations at this stage of the game are useless. I watched fish after fish swirling after emergers and if they missed entirely and the dun escaped to dry its wings on the water's surface, it was left unmolested. Sometimes these floats were short (an inch or two) and sometimes they were quite long (several feet) but in every case where the dun made it to the surface, it was free to dry its wings and fly to the trees.

Smaller stream

At this stage of the game, I needed either a nymph, an emerger, or, if I wanted action on top, a Sulphur pattern that floats in the film. The fish took no Drake Duns from the surface, but they would take Sulphur Duns...for the first two days of the hatch. On the third day, I could use the Drake dun pattern as a searching fly during the afternoon and early evening. The Sulphur pattern worked better but they weren't ignoring the Drake Dun pattern and they would take the occasional Drake natural from the surface. Later in the evening they were back onto the emergers though they would take a swipe or two at the Coffin flies that were just starting to make an appearance above the riffles.

And the rain came

And that's about it. The last time I got out I was to meet Gillian on the stream in the early evening for a few pictures of plants, bugs and fish. The afternoon that day was hot, the water was low, the Drakes were coming off here and there, and I was catching fish on Sulphurs. As evening came so did a remarkable thunderstorm (it was like standing under a waterfall, only with hail!) which left both Gillian and me soaked to the skin. My camera was drenched. Gillian's was in a Pelican case and survived. She got a few pictures; mostly of me...and the stream.


I'll try to get out a couple of times in the next week and let you know how the Drake hatch turns out. Thus far, though, the best dry fly to use during the Green Drake hatch really IS a Sulphur. ~ 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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