Welcome to Not Quite Entomology

Welcome to Not Quite Entomology! This is a different approach to matching the hatch, or learning which insect the fish are really eating. The flies and methods to make it all work will be here as well. We hope this series will inspire you to go out, look on top of and under rocks, check the stream-side vegetation, really investigate your favorite water and learn which are your local trout's favorite foods!

Green Drakes

By Ladyfisher

Old Rupe is "off his feet" for a while, and we will fill in for him the best we can. If you are knowledgeable about a particular insect or local hatch, please help us out - contact: LadyFisher. Don't worry about photos, we have good references.

Eastern Green Drake Male Dun

The Green Drake hatches are considered the highlight hatch by many, but depending on where you fish it, it isn't the same insect.

There are two commonly called Green Drake. In the eastern part of the U.S. it is the mayfly, Ephemera guttulata. It is the largest and most desired hatch by many fly anglers. Some who have tangled with the big bruisers are said to be afflicted with Green Drake Mania - an incurable disease.

Eastern Green Drake

The nymph of the Eastern Green Drake will be found in Western Pennsylvania limestone waters starting about the 14th of May through the second week of June. For northern Pennsylvania and the Poconos it's the last week of May through the 14th of June, and in the New England states and the Adirondacks it's the last two weeks or so of June. Weather always has a bearing of course, exceptionally warm, cold, or wet can speed up or slow down the activity.

Freestone and Limestone Nymphs

There are some differences between the nymphs of this insect, check the photos out for detail, the freestone one seems slightly longer and a bit lighter in thorax color.

The size of the insect as duns and spinners, 1 1/4" gets even the big fellows who usually hide on the bottom up and eating voraciously. The guttulata is another of the burrowers and are usually found in predominately fast-water stream where they live in the rich, soft-bottomed pools and mud banks of the rivers slower sections. Like all mayflies they hatch out, fly upstream to lay their eggs and the spent spinners float back downstream. They also live in the silt and debris between large boulders and other obstructions.

On some of the eastern streams where large numbers of the Green Drakes hatch, fishing can be tough. If you are lucky enough to hit the stream in the first couple of days before the trout are stuffed to the gills with insects, or before a blanket hatch hits, your chances will be better. The hatch of this insect is progressive, and knowledgeable anglers will follow the action as it moves upstream trying to hit the magic day.

Penn's Creek in Pennsylvania is one of the more well known streams for guttulata. The stream is considered a classic for the streamside vegetation which include tulip trees providing wonderful cover for the moulting duns with their big leaves.

The egg laying period is the best for catching big trout if one is patient. Resist the temptation to cast to the first feeding fish you find. Wait and watch for the bigger fish to come up once the egg laying begins. This is a relatively short period just before dark.

The spinner fall on the Green Drake can be a mystery if you don't know what to look for. There is a large difference between the females and males at this point. The females have already laid their eggs, and are empty. There is more food value in the males. The fish take only the males.

The common names for the guttulata are: Green Drake, Coffin Fly, Shad Fly, Shaddie, Mayfly, and Green May. The sizes range from 18 to 30 mm, which translates into hook sizes of 10, 4x long for the subsurface flies, and #8, -10, 3x long for the dries.

Marinaro's Coffin Fly For fly imitations, try the compara-nymph, Deerhair emerger, compara-dun for the dun, and one of my personal favorites, Vince Marinaro's Quill-Bodied Spinner for the final stage. The Quill-bodied spinner (also called the Coffin Fly) is tied using only the white part of the porcupine quill, on a light wire hook. The quill is tied on just ahead of the bend, extending rearward, the quill pinched and rabbit whiskers tied in about half way the length of the quill which act as tail and rudder. A hackle is tied thorax-style mid-way of the body and trimmed top and bottom, leaving the sides untrimmed to represent the spent wings. The fly rides exactly as the natural.

The spinner of any mayfly may be tied in this manner with colors to match the local insect.

This hatch is considered so important that around 1946 angling clubs in the east transported the insects eggs to potential rivers with the right conditions in hopes to creating their own Green Drake hatches. Hatches did occur in 1948. I would love to know how successful these attempts were in suceeding years. (The nymphal cycle for the Green Drake is two years.)

Western Green Drake

Western Green Drake
This is another of the super hatches. Fly Anglers gather annually on the some the western rivers each June for this one. Some of the more important rivers are Henry's Fork, Yellowstone in the U.S. and the Crowsnest and North Raven Rivers in Alberta Canada. But the western green drake has a much wider distribution from California to the Yukon and Alaska.

This is another mayfly, Ephemerellidae Drunella which includes a couple of species, grandis, doddsi, g.flavitincta and g.grandis. These can be lumped together and considered one hatch since the traits of each are so similiar.

This is a neat hatch - one that actually presents more opportunity for the fish! Prior to emerging the nymph migrates to a calm section of the stream and repeatedly swims up and down to the surface. When the conditions are exactly right the nymph arches their abdomens forward over the thorax which either causes or enhances the wing pad to split. That means the insect is available to the fish for a longer period of time.

Once hatched the Green Drakes are on the water for a period of two to three weeks. Conditions again are a big factor in when you will find them, but generally on warmer waters the emergence begins Mid-June. The Yellowstone hatches are mid-June peaking between June 22 and the 4th of July. This has been a problem in high-water years on the Yellowstone which usually occurs around the 4th of July also. Henry's Fork (of the Snake River) in Idaho usually starts in late June as well.

Again this is a large insect, the nymphs measuring up to 16mm. Typical body colors are yellowish brown to dark brownish black. These are clinger-type nymphs. The one major difference in the two Green Drake species is where they live. D. Grandis will occupy the slower sections of rivers, and D. Doddsi lives in colder fast-water sections. For us that means if a river has either one or both so much the better!

The only common name for this insect is the Western Green Drake. Flies for dry flies should be #8-12, for subsurface #10; and #10 3x long. Basically the same ties can be used for both the eastern and western green drake hatches.

The advantage of fishing the west for the green drake is the very long time differences between the beginning and end of the hatch. On the Yellowstone the hatch starts late in June and lasts a couple of weeks. About 40 miles north in Livingston, the same hatch will not appear until late July. There are huge differences in water temperatures between the two places on the same river. Some, of course, caused by thermal action in Yellowstone Park producing warmer water temperatures.

Trout feeding during a Green Drake emergence seem to switch abruptly from hatching nymphs to duns, and the angler need to watch rise forms carefully. Fish bulge (sometimes maybe a dorsal fin will break the water) when taking nymphs and suck when they take duns. Trout retain a 'memory' of these large insects for several weeks after the hatch and will still accept an imitation of the Green Drake!

Island Park on Henry's Fork Henry's Fork is a great place to fish this hatch. There is plenty of wadeable water with enough room to cast a line without having to be fearful of hooking your neighboring anglers. In good years the Green Drake hatch is a joy to behold. A blanket hatch however is cause to reel up and head for the car. Then again, you just might try something extraordinary and tie on fly of the same size but a much brighter color. Like flourescent green! If you haven't read Sensory Enhancement you might find some interesting food for thought (and beating the odds.)

Here are more fly patterns for the Green Drake:

Photo credits: Western Green Drake photo from Mayflies by Malcolm Knopp and Robert Cormier, published by Greycliff. Nymph and Eastern Green Drake photos from Hatches II byAl Caucci & Bob Nastasi, published by Lyons Press. Henry's Fork photo by James Birkholm.

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