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Part One Hundred-six

Randy Fratzke

Panfish Chat- Host Wind Knot (substituting for Fritz Fratz)- Monday. 6-8 p.m. PST (9-11 EST)

Ephi-, er, um, Ephemedro, Ah heck, Mayflies!

By Randy Fratzke

Time to get out "the books" - To quote Encyclopedia Britannica, "Any member of the order Ephemeroptera, comprising the group of insects known as mayflies. Other common names for the winged stages are shadfly, dayfly, fishfly, and drake." I have to tell you, those "common names" are a lot easier to spell, not to mention, pronounce! Anyway, we had a hatch here last week, unlike anything I've seen in years. The air was full of them, the river was full of them, the yard was full of them, the streets were full of them and the fish were full of them too!

Ephemeralla rotunda, female

I was driving into town when I noticed the first one, cream colored with a split tail, wings held high, holding on for dear life to my windshield. Then, as I rounded a curve in the road and crossed a bridge over a small creek my windshield got splattered with the bodies of a whole lot more! It was like I hit a cloud of them. The first thing that went through my mind was that of being happy to be inside a vehicle and not on the motorcycle that was coming from the opposite direction at 55mph! I doubt he was still smiling when he got to the far side of the bridge! I finished my business in town as quickly as I could and headed back home. As I neared the small bridge over the creek I slowed down, the entire road was slick with the bodies of "vehicularly challenged" mayflies. I parked the truck, grabbed my gear and headed for the river. I wasn't worried too much about my casting shoulder that's still on the mend, the entire river was alive with emerging mayflies and fish gorging on them. I knew the fish were in a feeding frenzy and all I had to do was dapple something cream colored on the top of the water for a bit and reel it in.

It didn't take long, actually less than two minutes, to be rewarded for my lack of effort. I had a nice small mouth on and it was playing like it was surprised one of those little bugs had bit back! It took me a few minutes to convince him to give up and come to the dock where I netted him. What surprised me was that he was so full of the mayflies that they were actually falling out of his anus! He was crammed full, gill to, well, the other end, and still feeding! I caught three more and released them and was laughing so loud my wife called down on the radio to find out what was going on. I told her and within minutes saw her, fly rod in hand, on her way down. She was laughing so hard at the number of flies that had landed on me while I was concentrating on fishing she could hardly tie on her fly! Soon both of us were busy catching, netting, and releasing bass, crappies, blue gills, a small northern, and a misguided, 4lb channel cat that took about ten minutes to play and finally broke the line right at the dock.

We fished for about two hours, my arms and shoulder ached from playing fish, but it was one of those 'good hurts'! Rachelle was reeling in another small mouth bass when lightening streaked across the sky over head. We both immediately ducked down on the dock as the resounding thunderclap echoed in our ears. Wow, that was close! I turned around and saw a huge row of storm clouds headed our way. Rachelle looked wide-eyed at me and mumbled something like, "Where the heck did that come from?" About then, another streak of lightening and thunderclap shot over head. No words were even spoken, we both grabbed gear, kept our lightening rods, commonly known as fly rods low to the ground, and headed for the house.

It's rained now for three days, nine and a half inches to be exact. The river is now running through the front yard instead of between its banks. It's not close enough to threaten the house like it did last year, but it's still a discomforting feeling having it so close again. The mayflies seem to have disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Even the "spent" ones that had littered the yards and streets have been washed away. We're still talking about the fun we had while it lasted though. Wow, what a field day to remember! My shoulder is still sore but I don't seem to mind. I know it'll heal and I also know that the mayflies, or ephemeroteras as they're uncommonly known, will be back and hatch another time. Hopefully it'll be soon! ~ Randy Fratzke

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