Mayflies (Part II): Fishing the Dry

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When you think about fly fishing, you can’t help but think about mayflies. There are epic stonefly and caddisfly hatches, but mayflies have been at the center of our storied sport for centuries. While many mayfly species predominantly hatch in the Spring and the early Summer, there are important species such as the Blue Winged Olive (BWO) that are available outside of this traditional window. Cloudy, drizzly afternoons in the late Fall and Winter often result in memorable dry fly fishing for this tiny mayfly. With their constant temperatures and flows, tailwaters often produce epic mayfly hatches lasting for months. The Sulphur hatch on the South Holston is a perfect example.

To be successful, you don’t need to learn any Latin, and a little homework goes a long way. Start with hatch information for your targeted water. Your local fly shop is a great resource and more than willing to help you have a successful day on the water. The shop guides are regularly on the water and dialed in to the bugs. Please remember to show them some love at the cash register! It is good for your fishing karma and ensures the shop is around to help you plan your next fishing trip. If you don’t have a local fly shop, there are plenty of hatch charts available online. For instance, Orvis has both Eastern and Western hatch charts on its site. Remember mayflies don’t use calendars and hatch based on photoperiod (daily amount of sunlight) and water temperature. So, adjust the hatch chart suggestions based on the actual weather conditions.

In terms of fly selection, for each species you expect to encounter, try to carry both a traditional hackled and parachute-style imitation. Sometimes, trout prefer an imitation that rides down in the surface film and a parachute-style fly will do the trick. Also, the parachute post can be easier to see on the water. If you are starting out or are a minimalist, a fly box that contains parachute Adams, a good Sulphur imitation and a good BWO imitation will cover most fishing situations.

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