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Hex Mayflies
Hexagenia limbata

The famous nocturnal Hex hatch of the Midwest (and a few other lucky locations) stirs to the surface mythically large Brown Trout that only touch streamers for the rest of the year.

Mayfly Species Epeorus pleuralis (Quill Gordon)

This is the first really good dry-fly opportunity of the season for most Eastern anglers. They are large mayflies and they have good points of vulnerability both underwater and on the surface.

Where & when

Time of year : April through late May

The Quill Gordon hatch begins in early April in central Appalachian streams and moves into southern Pennsylvania by mid-April. By early May it is going strong in the Catskills, and it lingers through the rest of May in the Adirondacks and New England.

Some books report that this species occurs in the East and the Midwest, though I have not found any accounts of fishable hatches in the Midwest and they are not reported there by the USGS.

Once the pleuralis hatch is triggered by several consecutive days of ideal water temperature, it carries a sort of momentum. The duns supposedly continue to hatch almost every day, regardless of weather, until they are all done.

Hatching behavior

Time of day : Early afternoon, usually from 1:00 to 2:00pm; later when hot

Water temperature: 48-53°F

Quill Gordon duns crawl out of their nymphal shucks on the stream bottom and rise to the surface as fully formed adults. This behavior can be well imitated by wet fly imitations. Swisher and Richards describe how to fish the wet in Selective Trout:

It is best fished by casting upstream, allowing it to sink, and then twitching it up through the currents in front of feeding fish.

Once the duns are up, they may ride the surface for a long time and make several failed attempts before getting airborne. Skittering a dry fly accordingly may improve one's success.

Spinner behavior

Time of day: Anytime between noon and dusk, depending on temperature

Habitat: Riffles and rapids

There are several values given in the fly fishing literature for the time it takes Epeorus pleuralis duns to molt and return as spinners. Different books say 1-2 days, 2 days, or 3-4 days.

These spinners can provide good fishing, especially in pocket water in the rapids where they fall spent.

Nymph biology

Current speed: Fast

Substrate: Gravel or rock

Environmental tolerance: Very intolerant of pollution or slow water

Several authors have noted that Epeorus pleuralis nymphs have an unusual habit of gathering en masse on the downstream side of certain objects in the stream prior to emergence. These objects may become a source of unexpected feeding lanes for the trout during emergence.

Epeorus pleuralis Fly Fishing Tips

In the cold water of the early season when the Quill Gordons hatch, the trout may not yet rise freely. Although this hatch can provide good dry fly action, you should not hesitate to fish subsurface.

Specimens of the Mayfly Species Epeorus pleuralis

2 Male Duns
2 Male Spinners
1 Nymph
Epeorus pleuralis (Quill Gordon) Mayfly Nymph
This Epeorus pluralis dun is recently deceased in these photos. I decided not to photograph several lively, less mature nymphs. This one was ready to hatch, as indicated by the black wing pads. I believe it had not been dead long enough to lose its natural coloration.

2 Streamside Pictures of Epeorus pleuralis Mayflies:

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References

Species Range
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