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Artistic view of a Male Pteronarcys californica (Pteronarcyidae) (Giant Salmonfly) Stonefly Adult from the Gallatin River in Montana
Salmonflies
Pteronarcys californica

The giant Salmonflies of the Western mountains are legendary for their proclivity to elicit consistent dry-fly action and ferocious strikes.

Dorsal view of a Zapada cinctipes (Nemouridae) (Tiny Winter Black) Stonefly Nymph from the Yakima River in Washington
Nymphs of this species were fairly common in late-winter kick net samples from the upper Yakima River. Although I could not find a key to species of Zapada nymphs, a revision of the Nemouridae family by Baumann (1975) includes the following helpful sentence: "2 cervical gills on each side of midline, 1 arising inside and 1 outside of lateral cervical sclerites, usually single and elongate, sometimes constricted but with 3 or 4 branches arising beyond gill base in Zapada cinctipes." This specimen clearly has the branches and is within the range of that species.
27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

Great Red Spinners

Like most common names,"Great Red Spinner" can refer to more than one taxon. They're previewed below, along with 15 specimens. For more detail click through to the scientific names.

Mayfly Species Isonychia bicolor

These are sometimes called Great Red Spinners.
This is by far the most important species of Isonychia. Many angling books once split its credit with the species Isonychia sadleri and Isonychia harperi, but entomologists have since discovered that those are just variations of this abundant species.

See the main Isonychia page for more about these intriguing mayflies.
Lateral view of a Female Isonychia bicolor (Isonychiidae) (Mahogany Dun) Mayfly Dun from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
Lateral view of a Female Isonychia bicolor (Isonychiidae) (Mahogany Dun) Mayfly Spinner from the West Branch of Owego Creek in New York
I collected this female together with a male.
Dorsal view of a Isonychia bicolor (Isonychiidae) (Mahogany Dun) Mayfly Nymph from the Beaverkill River in New York

Mayfly Species Drunella grandis

These are sometimes called Great Red Spinners.
This species (or rather group of subspecies), together with Drunella doddsii, make up the famous Western Green Drake hatches. They are widespread throughout the vast Western region and can be abundant enough in many locations to provide world class angling.

It hasn't been all that many years since Western traditions and entomological "facts on the ground" began to influence the angler's lexicon heavily dominated by Eastern writers. Their initial reporting after visiting the region first popularized the phrase "Rocky Mountains answer to the popular Green Drakes of the East". This led to a false impression that lingers to this day. The reality is these giants of their family have abundant populations all over the West with no counterpart in the East, and the West does have abundant hatches of comparable Ephemeridae. The Western tradition of naming outsized Mayflies "Drakes" is the reason for what many consider a misnomer by giving it the same common name as the legendary Ephemerid of the East and surely contributed to confusion for anglers unconcerned with such subtleties.
Lateral view of a Female Drunella grandis (Ephemerellidae) (Western Green Drake) Mayfly Dun from the American River in Washington
I collected this specimen while away from all my good photography equipment except the camera and one of my macro lenses, so I made do. The lighting is from lamps in a hotel room, so it was hard to edit for really true colors, but I tried to get as close as possible. The body was 13 mm long, wing 19 mm long.

Mayfly Species Timpanoga hecuba

These are sometimes called Great Red Spinners.
Timpanoga hecuba is not abundant enough, and its emergence not concentrated enough to provide great hatches, but where it is locally abundant it creates fishable action because of its large size. This species seems subject to substantial fluctuations in population densities, possibly in relation to the amount of silted habitat they prefer. When silt builds up in drought years, their numbers appear to increase. It is the largest species in the Ephemerellidae family, often rivaling Drunella grandis (Western Green Drake) in length but appearing even stouter due to its dramatic lateral abdominal spines. It contains two subspecies. See the Timpanoga genus hatch page for details.

Anglers call them by a confusing array of names, although many fly shops have fortunately started to clear things up by rightly calling them Hecubas. Great Red Quill and Western Red Drake seem fairly descriptive, and some refer to them as Giant Dark Hendricksons. A fly shop serving Yellowstone out of Gardiner, Montana calls them Drake Mackerels in their hatch chart.
Female Timpanoga hecuba (Ephemerellidae) (Great Red Quill) Mayfly Dun from Mystery Creek #178 in Idaho
This specimen is 14 mm. Technically this is the subspecies T. h. hecuba. The Cascades, Sierras and further West is where the other subspecies, T. h. pacifica is found. The Great Basin seems to have formed a barrier preventing any overlap in their distribution.
Timpanoga hecuba (Ephemerellidae) (Great Red Quill) Mayfly Nymph from the St. Regis River in Montana

Mayfly Species Stenonema vicarium

These are sometimes called Great Red Spinners.
In the East and Midwest this is one of the most important hatches of the Spring. They are large flies which emerge sporadically, making for long days of good fishing.

This species contains the two classic Eastern hatches formerly known as Stenonema vicarium and Stenonema fuscum, the "March Brown" and "Gray Fox." Entomologists have discovered that these mayflies belong to the same species, but they still display differences in appearance which the trout notice easily. Anglers should be prepared to imitate both types.
Artistic view of a Male Stenonema vicarium (Heptageniidae) (March Brown) Mayfly Dun from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
I collected this mayfly on the same trip as a female of the same species. After these photos it molted into a spinner. This is the form of Stenonema vicarium which anglers call the "Gray Fox."
Lateral view of a Female Stenonema vicarium (Heptageniidae) (March Brown) Mayfly Spinner from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
I collected this mayfly on the same trip as a male of the same species. They are Maccaffertium vicarium mayflies of the type formerly known as Stenonema fuscom, the "Gray Fox."
Dorsal view of a Stenonema vicarium (Heptageniidae) (March Brown) Mayfly Nymph from the Beaverkill River in New York

Mayfly Species Drunella doddsii

These are very rarely called Great Red Spinners.
This species together with the Drunella grandis sub-species make up the Western Green Drake hatch. Besides being smaller, the adults are difficult to tell apart from it's larger siblings; but D. doddsi nymphs have a few peculiar traits that set them apart. D. doddsi looks much thicker in the thorax, has a flat frontal head margin and a unique oval disk-like ring of hairs on its ventral surface. However, There are very few differences between the habits of these two species, and they are almost always discussed together in fly fishing books, so for many of the characteristics of doddsii, refer to the Drunella grandis page.
Lateral view of a Male Drunella doddsii (Ephemerellidae) (Western Green Drake) Mayfly Dun from the Gulkana River in Alaska
Dorsal view of a Drunella doddsii (Ephemerellidae) (Western Green Drake) Mayfly Nymph from the Gulkana River in Alaska

Mayfly Species Ephemera simulans

These are very rarely called Great Red Spinners.
The Brown Drakes are a favorite hatch of many in the Midwest, and they make a good showing on localized waters across the country. They are usually the first in a series of big drakes which bring large trout to the surface at twilight and into the early hours of the night. The experience can be much like fishing the Hexagenia limbata hatch, except that the nymphs seem to emerge from slightly more wadeable, sandy bottoms instead of the boot-sucking mud underlying the best Hex water. It will draw big trout out from the depths of a big pool to feed in the shallow tailout after dark.
Male Ephemera simulans (Ephemeridae) (Brown Drake) Mayfly Dun from Flathead Lake in Montana
Lateral view of a Male Ephemera simulans (Ephemeridae) (Brown Drake) Mayfly Spinner from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
Ephemera simulans (Ephemeridae) (Brown Drake) Mayfly Nymph from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin

References

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