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Lateral view of a Female Hexagenia limbata (Ephemeridae) (Hex) Mayfly Dun from the Namekagon River in Wisconsin
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.

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.
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Dark Brown Spinners

Like most common names,"Dark Brown Spinner" can refer to more than one taxon. They're previewed below, along with 9 specimens. For more detail click through to the scientific names.

Mayfly Genus Paraleptophlebia

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.
There are many species in this genus of mayflies, and some of them produce excellent hatches. Commonly known as Blue Quills or Mahogany Duns, they include some of the first mayflies to hatch in the Spring and some of the last to finish in the Fall.

In the East and Midwest, their small size (16 to 20, but mostly 18's) makes them difficult to match with old techniques. In the 1950s Ernest Schwiebert wrote in Matching the Hatch:

"The Paraleptophlebia hatches are the seasonal Waterloo of most anglers, for without fine tippets and tiny flies an empty basket is assured."

Fortunately, modern anglers with experience fishing hatches of tiny Baetis and Tricorythodes mayflies (and access to space-age tippet materials) are better prepared for eastern Paraleptophlebia. It's hard to make sense of so many species, but only one is very important and others can be considered in groups because they often hatch together:
In the West, it is a different story. For starters the species run much larger and can be imitated with flies as large as size 12, often size 14, and rarely smaller than 16. Another difference is the West has species with tusks! Many anglers upon first seeing them think they are immature burrowing nymphs of the species Ephemera simulans aka Brown Drake. With their large tusks, feathery gills, and slender uniform build, it's an easy mistake to make. Using groups again:
Female Paraleptophlebia debilis (Leptophlebiidae) (Mahogany Dun) Mayfly Dun from the Fall River in California
Size: 9mm. These photos really highlight the brown pigmentation of the wing venation, but in the hand the wings look to be a uniform smokey gray. - Entoman
Lateral view of a Male Paraleptophlebia sculleni (Leptophlebiidae) Mayfly Spinner from Mystery Creek #249 in Washington
This specimen (and a few others I collected but didn't photograph) appear to represent the first finding of Paraleptophlebia sculleni outside the Oregon Cascades, although it is not a monumental leap from there to the Washington Cascades. The key characteristics are fairly clear.
Paraleptophlebia (Leptophlebiidae) (Blue Quill) Mayfly Nymph from Big Brook in Wisconsin

Mayfly Species Tricorythodes allectus

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.

Mayfly Species Drunella coloradensis

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.
This species is very similar to Drunella flavilinea. In areas where their ranges overlap, they can sometimes be found in the same streams. They are similar enough that anglers sometimes refer to either or both species as "Flavs." Allen and Edmunds (1962) say that Drunella coloradensis tends to favor colder water than Drunella flavilinea and that it may emerge as much as a month later.
Lateral view of a Male Drunella coloradensis (Ephemerellidae) (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly Dun from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
The positive species ID on this dun comes from both the spinner that it (or possibly one other dun just like it) molted into and the overwhelming abundance of nymphs of this species in my kicknet samples from the same site.
Lateral view of a Male Drunella coloradensis (Ephemerellidae) (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly Spinner from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
This spinner molted from this dun, or possibly one other dun I had in the same container that looked just like it.
Dorsal view of a Drunella coloradensis (Ephemerellidae) (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly Nymph from Mystery Creek #249 in Washington
This one nicely illustrates the variation in coloration within an single Ephemerellid species in a single stream, when compared to its lighter, banded counterpart.

Mayfly Species Ameletus cooki

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.
Dorsal view of a Ameletus cooki (Ameletidae) (Brown Dun) Mayfly Nymph from the South Fork Snoqualmie River in Washington
I caught this Ameletus nymph with several others of the same kind. This was the most vivid example, but they all had quite a bit of striking and unusual red shading, especially on the last few abdominal segments.

I keyed it out under the microscope using Larvae and adults of Ameletus mayflies (Ephemeroptera: Ameletidae) from Alberta with slightly larger (10 mm), mature specimen with darkened wingpads. Microscope pictures are from that specimen. The characteristics in the key and most of the verification table point pretty clearly to Ameletus cooki, except that the coloration of the antennae more closely resembles Ameletus sparsatus. However, on other characteristics in which these species differ (spines on the dorsal surface of the front femora, which seem very short in this specimen; length of posterolateral spines on segments 8–9; length of spines on posterior edge of tergites 6–9), this is a better match for cooki, and that's probably the correct ID.

Mayfly Species Teloganopsis deficiens

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.
Anglers in western Wisconsin, where these little flies hatch in good numbers on summer rivers, have termed them "Darth Vaders" because of the very dark color of their wings.

Until recently, this species was known as Serratella deficiens.
Dorsal view of a Teloganopsis deficiens (Ephemerellidae) (Little Black Quill) Mayfly Nymph from the Bois Brule River in Wisconsin
This nymph has tiny, barely detectable tubercles on its abdominal segments, and I could not find the maxillary palpi. I tentatively guessed that it is Serratella deficiens back when that was a thing; the species is now known as Teloganopsis deficiens. One of the key characteristics, tarsal claws with a subapical denticle being larger than the preceding denticles, seems to be visible in some of the pictures.

Mayfly Species Tricorythodes explicatus

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.
This hatch is fairly well-known to anglers under its former name Tricorythodes minutus, which was one of the species responsible for good Trico fishing.

Mayfly Species Diphetor hageni

These are very rarely called Dark Brown Spinners.
This is one of the most important species of the Baetidae family. It is distributed across the country but most of its fame comes from excellent hatches in the West. Prior to many other former species being combined with Baetis tricaudatus, most angling literature considered it the most populous and widespread western species of the Baetidae family.


  • Schwiebert, Ernest G. 1955. Matching the Hatch. MacMillan Publishing Company.
  • Zloty, J and Pritchard, G. 1997. Larvae and adults of Ameletus mayflies (Ephemeroptera: Ameletidae) from Alberta. Canadian Entomologist 129: 251-289.
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