This genus of large mayflies boasts three species of great importance. Ephemera simulans and Ephemera guttulata, the Brown Drakes and Green Drakes, are both legendary for short-lived periods of blizzard-like hatches. The Yellow Drakes, Ephemera varia, have a slow and steady emergence period, providing consistent low-key action for several midsummer weeks.
Ephemera blanda is a very localized species and unimportant to most anglers. Ephemera compar, sometimes mentioned in older books as a minor Western hatch, is now considered to be extinct.
Several important characteristics vary between the three important species. Read about each one for details.
Where & when
In 137 records from GBIF, adults of this genus have mostly been collected during May (50%), June (27%), April (15%), and July (5%).
In 32 records from GBIF, this genus has been collected at elevations ranging from 3 to 5912 ft, with an average (median) of 1781 ft.
For years after I started this website, I was eagerly hoping to find a green drake to add to the collection, but I was never in the right part of the world at the right time. It finally happened on June 1st, 2007.
I found this female spinner ovipositing in a small stream. She came along while I was playing a trout -- every good bug seemed to do that last night! I didn't have my bug net, so I caught the trout in my landing net, released the trout, and caught the mayfly in my landing net. Her wing got a bit messed up from that.
This is the skin a brown drake dun shed when it molted into a spinner. Many of these were on the surface one afternoon, having been blown in after the flies molted on overhanging alders. They were our most noticeable sign of an intense brown drake hatch the previous night and a spinner fall to come.
Two Ephemera simulans (Brown Drake) spinners hang from tree leaves along the river. It's worthwhile to look for these in afternoons during the Brown Drake hatch, because their presence may reveal the best place to fish in the evening.
Emergence periods for green drakes usually run for 7-10 days in most streams. However, there are streams in the east where emergence periods are prolonged by some of the nymphs being parasitized by Nanocladius and Epoicocladius midge larvae. In these streams, emergence may be prolonged to 21 days. Unparasitized nymphs emerge before parasitized nymphs, with each group showing separate peaks of emergence about a week apart. This is based upon my own research on green drake emergence in streams with these midge species.
My question here is this: does anybody know of streams that have this type of prolonged emergence (2-3 weeks) in NY, PA, MD, or WV?
We were fortunate this past weekend to be on Pine Creek during the Green Drake hatch. The spinner fall was incredible. A question I have is why do we miss so many strikes and yet, using the same techniques, the ones we do catch and release practically hook themselves. We were getting strikes on Green Drake Duns and Cripples and Spinners.
One individual described it to us that after observing the trout underwater during a Green Drake hatch, many of the strikes pull a small part of the fly (wing, leg) underwater and they swirl and swallow it there. If that is true, then I can rationalize missing more than 18 fish this weekend. If anyone has observed this please post your observations. Normally we do not have such a great contrast in miss to hookup ratio.