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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.

Dorsal view of a Neoleptophlebia (Leptophlebiidae) Mayfly Nymph from the Yakima River in Washington
Some characteristics from the microscope images for the tentative species id: The postero-lateral projections are found only on segment 9, not segment 8. Based on the key in Jacobus et al. (2014), it appears to key to Neoleptophlebia adoptiva or Neoleptophlebia heteronea, same as this specimen with pretty different abdominal markings. However, distinguishing between those calls for comparing the lengths of the second and third segment of the labial palp, and this one (like the other one) only seems to have two segments. So I'm stuck on them both. It's likely that the fact that they're immature nymphs stymies identification in some important way.
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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This topic is about the Mayfly Species Ephemera guttulata

Ephemera guttulata's size, numbers, and hatching characteristics have made it a favorite of fly fishermen since the sport first came to North American waters.

It is on par with the Midwest's Hexagenia limbata hatch for its ability to lure huge piscivorous brown trout to eat insects at the surface once a year. The special charm of the Green Drake hatch is that it often takes place during pleasant spring afternoons. It can be challenging because the large flies are easy for trout to inspect in the daylight and they feed very selectively, especially late in the hatch. The huge difference in appearance between green drake duns and the spinners, white-bodied "coffin flies," makes them a peculiarity among major hatches.

The Green Drakes are on the decline due to environmental degradation.

Example specimens

Billy
Chester County, PA

Posts: 10
Billy on Jun 6, 2007June 6th, 2007, 2:39 am EDT
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.
I was born with nothing and still have most of it. . .
GONZO
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
GONZO on Jun 6, 2007June 6th, 2007, 6:29 am EDT
Billy,

Frustrations with the green drake hatch are legion, so you are not alone. I've heard the explanation that fish sometimes grab a part of the fly/insect with regard to large mayflies like drakes and Hex. I even know a fellow who won't use extended body flies for that reason. While I think that may happen with smaller fish at times, I don't think it is the primary reason for so many missed "strikes" during hatches of these large mayflies.

The green drake hatch is a very popular and much-anticipated event on PA streams that host this classic mayfly. Most fly fishers view this as a prime dry-fly opportunity, and dry-fly pressure becomes very heavy as the hatch progresses. Under extreme dry-fly pressure, the pressured fish are notorious for producing all kinds of false rises and refusals, and many of these can appear as solid takes that yield that empty aching feeling on the hookset. The incidence of this may even increase with large prey like the green drakes because the fish have an easier time discerning fakes when the prey is large. Well-fooled fish, on the other hand, usually take solidly and deeply and account for the fish that seemed to hook themselves.

Another contributing factor may be that some large dry-fly designs either don't hook well or feel so unnatural that they are immediately released. The "catch 22" is that the larger hooks (as opposed to smaller ones used on extended body flies) may hook better, but they also increase the hard, unnatural feel of the fly.

Personally, my favorite fly for big drake and Hex hatches is a wiggle nymph imitation. Often I can catch enough big fish during the earlier nymphing that I can abandon the water at dusk, leaving the later dry-fly frustration to "purists."
Billy
Chester County, PA

Posts: 10
Billy on Jun 7, 2007June 7th, 2007, 2:44 am EDT
Gonzo -

Thank you for taking the time to further enlighten me. I guess I don't feel so bad about the misses. It's just fun to be out there at one of the special times of the year.

I probably won't change anything in my technique or fly assortment for now. I guess the old adage about why we call it "fishing" and not "catching" holds true especiially for the Green Drakes!

- Billy
I was born with nothing and still have most of it. . .
GONZO
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
GONZO on Jun 8, 2007June 8th, 2007, 9:55 am EDT
It's just fun to be out there at one of the special times of the year.


I agree, Billy. Despite its frustrations, the Eastern green drake is a spectacular mayfly and the hatch is a special event. The fishing (catching) doesn't always live up to the hype, but when it does, former frustrations are easily and blissfully forgotten. We all head to the stream in the hope that this will be one of those magical times.
Litobrancha
Knoxville TN

Posts: 51
Litobrancha on Jun 12, 2007June 12th, 2007, 8:34 am EDT
I wrote an article about the green drake hatch in western north carolina a few years ago, far be it from me to toot my own horn but here is the link. Hope you enjoy it. There a couple of pics of Litobrancha recurvata.

http://www.flyfishingnc.com/articles/Greendrake_Hatches_NC2.php

since writing that I have come to the conclusion that there were Hexagenia popping out that day as well, but I have somehow lost the specimens I collected.

Ran into Potomanthus for the first time this week, in Green River (Edmonson Co, KY). what a spectacular beast! Love them drakes.
GONZO
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
GONZO on Jun 12, 2007June 12th, 2007, 9:17 am EDT
Lito,

Speaking of Litobrancha, Jason and I were fishing recently on a lovely, but somewhat unusual little brook trout stream where I had hoped to show him the dark green drake hatch that happens there around the end of May or early June. We were probably a bit too early because I only saw one big dun, and it eluded my grasp. (Aside from the fishing, we had hoped to collect some for the site.)

Some of the smaller limestone waters in the Penn's Creek area of Central PA have overlapping hatches of green drakes and dark green drakes, but in the Poconos I've only found Litobrancha on small brownwater streams.

By the way, I think that Anthopotamus is one of the most beautiful mayflies. It's just a shame that some of the waters where I find them are too warm by then to offer really good fishing.
Litobrancha
Knoxville TN

Posts: 51
Litobrancha on Jun 12, 2007June 12th, 2007, 9:40 am EDT
we don't have any limestone streams to speak of in WNC, this particular place is a small pond fed by two 3 or 4 order streams (good fishing in their own right) and there is a lot of detritus and sand. there are also some good litobrancha populations on davidson river in transylvania county NC. i have found the larvae behind beaver dams and in bogs so maybe there is something to that brownwater thing.
GONZO
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
GONZO on Jun 12, 2007June 12th, 2007, 10:03 am EDT
Maybe, but I'd be careful about those bugs in Transylvania County. Wear some garlic or something, especially after dark. ;)

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