Bugs – Ephemerella Infrequens – The Pale Morning Dun
On the Lower Yuba River we have been seeing glimpses of what is coming as the season progresses and the temperatures start to warm up. On warmer days there have been PMD’s floating on down the river. It seems to me that in the last couple of years that they are coming earlier in the season then I remember from years ago. Here’s some stuff to get you prepared. Start cleaning those dry lines and organize your fly boxes.
There is a PMD hatch that starts in early spring sometimes as early as February if the weather warms up. This is one of the better hatches on the Lower Yuba. Pale morning duns have everything going for them, large numbers that trigger aggressive surface feeding, fussy enough to offer a challenge, but not so difficult as to be too frustrating.
This small, pale-yellow mayfly of the crawler group is often referred to by its initials, PMD. Despite the name, pale morning dun, hatches can occur in the morning, early afternoon, or evening. It’s not unusual to have both morning and evening emergences on the same day. The hatch season on the Lower Yuba River begins as early as February and lasts as late as September. This is often the dominant hatch when it occurs. Trout take nymphs all day, and duns and emerging duns during the hatch. The best places on the Lower Yuba River to fish for the PMD’s are slower runs, back eddies, and tail-outs. Shortly before a hatch, dead-drift a nymph near the bottom. As the hatch begins, present a nymph near the surface or as a rising nymph. As trout begin taking duns off the surface, tie on an emerger, cripple, or dun pattern. Because the hatch usually happens in slow, clear water you may need a thin tippet, sometimes 6X fluorocarbon. You may also need to make a downstream presentation to a fish whose location you are certain of.
The spinner stage is almost as important as the hatching duns. Spinners are usually well matched with the classic Rusty Spinner.
Hatches: – February through July on the Lower Yuba
Names – Genus: – Ephemerella
Common Names: Pale morning dun, PMD
Nymph Size: 7-12 mm (1/4-1/2 in)
Nymph Color: Olive-brown, red-brown
Dun Size: 7-12 mm (1/4-1/2 in)
Dun Color: Wing: smoky gray. Body: pale yellow to tan.
Spinner Size: 7-12 mm (1/4-1/2 in)
Spinner Color: Wing: clear. Body: darker than dun, but still light brown with yellow and olive hints; basically, rusty.
Other Characteristics: Last two-thirds of nymphs’ tails are fringed with fine hairs. Duns, nymphs, and spinners have three tails. Duns and spinners have small rounded projections on the leading edge of the hind wing.
Techniques for fishing the PMD Hatch
Last year Blake Larsen and I had dropped my drift boat into the Lower Yuba River and I was rowing upstream to a large eddy pool where we typically start our fishing. As I rowed upstream we noticed lots of swallows buzzing the river. They were gobbling up PMD’s as they took off from the surface film and headed into the air. The PMD’s were running the gauntlet. I anchored and we watched this happen for about five minutes. If 5 out of a hundred PMD’s made it to safety without becoming a meal that may be exaggerating. It was a feast for the swallows that’s for sure. I bet you can guess how we rigged up.
The nymphs of these species, like all Ephemerellidae, are known as crawlers due to their habit of crawling over the substrate and generally poor swimming ability. While crawling along the stream bottom the nymphs feed on algae and decaying vegetation such as leaves and wood debris. Nymphs frequently get washed into the currents, and because of their abundance this “drift” provides important food for trout. It also means that nymph imitations are important, especially in the weeks and days prior to emergence. The wide distribution and abundance of these species also means nymph imitations can be successful searching patterns most of the year.
For nymphs a dark gold ribbed Hares Ear, pheasant tail, Skip’s Nymph or HBI tied in the appropriate size (18-14) will usually do the trick. There are of course many match the hatch patterns as well. I find the above patterns work very well. It’s pretty simple. Do some sampling, catch some bugs, put them in a white tray or lid, drop your nymph patterns into the lid and see what matches. Nothing to it. Go fishin’.
Some people say that using bead head patterns will help get them to the bottom. I like to fish with non-bead head flies and just use split shot to get them down. Fish them dead-drift along the edges of and below riffles, through pocket water or along undercut banks. Nymph patterns are most effective just prior to emergence when the naturals are migrating to slower water or beginning their restless ascent to the surface for emergence. On the Lower Yuba weighted flies and split shot are necessary to get the flies near the bottom during the early stages of the hatch when most nymphs are still on the bottom. Later nymphs can be effectively fished in mid depths without weight. A strike indicator located six or seven feet above the fly, is a great help for detecting strikes when fishing these small nymphs.
Stage One – Nymphing
During the hatch’s early stages fish are focused on PMD nymphs and emergers, so most of the action is subsurface.
Rigg up with a nine foot 3x leader. Add 16" of 4x flurocarbon to attach your 1st nymph, (maybe an HBI), place shot at the knot at the end of the 3x leader. Tie another 14" section of 5x tippet to the hook bend of your 1st fly and the add your second fly (maybe an Pheasant tail). If your brave enough add a third fly. Attach a “Boles Indicator” and set it at about 7 to 8 feet to the shot. Adjust the depth as necessary. Note: Try using the “Davy Knot” for attaching your flies to the tippet.
Use standard upstream indicator tactics to present the nymphs when wading.
Tight Line Nymphing
Use a nine-foot 5X leader and tie on the your favorite PMD imitation. Put enough split shot on the leader about eight inches above the nymph. Cast downstream and across, allowing the nymph to sink to the bottom, then swing across in the current. Trout will take the fly as it rises from the bottom during the downstream swing.
Stage Two – Emergers and Duns
Changing from nymph to dun is often a trying task for these mayflies. When everything goes right the nymphs hang in or just under the surface as the wings of the dun escape the nymphal shuck and break through the surface. This is a good time for a floating nymph pattern. Often, however, not everything goes right. Duns with wings partially unfurled get caught in the surface and never get off the water. Soft hackles or flymphs make excellent emerger patterns when this occurs.
Fish floating nymphs or flymphs upstream and across with a dead-drift float. I prefer casting to fish I’ve spotted feeding just under the surface on emerging duns. However, even fish clearly taking duns will often take a well presented emerger after refusing numerous dun patterns.
Surface activity can be fast during the often heavy hatches of these mayflies. For this reason a good durable dry fly can save a lot of time from changing flies between fish. Compara-duns have proven themselves very durable and imitative. In recent years, however, I have found “Harrop” duns (originated by Rene Harrop) to be equally durable and more effective at fooling selective fish. Fish during these hatches can become ultra selective. Patterns from 14’s to 20’s may be needed depending on the local species and conditions. The color of the naturals varies on the Lower Yuba River and sometimes we have noticed two differents PMD’s hatching at the same time. It’s always best to collect a hatching dun and select a pattern according to its size and color. You should rigg up with an 11-foot, 6x leader and replace the nymph with a Sparkle Dun or PMD Cripple. Sparkle duns and Cripples are nice representations of emerging duns or duns trapped in the shuck which are states that trout particularly focus on. Delicate presentations and drag-free floats are a must when fishing dries during these hatches. If you are getting refusals with an upstream cast, try a downstream slack-line presentation. To achieve a downstream drag free float, try a pile cast, where the line and leader to fall down in a heap about five feet above a rise. Make two quick strips to separate the fly line from the fly. The current will gradually straighten the tippet, but not before the fly floats naturally over a trout. If that fails and naturals are seen fluttering on the surface struggling to get airborne, try giving your fly slight twitches.
Finally, watch carefully for spinners in the evening. They can be surprisingly difficult to see in the fading evening light. Rises to spinners are also subtle. A simple hackled fly clipped top and bottom makes a good spinner pattern. A downstream slack-line cast, carefully positioned over the feeding lane of a rising fish, is usually the best approach.
Research for this article from;
Rick Hafele’s website www.laughingrivers. com
Westfly at www.westfly.com
Clay’s Fly Box – PMD Patterns
The PMD hatch over the years has become of more and more importance, while the caddis hatches of the years past have receded. Why, not really sure, but it is said that the same thing is happening on the Lower Sacramento River. Global warming, who knows.
I carry lots of stuff to match this hatch, why a lot and not a chosen few, I’m just as gullible as anyone else I guess, getting sucked in searching for the magic bullet. I carry three small C&F boxes with all the small bugs that I regularly use on the Lower Yuba and Lower Sacramento River. The PMD patterns are mixed in with the other micro mayflies. I’m thinking now that if I add one more box I could then have dedicated PMD box. I haven’t done it yet but probably should and will.
Here’s the PMD patterns that I carry, probably should carry or wish I’d carry.
Burk’s HBI Nymph
The HBI nymph has been a proven producer on the Lower Yuba River in the runs below riffles prior to a PMD hatch and during the hatch. If I’m nymphing a PMD hatch the HBI nymph will be the 1st fly I tie on.
Pheasant Tail Nymph
Who hasn’t used a Pheasant Tail Nymph with success at some time or another. You have to have these and the “Flashback” version in your box. They are simply a “Go To” fly most everywhere you go.
<img src=“/assets/516/Pheasant_Tail_Nymph.jpg” alt=‘Pheasant Tail Nymph – For PMD’s sizes 14,16,18,20 ’ />
Hogan’s Military May PMD
The Hogan’s Military May PMD was the evolution from the Military May brown. It is tied in a lighter color and with a smaller bead to make the fly less bulky. He was able to better match the slim and trim profilr of the PMD’s. Hogan recommends fishing this pattern under indicator or as a trailer under an emerger or dun.
Hogan’s Military May Brown
The Military May series is one of the patterns that Hogan “goes to” and fishes most often. It was developed on the Lower Yuba about 5 years ago. This was Hogan’s first attempt to match the PMD’s, but it proved to be a little too bulky and slightly off color. The Hogan’s Military May PMD was the evolution.
The Military May is one of the best flies to use for any mayfly hatch. You shouls carry an assortment of these flies in the different colors and sizes.Fish this pattern which has some flash with another that is more plain and imitative. Give the trout a choice and see what they like.
Hogan’s S&M Nymph Brown
Hogan came up with the Brown S&M Nymph as a change up from the Military May PMD. This fly has a slim profile without a lot of flash. Some times the fish just want a more drab fly. He recommends using this to match a PMD, PED, or Pinky or any other spring or summer mayfly.
<img src=“/assets/90/hogans_sm_nymph.jpg” alt=’hogan’s_s_and_m_brown’ />
Hogan’s Red Headed Step Child
Hogan came up with the Red Headed Stepchild when fishing the Trinity River in Northern California. He wanted a fly to present on bright days with crystal clear water. Many guides use a red Copper John on the Trinity but Hogan felt it lost it’s effectiveness once the day brightened up.It is an attractor with the same red color of the red copper john but presents a more accurate profile and more subtle coloration.
Hogan like to fish it in tandem with a military may to match the hatch. It took me a while to get to the point of using this fly and having confidence in it, but after I started using it regularly it has paid off.
I first used the Anato-May while fishing with Mike Hibbard on the Trinity River and the Lower Sacramento. He stocks this pattern in his box and so should you.
<img src=“/assets/511/morrish_s_anato_may_hare_s_ear.jpg” alt=’Morrish’s Anato-May PMD (Available from Iydlwilde)’ />
The Skips nymph is a great pattern for you to tie yourself. You can use the Skip Nymph anywhere that you would use a Pheasant Tail Nymph. Tie some up.
Quigley’s PMD Floating Nymph
A must have pattern to use as an emerging nymph prior to the full, prime time hatch of PMD’s. Use this as a dropper behind a visible emerger or dun pattern.
Hogan’s SIM (Stuck in the Middle) PMD
Hogan like to use the SIM as a trailer or swing it during a PMD hatch. He recommends trailing it about 12" behind just about any of Bob Quigley’s adult patterns during the hatch as an emerger or a cripple Sometimes he adds a smaller split shot about 12" above the SIM and lift it to the surface at a spotted rising fish
<img src=“/assets/91/hogans_sim_mayfly_pmd.jpg” alt=’hogan’s_sim_mayfly_emerger’ />
Hogan’s Sipper PMD
The Sipper came about as a result of Hogan snorkeling the Lower Yuba River and obseving the fish taking PMDs. He noticed that fish would key on the emergers struggling on the surface as they hatched.
<img src=“/assets/92/hogans_sipper_pmd.jpg” alt=’Hogan’s Sipper PMD (Originator Hogan Brown – Available from Iydlwilde)’ />
PMD Sparkle Dun
This has been a proven standard mayfly pattern for years, and they are as good today as they were twenty years ago. This fantastic combination of zelon, dubbing, and deer hair imitates an emerging dun still trapped in its nymphal shuck.
Bob Quigley’s Patterns
Bob Quigley is probably best know for his “Cripple” patterns. He is a signature fly designer for Iydlwild Flies. His patterns are usually my first choice when I encounter fussy trout taking emergent mayflies.
Quigley Cripples Not only is Bob Quigley a talented tier, he is also a keen observer and thinker that has combined his talents to push the limits of fly design. The Quigley Cripple is one of the patterns that brought national attention to Bob and his fly designs. With the Quigley Cripple, Bob not only pioneered a new tying concept, he identified a new niche within a mayfly hatch. In the late 70’s, while guiding on the Fall River in Northern California, Bob observed that fish were keying on mayflies that were caught in transition between shedding their nymphal shuck and flying away as a dun. He dubbed these doomed naturals as “cripples” and developed the Quigley Cripple to capitalize on this discovery. You can read about the history, how to tie and how to fish the Quigley Cripple. here. Cripples are now a mainstream tying style and pattern in today’s fly boxes. Virtually all flies that bear the name “cripple” are based on Bob’s pioneering tying style where the rear portion of the fly is tied to imitate the nymphal shuck (and rides underwater) while the front part of the fly represents the emergence of an adult (and rides above water). Next time you fool a picky fish with a cripple, tip your hat to Bob Quigley. When & Where This is a versatile fly that can be fished anywhere mayflies hatch (including lakes). The fly was originally designed for the spring creek conditions of The Fall River. Since Bob introduced the fly fishing world to the Quigley Cripple, it has proved to be just as effective on rivers and lakes all over the world.
Quigley’s Marabou Cripple Creamy Orange
Quigley’s Flasher Cripple PMD
Quigley’s Spider Variant PMD
Quigley’s CDC Emerger PMD
Quigley’s Loopy Emerger PMD
Quigleys CDC Emerger Pink
Quigley’s Floating Nymph PMD
Quigleys CDC Emerger PMD
Quigley’s Mini Jewel Crawler PMD