On the Fly column: Blue winged olives pale in comparison | PostIndependent.com

On the Fly column: Blue winged olives pale in comparison

a Fryingpan pale morning dun
Gregg Lee

Pale morning duns are one of the prettiest bugs that hatch in our local rivers. We see adults in hues pink through yellow, and the nymphs are typically rusty red in color. I consider these bugs the “medium” sized mayflies we encounter, compared to tiny blue winged olives in sizes 20 and 22 and our gorilla-sized green drakes that are as big as size 10. The pale morning duns we see are usually size 16 and 18, and tend to hatch mid-day. And guess what? The guides are starting to see them hatch on the Fryingpan.

All mayflies go through different stages of a life cycle, and the final stage of a female PMD’s short-lived adult (dun stage) life is called the “spinner” phase. After the aquatic transformation of emerger into adult, females undergo yet another transformation outside of the water and become spinners. Spinners are easily recognizable because of the extremely long tails they sport, and the graceful “dipping dance” they perform over the surface of the water.

Spinners are the egg layers for future generations of mayflies, and they always deposit their eggs slightly upstream from where they hatched out of the river. If this didn’t happen (and this applies to most aquatic insects) these bugs would eventually wash down all the way to the oceans they feed. Pretty smart.

PMDs are now officially on the scene; the hatch up the Fryingpan River has just gotten kick-started over the last few days. If I had one dry fly pattern to fish for PMDs, it would be AK Best’s Melon Quill in sizes 16 and 18. Nymphs of note are Pandemics, Half Backs and Split Cases. Everyone around here is obsessed with green drake mayflies, but pale morning duns are the loveliest in my book. Are you ready?

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

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