Hatches on the Spring Creek
Weather & Hatches
Weather plays an important role when dealing with hatches. A very cool and late spring may mean that the weed growth is slowed and the hatches may be somewhat behind schedule. A mild warm winter and spring may mean that the weed growth and hatches may start earlier that than normal.
The 2003 Season was a classic example of weather affecting the fishing. From late June until early September the daytime temperatures ranged from 90 to 100. Most of the days were bright and sunny. The PMD spinner falls of the late evening were almost nonexistent, as the spinners seemed to prefer the early morning hour. The PMD, and at times the Sulfur, hatches were sparse. Many anglers had problems. Their biggest problem was not thinking outside the box. The trout hadn’t gone anywhere, so where were they and what were they feeding on? Those were questions that many anglers failed to ask.
I find it amusing that often when the fishing becomes difficult, anglers blame the trout instead of themselves. Hatch charts and the fishing information contained in these pages are not cast in stone; they are only guidelines for the average normal day. As noted before, pay attention; be observant!
The baetis hatches appear two times a year on the creek, during the spring and again in the fall. The sizes will vary between 18 and 24. The baetis hatch starts around noontime. I prefer to fish the hatch from the bottom up. In the fast runs or heavy riffles I would use a Bead-Head Pheasant Tail Nymph or a Bead-Head Baetis Nymph and a strike indicator. The strike indicator should be placed three to four feet above the fly.
As the real nymphs begin to drift closer to the surface, I switch to a Baetis Paradun and dropper nymph, either a PT Nymph or a Baetis Nymph. The dropper strands should start out at three feet in length. As the nymphs drift closer to the surface, just shorten the dropper strand.
As the baetis begin to emerge on the surface I will use a Baetis Foam Floating Nymph, Baetis Transitional Dun, or any number of Baetis Emergers. Careful observation will tell you if the trout are feeding on adults. Then switch over to your favorite adult baetis imitation.
Often during the baetis emergence there will also be baetis spinners falling. A good spent baetis imitation can be deadly.
Once the baetis hatch is over, I often spend the rest of the day nymphing with Red Bead Midge Worm, Red San Juan Worm, (in spring) Egg imitation, as well as a Pt Nymph or Midge Pupa. If you don’t like to nymph you should try moving around on the creek looking for those trout who are still feeding on baetis. You may also find some midging activity in certain sections of the creek.
Pale Morning Dun Hatch
Normally by mid-June the first super hatch of the summer begins, the Pale Morning Duns. The PMD hatch is the most popular hatch on the creek and outside of the terrestrial and scattering callibaetis the PMD’s are the largest insects on the creek. The size range runs from 16 to 20. Like with the baetis hatch, I’ll start by fishing the PMD hatch with a nymph. On a typical day the hatch will start around 10 a.m. An olive or standard Pheasant Nymph will work very well for this. I like to fish my nymphs behind a Parachute PMD Dun, using a three-foot dropper. As the trout move up in the water column I simply shorten the dropper. As the hatch progresses, the fish will appear to be taking something on the surface. Look closely!!! During this time period many anglers make the mistake of switching to a dun. But if you will observe, 90% of the duns are sailing over the trout unscathed or that you see the raise and never do see any adults. What the trout are really feeding on are emergers. For this I might put on a PMD Sparkle Dun and trail an emerger pattern about two feet behind the dry. Some of my favorite emerger patterns are PMD Foam Floating Nymph, Harrop’s CDC PMD Emerger or a Parachute PMD Emerger. As the hatch continues and more duns appear, the trout may start feeding on the adults. Some of my favorite patterns are PMD ComparaDuns, PMD Paradun and PMD Sparkle Duns. I also carry a few PMD No-Hackles for those very tough and selective trout.
Generally speaking the all-time best dry fly fishing is on those cool days when the duns (new hatched adults) are on the water for long periods of time trying to dry their wings so they can fly. On a bright, hot day the duns crack the surface film and immediately fly off, making dry fly fishing mediocre at best. During those days I will use emergers and nymphs through the entire hatch, switching to drys only after the hatch starts to taper off. During this tapering off period, many times you can take trout on drys as they are still looking up, and it is well documented that trout are definitely feeders of opportunity. If the day is very windy, many times I will use a PMD Spinner imitation. The PMD Spinner fall will occur during late evenings providing the weather cooperates. If they don’t come down in the evening, look for them in the early morning hours of the next day. The PMD hatch will be fairly heavy and steady from June 20 to July 15. Then the hatch becomes more scattered and some days the hatches are good and other days they can be pretty poor. However, all that has to happen is that enough of the PMD’s hatch to bring the trout up. On some days the hatches are what I call trickle hatches as the hatch is very sparse, but they may hatch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The PMD’s will continue to sparsely hatch throughout August and into early September.
Sulphur Duns are small mayflies of the baetis family. This hatch begins to appear in early July and will run to early September. The hatch begins sometime between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. This time variance is directly related to how hot and bright the day has been. Sulfurs range in size from 20 to 24. I’ll start by fishing a sulfur nymph imitation. For this I suggest an Olive Sawyer PT Nymph, standard Sawyer PT Nymph or a Sulfur fur Nymph in sizes 18 to 22. The nymphs for this dun are very active. As the hatch progresses, I will sometimes grease the leader to within two inches of the nymph and, using one of the above mentioned imitations, fish it down and across, using the old wet fly swing method. Remember to mend your line to slow down the speed of the swing, as the fly swings almost straight downstream and slowly jiggle your rod tip. This method can be deadly, but BEWARE, the strikes are very hard and vicious and you can break off a good many flies unless you are careful. I suggest using a slip strike. A different and safer method is to fish up and across and twitch the nymph. Once the trout are keyed in on the emergers, I then prefer to use a two fly combination. The first being a Sulfur Paradun or Sulfur Sparkle Dun, and then attach a dropper strand to the bend of the dry fly hook. Then I’ll use a Harrop’s CDC Sulfur Floating Nymph, Sulfur Para-Nymph or a Foam Floating Sulfur Nymph. If the trout are keyed on emergers, and if you only wish to use one imitation, then still use these imitations. When, and if, the trout do switch to emerging adults, I suggest Harrop’s CDC Sulfur Transitional Dun or Sulfur Sparkle Dun. Once the trout turns to the adults I prefer the Sulfur Thorax Dun, the Sulfur Paradun, Harrop’s CDC Sulfur Tailwater Dun or the Sulfur ComparaDun.
The key to success while fishing the Sulfur hatch is simply to pick a fish and cast to that fish. Don’t flock shoot. This causes nothing but anger and frustration. So pick a fish and cast to him time after time until you move him to do something, and then pick another target. During the late afternoon and evening hours the sun’s angle and reflection on the water can give some anglers fits. Just remember to change your angle so you can see the fly and so you get a drag-free float. Don’t try for the 20-foot drag free drift. By picking your target you can place your fly 18 to 20 inches above the fish. Remember, when fishing on the creek the trout can be locked into some very definite feeding lanes, casting to a rising trout can be a game of inches. Make sure you are putting the fly to the trout, not off to the side by a couple of inches. The spinner fall can happen either late in the evenings or very early in the mornings. For this I recommend the Harrop’s CDC Sulfur Spinner or Biot Sulfur Spinner.
Normally the first caddis hatch of the season shows up on the creek about mid-April and will run till mid-May. This first hatch is made up of two basic caddis: a small dark olive caddis with a black wing and a tan caddis with a tan wing. These hatches are heavy enough to excite the interest of the trout. Though a few caddis can be found anywhere on the creek, the best hatches are found on the sections of creek with the best riffles.
The caddis emergence will start about 1 p.m. and may last for a couple hours. During the late evening hours you can see the mating and egg laying caddis flights over the water. I will generally start fishing the hatch with a dry elk hair or Goddard caddis size 16, followed by a beadhead olive soft hackle on a 3-foot dropper. As the hatch increases I will switch to a standard soft hackle, still using the same dry fly, though I may shorten the dropper to 24 inches. Also, I will allow the soft hackled dropper to swing out behind the dry fly. For this method I like a base 9-foot 4X leader with a 5X dropper. Many different emerger patterns and dry flies may work well; just keep them in the proper size range.
By mid-May the tan caddis hatch will nearly be gone. However, the small black & olive caddis will continue to emerge in scattered numbers throughout the rest of May and June and will return to heavy hatches from July through early September. During the early part of the hatch, size 18 imitations will work well. However, as the hatch progresses you may want to drop to 20’s and on some day’s even 22’s. During July, August and September the best caddis emergences will be found on the lower end of the creek, from Dick’s Riffle to the river. Don’t overlook this hatch as I have. Many days during the summer caddis fishing has been outstanding when the PMD hatch has been sparse or nonexistent.
Throughout the majority of the year an angler may encounter a midge hatch on the creek. There are three keys to success. First is the angler’s ability to observe what stage of the midge the trout is feeding on. Often the angler will have to treat each fish as an individual, as different fish may be feeding on different stages of the insect. This is especially true on the flat water at Anne’s Run, PHD Pool and the House Pond. The second key is having a complete selection of imitations and the third is having the tackle and presentation skills needed to get the fly to the trout in the proper manner. Yes, a poor or improper cast may put a fish down, or make it change position, but in a very short time it will resume feeding. Just learn from your mistakes. The following is a good basic pattern list for midge hatches.
Black Midge Pupa, Black & Olive Midge Pupa, Gray Midge Pupa, Harrop’s Gray Transitional Midge, Harrop’s Black Transitional Midge, Gray Parachute Midge, Black Parachute Midge and Griffith’s Gnat. I carry these patterns in sizes 18 to 24.
Most fly fishers love to fish dry flies. To see the trout rise to a floating imitation is exciting. However, 90% of everything the trout eats is found beneath the surface of the water. This means that dryfly anglers are only effectively fishing 10% of the time.
During the winter months and the time period between the major hatches, nymphal imitations may well be the only way the angler may take trout with any consistency. Often prior to and even during an emergence the trout are feeding on some food form that is beneath the surface film. Now, some may dispute that the trout feed beneath the surface 90% of the time, even though this has been the findings of such noted author/anglers as Gary Borger and Ernest Schwiebert. For those who are still not convinced, well, such is your loss! During my career as both a guide and an angler you will never find me on the stream without a small aquarium style net or steam seine and a stomach pump. Why? Because I don’t want to guess at what the trout are eating, I want to know!! Over the span of years I have put together food form collections for many of the waters that I fish. The findings show that 90% of everything the trout eats is beneath the surface of the water. You might say that this information came straight from the trout’s mouth.
From 1993 to 1998 I conducted a study on the creek, collecting stream samples and using a stomach pump during very month of the year. The following is a list of aquatic food forms that the trout prefer. The list is not in order of the trout’s preference, rather just listed to show what is available to the trout:
- Midge Worms
- Midge Pupa
- Various fish eggs
- Minnows (Various Species)
- Aquatic Worms
- Water Beetle Larvae
- Case Caddis
- Free Swimming Caddis Larvae
- Stonefly Nymphs
- Crane Fly Larvae
- Water Beetles (Various species)
- Damsel Fly Nymphs
- Caddis Pupa (Various species)
- Mayfly Nymphs (Various species)
This total of eighteen food forms encompasses approximately thirty individual species and can require as many as 42 imitative patterns. Now, I can hear the comments, “I’ve fished DePuy’s plenty of times and I have never needed forty two patterns!” Neither have I – on any single day. However, I fish here on the creek throughout the entire year, and I have used all forty-two patterns plus many others, including dry adult and terrestrial imitations. The following is list of nymphs that I suggest as general searching imitations when no hatches are in progress:
Red San Juan Worm, 10 or 12
Beadhead Midge Worm Red or Olive, 16 or 18
Peach Trout Egg, 14
Copper Nymph, 16 to 20
Pheasant Tail Nymph, 16 to 22
Beadhead PT Nymph, 16 to 22
Pheasant Tail Flashback, 16 to 22
Scud, Gray or Olive, 14 to 18
Drifting Case Caddis Nymph, 14 & 16
Beadhead Prince Nymph, 14 to 18
Brownstone Nymph, 14 to 18
Remember, these are just suggestions and are not the only patterns that will work.
During the month of April the terrestrial insects once again make their appearance. Throughout the spring and into summer the terrestrial insects become increasingly important to both the trout and the angler. The following is a list of terrestrials that anglers might consider having in their boxes:
Black Parachute Ant, 18-22
Cinnamon Parachute Ant, 18-22
Yellow Hopper, 10-14
Tan Hopper, 10-14
Black Cricket, 10-14
Chernobyl Black Ant, 10
Foam Black Beetle, 14-18
In the spring the first terrestrials to appear are the ants, the beetles, then crickets and finally hoppers will follow them. For those of you who fish the creek from mid-July through September, here’s a tip: one of the most effective and most under-used patterns are the ants and cricket imitations. Consider this, there are approximately 750 species of mayflies found in North America, yet there are 22,000 species of beetles. That doesn’t count ants, hoppers, crickets, houseflies and others. We generally don’t see masses of terrestrial insects on the water, yet the trout are constantly seeing terrestrials during each day of the summer. This fact makes terrestrial imitations a good choice for those feeders of opportunity. Here’s a prime fishing tip: when I’m using terrestrial imitations I try to cover the water. Yes if there is a rising fish I’ll float the pattern by him a time or two. If the fish refuses I keep right on moving. The more water you cover, the more trout you will catch. Another fishing tip: lots of anglers don’t like to fish small ants or beetles because they are hard to see. There is an easy answer; simply fish the ant or beetle behind something like a trude or elk hair caddis.