Author: Trout's Staff
The Cold Hard Facts:
Western Drakes, also known as Ephemerella grandis and Ephemerella dodsi, are typically one of the most anticipated hatches of the year. The Ephemerella family, which also includes Blue Wing Olives (BWO’s), Pale Morning Duns (PMD’s), Sulphurs, and Hendricksons, is known for prolific hatches that cause trout to feed in an uncommonly aggressive manor. Because of their larger size and gangly nature, the Drake family seems to stand out from the others, and holds a special place in a trout’s heart and diet.
Like other mayflies, Drakes go through a cyclical life cycle. During its nymphal stage, Drakes are often called Crawlers and can reach up to 1 inch in length. They will tend to be found in the faster moving riffle water of a river, and are available to the trout year round. Drakes will typically start to go through their emergence stage anywhere from mid June to mid July, depending on weather, water level, and water temperature. This is when the nymphs become active and start making their way towards the surface. It is at this time that trout will start to take notice of these flies and begin to target them exclusively. It is important to note that not all mayflies make it to their adult stage, which makes the emergence stage so important to a trout’s diet, as well as an anglers fishing strategy. Those in the know have learned that although fishing dry flies is fun, it is during the emergence stage that some of the best fishing can be had, and the biggest fish will be caught. Once the Drake has hatched, it will remain in its adult stage for 1-3 days on the shore, at which point it will come back to the surface to lay its eggs. After the eggs have been laid, the fly enters it final “spent” stage. During this time, the fly is most vulnerable to feeding trout, making this another prime fishing stage.
Fly Selection is Paramount:
The truth of the matter is that trout that are keying in a Drakes ARE NOT easy to catch. Trout’s obsession with Drakes makes them ultra selective and very particular about what bugs they want to eat. More often then not, they are targeting bugs that are in a particular life cycle stage. As a result, it is important to have a variety of Drake patterns whenever you know you may encounter a good hatch. A good selection will have a variety of nymphs, emergers, cripples and adults in a variety of sizes (10-12), colors and shapes.
Rivers that Peddle the Drake:
In Colorado, we’re lucky to have a number of rivers that play host to superb Drake hatches. Most notable would be the Roaring Fork River which see a phenomenal Drake hatch every year. Although this is a fertile river that has many other insect species, the fish on the Fork have always relied heavily on the Drakes as a staple annual food source. The Frying Pan, which is a tributary to the Roaring Fork also has a great Drake hatch. It will typically go off a bit later than that of the Fork, as the bugs take a bit longer to make their migration up the Pan. The Eagle river is another river with a quality Drake hatch, although the past couple of wet summers have decreased the productivity of this particular hatch. Although not as productive as the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan, the Colorado River will see Drakes every summer, although how much the fish key in on them is always unpredictable. In addition to these notable rivers, other watersheds like the Yampa, North Platte, Poudre, South Boulder Creek, and many more also play host to the Drakes, and can offer some great action if you’re there at the right time.