June 5, 2015
June 5, 2015:
Over the past couple of days we’ve turned the corner in terms of experiencing bona fide fishable mayfly hatches on the Double R Ranch, which should continue to intensify with the forecasted warmer weather. Two days ago I launched my float tube at the gazebo bridge and immediately encountered a horde of Callibaetis spinners hovering over the pool. As I rounded the island I ran into a hatch of Pale Morning Duns and landed three fish on a PMD parachute. The PMD hatch yielded to Blue Winged Olives and I landed three nice browns by swinging my #14 Pheasant Tail soft hackle in front of swirling fish. Yesterday, the trout on The Pond were rioting in the midst of an afternoon Callibaetis hatch. We are starting to experience the emergence of White Miller Caddis all over the Ranch water.
As Stream Keeper of the Double R Ranch stretch of Silver Creek, I feel blessed that I can fish Callibaetis hatches on both The Pond and the field water. Given the diversity of Callibaetis habitat on the Ranch we are able to fish this mayfly for an extended period of time. The newly restored Pond is fishing well these days due to the deepened water and the new islands. The Pond even fishes well with a slight breeze because the trout are tending to hold in the two foot band of calm water along the banks of the islands that are sheltered from the prevailing wind. The mid-summer Callibaetis mayfly on Silver Creek is a rather large critter, often a size 14 but failing that a size 16. Because of the importance to the angler of all stages of this mayfly, I carry two fly boxes dedicated to Callibaetis, one confined to dun patterns and the other containing a selection of nymphs, cripples and spinners.
For the past several days Callibaetis have been hatching on The Pond in reasonable quantities and now the spinner flights involve more bugs and the hatch of Duns thickens so the fish are becoming more active. Thus far, out in the filed water the Callibaetis hatch has not yet come on strong, other than in isolated places but be on the lookout as the weather continues to warm up. The fishing on both The Pond and on the field water will only get better in the coming weeks as cloud cover becomes less prevalent, as air temperature rises and as the breeze wanes. You’ll notice that the Callibaetis hatch will slow down with the clouds but resume with force once the sun breaks through. The Callibaetis is truly a sun loving bug.
The Callibaetis hatch most often will commence in earnest around Noon and, depending on cloud cover, one can fish Dun, Spinner and Emerger patterns until late afternoon and sometimes even into the evening. In the dead heat of summer the hatch can hold back until early evening when temperatures begin to moderate. The female spinners, bearing classic speckled wings, will make their ovipositing flights after spending up to five days in streamside vegetation ripening their fertilized eggs. While the male spinners may blanket the angler, trout rarely take the male spinner; the angler is best off finding a containing a quantity of spent female spinners and choosing a fly pattern that best imitates what is on the water.
Nymphs are more important to success with Callibaetis than perhaps any other mayfly hatch if you believe reports from some writers that stomach content analysis reveals that trout eat 8 to 12 Callibaetis nymphs for each duns or spinner. Callibaetis nymphs will be found concentrated over and adjacent to weed beds and other healthy aquatic vegetation. The Callibaetis nymph uses its abdomen and tail to propel itself in 6 inch darting bursts, and will repeatedly move up and down between the safety of vegetation and the surface, which causes savage predation by trout. Eventually, the nymph makes a steady, rapid swim to the surface triggering subsurface bulges which are often mistaken for the rise form of a dun being eaten off the surface. On bright days the Callibaetis usually escape the water quickly; thus, the trout are left to focus on the nymph and the angler might be wise to follow suit. In all of these circumstances the angler’s prospects for hooking a trout on a nymph pattern are good provided the fly is fished with movement at a variety of depths. Effective nymph patterns include: the Pheasant Tail Flashback Nymph; a Hare’s Ear Nymph; Mercer’s Poxyback Callibaetis Nymph; and a variety of tan to medium brown but slender nymphs.
Unlike many of its smaller mayfly cousins, the Callibaetis nymph has enough mass and power to break right through the meniscus so usually few cripples attend the hatch of duns. The exception is on cold, gloomy days when more nymphs have difficulty exiting the surface and may be targeted by trout. Cripple patterns that can be very effective under these circumstances include: Quigley’s Callibaetis Cripple; Rene Harrop’s Callibaetis Floating Nymph Emerger; any cripple pattern in a tanish-olive shade with a biot body and a post made of CDC.
There are few emergences of duns which excite the dry fly angler like the Callibaetis hatch, particularly on lakes, ponds and other still waters which experience “gulper” action. In still water situations, examine rise forms to figure out which direction your targeted trout is heading and lead the trout with your cast. Rather than cast to the first rise form you see, try waiting until the fish rises a second time in order to determine which direction the fish is heading and then cast in front of the second rise form. If you are casting to a pod of trout in moving water, avoid spooking the pod by casting to the closest fish on your side of the pod. If the trout seem to stay just outside the reach of your cast, try resting the fish until they become used to you and feed closer. Even if the trout seem to be keyed on nymphs swimming to the surface, the fish can hardly refuse well-placed Dun patterns including: the Callibaetis Hatchmatcher; the Comparadun; the Sparkle Dun; the Hair Winged Dun; the Callibaetis Thorax Dun; Harrop’s Callibaetis No Hackle; the Chopaka May.
Most of us have experienced days when trout gorge themselves on spent female spinners (which feature speckled wings). We’ve all probably had days when spinners were everywhere but no trout exhibited the slightest interest. Some suggest this is because the trout are already satiated with nymphs or because the female spinners have become devoid of nutritional value. When trout are onto female spinners effective fly patterns include: the Callibaetis Hatchmatcher; the Callibaetis Hackle Stacker; the Hen Wing Spinner; the Gulper Special; the CDC Callibaetis Spinner; the Crystal Winged Callibaetis Spinner. Trout generally ignore the male spinner of the Callibaetis (which lacks the speckled wing associated with the female spinner and generally is wholly white or a pale gray with black or dark thorax markings).