Picabo Angler

Pee-Ka-Boo is a Native American word meaning "Shining Waters."

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May 21 2017 - Pale Morning Duns

May 21, 2017

Pale Morning Duns . . . . . i.e. Ephemerella

           I’m posting this blog entry regarding one of the most important and productive hatches on many fly fishing venues, including early season on Silver Creek, in case you are heading to your favorite fly shop to restock your fly boxes.

The Pale Morning Dun hatch is the favorite of many a Western angler, particularly on Silver Creek where the insect has grown to a bona fide size 14 in recent years.  The cream to light yellow body and light to medium gray wings make it easy to recognize the PMD, and the bright, large floating natural allows us to readily identify feeding lanes.  The fishing conditions are generally warmer, wind free and more tolerable to the angler.  The PMD has usually appeared on Silver Creek by mid-June in most years but can even be encountered on Opening Day when we are blessed by an “early” spring, like 2016.  The PMD hatch generally comes off around Noon but warmer days provide for an earlier emergence which lends more validity to the “morning” portion of the name.  On the Ranch they can also hatch late afternoon and into the evening.

The two most common species of PMD are E. Inermis and E. Infrequens.  Distinguishing between these two species is not a reasonable or necessary option for the angler as size, color and other anatomical characteristics overlap to a degree that makes field identification virtually impossible.  To be sure which species you are faced with imitating requires a microscopic examination of the gentalia of the male spinner; if this is of interest, your Stream Keeper recommends that you pursue it at home behind closed doors as it is probably still a crime in at least 14 States.  


Nymphs & Soft Hackles.

The PMD is classified as a “crawler” mayfly rather than a “swimmer” like the Blue Winged Olive.  It is important to remember that the PMD nymph lives on and among bottom rocks in freestone streams, because in spring creeks the PMD nymph establishes itself in the more stable stream environment where plants have taken root.  In the Ranch water where our stream restoration projects have exposed the gravel bottom and allowed quality aquatic vegetation to take root, we may expect to encounter improved hatches in future years, as contrasted with the “Point of Rocks” water where the density of the PMD hatch has waned in the face of accumulated silt. 

Your Stream Keeper’s favorite nymph patterns for the PMD nymph include: a #14 Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle tied with red-dyed pheasant tail fibers; the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear; the traditional Pheasant Tail Nymph tied with red-dyed pheasant tail fibers; and Mercer’s Poxyback PMD Nymph (available from The Fly Shop in Redding, CA). 

When the hatch begins you will noticed that the trout have moved up higher in the water column than during the pre-hatch period.  At this time you will do better fishing a nymph pattern that is un-weighted so that it targets trout within six inches of the surface.  Pulling slightly on the fly line so that the nymph swims in a “burst” will often draw a strike from reluctant trout. As the hatch progresses one might consider tying the nymph pattern below an emerger or dun pattern so that the offering appeals to trout keyed on different stages of the hatch.

Cripples & Emergers.

Even though the PMD is a relatively strong mayfly which does not struggle getting through the meniscus, trout will often target “cripples” to the exclusion of Dun patterns, particularly in calm and glassy situations where one wonders why more hatched Duns are not present.  Your Stream Keeper’s favorite emerger patterns include Quigley’s PMD Cripple, the PMD Foam Emerger, the PMD CDC Emerger, and Rene Harrop’s PMD Cripple.


 There certainly are sessions where heavily hackled Dun patterns are effective on Silver Creek; however, day in and day out greater success will be enjoyed by fishing sparse flies or “no hackle” patterns.  Presentation of the chosen pattern is equally critical.  Your Stream Keeper’s favorite PMD Dun pattern is the Reverse Tied CDC Winged Parachute in sizes 14 and 16. Other “go to” flies for me are the PMD Hatch Matcher, Quigley’s PMD Hackle Stacker, the PMD Sparkle Dun, the PMD Hair Winged Dun, Rene Harrop’s No Hackle Dun, and the PMD Thorax Dun.


Fishing the evening PMD “spinner fall” can be most exciting, particularly for the larger trout that frequently haunt the banks and qualify as “sippers.”  Even though PMD spinners are generally light to dark brown in color, the same rust colored spinner patterns which work for Blue Winged Olives will usually bring success for the PMD spinners including:  the Red Quill Spinner; the Rusty Sparkle Spinner (i.e. tied with white Z-lon wings); and the CDC Rusty Spinner (i.e. tied with white CDC wings topped with gray Z-lon).  

Doug Andres

Stream Keeper, Double R Ranch