May 5, 2017 - Green Drakes
May 5, 2017.
I’m including this version of my new “Green Drakes” handout as a blog entry well before the season so that those Members who tie their own flies, place an order each spring, or undertake retail therapy at their fly shop have plenty of time to replenish their stock of Green Drake imitations.
If several years ago it had been suggested that I would find the need to prepare a handout regarding the Green Drake mayfly on the Double R Ranch, I would have laughed. Historically, Green Drakes were consistently encountered on the Nature Conservancy Preserve but only rarely downstream. However, since the Pond Project we have started to experience a sparse but fishable Green Drake hatch which, if it shows up, appears sometime during the first ten days of the season. You will recall that the Nature Conservancy performed its pond project rather belatedly that spring of 2014, after the Double R’s project, just as we were about to refill The Pond. This resulted in an unanticipated amount of silt making its way downstream of The Pond, necessitating the 2016 dredging project at Beats 6 and 7. But, the upside of the silt migration was that a quantity of Green Drake nymphs accompanied the silt downstream. I’m sure that the lowering of the temperature of the field water 3 to 5 degrees was also an important factor in the appearance of Green Drakes.
During the first week of the 2014 season on 5 days I observed a sparse hatch of Green Drakes in Beats 4 and 5. During the 2015 season a slightly denser and more widespread hatch of Green Drakes occurred at times during half of the first 10 days. The hatch was sparser and more sporadic during the spring of 2016. During each of the three seasons I hooked a couple of trout on Green Drake dun imitations, chiefly my Green Drake Hatch Matcher. Some days the Green Drakes came off in bright sunlight whereas other times I encountered drake duns under dark stormy skies for 20 minutes until the sun broke through. It appears that the Green Drake has established itself within the field water. Anglers travel from all over our nation to fish the sometimes blizzard hatch on the Henry’s Fork. Perhaps we have something similar to look forward to if, indeed, the migration of Green Drakes to the field water of the Double R becomes a permanent growing emergence.
Green Drakes hatch sporadically. They may only hatch 3 or 4 days out of ten. Numbers are rarely enough to cause trout to hold into feeding stations where trout can feed selectively. The Duns are so large (size 10 to 12), and suffer so severely from their genus’ characteristic of taking a long time to erect and dry their wings to facilitate take-of that trout will focus on the distressed insects even when the hatch is sparse. The scattered big duns get the trout interested in large flies.
Cloudy days with intermittent spitting rain will frequently give rise to a hatch. So, if you have heard that Green Drakes have been hatching on the Double R and the weather forecast is snotty, you should head down to the field water armed with cripples and large dun imitations. Anglers should also keep in mind that trout retain their memory of such a large bug such that at times the trout continue to take large dun imitations for days after the hatch has ended (as with Brown Drakes, Hexagenia and Callibaetis).
Emergence of the Green Drake mayfly typically begins late morning to early afternoon and extends for just a brief one to three hours. On days when the hatch is particularly finicky, the Green Drake may come of in ones and twos for five or six hours. The Green Drake hatch commonly explodes when a sunny sky rapidly becomes dark due to rain clouds passing over, then subsides when the sun returns. Some anglers will observe that this is the polar opposite of Callibaetis behavior. Strong winds usually put the Green Drake hatch down.
Green Drakes are “crawler” type mayflies, preferring the rocky substrate of streams. Consequently, our latest stream restoration project(s) involving the dredging of silt down to gravel cannot but help to expand Green Drake habitat on the Double R field water.
The Green Drake nymphs are blocky in shape, with 3 tails and yellowish-brown to dark brownish black in color. Your Stream Keeper’s recommended Green Drake nymph patterns include: Charles Brooks’ Ida My, an Idaho classic; the Western Green Drake Nymph; Pheasant Tail soft hackle.
Cripples & Emergers:
Because of the Green Drake’s characteristic of taking a long time to fly off the water as duns, you will find that cripples and emergers will often out fish dun patterns. Many Green Drakes are crippled or stillborn during their emergence. Some trout concentrate on those Green Drakes which have become stuck in the surface film, ignoring the perfectly formed duns that are able to make it through the meniscus to ride on top. In cool weather it is common for trout to focus on emergers and to ignore duns.
Productive emerger patterns include: the Lead-Winged Olive; Partridge & Green soft hackle; Tarcher-Style Green Drake Emerger; Craig Matthews’ Green Drake Emerger; Green Drake CDC Emerger.
Cripple patterns bringing anglers success include: Rene Harrop’s Green Drake Last Chance Cripple; Quigley’s Green Drake Cripple.
When trout are taking Green Drake duns off the surface, many standard dry patterns will work provided they are tied in Green Drake colors. Keep in mind that when the duns have just hatched their underbodies frequently are of a yellowish shade with greenish tops. Thus, you’ll want to pick up dry flies with olive or yellow bodies and gray wings. Productive patterns include: the Compara-dun; the Sparkle Dun; the Thorax Dun; a green bodied Paradrake (which features an extended body); the Green Drake Hatch Matcher.
A large Wulff, with its mayfly profile and colors that are a mix of olive and brown and not nearly as garish as you might think once they are wet in the water and subdued by fly floatant, might owe a degree of its productivity to the scattered and sparse nature of this hatch.
Spinner falls of the Green Drake are even sparser than the dun hatch. It is widely reported that the spinners of the Green Drake gather just before dark to mate, and during hot weather may not congregate until well after dusk or before sunrise. For the precious few occasions when you actually have the opportunity to fish the Green Drake spinner fall, you can’t go wrong with Sylvester Nemes’ Green Drake Spinner (body of dark green floss, 3 golden pheasant crest fibers for tailing, rib of fine gold wire, thorax of dark brown dubbing, split wings fashioned from off-white rooster hackle or white poly).
Stream Keeper, Double R Ranch