Paul Procter; May Fly Time
Paul Procter's product recommendations are listed at the end of this article.

Paul Procter - Mayfly SeasonAs we ease into May, our thoughts natural turn to our grandest upwinged species-the Mayfly. Tradition has that trout now throw caution to the wind by homing in on these large, ungainly flies. Interestingly, during the early stages of the celebrated Mayfly season, it’s thought that the very same trout are little cautious towards these outsized duns and it often takes them a day or two before they lock onto naturals proper. Then, any reasonable imitation presented with care is bound to be greedily engulfed. Of course there’s a lot more to it than simply flinging out a fly and hoping for the best

Where to Find Mayfly Hatches

Although our famous chalkstreams are perhaps best known for Mayfly hatches, these charming ephemerids are just as likely to thrive in less fertile rivers too. Many of the headwaters in my home county have a resident population. Granted, whilst the hatches are not on a huge scale there’s sufficient numbers of fly about to get the trout excited. Loughs and lakes too provide an ideal habitat and if these are chalk or limestone based then so much the better.

The Mayfly Life Cycle

Preferring silty areas, mayfly nymphs often reside in burrows. Measuring more than an inch in length on maturity, nymphs attain quite a size. Prior to hatching, like other upwinged nymphs their wing buds darker considerably. With a long, sinuous body, three tails and feathery gills lining their abdomens these elegant nymphs are very distinctive. As ever, coloration depends on location though overall nymphs wear a creamy-yellow coat. If there’s still any doubt, dark brown markings on the upper abdomen are a dead giveaway and are most conspicuous on the three abdominal segments nearest the tail.

As the critical hatch period approaches, nymphs do become restless and are thought to make dummy runs towards the surface. Vulnerable now, this helps explain why mayfly nymphs turn up in trout weeks before the season’s first dun are even seen. As you can image, with such elongated bodies, nymphs ascend with a vertical undulating action and once at the surface the nymphal shuck splits down a predetermined line. The actual emerging process takes but seconds. However, depending on atmospheric conditions and surface tension, newly emerged duns (sub imago) may remain on the surface for up to a few minutes as their faculties develop.

Those duns that do become airborne seek safety on the underside of board leafed trees before transforming into adult spinner (imago). Sexually mature now, male spinners gather to perform their mating dance in a bid to attract nearby females. Taking place towards evening time with mating complete, female spinners return to the water to deposit their eggs for the next generation. Mission accomplished spent spinners then litter the water surface, providing another feeding opportunity for trout. Indeed, whilst spinner falls are notoriously difficult to predict, under the right conditions, so intense is such activity it tends to overshadow daytime hatches.

Best Times of Day for Hatches

Those softer days when drizzle hangs in the air seem best when hatching duns can be expected anywhere from 11am onwards with heightening activity usually between 3-4pm. That said, I well remember the spring of ‘96’. A prolonged hot spell confined insect movements to dawn and dusk. Amazingly, both mayfly and for that matter, olives hatched early in the day and needed to be on the water by 7am get the best of it. Anglers arriving for a stint of more civilised sport were disappointed to find little in the way of drifting duns and rising trout. Though rather than intense hatches now, mayfly trickled off over a period of two months or so.

Best Mayfly Fishing Techniques

When the duns do finally show, although sport is never guaranteed, the excitement is second to none. Hopefully now, a dry fly presented with care will fool its share of trout. As with all dry fly fishing, timing the lift is crucial. Too soon and the fly is pulled away, leaving a very surprised, if not confused trout. Leave it too late and the fish has realised the fly to be an impostor, rejecting it instantly. Again, because of the sheer size of mayflies, trout frequently take them in a more deliberate fashion. A typical rise form is when trout porpoise, taking flies with their backs out of the water. Whilst there are many who recite a favourite phrase, I tend to wait a fraction longer than usual and gently tighten.

Recommended Leaders and Tippets

Although I generally advocate fine diameter tippets to promote a more natural movement of imitations, when it comes to big flies, leader set-up requires some thought. Be it dry or wet fly, mayfly patterns tend to be that bit more wind resistant. Casting such huge creations on fine tippets is courting disaster. Sure, you can just about get away with it at close range, but try pitching a fly into a brisk wind. Not only will the leader collapse, resulting in the fly falling back there’s a risk of leader twist too. Large hackled flies are prone to spinning during fishing and in no time they’ll snarl and kink fine, delicate tippets. Strong and robust, you won’t go far wrong with Orvis Super Strong in stout diameters of 4X (6lb) and 3X (8.5lb). Although large in diameter by today’s standards, a spool of this in 3X (8.5lb breaking strain) serves well for turning over large, bushy dry flies and is ideal for keeping dropper lengths clear of the main leader when wet fly fishing on lakes.

Recommended Dry Fly Presentations

Reputed for attracting larger trout to the surface, mayfly “spinner falls” arguably offer some of the finest dry fly fishing of the season. In honesty, I find spinner falls fickle at best and connecting with them is more by luck than good judgement. Many times I’ve sat it out, waiting for the wind to ease, only for a niggling breeze to keep spinners at bay. If you do catch it right the sport is best described as electrifying. I’m usually the first to preach about presenting flies static. However, as the light fades, movement can become a key trigger. Study any female spinners stuck in the surface film. With fluttering wings and contorting abdomens they dispense their precious eggs. These final throws create a surprising amount of disturbancewhich we should look to copy. Achieve this be either gently tweaking the rod tip, or by short, tugs of the fly line. Remember to maintain a higher than normal rod tip now, as takes can be savage!

Paul Procter

Paul Procter
AAPGAI and Orvis-Endorsed Guide


Read more from Paul and other Orvis Experts at www.orvis.co.uk/experts.


Paul Procter's Product Recommendations:

Rods

Helios 905-4 Mid-flex for rivers, and the Helios 966-4 Tip-flex for stillwaters: A progressive action enables this responsive 5-weight to deliver accurate, effortless casts with finesse that is sensitive enough to yield and protect tippets. For Stillwater use a 9’6” has the required length for dibbling flies from the boat, yet still has the authority to punch a cast into a nasty headwind.

Reel

Battenkill Large Arbor Trout Game Reel (II) : This true large arbor reel with a superior retrieval rate helps gather line at an increased speed, essential for taming large, tenacious trout that often feed at mayfly time.

Line

Wonderline Powertaper: With a dense and dynamic front taper this line is well suited to delivering those large, wind resistant dry flies used at Mayfly time.

Leaders

Hy-flote tapered leaders (7½’& 9 leaders): Hy-flote tapered leaders not only provide a clean, swift lift for either casting or striking fish, at close quarters they can actually be manipulated around tricky currents to present a dry fly more naturally.

Tippet

Orvis Super Strong 4X (6lb) and 3X (8.5lb): When it comes to tippet material there’s always a balance in finding a low diameter material that aids fly presentation yet is stout enough to prevent breakages and handle ungainly flies in breezy conditions. Supple to give a fly unhindered movement whilst capable of absorbing the rigors of struggling fish, Orvis Super Strong meets all the requirements.

Vest

Lightweight Super Tac-L-Pac vest: Boasting all the features of the standard Tac-L-Pac this new lightweight version had the necessary capacity to house all you fly boxes and fishing paraphernalia needed for a day by the river.

Accessories

Hy-Flote Gel: It’s important to have confidence in a floatant especially if casting into turbulent water or during low light levels when it’s unsure whether the fly is floating or not. This no fussy gel can be trusted to keep the fly afloat when it matters most.

Orvis Shake-N-Float Powder: CdC dry flies of one kind and another will feature in my mayfly campaign. A quick dowse in Orvis Shake-N-float is certain to keep them afloat for longer.

Premium Brodin Nets (Large): Having invested time in hooking a big fish, it’s as well to be able to land them safely. This deep mesh net will comfortably hold that notable trout.

Superlight Polarised Sunglasses: Essential eye protection, when it comes to spotting trout these amber lenses offer a distinct advantage on dull, cloudy days and for evening fishing.

Flies

Orvis Traditional Mayflies: Including the famous Wulff mayflies, a carded selection of 8 patterns to cover every eventuality.

Orvis Modern Mays: A modern slant that gives you the most update and successful flies.

Procter's Mays: This special selection includes his most popular and successful mayfly patterns.

 

 

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