Mayfly Patterns: Dry Flies

As I have said several times throughout these pages, I am primarily a dry fly guy and I guess I am also a mayfly guy. I suspect both of these things are due to where I have spent most of my time with a fly rod...the Henry's Fork in Idaho. 

I recently went through my several mayfly boxes and some of the the real favorites are shown below. They have all proven themselves on numerous Western rivers and a few stillwater locations.

The No Hackle - Without question, this has been the single most productive dry fly for me...going back 40 years or more. It was first discussed by Carl Richards and Doug Swisher in their great book Selective Trout. It was really popularized by Mike Lawson and Rene' Harrop on the Henry's Fork and has since been tied by many others. I would guess that the PMD version is the most well known but I have variations that imitate tricos, baetis, flavs and several other western mayflies. The only negative thing I have heard about this fly is that they are "too fragile". I would agree that they may look a little bedraggled after one fish because the upright mallard quill wings are just delicate in that the barbs will .separate from each other.  However, I do not think that many fly fishers realize that the beaten up No Hackles fish very well as a spinner or cripple pattern. So they have "multiple lives". They are also a bit difficult to learn to tie...I have had 2-3 one-on-one lessons from Mike Lawson over the years and I am now perfect at getting one wing perfectly positioned and fully upright. They all still fish very well.

Video by Mike Lawson -  For tying instruction please click here...

PMD No Hackle dry fly

image credit:

The Adams - The Adams is one of the most important American dry flies. Many variations have evolved from the original. It was designed by Leonard Halladay from Mayfield, Michigan in 1922, at the request of his friend Charles Adams. Thomas McGuane, a great writer and avid fly fisherman, once described the Adams as being  “gray and funky and a great salesman.” The traditional Adams and several variations have a permanent place in my fly boxes. In recent years, I have noticed more parachute patterns in my fly boxes...wonder why that is? Oh...yeah...I'm 73.

Adams Dry Fly - video by tightlinevideo

Tie the Perfect Adams - article by Dennis Potter and Fly Tyer Magazine

Parachute Adams Fly Tying Video - by InTheRiffle

Traditional Adams Dry Fly

image credit: Feeder Creek Flies

Parachute adams

image credit: InTheRiffle

Mayfly Spinners - Fishing mayfly spinners is too often overlooked by many fly fishers. I know some simply do not notice them on the water especially if there are duns or caddis about. A spinner fall...not a spinner "hatch" as I too often hear, will happen 2-3 days after they hatch and most often after dusk...sometimes early morning. If you do not understand the mayfly life cycle, check out the mayfly entomology section located here... Mayfly spinners congregate in large numbers because of the mating ritual thus the spinner falls can be pretty special. During a spinner fall, trout will often go into a very rhythmic feeding cycle that you can often time your cast so as to get your fly over the fish just as it rises to take another fly. Tying these spinner imitations is quite simple.

Poly Wing Rusty Spinner - by tightlinevideo

Tying a CDC Spinner - by Davie McPhail

Mayfly Spinner

image credit: tightlinevideo

CDC Spinner

image credit:Davie McPhail