The Eastern Green Drake
Copyright 2015 James Marsh
April, 2015 Issue
he ultimate hatch for many Eastern trout anglers is the Ephemera guttuata, or Eastern Green Drake. It is a very
large mayfly, even larger than the Western Green Drake, which by the way, isn't related to it at all. The highlight
of this hatch is the spinner fall. The male and female spinners look completely different and require
separate fly patterns.
Green Drake nymphs are burrowers that are most commonly found in the slow to moderately flowing water such as
pools and backwaters that have soft or silt bottoms. They spend most of their life buried in the silt, banks, or soft
bottom. They come out of their burrows several time to molt during the nymphal stage of their life as well as at night to
browse for food. They often get eaten by trout when they are molting and/or feeding.
Sometimes, weighted nymph imitations can be fished along the bottom of the stream very late in the day with some
success. Green Drake nymphs can swim well and action can be added to imitate the up and down, swimming motion of
these nymphs. We have found that it's best to fish imitations of the nymphs just prior to the time the hatch is taking
place. They work very good in the mornings prior to a hatch.
The nymphs hatch throughout the day, not at any one particular time of the day. If there isn't a hatch underway, the
nymphs stay in their burrowers most of the time, and are not readily available for the trout to eat. They come out to feed
and molt, and it's mostly during those times the trout feed on them.
When the nymphs swim to the surface to shed their shucks to emerge, trout sometimes become selective to the
emergence, depending on what other insects are available at the time. This emergence is an off and on occurrence
that last throughout the day and therefore, isn't usually concentrated. It is during this time, from mornings to mid
afternoon, that our Perfect Fly trailing shuck emerger works best.
The emerger can be fished with a swimming action from the bottom to the surface during the period of a hatch. This is
usually done by slightly weighting the fly, or in slow moving water, using a non-weighted fly. Fish the emerger down and
across on the swing. I recommend at least an eight-foot leader with a two foot long, size 4X tippet.
The emergers have taken some very large brown trout during Green Drake hatches and you want to make sure you are
using the heaviest leader and tippet you can get away with. In very clear water, such as you find in many spring creeks,
you don't want to turn the trout away by using too heavy of a leader and tippet. Just use the largest you think you can
use without them rejecting the fly.
Trout readily take the duns during the time they are drying their wings to depart the water. They leave the water fairly
slowly and sometimes flutter around on the surface before they fly to nearby trees. There, they usually hang around for
about three days before molting. The idea time to catch the hatch is the first day or two after it starts. Sometimes, the
trout get full of the big mayflies and become hard to catch even though the hatch is in peak progress.
In most cases, the upstream approach should be used. In the faster moving streams, you should concentrate on
presenting the imitations in areas of the adjacent slower moving water such as eddies, pockets and the head of pools,
as opposed to fishing the fast water of the riffles and runs. In slower moving water, a down and across stream
presentation may be required. In this case, longer leaders of eight to ten feet with two to three foot long tippets, size 5x
or 6x, may be required.
Normally, the spinner fall of the Green Drake hatch is the big event of the hatch. The Green Drake spinner, called the
Coffin Fly, is an altogether different looking mayfly from the dun. The female spinners are much larger than the males.
Spinners begin to appear just before dark, earlier if it is cloudy, with the males showing up first, and the females
joining them later. The event usually will last for only an hour or so. After mating, the females lay their eggs by dipping
their bellies on the surface of the water. In addition to the females, the males usually land and depart the water before
dieing. It is during this time that the trout usually go crazy over them. After the females have lost their eggs, the trout
sometimes show a preference for the male spinners.
Most of the time, the spinners fall during the evenings. On cloudy, rainy days, you may find the spinner fall occurring in
the late afternoon before sunset. At times, it is effective to imitate the male spinners as well as the female’s egg laying
process. That is why we have two spinner patterns - a male and a female spinner. Both can be effective. We think
it may be determined by the number of the males and females on the water, but that is pure speculation. What does at
least seem to be the situation, is that trout prefer the males over the females at times. That may be because they are
easier for them to acquire than the egg laying females. The two genders do look completely different. They are different
sizes and colors.
A downstream presentation may be necessary in smooth water Since you will be fishing in a low-light situation, an eight
foot leader with a two foot long, 4X tippet would probably work well enough. The trout we have caught on the Green
Drake spinner fall in Pennsylvania's spring creeks (and that is a lot of them) took the imitation as if they wanted to kill it,
meaning very aggressively. Even after dark, they will hit the spinners so hard that usually makes a loud noise. They will
usually set the hook themselves.
Female Spinner called the Coffin Fly
Eastern Green Drake Dun