Cult Of The Green Drake

Ephemera Guttulata: The Eastern Green Drake has been known to inspire fanaticism among flyfishers.

It is an old society, one I joined thirty years ago on Penn’s Creek, the grand Central Pennsylvania limestoner. They came in complete darkness there, on a quiet night when the fluttering of their wings was audible amid the gushing explosions of wild brown trout feeding heavily. Fly fishing by sound is a guessing game, lacking in the precision and technique that enthralls us in our practice of the art. Still, that experience was chilling.

On the edge of dawn, I prowled the great pool at Poe Paddy while my fellow campers slept. I discovered a pair of trout, hidden along the banks and gently sipping the wounded duns which remained from the debacle in the darkness; and I connected!

I followed the hatch north to the hallowed Beaverkill and fished the Coffin Flies on Cairns Pool amid a host of celebrants. Seeking solitude an evening later, I watched the water boil as the great white spinners touched down to the surface to deposit their fertilized eggs. My Dette style Coffin Fly engaged one of the big Beaverkill browns, and I gasped as he shot from the riffled run like a missile. Somehow, I recovered from my shock and awe and played him successfully. He will forever live in my memory.

Inducted thusly into the Cult of the Green Drake, I have followed the hatch throughout the Catskills. I have studied the flies, pondered long hours designing patterns, tested them each season that the hatch appeared. This greatest hatch of mayflies can be enigmatic to say the least, and its strength can vary widely. After the great flood of 2006 I searched in vain for two seasons, but the Green Drakes eventually returned.

I have fished the hatch a week before the vaunted Memorial Day festival of the waters, shivering in forty-five degree weather while huge trout crashed the quivering duns, as well as those of feathers and fur. One recent season I believed the hatch was lost until the Drakes appeared three weeks after their Memorial Day appointment. Each season brings the unexpected.

The scruffy CDC looks little like the mayfly to the angler, but the wild trout of the rivers say Yes!

I have designed various dry flies and emergers that have brought me wonderful fishing, but there is always another puzzle to solve. There are times, often early in the hatch, when trout will cruise and explode upon stray nymphs struggling toward the surface. I have seen many times when duns flutter madly on top, right above these subsurface explosions, and I have never seen those surface flies taken. An answer for these interludes is my current obsession.

Thinking about this scenario led me to an exchange with Tom Mason, who so kindly provided the Ray Bergman pattern that he has tied and fished for many years. I had tied a swimming nymph to be fished on the swing when I encounter this subsurface activity, and then turned my thoughts to traditional soft hackled flies.

I had hoped to study an old English pattern derived for their counterpart hatch, Ephemera Danica which they call The Mayfly. I will continue upon this path and see what I can turn up. I cannot help myself.

I have tied three variations of my own soft hackle Green Drake. Dare I hope for the chance to try them on the water? My best instincts revolt at the premise, for I remain a staunch adherent to the gospel of the dry fly. To hope for trout that refuse to surface feed seems blasphemy. These flies will find their place in my fly box, for I need not wish for difficult fishing, it will find me.

The mystery to be solved is one of movement, light reflections and color, as true with most of our trout flies. I think back to the late, great Gary LaFontaine, who donned scuba gear and submerged beneath the hatching caddisflies to see those triggers with his own eyes. Would that I could follow his lead. I cannot, but I have the benefit of his writings and his counsel, along with several centuries’ worth of angling science and theory in literature.

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