So you missed the Brown Drake, Green Drake and Sulphur hatches this year. Maybe youíve also missed the great Hex hatch in the Midwest or the Western Green Drake on Henryís Fork. You still can match a great hatch and spinner fallóitís Trico time.
On most rivers and streams across the United States and Canada Iíve seen this small but important hatch appear from mid July through September. The hatch is extremely dependable appearing daily for more than 75 days. On the Ruby River in Montana the hatch begins near the end of July and continues through September. On the Grand River in Ontario, Canada, the hatch and spinner fall appear faithfully every morning for a couple months.
But, I got a real education when I fish the streams and rivers of Southwestern United Statesóspecifically those in Arizona and New Mexico. . Several years ago I fished the upper Verde River in Cottonwood, Arizona, one mid February morning with Craig Josephson. Craig traveled from Syracuse to get a break from a long winter. We arrived at this put-and-take river around 9 A.M. Weather forecasters called for a mild day with temperatures in the low 70ís. By 10 A.M. a few small mayflies emerged in a glide in front of me. I grabbed one of the duns and yelled upriver to Craig that some Tricos were hatching. This species (Tricorythodes fictus) seemed a bit larger than others I had encountered, but it was definitely a Trico. Within a few minutes a full-fledged hatch was on and Tricos appeared everywhere. Trout seemed to ignore the duns appearing sporadically seemingly waiting for the concentrated spinner fall.
We didnít have to wait long. Within a half-hour spinners fell throughout a long pool. For the two previous hours we did not see one trout rise. As soon as the fall began the pool came alive with rising trout. Craig had a pod of more than a dozen feeding on spinners and I had more than 15 taking the diminutive dead adults.
Luckily I had a few Trico spinners in my fly box. We both tied one of those size 22 patterns on and began casting. The action lasted for more than two hours. What a great Trico hatch!
But, recently the Trico has gotten a lot of publicity. Streams holding the hatch have plenty of angling pressure. Dick Henry of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, is one of the best fly fishers I know. Heís really made a study of fishing the Trico hatch. On these heavily fished waters Dick uses a longer finer leader and a smaller fly. He often relies on a size 26 pattern with a fine wing made from organza (craft supply shops). Itís Dickís feeling, and I heartily agree, that the more heavily fished the stream is the more selective the trout are.
Remember, the spinner fall occurs daily for more than 80 days. On many waters trout see anglers and their imitations daily. Every day some of these trout get caught causing them to become more and more wary of each pattern.
By far the heaviest hatch and spinner fall Iíve ever experienced was on the Missouri River, near Craig, Montana. As My son, Bryan Meck, and I drove in the early morning to meet our guides for a float trip we encountered a vortex of millions of Tricos already in the air. Millions of spinners floated past us and trout had a definite rhythm to their feeding. If you wanted to catch trout that morning on the Missouri River you had to do two thingsóuse a pattern that copied more than one Trico (anglers call this a bouquet) and float the Trico when the fish were ready (rhythm) to rise.
But, the hatch is common across the United States and there are streams and rivers that get little pressure. Iíve fished hatches on Coloradoís Cach la poudre and its North Fork and never saw another angler fishing the spinner fall. The same goes for the McKenzie River in Eugene, Oregon. I fished the McKenzie in late October several years ago, saw trout rising to the small spinners and never encountered another angler.
The timing of the spinner fall is dependent on weather conditions. If you encounter a humid hot morning expect to see spinners on the water as early as 7 A.M. As fall approaches the spinners fall later, often around 10 A.M. Iíve seen spinner falls in late October occurring at 3 P.M.
Whatís the best pattern? Look at the photo of the female spinner in "Mayfly Identification" section of this web site. Youíll see that the female has a gray tail a rear half of the body is cream and the front half is dark brown. If you have difficulty with small patterns as I do, then you might want to tie a bouquet. I tie two Tricos on one size 16 or 18 dry fly hook. The fly is easier to see, easier to put the tippet through the eye and may be more appetizing to trout.
How do you find a Trico hatch? Look for these mayflies on streams or rivers where there is little or no canopy over the center of the water. Because of their mating flight these spinners need an opening. Limestone streams seem to have heavier hatches than freestone waters. Look for the spinner 10 to 30 feet above the water. Anglers often confuse the Trico with the Blue Quill spinner, the Dark Brown Spinner (Paraleptophlebia species). The latter is larger than the Trico and seldom falls to the surface.
If itís July, August or Septemberóthen itís Trico time. Get out to the stream by 7 A.M. and get ready for some late summer morning matching the hatch fun.
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