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Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Blog
Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/19/2020 (11290 reads)
green drake I was looking through my photographs from last year and found a Green Drake snapshot, which is one of my favorites. Green Drakes (Ephemera guttulata) are one of my favorite flies to observe, too.

I say observe as I usually find myself on Penns Creek fishing while a huge Green Drake hatch is coming off and I am doing anything, but catching a lot of trout. The mixed hatches that occur during this time of year are exciting and frustrating as many angler's would agree.

So this year I am going to stop practicing the fine art of talking to myself during the hatch and I might even throw on a sulphur or a should I dare say a emerger on during the madness?

The Green Drakes can starting showing up around May 20th and are complimented by the Coffin Fly spinners which provide equal splendor during this time of year. So sit back and get ready to enjoy the show.

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/05/2020 (465 reads)
By Brian McGeehan

The annual Mother’s Day Caddis hatch in early May is one of the most anticipated events here in Southwest Montana. While it may not be quite as famous as the Salmon Fly hatch, the fishing can be every bit as good, if not even better. The sheer number of bugs that take to the air during the peak of the hatch is astounding. The oscillating clouds of bugs over the water can be mesmerizing, but the splashy rises of trout will quickly snap you out of it. The Yellowstone and Madison Rivers have the premier Mother’s Day hatches in our area, so let’s take a look at when to expect the hatch and some strategies to maximize your success on these rivers.


Yellowstone River
Timing is everything with this hatch, and we need several variables to come together at once for productive fishing on the Yellowstone. The heaviest hatch on the ‘Stone will take place as the water temperature begins to creep above 50 degrees, which typically happens sometime around the first week of May. This is pushing right up on the start of runoff, so the water clarity will be the determining factor as to how good the fishing is during the hatch. The Yellowstone will come in and out of fishable shape multiple times each spring, so anglers cross their fingers that the hatch hits during an “in” period.

If water clarity is good, expect about a week of heavy hatch activity. This hatch can literally explode overnight, going from just a few bugs to a full scale caddis blizzard. Again, the first week of May is average but it all depends on water temperatures. There are several tributaries in and just below the town of Livingston, MT that dump mud in the spring, so the fishing is concentrated from town upstream into Paradise Valley. While there are a few spots to wade, the Yellowstone is a large river and fishing from a drift boat or raft is preferred. When the hatch is extremely heavy you may have the opportunity to fish dries in the morning, but afternoon and evening fishing is most consistent.

The Mother’s Day Caddis is best imitated by a tan, light brown, or olive caddis pattern in a #14. Traditional patterns like an Elk Hair Caddis or X-Caddis work well, but my favorite is some version of a Parachute Caddis. I like the way these flies ride in the water, and the indicator post makes the fly easier to see from the boat. I will usually fish an emerger or pupae pattern as a dropper off my dry fly as well. Trout can become very focused on one particular stage of insect during a hatch, so I like show them more than one at a time. When the fishing is on, there will be no mystery as to where to present your fly. The vast majority of risers will be along the bank, so you can cruise down and cast to fish as you spot them. Blind fishing your caddis along the banks can be productive as well. Trout feel safety in numbers, so they will often pod up during big hatches. When I find one of these pods, I like to park the boat down below and get out to target them on foot.


Madison River
Because the Madison River is a tailwater, the Caddis blitz here is more predictable and very unlikely to be washed out by muddy water. The Mother’s Day hatch takes place on what locals refer to as the “Lower” Madison. This is the stretch of water below Ennis Lake. Just below Ennis Lake lies Beartrap Canyon, an extremely rugged 8 miles of whitewater. The best caddis fishing takes place just as the river exits the canyon, from Warm Springs access down to Black’s Ford access. The river is surrounded by almost 100% public land in this stretch and it is easy to wade or float.

The timing is basically the same here, with the bugs really getting going as the water hits 50-52 degrees during the first week of May. We can fish the hatch for longer on the Madison because the water clarity stays good most of May. Cherry Creek is a significant tributary in this stretch that can add mud to the river, but this can be avoided by heading upstream. There is also a boat ramp at the Cherry Creek confluence, allowing float anglers to take out here.


On the Madison, you will find some dry fly fishing during the day, but nymphing will be much more productive. As the sun starts to get lower and finally leaves the water in the evening, the dry fly bite heats up. One big difference on the Madison is that the fish are everywhere, whereas on the Yellowstone they are usually targeting dries along the banks. The Lower Madison is a very shallow river with many weed beds and holes and pockets where fish can hide. While a boat is still nice, this is a great stretch of river to explore on foot. By wading and carefully watching an area, you are likely to spot subtle rises that boat anglers miss as they float by. You will not see any classic deep pools on the Lower Madison, so concentrate on drop offs, current seams, the edges of weed beds, and big boulders in the river. This river can be a bit tricky to read at first, but if you put in your time the areas that hold fish will become more obvious.

For flies, you will need the same bugs as you would on the Yellowstone. An olive or tan caddis in #14 with an emerger as a dropper is my top choice. I like my emerger fairly close to my dry to reduce drag, about a foot is what I use. I also apply floatant to my emerger and dry it when it becomes water logged. I want it floating right in the film in order to look natural to the fish and also to allow me to see the take. That visual is, after all, the main excitement of dry fly fishing!

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native but has been guiding an outfitting in Montana and the west for 20 years. His company Montana Angler Fly Fishing specializes in both Montana fishing as well as destination travel to Patagonia.
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Published by Joe Dziedzina [Dizzy] on 05/03/2020 (22660 reads)
The Sulphurs are here!
With the best hatch of the season fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful for some of the “Newbie’s” to post a few words on the Sulphur Hatch to get them off to a flying start this month… so if anyone has anything to add in the way of tips, tricks, details, etc. PLEASE feel free to chime in!

The months of May and June here in southeastern PA bring forth the greatest event of the fly-fishing season… the SULPHUR HATCH. These yellowish mayflies are actually made up of three (3) different mayfly species; Ephemerella rotunda, E. invaria, and E. dorothea. Most streams in SEPA hold all three (3) species which can be good AND bad. It’s good because it extends the sulphur hatch from 1st/2nd week of May through much of June (most seasons)… and it’s bad because there are subtleties that the fish notice and key on (sometimes) and if the angler does not adjust, he (or she) could be in for a long evening. The good news though, is that the “bad” is well within your control.

First a quick overview of the three (3) players, in order of emergence;
Ephemerella rotunda: Duns have a medium yellow body color with slight “olive cast” to them… the largest of the three by a hair, could be as large as a size 12 hook size, but a size 14 will do (a true “tweener”)… often hatch out of very swift water (just below riffles)… hatching usually begins around Mother’s Day and lasts 2-3 weeks… hatch most often in late afternoons (4-6 pm)

Ephemerella invaria: Duns have a yellowish/orange body color … best imitated with a size 14 hook… often hatch out of slightly slower flows than rotunda’s… hatching usually begins around 3rd week in May peaking around Memorial Day (slowing down in June)… hatch most often in early evenings (6-7 pm)

Ephemerella dorothea: Duns have a pale yellow body color … best imitated with a size 16 hook (sometimes 18)… often hatch out of slower pools… hatching usually begins in last week of May and lasting well into June… hatch most often in evenings (7-8:30 pm), sometimes right at dusk in a quick “blizzard” of activity.

Believe it or not, there are other “yellow” mayflies hatching during these same times as well, but those listed above make up the Sulphur Hatch as most anglers know it. As you can see there are differences between the three and it will save your sanity to have the proper sizes/colors to cover the gamut. At the very least I would carry size 14 dry fly’s in sulphur yellow to cover the rotunda/invaria and size 16 pale yellow imitations to cover the dorothea (some anglers use a Light Cahill for this). To compound the mayhem, in addition to the over-lapping hatch activity, trout will often key on a certain “stage” of emergence from drifting nymphs, to struggling emergers, to floating duns… and just when you think you have THAT all figured out, there could be spent spinners on the water as well!

If you show up to the stream in the mid afternoon and no fish are rising and no insects are on the water (or in the air)… you could be in for some fast action by tying on a Pheasant-tail nymph (size 14-16) and fishing the riffles and runs. Prior to emergence these nymphs will fill the water column as they struggle to reach the surface. Trout will be gorging on them and you will often see flashes in the stream as fish slash from side-to-side engulfing drifting nymphs by the mouthful.

Once a good supply of duns are on the surface the trout will come up for them and the real fun begins with dry flies… fish staging in faster water will be easier targets as they have precious little time to inspect your offering. Trout holding in slower pools will be a bit tougher, but may be larger and you should still dupe them easily with a stealthy “down & across” approach. If the fish refuse your floating dry, try tying an emerger pattern or weightless nymph about 6” off the back of the dry. This will take fish that are targeting these hapless naturals. Some of you may have heard people say that the trout are easier to catch at the beginning of the sulphur hatch but get smarter as the weeks wear on? These are the guys that don’t adjust to the dorothea activity and are missing out big time. The difference in a size 16 or 14 hook may not sound like much, but place the fly’s next to each other and you will see why the trout key on one or the other. Just pay attention to what is on the water and you’ll be OK.

The last piece of the puzzle is the spinnerfall. Again, this can be as frustrating or as rewarding as you want to make it. Personally I take my largest “dry fly caught” trout every season during the spinnerfall. It’s an easy meal and one that large trout rarely pass up. As you survey the stream take notice of the presence of any swarms of “dancing” mayflies over the riffles. These will be egg-laden females preparing to drop their cargo into the drink before dying and dropping in themselves. The males in all likelihood have already fallen, spent from mating activity. During sulphur season this activity most often takes place during the early evening if not right at dark (maybe early morning if air temp’s are too high for mating flights). These mating swarms start out high above the stream surface and if you happen to notice flocks of insect-eating birds (swallows, swifts, nighthawks… maybe bats) high above, you can be pretty sure that a spinnerfall is about an hour away. Sounds complicated but it is surprisingly simple… for this activity I carry just one fly—The Rusty Spinner—in sizes 14-18. Look for subtle risers, often times near the tail ends of pools, just “dimpling’ the surface and float your imitation right down into the waiting jaws of a heavy brown. If rising fish continue to ignore your floating dun, tie on a Rusty Spinner and 9 out of 10 times you will be surprised at the response.

Always keep in mind that ANY and ALL of the above described activities could be going on… sometimes simultaneously! Just be observant, let the trout tell you what they want, and you will enjoy your cigar and cold beverage a LOT more back at the parking area… this I promise.

*NOTE* The referenced taxon above is a bit outdated as the society of entomologists (or whoever they are) have decided that E. invaria and E. rotunda are now the same species (E. invaria)… also they have added a second dorothea to E. dorothea (E. dorothea dorothea). This info is strictly for the angler’s that are over-obsessed with details (like ME for example)… the trout still eat them the same as they always have.

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 04/21/2020 (495 reads)
After days of rain and all the big water is flooded out, the smaller backwoods streams are a great place to explore. They can be fun to venture to try out on a nice day as well. George Daniel takes some time to share some of his tactics for small streams. Check out as he shares ideas on gear, techniques, and how to approach all s smaller stream as to offer.

Many of you are already familiar with George Daniel. If not you should, as he is one of the most knowledgable and genuine anglers to follow in fly fishing today. A Pennsylvania native, George is an author, speaker, guide, US National Fly Fishing Champion and most recently the director/lead instructor for the Pennsylvania State University Fly Fishing Program.

You can find George here: Website, YouTube Channel, Instagram
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 04/13/2020 (868 reads)
In sad news for the fly-fishing community and the Cumberland Valley in particular, Ed Shenk passed away this week. He was 93.

Ed was one of the last of a well-known generation of Pennsylvania fly fishing innovators from the Greatest Generation. He is often mentioned in the same breath with Charlie Fox, Vince Marinaro, and other central Pennsylvania fly fishers who were central to advancing the sport in the mid-twentieth century. Like Fox and Marinaro, Shenk is best known for his association with the Letort, our state’s best-known stream for the development of innovative fishing methods.
Ed Shenk

Many of us knew Ed and fished with him. While he could be opinionated, Ed was always willing to help and was eager to share his knowledge and experience. An innovative fly tier, Ed has long been associated with a variety of well known and still productive patterns, in particular the Letort Hopper, Letort Cricket, Shenk Sculpin, and Shenk’s White Minnow among others.

He was a guru of short fly rods and was handy at building custom glass rods. This short rod school has made a lasting impression on many of us who still love to fish with rods under six feet long, almost a sort of rebellion against the new fad for longer rods.

Ed was particularly skilled at targeting large trout with streamers, sculpin patterns in particular. This too affected many of us. I remember an article by Ed, “Sculpinating Trout” from (I think) Fly Fisherman Magazine in the mid-1980s. When I recently told Ed that that article had hooked me on sculpins, still one of my favorite flies, he was delighted and surprised someone would remember an article from back then.

Ed published a book, Fly Rod Trouting (Stackpole, 1989) that should be in any Pennsylvania angler’s library. In it, Ed recounts what is, I think, Pennsylvania’s greatest fish story: Old George. This was a great trout Ed pursued for a long time in Letort, finally catching it in 1964.

Image courtesy PA Fly Fishing Museum.

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