In my previous article I wrote about the four, most common Drake Hatches: the Green Drake, Dark Green Drake, Brown Drake and the Yellow Drake. Depending on where in the United States you are located, this could be a sign of great fishing or the end to spring/summer time fishing as the water warms. As you prepare for these epic hatches, it is important to understand what the bugs do and when to fish for them to be truly effective.
To better understand the Drake family, it is best to know how they act or where they they stay in the rivers and streams. The 4 largest Drakes, that have already been discussed, fall into the category of burrowers, which means they burrow in the stream banks typically in nice, slow pools before they are ready to start emerging. But before they grow to the larger nymphs where they can swim, you can find the small Drake nymphs in a rocky area of a stream with a current that can carry them down to the slow pools they need to start emerging.
Before the Drakes are ready to emerge, they will swim from the bottom of the stream bed to the surface before finally rising out of the water. If you are fishing a river that sees a lot of anglers, it might be a good idea to get there early and secure a spot to fish and wait for the hatch. When the hatch it does happen, it is fast. Most Drakes emerge extremely fast compared to other Mayflies.
If you are fishing out west (i.e. Colorado) the Drake hatch time is different from the east (i.e. New York or Pennsylvania). In the East, the Drakes will hatch in the last hour of daylight. In the West, you most likely see the hatch around Noon or middle of the day. Even though the hatch is earlier the fish will not really start eating them till later in the day like in the East. The reason for this is that when the Drakes hatch in the middle of the day, their wings will dry faster and it is a harder meal for the trout. The trout will still feed some, but the better bite will be that last hour of daylight typically.
The best strategies for fishing the Drake Hatch
When Drake’s start to hatch, they will begin downstream in the warmer waters and move upstream to the cooler water or higher elevation as the days continue. There are three types of Drake flies that will work well depending on the stage of the hatch. The 4 types of drake flies you might want to keep in your box for these hatches are Drake nymphs, Drake emergers, crippled Drakes and the dry fly Drake. Your drake nymphs should be fished on a dead drift. As I stated before while the Drakes are in a nymph stage they are not the best of swimmers. They will float in the current till they find an area in a slow soft bottom pool where they borrow and prepare to emerge.
When the Drakes have moved to slower moving deep pools they will start to move more. They are swimming to the surface trying to emerge. Unlike other Mayflies. Drakes will emerge from under the water with their wings. So jigging or twitching of the nymph or emerger style drake could prove to be really effective if a dead drift is not working. The movement will set off the fish to bite more than the pattern in some instances. Another technique that could be used is the swing. Where at the end of your drift you let the nymph/emerger style Drake fly swing and hold at the surface. The reason why this is effective is because since the Drake will emerge with its wings underwater; it will force them to stay on the surface of the water longer because they cannot fly due to wet wings. Another tactic that is very effective is using what is called a crippled Drake fly. This is a pattern that is suppose to represent a Drake that either got tumbled under water or never fully hatched and is just tumbling through the currents of the streams. These make for easy meals for a big trout.
If you are seeing fish sipping these big Mayflies off the top of the water then you know you can throw a few dries at them. You do not need to do anything; consider just letting it hang a little bit at the end of your drift and see if a fish rises. You can also try a dry dropper rig with these. If you do I would try either an emerger style Drake fly or a crippled Drake fly under your dry fly.
I hope these tips bring you many bites and open your mind to some traditional and no so traditional ways of fishing. Good Luck this week on the water.