Originally published in the July 2, 2009 issue of the Sopris Sun newspaper, Carbondale, CO.
The largest of the Western mayflies, the green drake spends the majority of its life at the bottom of the river clinging to rocks. Each summer an increase in water temperature cues the mature mayfly nymphs to molt and emerge from the water as adults. And when this happens, the en masse hatch commands the attention of everything around it. Fish, birds, snakes and any number of creatures along the food chain reap the benefits. Fish tend to key in on the insect, paying little attention to anything else. Anglers who understand the habits and life cycle of this insect can capitalize on some action packed fishing.
The hatch commonly begins about the third week in June or the beginning of July. Dave Johnson of the Crystal Fly Shop in Carbondale noted that water levels in the river play a big part in the timing of the hatch. “Big water in the river extends the hatch because the water stays cool for longer. Last year the hatch stayed on the Roaring Fork well into August because we had a big water year. We may see a long green drake hatch this year for the same reason.”
In general, anglers can expect the green drake hatch to start in the lower elevations of the Colorado and work its way up the lower Roaring Fork and into the Frying Pan River and continue into the upper reaches of the Fork.
In general, anglers can expect the green drake hatch to start in the lower elevations of the Colorado and work its way up the lower Roaring Fork and into the Frying Pan River and continue into the upper reaches of the Fork. According to Johnson, however, it’s a mistake to think that the hatch moves up the river in a predictable linear fashion. “You hear people say things like, “the green drake is at Catherine’s Store today.” But really it might be coming off there and at the same time you might also see it coming off in Aspen.” This can be attributed to the many microclimates and aspects within the river valleys that affect water temperature.
Jeff Dysart of Alpine Angling on Highway 133 in Carbondale noted that anglers on the Lower Fork might have better luck fishing the lower reaches at twilight when larger fish come to the surface to feed. Conversely, day hatches in the higher elevations can be productive, especially on overcast days when fish feel more comfortable rising to the surface.
Anglers in the midst of a hatch could try a #10 to #8 Royal Wulff, an H&L Variant, or an olive Irresistible Adams. Or try a Green Drake Cripple or a Hair-wing Drake.
“Don’t forget that there is also a lot of feeding going on below surface,” notes Dysart. “Anglers should consider nymphing- that’s where they’ll catch the biggest fish. Try a Green Drake nymph or Prince nymph below a dry fly or indicator.”
The green drake hatch is just getting started on the Roaring Fork. If you’re still confused by all of this, contact Alpine Angling at 963-9245 or Crystal Fly Shop at 963-5741 for more information.