On the Fly: It’s time to fish the Pale Morning Dun hatch

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
A Fryingpan River Pale Morning Dun Mayfly
Scott Spooner/Courtesy photo

Anglers and guides alike are all commenting on the prolific pale morning dun (PMD) hatches we are seeing this year. Perhaps our wet winter last time around has something to do with this, but all hatches vary slightly from year to year. The Fryingpan River has the most robust emergences of these mayflies, but there are solid numbers being seen on the Colorado, Roaring Fork, and Crystal rivers as well.

PMDs vary quite a bit in size and color, and perhaps we lump too many different mayflies into the PMD family as wannabe entomologists. These bugs vary from reddish hues to pink and especially yellow and can be found in sizes 14, 16, and 18. Cloudy and rainy days are yielding the best numbers of these flies, but you’ll see them popping on bright days, too. Green drakes get the most hype around here (the PMD’s greenish bigger and bolder cousin), but by our accounts, PMDs begin hatching earlier and continue later into the year than most other insects, except for midges, of course, which hatch every day.

PMD nymphs are rust to black in color and are generally the same sizes as the duns. Go-to patterns around here for nymphs are Split Case and BTS nymphs, and emergers like the Hunchback Two-Tone and Barr’s Emerger put plenty of fish in the basket. Duns such as the Sulphur CDC Thorax and Sparkledun are the choice of many fish and anglers alike, and CDC Rusty Spinners are key for the evening spinner fall.

We highly advise you take the opportunity to fish this hatch as soon as you can and choose a day with the “worst” weather in the week. Rain prevents these mayflies from drying their wings before going aloft from the water’s surface, and the fish make mincemeat out of these bugs stuck on the water. We are all glad those dog days of August are in the rearview; it is time for some of the best dry fly fishing of the year!

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or