On the Fly: The fairest fly of them all | AspenTimes.com
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On the Fly: The fairest fly of them all

Scott Spooner
On the Fly

Pale morning duns are some of the prettiest little bugs that hatch in our local rivers. We see adults in hues pink through yellow, and the nymphs are typically rusty red in color. I consider these bugs the “medium”-size mayflies we encounter, compared with the blue-winged olives in sizes 20 and 22 and our gorilla green drakes that are as big as size 10. The pale morning duns we see are usually sizes 16 and 18 and tend to hatch midday.

All mayflies go through different stages of their life cycle, and the final stage of a pale morning dun’s short-lived adult (dun) life is called the “spinner” phase. After the aquatic transformation and emergence of the nymph (emerger) into an adult, it undergoes yet another transformation outside the water and becomes a spinner. Spinners are easily recognizable because of the extremely long tails they sport and the graceful “dipping dance” they perform over the surface of the water.

Spinners are the egg layers for future generations of mayflies, and they always deposit their eggs slightly upstream from where they hatched out of the river. If this didn’t happen (and this applies to most aquatic insects), these bugs eventually would wash down all the way to the oceans they feed. Pretty smart, huh?

Pale morning duns are now officially on the scene in the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, and we are seeing heavy numbers on the cloudy and warm days. Our float guides have seen a few “blanket hatches” already on the Roaring Fork, and the hatch up the Fryingpan River has just gotten kickstarted over the past few days. If I had one dry-fly pattern to fish for pale morning duns, it would be AK Best’s Melon Quill in sizes 16 and 18, and for subsurface, Jeremy Stott’s Mellow Yellow takes the cake. Everyone around here is obsessed with green drake mayflies, but pale morning duns are the loveliest in my book. See you on the river, folks.

“On the Fly” is provided weekly by the staff at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.


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