PMDs are pretty much dandy |

PMDs are pretty much dandy

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Kirk Webb

My favorite bug is starting to hatch on the Fryingpan River. In a world where green drakes get all the attention, pale morning duns seem to get second billing. For my money, pale morning duns hatch longer and are more lovely to behold. Pale morning duns can vary in size and color here in the Roaring Fork Valley, anywhere from size -14 to size -18, and colors range from red to pink to yellow. In my opinion, there’s hardly anything more graceful than a pale morning dun taking flight off the river’s surface, experiencing the world outside the cold river for the first time.

Pale morning duns will be hatching now to late September or early October. What other insect (besides midges) offers trout and anglers more pleasure than a bug that hatches four or five months of the year? Caddis, drakes, stoneflies, sallies and blue-winged olive come in a distant second, it seems to me. For now, we can fish size -16 imitations, but as the hatch prolongs (and the fish become more educated) we will have to downsize our flies and tippet to seal the deal.

Pale morning duns have a one-year life cycle, from larva to nymph, emerger to dun, and then the spinner phase. Pale morning dun nymphs (on the Fryingpan, at least) have rust-colored bodies that help conceal them from hungry fish in the red rocked bottom of the river. Fly patterns like red Copper Johns, Mike’s Military Mayfly and the Tungsten Redemption are excellent imitations for the nymphs. Emerger patterns consist of Split Case pale morning duns, pale morning duns Flag Dun emergers and Halfbacks, and my absolute favorite dun (dry-fly) pattern is A.K. Best’s gorgeous Melon Quill.

The spinner phase of this mayfly also is rust-colored, and the best patterns are CDC Rusty Spinners and Organza Rusty Spinners. This mayfly undergoes one more metamorphosis after hatching, and female spinners are oftentimes found dancing and laying eggs over the water in the mornings. These spinner flies also are deadly nymphed deep under an indicator. Hopefully you get to experience some pale morning dun mayhem this summer. I’m bound and determined to!

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

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