Friday, September 13, 2013

Tiny bird of many names

This month, when you're fishing a green drake hatch, take a moment. Note the color of the abdomen and the burgundy eyes of the adult mayflies. Feel its velvety wings and stubby tails. Smell its legs.
Why, this is no green drake at all. It's a timpanoga hecuba, which I believe is Blackfeet for “tiny bird of many names”. Around Yellowstone Park they call it the drake mackerel. Around Grand Teton National Park it's called the Snake Drake. Other places have the fall drake hatch. Some call it the large dark Hendrickson, others the timpanoga or hecuba, and others yet the red quill.


Aside from the strawberry and cream color (and without dissecting the male's genitals- no joke - according to Rick Hafele and Dave Hughes in Western Mayfly Hatches), it's easy to think they are green drakes. Three short tails, slate gray wings, stocky abdomens, about a size 12.

Green drakes. 
A thick hatch is uncommon – it can take years before an angler encounters one. They enjoy baetis weather, so if you pack a couple rows of blue-winged olive dries, bring a couple big Royal Wulffs.
The nymphs are brown and mottled, but since hatches are neither common nor thick, there are likely relatively few. A thick Pheasant Tail or buggy Hare's Ear should imitate it.
The nymph.
West Yellowstone legend Craig Mathews developed a pattern called the Drake Mackerel Emerger. Hamilton, Montana's Chuck Stranahan created a fly called  the Brindle 'Chute that imitates the dun stage.
“(Gary LaFontaine) wrote at length about ambient light, how orange and green ambient light are present at streamside and bounce off everything we throw into the water,” Stranahan  wrote. “The Brindle 'Chute applies those principles with extraordinary results.”

The Brindle 'Chute.
Of the few I've encountered, a high percentage were cripples. Thus the Royal Wulff Cripple is also a good bet ( basically a standard Wulff, tied with a forward post ala the Quigley Cripple along with a trailing shuck). Or an Adams.
According to Ernest Schwiebert's book Nymphs Volume 1, hecubas hatch from the Pecos River and Rio Chama in New Mexico to the Conejos, Arkansas, Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and upper Gunnison rivers in Colorado to the Provo in Utah (particularly near the Timpanogos Cave, from where it's Latin name derives) to the eastern Sierras to Oregon, to Idaho's Big Wood River, Wyoming's upper Snake and Gros Ventre rivers, and the Canadian Rockies. I have recorded them on Montana's lower Gallatin, and Yellowstone National Park's northeast corner gets reliable hatches that see more attention than most. The Yellowstone River from Yankee Jim Canyon to Livingston usually gets a hatch, the Musselshell reportedly sees them, and the Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers of western Montana are known to have hecuba hatches. It is limited to the West.

But you won't find any anyway, unless you take a closer look at that green drake.

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