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Falling spinners, rising trout

Judy Van Put
Posted 5/21/24

Streamside is happy to report good fishing conditions over the weekend. Last week’s rains replenished our rivers and streams somewhat, and water levels had spiked up last Wednesday but by …

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Falling spinners, rising trout


Streamside is happy to report good fishing conditions over the weekend. Last week’s rains replenished our rivers and streams somewhat, and water levels had spiked up last Wednesday but by Saturday had receded back to an average flow and dropping to below average on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at 484 cubic feet per second, which is below the median average flow on this date of 529 cubic feet per second over 110 years of record-keeping. This allows anglers to enjoy easy wading in all our free-flowing streams.

Fly hatches continue to be the large March Browns (size #10 ) and Gray Foxes, which look almost identical to the March Browns but in a smaller version (sizes #12 and #14) along with small caddis, olives and Sulphurs. Most anglers are finding better luck later in the day rather than in the mornings or mid-day, in fact fishing up until dark is proving effective especially during a spinner fall.

A “spinner fall” describes the last part of a mayfly’s lifecycle. Earlier this year Streamside covered the lifecycle of the Hendrickson mayfly (March Browns are also mayflies) and the vocabulary that fly-fishers use to describe those stages. The adult female mayfly has laid her eggs on the water’s surface, which will sink to the stream bottom and hatch into what are called nymphs. The nymph resides in the stream bottom for about one year, and then emerges from its nymphal stage to shed its skin and become a Subimago, which is sometimes referred to as a “Dun.” In the Dun or Subimago stage, their wings are semi-transparent with a smoky brown, gray, or yellow tinge. Shortly after hatching, after about 24 hours, the Subimago or Dun transforms into the adult (Imago) whose main purpose is to reproduce. These adult flies will swarm above the stream (or sometimes above a road or sidewalk near a stream) in an attempt to reach the banks, trees or bushes, and then molt into a spinner, or the sexually mature adult.

During this final stage of their lifecycle, the mayflies undergo an amazing transformation; the wings of spinners are completely transparent and clear, except for the dark colored veins running through them. The males have huge eyes in order to identify the females that enter the swarm. The males and females return to the water and mate in mid air; the females deposit their eggs and die, falling on the surface of the water - thus the name “Spinner fall’. As can be imagined, spinner falls are a good time to be fishing as the trout can easily take advantage of all the “food on the table!”

Two fly-fishers who recently experienced good fishing during a spinner fall were Seth Cavarretta and Pat Cook, who finished work at Dette Flies one evening early last week and wanted to see what was happening on the Beaverkill. They got to their place on the lower river around 6:15 p.m. and found Gray Foxes and pale tan Caddis about with a small spattering of Sulphurs. 

They tied on some March Brown and Gray Fox patterns but the fish were not interested, and seemed to be focused on the Caddis. They fished for a while, and saw a few rises. Pat had on a fly that was a good match for what the trout were taking and managed to catch three fish. Seth had an Elk Hair Caddis that “wasn’t the best imitation for what was out” but managed to get a fish to come up for it. 

Later in the evening, around 7:15 p.m., a March Brown spinner fall started and the fishing buddies began to do very well for the rest of the night - with Pat and Seth both landing nice brown trout in the 18”-19” range.


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