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Mayfly Species Ephemera varia (Yellow Drake)

Pictures Below
This is an excellent hatch of a different character than its Ephemera brethren. Rather than emerging in a flurry of activity within a week, the Ephemera varia flies may last for more than a month in a single place.  

Where & When


Regions: East, Midwest

Time Of Year (?): Mid-June to mid-August, usually best in July

Adults of this species begin to show in mid-June in the Pennsylvania mountain ranges. The Catskills start a week or so later and hatches can be found in that region through early August. Farther north, and in the Upper Midwest, the hatch begins in mid-July and lasts into mid-August.

Some authors say this hatch is more important in the Midwest than in the East.

Hatching Behavior


Time Of Day (?): Dusk

Habitat: Riffles, runs, and pools alike

Water Temperature: 64-71°F
Yellow Drakes drakes take a long time and make a lot of commotion trying to get off the water. Their imitations are effective.

Several authors have remarked on the wide range of habitats from which this species will emerge. They apparently show no preference.

The hatch is best on cool, dry days. On cloudy days, according to Swisher and Richards in Selective Trout, the duns may emerge all day long. This behavior does not seem to be as prevalent as it is in Ephemera guttulata.

Spinner Behavior


Time Of Day: Late evening to dusk, sometimes later

Habitat: Riffles, possibly elsewhere
The spinners return to the stream the day after they emerge. The females are reported to ride the water to oviposit, initially in the upright or semispent positions. However, I have also watched them repeatedly dip to the surface to lay eggs and rise back to knee height. Caucci and Nastasi in Hatches II recommend carrying both spent (Spent: The wing position of many aquatic insects when they fall on the water after mating. The wings of both sides lay flat on the water. The word may be used to describe insects with their wings in that position, as well as the position itself.) and semispent imitations for the females. The males fall completely spent (Spent: The wing position of many aquatic insects when they fall on the water after mating. The wings of both sides lay flat on the water. The word may be used to describe insects with their wings in that position, as well as the position itself.).

There is some disagreement between authors about the precise spinner fall timing. It is generally late in the evening and may occur in the dark. I have encountered sporadic females ovipositing more than an hour before dark, and later I saw many more spinners in the air near the treetops.

Nymph Biology


Current Speed: Slow to medium

Substrate: Silt or sand and gravel

Like Ephemera simulans, these burrowers are at home in deposits of sand and fine gravel in freestone streams. This accounts for their good populations throughout the East. They also do well in silt like the Hexagenia mayflies. They usually mature in one year but may take two.

Ephemera varia Fly Fishing Tips


Don't let the common name of this species fool you into fishing a yellow-bodied fly. As my pictures show and other authors have pointed out, these mayflies have a creamy off-white body color. The duns are the same color as the spinners.

According to Knopp and Cormier, trout may fill up on nymphs during the hatch and leave the duns and spinners untouched.

Pictures of 3 Mayfly Specimens in the Species Ephemera varia:

Female Ephemera varia (Yellow Drake) Mayfly DunFemale Ephemera varia (Yellow Drake) Mayfly Dun View 7 PicturesThis yellow drake dun hatched out of my aquarium over a month before her brethren in the wild are slated to emerge. She seems a bit small, and that might be the reason.
Collected May 13, 2007 from Aquarium in New York
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on May 18, 2007
Female Ephemera varia (Yellow Drake) Mayfly SpinnerFemale Ephemera varia (Yellow Drake) Mayfly Spinner View 6 PicturesI found this female spinner ovipositing in a small stream. She came along while I was playing a trout -- every good bug seemed to do that last night! I didn't have my bug net, so I caught the trout in my landing net, released the trout, and caught the mayfly in my landing net. Her wing got a bit messed up from that.
Collected July 7, 2006 from Cayuta Creek in New York
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 8, 2006

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