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Mayfly Species Ephemerella dorothea dorothea (Pale Evening Dun)

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Ephemerella dorothea consists of two subspecies (Subspecies: Entomologists sometimes further divide a species into distinct groups called subspecies, which have two lower-case words on the end of their scientific name instead of one. The latter is the sub-species name. For example, Maccaffertium mexicanum mexicanum and Maccaffertium mexicanum integrum are two different subspecies of Maccaffertium mexicanum.), which both produce excellent action. Ephemerella dorothea dorothea is a small species of Sulphur in the East, and Ephemerella dorothea infrequens (formerly Ephemerella infrequens) is one of the two main Pale Morning Dun hatches of the West. The remainder of this page focuses on the dorothea dorothea subspecies (Subspecies: Entomologists sometimes further divide a species into distinct groups called subspecies, which have two lower-case words on the end of their scientific name instead of one. The latter is the sub-species name. For example, Maccaffertium mexicanum mexicanum and Maccaffertium mexicanum integrum are two different subspecies of Maccaffertium mexicanum.), and Ephemerella dorothea infrequens is discussed separately on its own page.

This is one of the most challenging mayfly hatches on Eastern waters. On many streams, it follows or overlaps hatches of the larger, lingering Ephemerella invaria.
  

Where & When


Regions: East, Midwest

Time Of Year (?): May-July, often best in June.

Preferred Waters: Perhaps most common in mountain streams, but especially good in some alkaline (Alkaline: Having a pH higher than 7 (opposite of acidic). Moderately alkaline water is ideal for trout because it's better for the growth of phytoplankton, the usual base of the aquatic food chain, and that's good for the growth of everything higher up the chain, including trout.) spring creeks.

This Eastern subspecies (Subspecies: Entomologists sometimes further divide a species into distinct groups called subspecies, which have two lower-case words on the end of their scientific name instead of one. The latter is the sub-species name. For example, Maccaffertium mexicanum mexicanum and Maccaffertium mexicanum integrum are two different subspecies of Maccaffertium mexicanum.) begins to emerge in late May in Pennsylvania. It progresses through the Catskills in early June and peaks in mid-June farther north, lasting as late as early July in some places.

Hatching Behavior


Time Of Day (?): Flexible, but typically mid-late evening

Habitat: Slow water

Water Temperature: 60-65F
These insects are actually too perfect for dry fly fishing, which makes matching their hatches difficult.

The nymphs may drift for a while just below the surface before trying to break through. When they do, it takes them a long time to crawl out of their shucks (
Here's an underwater view of the pupal shucks of several already-emerged Brachycentrus numerosus caddisflies.
Here's an underwater view of the pupal shucks of several already-emerged Brachycentrus numerosus caddisflies.
Shuck: The shed exoskeleton left over when an insect molts into its next stage or instar. Most often it describes the last nymphal or pupal skin exited during emergence into a winged adult.
)
. After that, they ride the water for an exceptionally long time to dry their wings, and low-floating patterns like the Comparaduns are preferred. And as if that weren't enough, they are also one of the most cripple (Cripple: In fly fishing, a cripple is any insect which has been injured or deformed so that it cannot escape the water. This may include stillborn emergers or fully emerged adults which have been damaged, often by wind or waves, so that they can no longer fly. Trout often favor eating crippled insects.)-prone of all mayfly species, and trout may feed selectively on their cripples (Cripple: In fly fishing, a cripple is any insect which has been injured or deformed so that it cannot escape the water. This may include stillborn emergers or fully emerged adults which have been damaged, often by wind or waves, so that they can no longer fly. Trout often favor eating crippled insects.) and stillborns (
This stillborn Ephemerella subvaria dun is trapped in its shuck.
This stillborn Ephemerella subvaria dun is trapped in its shuck.
Stillborn: In fly fishing, a stillborn insect is one which got stuck in its nymphal or pupal shuck during emergence and floats helplessly on the surface instead of flying away. It is a specific class of cripple, although it is sometimes used interchangeably with that term.
)
. This may all take place at the same time as the spinner fall, especially in the East.

These Sulphurs emerge from smooth, slow water, which allows the trout maximum time to inspect their prey. Because a rising trout may be selective to either floating nymphs, emergers, duns, cripples (Cripple: In fly fishing, a cripple is any insect which has been injured or deformed so that it cannot escape the water. This may include stillborn emergers or fully emerged adults which have been damaged, often by wind or waves, so that they can no longer fly. Trout often favor eating crippled insects.), or spinners, this is one of the most puzzling hatches in all fly fishing. It is also difficult because the flies are small, hook size 16 to 18, and such small imitations are prone to microdrag (Microdrag: The imperceptibly small unnatural motions of an artificial fly on the water, caused by its connection to the line. A trout's whole life is spent watching things drift naturally, and unnatural movement too subtle for us to detect is obvious to their specialized senses.). There is no better time to hone your powers of observation and presentation.

Spinner Behavior


Time Of Day: Near dusk

Habitat: Riffles are preferred, but on spring creeks without riffles any broken water will do.
Hatched duns typically return to the stream within two days as spinners. After mating, both genders fall 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.) on the water.

Females usually, but not always, drop their eggs from the air above the stream. When they do end up on the water with egg sacs still attached, trout may become selective to spinners with little yellow dots near the tail. Patterns are sold to imitate this.

Nymph Biology


Current Speed: Some in riffles and runs, but best in slower stream sections and pools.

Substrate: Gravel, sand, vegetation

The nymphs display the usual Ephemerellidae habits of high activity in the hours and days before they hatch, and trout claim many of them before they're anywhere near the surface.

Ephemerella dorothea dorothea Fly Fishing Tips


See the section on Hatching Behavior above regarding the many challenges this hatch poses. The best approach is extremely keen observation, and the standby is rapid-fire trial and error. Do not stick with one thing for very long if it's not working.

Caucci and Nastasi note in Hatches II that some light-bodied species of Epeorus, such as Epeorus vitreus, may emerge at the same time as dorothea in the East. It's just one more entry in the long list of complications of the dorothea Sulphurs.

Pictures of 2 Mayfly Specimens in the Species Ephemerella dorothea dorothea:

Ephemerella dorothea dorothea (Pale Evening Dun) Mayfly NymphEphemerella dorothea dorothea (Pale Evening Dun) Mayfly Nymph View 6 PicturesI keyed this nymph carefully under a microscope to check that it's Ephemerella dorothea.
Collected May 29, 2007 from Paradise Creek in Pennsylvania
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on June 4, 2007

Recent Discussions of Ephemerella dorothea dorothea

Wow, they really can take forever to get off the water 36 Replies »
Posted by Troutnut on Jun 14, 2006
Last reply on Jun 15, 2008 by Falsifly
I watched quite a few of these guys emerge tonight. (I think -- they seemed too small and light to be Ephemerella invaria, though I didn't bring one home to check under the microscope.) It was a cool evening but not cold, and they were emerging on the slow flats of a large midwestern spring creek. I watched several of them drift 50+ feet on the very slow-moving water, slowly rising up out of the surface film. Their emergence was sporadic and lucky for them the trout were also sporadic. Many were eaten but others went ignored for their entire lengthy drifts.

Later in the evening I was bested by a half-dozen rising trout. The sulphurs were still emerging, and a mix of spinners was starting to appear on the water, but I didn't get so much as a splashy refusal from several rising fish, even in the low light of dusk. My best guess is that they were picky feeders keying on a stage of Ephemerella dorothea mayflies.
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