I'm not an avid fly fisher myself and would probably have never known that I had such incredible fishing except that I complained to a friend one day about how those pesky black drakes were hatching again. I dreaded them in my hair and by July I knew they'd form islands of rotting bugs emitting a not too pleasant smell.
My friend happened to be a fanatic fly fisher—the kind who goes all over the world to find a new and exciting venue. When he heard about the drakes he asked if he could try fishing.
He did, and told me he'd never had a better fishing experience. The hatch was like nothing he'd ever seen before and once he figured out the rhythm of the fish and bugs he caught half a dozen fat redbands 15 to 25 inches long. The next year I started a little business around this revelation.
The black drake, siphlonorus, is a medium-sized mayfly that is rarely found in the west. The one place it can be found is on the Upper Williamson River. The drake hatch begins in mid to late May and continues until the first of July.
Most fishing during the hatch is done by casting to rising fish with size 10 to 12 dry flies. A 4 weight rod is ideal. Siphlonorus nymphs usually inhabit slow-moving back waters an quiet pools. The black drakes on the Upper Williamson River, however, keep to the oxbows and swales filled with vegetation where they are safe from fish. This makes fishing with nymphs challenging.
Emerging nymphs crawl out on rocks, grass stems and reeds before molting into duns. Unlike other mayfly behavior, black drakes emerge only at night. They especially like the lodgepole pine trees that grow close to the river for roosting areas.
In the morning, or once the ambient temperature reaches 60 degrees, the sky begins to swarm with spinners.