The black drake, siphlonurus rex, is a medium-sized mayfly that is rarely found in the west. One place it does call home is the Upper Williamson River in Oregon. The black drake hatch takes place in the spring and early summer. During this period, it is the major food source for the native Williamson River red band trout. The best time of day to fish the black drake hatch is during the afternoon and evening when the fish feed aggressively on the surface.
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 and 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. After emerging the drakes land on the trees and surrounding structures where they rest for a while, then mate. They especially like the lodgepole pine trees that grow close to the river.
In the morning, or once the ambient temperature reaches 60 degrees, the sky begins to swarm with spinners. After mating the female drops to the water, usually several times, releasing clusters of eggs. When all her eggs have been laid she falls spent into the river. It is this egg-laying behavior that makes dry fly fishing during the drake hatch such a thrilling experience. Most who have experienced the black drake hatch at Aspen Ridge Ranch say they've never seen anything like it. At times the hatch can be so thick that you must time your cast according to the frequency of an individual fish's feeding pattern. Usually they rise about every 15 to 20 seconds.
Check out the Aspen Ridge Ranch Flycam!
Track the progress of one of the most impressive bug hatches in the United States with photos updated regularly.
Black drake flies are now available for purchase at Aspen Ridge
The three patterns below, tied by Dick Winters of Klamath Falls, are currently available at Aspen Ridge Ranch. Click thumbnails to enlarge.
For more information about the black drake (a.k.a. gray drake), including species descriptions, tying instructions, and flies available for purchase, check the links below: