The sulphur mayfly hatch is one of the most abundant hatches in rivers in the Mid-Atlantic region. There are two common species in the Gunpowder River, Ephemerella invaria and Ephemerella dorothea. The invaria is larger and slightly darker than the dorothea, but often during a hatch they intermix and are hard to differentiate. The flies are a faint yellow or orange and between a size 16 and 20. My aquatic entomology skills peaked around 1996, and my identification ability has been on a steady decline since, so I can’t tell them apart. Generally, it is more productive to go with smaller flies during a hatch. I’m not sure if the smaller flies have less material to drag across the surface or to provide just enough subtle characteristics to fool a picky trout. 

I have come accustomed to nymphing more frequently than dry fly fishing and I have developed the habits, muscle memory, and affinity for gear that relates to nymphing. Many accomplished anglers and guides promote versatility in the gear you own, so you don’t have a closet of specialty equipment that you only use once or twice and the rest of your life it gathers dust. I believe in the sentiment but haven’t completely invested in the philosophy. So, this weekend when I had the opportunity to fish with a friend and skilled dry fly angler for the sulphur hatch, guess what I brought. My nymphing rod. In my defense it was already rigged up. I guess I am dumb and lazy. 

I have had moments of figuring out a relatively effective casting stroke while switching from nymphing to dry flies using the mono-rig, but just moments. I bought a relatively fast action nymphing rod with the intent to be able to cast dry flies with it, but I am not efficient and effective at using it to cast dry flies yet. So as the sulphurs began to hatch and I needed to be accurate with my presentations, I was not at my best. Sean Connery’s voice from the Untouchables, “Brings a knife to a gunfight” rang in my ears.

Dr. Stephen Wright fishing the Sulphur Hatch

Thankfully my friend Stephen was gracious enough to let me use his rod and to coach me through learning the action of a different fly rod. Using a medium and slower action rod was very difficult for me to adjust. I became flustered and slightly embarrassed. But Stephen is a natural and trained teacher and helped me through my fumbles. He is a gifted fly tier and shared a few patterns with me, one of which he guaranteed would catch a fish. Several casts after tying on the fly, a beautiful sulphur dun, I had hooked a good fish. 

I often fish alone and fishing with Stephen was a welcomed change. I learned from his words, encouragement, and watching him fish. He fished with intention and thoughtfulness. He had the right mindset and tools for the job. He switched flies quickly and logically, going through progressions to find what pattern each fish he targeted was focused on. He moved like a heron, without making any disturbances to the water surface. He casted with precision and landed several fish. It was an enjoyable time on the river and helped me to see I have much to learn and a lot to grow into. Stories of places fished, flies tied, and the wealth of history and knowledge he has gained over time added to the day. 

One of the beautiful trout caught by Dr. Stephen Wright

Growing and learning is what I strive for in life. Sometimes my habits and mindset hold me in a pattern that limits my versatility and growth. At other times, I don’t have the tools or skills I need to excel in a challenging situation. In those moments, it’s good to have a friend or guide, who’s patience, knowledge, and encouragement can help you expand and elevate. We all need some help from time to time.

Keep Mending…

2 Replies to “Be Prepared for the Sulphurs ”

  1. What a lovely story!
    Your friend made a difference in that day and days to come!
    I can imagine you mentoring someone new to fly fishing!
    So much to share and so much to learn!
    I am so glad you enjoyed your day!

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