Mayflies are good for fishing. They are insects that spend the early phases of their life under the water. Later, they swim to the surface and begin their journey to mate and fish love to eat them.
Researchers aren’t the only ones that are interested in these insects. Fly anglers watch the timing when mayfly hatches. That’s because they know about the potential opportunity that the insect provides when it comes to catching fish. And, sometimes even on a dry fly.
The bigger insects, which can be about 2 inches long can attract large fish and bring them to the surface. However, there is a small problem that fishermen face sometimes. The issue is that most of the hatches happen during the evening. And, it means that anglers need moonlight or their skill to catch fish in the dark.
Many anglers tie patterns along with luminescent materials so that they can see when the night strikes. However, using a headlamp when catching fish isn’t a good idea. And, this is what people follow.
The beautiful waters, an abundance of mayflies, and hunting for wild fishes are some of the things that every fly anglers dream of. This is the most effective way of providing them with the comfort to live through the harsh cold months during the winter season.
What kind of fish like mayflies?
Mayflies have lots of species. But they are like candy to all kinds of fishes. Whenever the hatch happens, every species of fish from carp to panfish, bass, trout, and walleyes eats them up. Mayfly nymphs are like snacks for the walleyes. And, they remain the main component in their diet throughout the year.
During the spring, walleyes cruise through the bottom areas to feed on the nymphs. And, during the summer, walleyes try to target the nymphs when there is a hatch. A mayfly spends most of its time as a nymph. They crawl to the bottom and hide in the debris.
While most nymphs live deep underwater, some of them stay shallow to soak the sunlight. That’s because sunlight is important for their growth. During the early stages of mayfly hatching, walleyes and other fishes feed aggressively.
Sometimes, the mayflies attract the bluegills as they like to have them. And, because of that, the bass enjoys both the bluegills and mayflies. During this season, most of the fishes tend to feed on the upper part of the water. They roam around and look for anything that resembles a mayfly or wiggler.
Which months are suitable for fishing during a mayfly hatch?
While mayfly hatching depends on a specific region, most of the species emerge between April and July during the summer season. Two of the mayfly hatches that surfaces early are gray drake and march brown. These mayfly hatches show up during April and May. This marks the beginning of the fishing season.
In areas where there are high-elevation waters, the pale morning dun is another species of a mayfly that emerges for the first time during this time. And, they come out during early June or July. After that, the mayfly hatches continue to emerge during the later months as well.
During late June to early July, the burrowing mayflies hatch in certain areas. And, they are almost the same species that are found in all streams and freshwater bodies. They can grow up to 2 inches in size. As such, these insects attract large fishes to the surface.
It means anglers have a good time catching those fishes with very little effort. But the problem is that most hatches occur after evening. As such, anglers have to hunt them in poor lighting conditions. With the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the blue-winged olive, which is another species of a mayfly emerges. This variant prefers cool and cloudy days.
What triggers hatch in mayflies?
Hot weather is the main reason that triggers mayfly hatch on almost every lake worldwide. And, hot weather is associated with the summer season. Water temperature is an important factor that determines when a mayfly hatch will occur. However, a specific hatch date might deviate sometimes.
And, it can extend beyond from one month to another, and even from a year to the next. But the order in which the different mayfly species emerge remains the same each time. Cold weather might delay mayfly hatching on several occasions.
All kinds of fishes move to deep water and take advantage of the food that exploded in the mud basin of almost every lake. Many winged duns fly to the nearby vegetation or trees and change themselves to spinners. After several hours, the mature spinner comes from the dun’s body once again.
As said, on rare occasions mayfly hatch occurs on a cloudy or rainy day. So, it is the best time to stay beside water because there are chances of a mayfly hatch. During the winter months, the mayfly hatch consists of blue wing olives, another variant of mayflies. They hatch during the warmest part of the day.
Do mayflies bite?
There is no question that mayflies could be annoying pests. And, most people wonder that whether these insects bite or not. However, the reality is that mayflies don’t sting or bite. The little creatures don’t have mouths. And, this is why they can’t eat either.
Mayflies spend their life with this because they have a very short lifespan as well. Most of them die within a day. The presence of mayfly swarms indicates that there is a healthy aquatic environment close. They are the chief food source of lots of fishes, dragonfly nymphs, and birds.
What do mayflies look like?
Mayflies are elongated and slender insects that have antennae. Also, they have six legs and two pairs of wings. Furthermore, you can find two or three tails on their body. And, these tails are longer than the size of their body. However, with a variety of species, mayflies have different body sizes. See the image at top of this page.
Some of the mayfly species have a body length as small as 1mm in length. And, some of them could be as long as 30mm. Also, their body color varies from one species to another. They might have dull or dark-colored bodies with pale wings.
Sometimes, the wings could be gray, yellow, or even clear. Moreover, these insects hold their wings above their body together when they are resting. This is quite different from other insects that you see.
The mayfly’s lifespan:
Mayflies have three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
- Eggs – The female mayfly, after mating, lays eggs while flying and dipping them into the water with every dip. Sometimes they deposit the eggs on the water surface. Later they sink to the bottom and attach to aquatic plants or debris.
- Nymphs – The nymphs emerge soon after the eggs are laid. These new hatchlings are about 1mm long. And, they don’t resemble an adult mayfly. Throughout their life, mayfly nymphs can grow for about 3cm long. They pass through many development stages called instars.
However, the number of instars depends on the type of species. So, the development stages could range anywhere between 12 and 45. But most of them have between 15 and 25. They live at the bottom of the freshwater habitat and hide in the substrate.
When nymphs get older, they began to form gills. Other signs of their species can be observed during the last stages before attaining adulthood. Moreover, the size of the nymph varies according to the species of mayfly. Also, it depends on the geographic location and water temperature.
The outer layer of the nymph is called molting. The nymph sheds it by emptying the guts and filling the mid-section with air. At the same time, it floats up to the water surface. After it reaches the topmost surface of the water, the outer layer opens up and the wings appear for the first time.
After gaining some strength, it flies to a nearby tall grass or tree until the final molt appears. It takes 24 to 48 hours.
- Adults – Mayflies have two distinct adult stages: subimago and imago. The subimago is the immature stage. The imago transformation results in being sexually active. Also, they develop long tails and legs with shiny wings. In both these stages, a mayfly has wings, doesn’t eat, and lives for a very short time.
The imago stage lasts for a few hours to a few days, sometimes. Because of their fragile nature of wings, mayflies need calm weather to mate. These insects mate while they fly in swarms close to the water habitats. The male grabs a female and mates during flight.
The male releases the female and she descends to the water surface to lays the eggs. This is the time when fishes pick them up. The male dies on the nearby land.
Mayflies are a sign of a good fly fishing season. Because they are born underwater, these insects are sensitive to changes both in terms of water quality and temperature.
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