I really have a soft spot for sulphurs. My experience fishing “on top” is pretty thin. 2012 is the first year that I’ve really focused on fishing dries. I caught my first trout on a poly loop wing sulphur emerger a few years ago. I have occasionally had luck using a size 16 parachute sulphur as a searching pattern over stocked trout when nothing is hatching. I also caught my first wild browns on sulphur dries.

Ephemerella invaria. What's not to love?

An unseasonably warm late March/early April has had hatches running early in Pennsylvania. Early compared to the hatch charts lets say…Nature is never early or late, it just is. However, the last week or two of April has been significantly cooler and this seems to have tempered the mayfly schedule somewhat.

I had been hearing whispers of sulphurs going on some of my favorite streams so I took a drive to central PA. On the water at 11:00 AM and no bugs but I fooled a couple small trout on a size 20 midge pattern. This particular stream, as do most in central PA, receives a lot of fishing pressure. I hadn’t fished it since May of 2011 and that was during very high water. This time around it looked like an entirely different place.

I have been of the school of thought that when trout are “looking up” they’ll eat almost any dry that is close in size to the natural as long as it’s presented correctly. This is, in my opinion, why flies like the Usual and the Royal Wulff work so well. I still believe this but my experience on this trip has broadened my view of how trout eat. These fish, on this day, were extremely selective. Thats not to say “more difficult” but they were keying on one specific natural at a time. When they switched, that was it. You’d better switch your pattern too. It was almost machine-like.

Wild PA brown trout.

Sulphur duns could be seen riding the surface at about 2:00 PM. Honestly when the thrashy rises started it made me pause and look at the water to see what was happening. By about 4:00 PM the sulphurs had thinned out but the rises hadn’t stopped. The trout however began ignoring my yellow compara dun. Again, a closer inspection of the water’s surface this time showed a lot of size 18 BWO’s now riding the film. A switch in patterns had me landing fish again.


Then, just as fast as everything had started, they stopped paying any attention to my olive. There were white/cream midges in the air now. Their rises had changed too. They were much more reserved, just breaking the surface with their noses. I thought about switching to a more appropriate pattern but I was honestly satisfied with what had just happened. I just stood and watched the trout work for awhile.


All in all it was about the perfect day. Everything clicked. Right place, right time, right conditions. It was the kind of outing that I’ll use as a measuring stick against days to come.


4 thoughts on “Sulphurs

  1. Hi, I love the image of the Ephemerella Invaria above and would like to use it in a fly fishing infographic I’m creating.

    I will of course give you full credit and attribution.

    If you have any objections, specific requirements or would like more detail please contact me.

    Hope you start posting again soon.

    All the best

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