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Concerning Mayflies (Ephemera danica) and Other Such Things…

It is late May 2020, and we are entering the ninth week of the COVID-19 lockdown here in Wales, UK. Fishing ‘within your locality’ is still the message advertised by the Welsh Government; however, my favourite waters are a 30-minute drive away.

As fishing clubs throughout Wales scramble to deal with the tide of queries regarding the allowances around fishing (social media platforms such as Facebook are ablaze with anglers chaotically clambering over one another), I am reminded of schoolyard squabbles, screaming children, and toys thrown from prams as a large number of the angling community, it seems, is concerned solely with single-minded plans of fishing, despite the international pandemic sweeping our globe, and forgetting that thousands are dying…every day.

The silver lining throughout this lockdown has been the fantastic weather we’ve been able to enjoy. On the flip side, we are fast approaching drought conditions.

These days, weekends are lazy affairs. Mornings are a mix of baking, finalising fly fishing articles, or working on outstanding items from the previous week’s day job in a more relaxed manner and away from daily pressures. At the same time, weekend afternoons are more comfortable and generally consist of dog walks, reading in a quiet and sunny garden (with authors ranging from Gierach, Traver, Atherton and Hague-Brown) and are usually accompanied by BBQs, a bottle of wine and the occasional cigar.

Throughout these weekend activities though, my mind continues to gravitate towards the sound and sights of rivers, the trout I’m beginning to miss achingly so, and the flies I’ll soon need to deceive them.

Concerning Mayflies (Ephemera danica)

With Ephemera danica beginning to manifest themselves boastfully on several home rivers, my focus is on filling a few vacant spots in my fly box.

MkI: The Monnow Mayfly

A staunch supporter of the Monnow Mayfly, a superb pattern shown to me several years prior by one Mr Lloyd following a social event on the river of the same name. I’ve often found its pheasant tail tails and body a little too fragile for my liking. Often, fish with large teeth slice through such delicate materials and, considering a danica hatch can bring the larger fish to the foray, it can be quite commonplace for a Monnow Mayfly to fall apart after just one fish. Despite twisting the pheasant tail fibres while wrapping the body (enhancing the resilience of the ingredient), the original tying lacks a rib, so the body will always be the weakest link.

Concerning Mayflies (Ephemera danica) - Monnow Mayfly Original
Monnow Mayfly, The Original

Hook: Partridge of Redditch Ideal Nymph (BIN), size 8
Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk 12/0 (50D), white
Tails: 4x Pheasant Tail Fibres
Abdomen: 4x Pheasant Tail Fibres
Thorax: Master Class SLF, Ephemera danica (09)
Hackle: Whiting Farms Genetic Dry Fly Saddle, grizzly (originally coloured with an olive Pantone pen and clipped underneath)
Wing: Deer Hair, died golden olive

Still, the Monnow Mayfly offers a superb silhouette and footprint of the most beloved of Ephemeroptera strains, so I felt (in the most blasphemous way) that with a few modifications I could increase this almighty pattern’s longevity.

MkII: The Monnow Mayfly ‘Variant’

This ‘variant’ (please, I pray you, forgive me oh brothers and sisters of the blessed Monnow) is merely that; replacing the tail with moose body fibres, the abdomen with a highly buoyant Snowshoe Rabbit dubbing (complete with thread rib), and we immediately have a more resilient pattern, but a pattern offering the same footprint and silhouette as the original Monnow Mayfly…but more resistant to those trutta teeth.

Just at home on the Mayfly waters of the UK as it would be on those of the Green Drake across the pond, this is a big bushy pattern that could likely be slimmed-down to imitate a range of upwings.

Concerning Mayflies (Ephemera danica) - Monnow Mayfly Variant
Monnow Mayfly, variant

Hook: Partridge of Redditch Ideal Nymph (BIN), size 8
Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk 12/0 (50D), white
Tails: 4x Moose body fibres
Abdomen: Nature’s Spirit Snowshoe Rabbit Foot Dubbing, Pale Yellow (SRFD-13)
Rib: Semperfli Waxed Thread 12/0, brown
Thorax: Nature’s Spirit Snowshoe Rabbitfoot dubbing, Callibaetis (SRFD-26)
Hackle: Whiting Farms Hebert Miner Rooster Saddle, Cree (clipped underneath)
Wing: Deer Hair, died golden olive

With lockdown to be enforced for the foreseeable, I’m unable to travel to my nearest Mayfly waters, so after missing the March Brown and Grannom hatches of early-season, I may end up missing the mid-season danica hatches too. Time will tell.

Until then, I bask in the blasphemous glory of the Monnow Mayfly Variant. Long may its darkness blacken my soul.

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