May 2007 Cannon’s Creel

May is the prime month in Georgia for some serious dry fly action! Make sure that you're well equipped.

David Cannon | April 27, 2007

David Cannon

Fly anglers are a funny bunch in that, among other reasons, they refer to natural occurrences as events. Where an NFL fan might say to his buddy, “We should get some people together to watch the Super Bowl,” or where an American Idol addict might suggest to her friends, “Let’s all get together for the Wednesday night results show and watch that Sanjaya kid get the boot!” a fly angler’s big event is the maturation of insects, or “the hatch”. So his line might go something like, “Let’s head north tomorrow afternoon and try to catch the evening hatch.” And in the spring time in Georgia, a good hatch is truly an event to be celebrated.

A hatch happens when an aquatic insect reaches maturity, swims to the waters’ surface while shedding its wing casing and takes flight (except for a stonefly, who crawls onto a rock or on the bank, then flies). And while trout key in on each phase of the insects’ life, they’re perhaps most vulnerable to anglers when breaking the surface to feed on the adult bugs. This is, in many cases, great news for us.

But, it can also end up being very bad news for the ill-equipped angler. One of the most overwhelming aspects of fly fishing for the beginner is sorting through all of the hundreds of different fly patterns available at the fly shop and in the catalogs. Where does one even begin? A beginner has probably heard of the Elk-hair Caddis, but with all the many sizes it comes in and all the different colors… black, gray, brown, tan, ginger, caddis green, yellow, cream, orange, dun… What colors and in what sizes do you really need to have in your fly box at all times in order to be prepared for the hatch?

Well, let’s put together an “essential” dry fly list together. We’ll go over the must-have patterns in the most probable colors and the most common sizes. Use this list as a buying or tying guide so you can be prepared when the trout start “looking up.”

First, we need to classify dry flies, and we can do so by placing all dry fly patterns into one of two types: imitators and attractors.

The first type, imitators, do exactly that; they imitate a certain insect. An example of this would be the blue-winged olive pattern. This is a fly tied specifically to mimic the olive-bodied mayfly that shows up on north-to-south (or south-to-north) flowing trout streams every winter.

The second type, attractors, don’t necessarily mirror any one specific insect, but have an overall “buggy” look that usually, well, attracts fish. A rubber-legged Stimulator is a good example of an attractor. While a larger Stimulator can appear to be an adult stonefly, a slightly smaller one can easily pass as a mayfly.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s list the top five imitator and top five attractor dry fly patterns for May, which is probably the most active dry fly month for us in Georgia.


1. Elk-hair Caddis – The Elk-hair Caddis is a pattern that is intended to imitate a caddis with its elk hair wing that flares out like the wings of the natural, but can actually imitate other insects when tied in different colors. So, maybe this pattern should fall into some sort of in-between classification. An Immatractor? An Attractator?

At the very minimum, have this pattern in black, brown, gray and cream. And, anything from a size 12 to an 18 are good to have on hand.

2. Light Cahill – This fly emulates a medium-sized cream-colored mayfly that usually makes its appearance in the late afternoon or evening hours in the spring here in Georgia. Having a few of these in sizes 12, 14 and 16 can really be the difference-maker in having a good finish or a great finish to your day on the water. They work well tied parachute style, as well.

3. Sulphur Mayfly – The sulphur graces us with its presence at the beginning and the end of the day. It’s a smaller mayfly, so have some 16s, 18s and maybe even some 20s on hand for this hatch. With its bright yellow coloring, it’s a great fly to fish in the darker early morning or late evening light.

4. March Brown – This fly assumes the role of its natural counterpart which shows up around midday in the spring. 12s and 14s should just about cover you.

5. Yellow Sally – While fishing in North Carolina one time, I witnessed the most strange hatch I’ve ever seen. There was a road paralleling the river we were fishing which was wet from rain, and a huge hatch was coming off, not the river, but the road! And the bug that was hatching was a little yellow stonefly known lovingly as the Yellow Sally. You can take advantage of this hatch when it happens by having a 14, a 16 or an 18 in your box. But remember, you can’t catch a fish on the road, even if there’s a great hatch coming off of it!

Honorable Mention: X-Caddis, Goddard Caddis, Green Drake and Coffin Fly (Green Drake spinner).


1. Adams – The Adams, which was invented by a guide in Michigan many years ago, is truly one of the great all-time patterns. Need to match a midge hatch? Tie on a size 22 Adams. Run out of March Brown patterns but they’re still hatching? Tie on a size 14 Adams. You really can’t have too many of these in your box. I probably have three-dozen of these in different variations (I like the parachute).

2. Stimulator – This fly does a great job of imitating everything from an adult stonefly to a mayfly to a caddis. Try it in orange, yellow and olive colors and sizes 10 through 14 and with or without rubber legs. It’s awesome on small streams and big rivers alike.

3. Griffith’s Gnat – This fly means one thing to anglers everywhere: versatility! Skate it, dead-drift it, dredge it or drop it and it’ll usually do the trick. It’s such a simple fly, yet deadly to the curious trout. Anything from a size 14 to a size 24 is good to have on hand.

4. Humpy – When the situation calls for a buggy, meaty-looking dry fly, you probably won’t find a fly that will do the job better. If current-fighting trout are looking for protein, this pattern is the Porterhouse steak!

5. Royal Wulff – This pattern looks like absolutely nothing like anything that is flying over a trout stream to us, but it must look familiar to our underwater buddies because they go after it time and time again. Try this fly in a 14, 16 or 18 on any small stream in Georgia and you’ll have a heck of a time.

Honorable Mention: Turk’s Tarantula, Adams Irresistible.

Now that you have an idea of what dries to have in your box for the great spring hatches, don’t be afraid of expanding your horizons. Experiment with other patterns and pick your favorites. A fly fished well with confidence is usually a successful fly!

Oh, and one more thing… on many trips, I notice that the parking lots clear out a few hours before dark. Don’t be one of these people! Take a flash light and some extra batteries and fish until you can’t see your fly anymore… then fish by listening for rises!

So to sum it up, dry flies, flash light, batteries… dry flies, flash light, batteries. Got it? Have fun out there!

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