Trico and other Spinner Flies
Spinner flies take their name from the mating dance of adult mayflies (or Callibaetis), who swarm together to breed in such numbers that they resemble swirling clouds of smoke. After mating and egg-laying both males and females are spent, and end their lives on the water’s surface, their wings now close to their body rather than pointing outwards and upwards. Spinner patterns mimic these dead and dying flies, giving them their far less common (but far more accurate) name: ‘spentwing’.
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More about Spinner Flies
The life cycle of the mayfly is unusual in that there are two stages to adult life. What anglers refer to as a ‘hatch’ is the larvae rising to the surface and taking on winged form. Once they can fly (albeit rather slowly and clumsily), the adults seek land. A day or two later, they shed their skin again and become sleeker, streamlined flying machines: opaque wings become clear, and fatter bodies becomes thinner, usually taking on a distinctive red/brown or ‘rusty’ color. In this form they then mate, before dying shortly afterwards.
Tricos are small, three-tailed mayfly (hence the Latin Tricorythodes) that hatch on rivers across the US from July through October. Their adult life cycle is particularly short – only a few hours – so if you observe a hatch you will shortly be able to fish spinner flies at the same location. Prolific even by mayfly standards, Trico hatches in July/August are in such huge numbers that the water’s surface can be carpeted by millions of spent adults, with trout feeding greedily and even carelessly in what some anglers call the ‘Trico trance’.
Fishing with Spinner Dry Flies
Clouds of mayflies seemingly rising and falling over the river (from head height to one hundred feet up) will be mating swarms. Brightly-colored egg sacks (typically yellow, orange, or green, and up to half the size of the insect) mean the ‘spent’ stage is close. And, of course, look for trout: they are often present in large numbers, rising regularly. Light, delicate casts with no movement after the fly hits the surface work best, but if the fish are in a feeding frenzy then you won’t need the best technique to catch them.