I was recently fortunate to get the timing right for a fantastic match-the-hatch opportunity on a central Pennsylvania spring creek. And finally got some decent fishing to test out the Tenkara Rod Co. Teton Zoom rod. It was one of those days that makes you feel like you know what you’re doing. The bugs were hatching and the fish were eating flies just like the books say they’re supposed to. I’ve had great days like this with hatches and other days full of frustration, so when it works out in my favor I’m happy to take the win and try not overestimate my skill.
I know in tenkara the emphasis is not on hatch-matching but you may as well take it if it comes your way. The sulphur hatch can be tremendous fun if you’re prepared with some reasonable imitations. I’ve fished to sulphur hatches in the spring creeks of Pennsylvania and spring creeks of the Driftless. I’ve heard that they also occur on tailwater fisheries such as the South Holston (see hatch chart from South Holston River Fy Shop) and Upper Delaware River (hatch chart from The Delaware River Club).
The bugs that anglers refer to as sulphurs (aka sulfurs) are small yellow to orange mayflies. Most commonly the two species that are called sulphurs are Ephemerella invaria and Ephemerella dorothea (though there are others). The invaria are slightly bigger (14-16) than the dorothea (16-18). The takeaway is that if you’ve got some small yellow (or yellowish orange) dry flies and wet flies in sizes 14-18 you’ll be covering the range pretty well.
Hatch times and length will vary with location. In Central Pennsylvania I expect to see sulphurs from early May into June. With the larger bugs first and then the smaller. In the Wisconsin driftless it’s usually a little later. I know I’ve fished sulphur hatches there in early June. So if you’re going to the 2023 Driftless Campout in June you may run into them.
Often the hatch may occur just at dusk, but on cloudy or cool days it may happen throughout the day. This was the case on my recent trip. It was quite chilly and rainy all day and as a result the sulphurs hatched all day long with a particular flurry of activity during the hardest rainfall. So if you’re headed to a stream where sulphurs hatch and it’s the right time of year don’t be turned off by bad weather – it may mean extended hatch duration and great fishing all day long.
If I don’t see any surface action I generally start with a dry-dropper rig of a sparkle dun dry fly with a bead-head sulphur nymph. If I start seeing some fish taking duns or emergers, I’ll swap the nymph dropper for an emerger dropper. Or alternatively if you want to stick to a more traditional tenkara approach you could try a orange or yellow wet fly.
Lots of flies will work but above I show some that I’ve used with success. I like to put a little tuft of white Antron on some of my sulphur nymphs to simulate a budding wing. Nymphs with brown bodies or pheasant tail bodies can be effective patterns. The simple sulphur emerger shown has a tail of mallard fibers, body of sulphur orange dubbing, legs of dark soft hackle fibers and a wing tuft of natural muskrat fur. A sulphur sparkle dun is a great pattern to use for the dry. The tail of brown Antron represents a trailing nymphal shuck. I’ve had success with orange and yellow soft hackle wet flies as well. In general I fish all of these patterns with a dead drift. I’ll allow the wet flies to rise a bit as the drift reaches its end, but I don’t usually impart much action or swing.
Of course, these are just some flies and tactics that have worked for me, I’d love to know what others use when fishing a sulphur hatch. Please share your favorite flies and tactics in the comments.
Tenkara Rod Company Teton Zoom Rod
I received the Teton Zoom a while back and I’ve fished with it several times but this was the first time that I’ve had the chance to catch a lot of fish and put it through its paces a bit. The Teton performed nicely. I didn’t catch any huge fish, I probably topped off at about 14 inches and the Teton handled fish of that size quite easily and I suspect it would handle larger trout well.
As I was fishing a dry-dropper rig I went with a few lines that I know handle that rig well. Firstly I used a tapered twisted fluorocarbon line similar to a furled line. It’s a heavier line that has the mass and taper to cast wind resistant dry flies very nicely. Then I switched to a floating line made from mono-core nymphing line. The Teton performed quite well with both of these heavier lines and slightly cumbersome dry-dropper rigs.
I appreciated the zoom capability as I worked along the tree lined banks. Sometimes I’d use the shorter length for some easier casting under the low hanging trees, but more often I’d use the zoom feature while landing fish. I was usually able to use an angled cast to take advantage of the full 12ft reach, but the trouble was landing fish at 12ft. Quite often overhead and bankside branches and shrubs made it difficult to land fish at the 12 ft length but zooming it down to 10.5 ft was often the ticket to keep things lower and shorter and out of the trees.
All in all I liked the Teton with furled and floating lines and with my “western” dry dropper rigging. I really want to get into some bigger fish to see how it can handle those.
Teton Zoom Specs
- Extended Length: 10.5ft – 12 ft.
- Collapsed Length: 23 inches
- Weight: 3.5 oz
- Material: Carbon Fiber
- Segments: 9
- Handle Length: 11.25 inches
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