Fly anglers able to strike gold during this month’s sulphur hatch

If some cosmic genie were to offer me the chance to have one wish granted, I just might request that the month of May last for at least six months or so.

And even that extended duration might not be quite long enough to fully enjoy all the wonderful things this time of year has to offer just about any outdoor enthusiast. Along with all the diversity available during May, many of the opportunities are tremendously productive as well.

The spring turkey season now spans the entire month of May. Numbers of spring turkey hunters here in Pennsylvania first exceeded those hunting in the fall back in 2000. Since then, the popularity of spring gobbler hunting has eclipsed the fall turkey season both in the number of hunters and in the total of birds harvested.

Hunters have also had the opportunity to buy second spring turkey tag for several years now, and this spring marks the third season that has allowed all-day hunting after the first two weeks of the season, providing even more additional opportunity for those whose work schedules don’t permit early-morning hunting.

Whether you’re out turkey hunting or just taking a walk around the woods and field this time of year, there are so many things worth seeing. Birdwatchers will enjoy observing the breeding activity of many species of birds as well as the many warblers that pass through our region this time of year.

An abundance of fascinating wildflowers also bloom this month, adding new color to any outing. And by the end of the month, it won’t be surprising to see the first spotted fawns of the spring.

Fishing for just about every species can be as good as it gets during May. Catch-and release fishing for pre-spawn largemouth and smallmouth bass as they stage in the shallows and go on a feeding binge can be tremendous fun. During the last half of the month, crappies and other panfish will also invade the shallows in preparation for spawning.

Trout fishing is already I full swing, of course, and water conditions have been good overall so far. By now, the crowds and casual fishermen who flock to the streams during the opening weeks of the season are gone, and those who enjoy the beauty and solitude of trout fishing will be able to find more of that ambience. For dedicated fly-fisherman, there is no better time than the month of May.

Many of the best hatches of the year occur this month and with them bring some of the best dry-fly fishing as well. The “best of the best” of those hatches is the sulphurs. These bright yellow mayflies can be pure gold to area fly anglers. Sulphurs occur on most of the better trout streams of the region, and they typically begin emerging about now. It is consistent and prolific enough hatch to interest better-than-average fish.

During the first few days they appear, sulphurs typically begin emerging from 4 to 6 p.m. depending on weather and water conditions – earlier on overcast days and later on clear bright days.

As the hatch progresses, the bugs will appear later and later in the evening, sometimes starting to hatch just a few minutes before dark. Inexperienced anglers often leave the stream too early and miss the late-evening action.

After the hatch had been in progress for a few days, the spinner fall will become an important component of the hatch. A day or so after hatching, mayflies molt into what anglers commonly call spinners. Spinners then return to the stream in the evening to mate and lay eggs. During the peak of the hatch, clouds of sulphur spinners will hover above a riffle at the head of a pool just before dark. The females then deposit their eggs and die, falling into the water by the thousands.

Trout will line up in the current tongues to feed on the steady supply of spent female spinners. Repetitive, sipping rises are a sure sign the fish are working the spinner fall, which can last well after dark.

It is easy to be frustrated during a sulphur hatch as dozens of rising trout around you refuse your offering. Remember that during a heavy hatch your imitation is far outnumbered by the many natural insects on the water.

Concentrate on a specific fish that is rising regularly if possible, rather than casting randomly each time another trout rises around you. Drag-free drifts and proper presentation are also vital for success.

And if you are looking for yet another diversion this month, my friends at the Riggles Gap Sportsmen’s Club (Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association) will be having a spring gun show next Saturday, May 11, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the club grounds, 301 Riggles Gap Sportsmen Road, Altoona. Admission is $3 and those 16 and under will be admitted free.

The shooting ranges will be open during the event for a special range fee of $5 with a paid show admission. For more information see or call 946-9315.