Celebrating Mayflies

Celebrating Mayflies

I stood along the side of the stream, cold water flowing around my waders and blue sky overhead—blue sky filled with hatching mayflies. Tiny fairy-like-flight of insects rising from the water’s surface into the warm spring air. 

Admittedly, I was distracted from watching my fly float along the surface. Several times it intersected with a hatching mayfly and I was anticipating a trout to make the imitation of the mayfly and the mayfly into a sandwich. Alas, it didn’t happen.

But, last summer I was fishing another creek and through the clear water, I watched a trout chase a hatching mayfly from the depths to the surface. Right after the trout missed the emerging insect, my fly landed at the exact spot and the trout took the fly. Never in my wildest dreams…I’m not sure even my friends believe that wild story. But I swear it’s true and I can show you the deep pool where it happened…but I won’t, because it’s one of my guarded spots that me and only a couple hundred people visit…thankfully not at the same time. I’ve only seen other anglers there once in four years.

On my birthday last spring, I was with a guide friend and we waded upon a green drake hatch. (There’s a blog dedicated to that magical experience you can read HERE). Those huge mayflies had us both laughing and excited, in awe. Yesterday, they were smaller but brought no less joy to this nature-lover.

It seems everyone knows mayflies by their flying persona, but the mayfly lives in that evolution of their lifecycle only a couple days. The majority of their life is spent underwater…as a buggy looking, rather hard-shelled, multiple legged nymph. 

I stood in the water watching and thought: last year, females laid eggs in the water and two weeks later they hatched. They spent an entire year as an underwater bug and maybe I stepped across them last summer when I waded here. Now, they are hatching as I witness. Now they begin a 24 to 48 hour time as air-breathing, flying mayflies and will shed their exoskeleton once more during this time. Then, they’ll mate and the female will lay eggs and they will hatch (unless eaten by a trout) next year, perhaps when I’m wading the stream with my fly rod. And yes, I actually stood there thinking all of this!

The egg-laying was also happening yesterday as I stood transfixed in the creek, lost in the wonder of magical mayflies. 

Mostly, mayflies are underwater buggy creatures; however, their flight is what we celebrate because that’s what we witness, and some (like me) hardly notice the fish when a hatch is underway.

Perhaps our lives are a bit like the lives of mayflies…we spend the majority of our time growing and looking positively buggy in our attempts to develop into good human beings. And on occasion, our hard work pays off and we metaphorically take flight and are able to express our beauty, the beauty to which all of us are destined if we realize our potential.

I learned this from a little mayfly that lit on my waders, over my heart. We had a wonder-full conversation, fueled somewhat by my imagination. But mostly, I just softly whispered words of love and appreciation and thanked the small wonder for bringing me so much joy. 

I created this image for the logo of my business, Wading Women: Holistic Fly Fishing. So…yes, I do adore mayflies. 


It is said that a trout’s diet is up to 70% underwater nymphs like mayflies and other cool insects like stoneflies. Every spring I spend as much time as possible in the water, casting my fly rod…which is really just an excuse to witness one of my favorite nature phenomena. And a favorite of the spring hatches? The yellow sallies, a type of stonefly. They really do look like tiny yellow fairies flying up from the water.

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