Bastian’s Floating Sulphur Emerger – Part II

This article is Part II of the Floating Sulphur Emerger pattern. This season on Spring Creek, using my Floating Caddis – “Sulphur” Emerger, I decided to try something new and different; that is; fishing with two dry flies at the same time, in a tandem dry fly rig. I had done that successfully out west in 2006 on the Madison, using my Floating Caddis Emerger trailed on 5x tippet behind a #10 Grizzly Wulff as an indicator fly. I did this so I could see the Emerger on the broken water, plus to provide better visibility and improved tracking of the smaller, flush-floating emerger at distances of forty to fifty-five feet that I was occasionally casting.

On Spring Creek this season, this is the data and fishing report from four trips made on the following dates: May 10th, 17th, 24th, and 30th. Each time I fished there I used two drys; the top pattern was a size #14 sulphur dun, either a Thorax Dun or Parachute Dun, and the point fly, trailed on only 12″ of 5x tippet, was always my Floating Sulphur Emerger. The idea of the short tippet between the two flies was so that I would hopefully not have the flies in drift lanes of different speeds. Generally this was a successful approach.

On the first trip, May 10th, I was with a friend, we started fishing about 10 AM. The trout did not come easily that day; by lunchtime at 2:00 PM (we had a late breakfast), I had landed nine trout on nymphs. My friend had less than half that number. During the fishing up to that time, we saw just two sulphur duns. We didn’t know it for a certainty, but that was due to change. We parked along the creek, had lunch, and I took a nap while my friend went fishing. About 3:30 PM I woke up and moved my lawn chair so I could look downstream to watch my friend fishing. I was relaxing, just enjoying the time to watch the stream and listen to the birds, which included a hermit thrush, towhee, northern oriole, and Carolina wren. Two of my friends that we had met earlier in the day drove past minutes apart in separate cars after their fishing, they stopped for a brief chat, and headed off. They were giving it up for the day. Big mistake on their part. Just after 4:00 PM I saw my friend take two trout about five minutes apart, and then I got the gumption to get up and walked over to the guardrails to look at the creek. There were sulphur duns in the air, not hundreds, but several could be seen at any time. Then I saw a rise. And then another. I quickly donned my vest, grabbed my rod, and climbed down over the bank. I crossed the stream to get the sun at my back, a personal preference whenever possible; besides, the section we were in fishes best from the west side anyway. It’s a good afternoon section to fish.

When I got to the other side, I made a few casts with a nymph, but the sight of several rises made me change over to a dry. It was then that I decided to use the previously mentioned Sulphur Dun / Emerger tandem rig. Within minutes after that, and I checked my watch for time reference; at precisely 4:35 PM it was as if someone turned on a switch. Within minutes there were trout rising all around me. I was in a pocket water – riffle stretch and every place that seemed it would hold a fish, did. I began to rise and hook trout, both fish I saw feeding and others that I did not. As far as which fly they took, the trout seemed to be divided between the dun and emerger by about three to one, favoring the dun. But certainly enough took the emerger that I kept it on. By the time 7:30 PM arrived, we had enjoyed three non-stop hours of actively rising trout, my friend hooked over twenty, and I was closer to three-dozen hookups. But it was the approach of an imminent thunderstorm that drove us off. We literally just made it to our vehicle and got out of our fishing gear and then the heavens opened up. It rained like the rain of Noah’s Ark all the way back to Jersey Shore where my car was parked. We probably drove and stayed right in the storm as it tracked southwest to northeast.

The fishing report from that evening was that I hooked close to three-dozen trout, and ten of them were landed on the Floating Sulphur Emerger. More trout whacked at that pattern, but of course I didn’t hook every fish. Sometimes they just miss the fly, and it’s not the angler’s fault. A couple times I saw my dun get pulled under, and struck, hooking a fish. Other times I saw a flash or swirl near the dun, and responded by lifting the rod tip. Again, hooking or “sticking” a fish that took the emerger. I kept floatant on both patterns and several times I saw the trout suck the emerger off the surface.

May 17th – a repeat of May 10th. I went to Spring Creek with two friends; Peter Rodgers and Peter Tonetti of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, had come to my home for a couple days of fly tying lessons, and we also did some fishing. They had never been to Spring Creek, and with the sulphurs on, I wanted to take them there. On the morning of this day, we tied sulphur thorax and parachute duns, spent-wing spinners, and also my Floating Caddis Emerger and Sulphur Emerger, with the idea that we would take the new patterns along to fish with. On this day, I added the new twist of a bright colored foam sight-indicator and started using the orange thread on the Floating Sulphur Emerger. We arrived about 4:15 PM. As soon as we got on the water, there were fish up. They were not real active yet, but I anticipated the increase of hatching and even spinners later on, and hopefully more trout rising as well. That happened, right on cue, as a matter of fact. Peter and Peter were very impressed. Peter T. said at the end of the evening, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rising trout in one place in my life!” Both men became Spring Creek addicts and are anxious to return.

My personal report – I didn’t hook as many trout as the week prior, but there was a lesson-learned reason for that. I still did well, hooking close to twenty trout, but I made the mistake of tying on a spinner about 8:15 while the light was still good. Spinners were in the air and I just knew the trout would feed preferentially on the spinners. Besides, the duns and rising trout had tapered off by about 7:30. We still took trout by fishing the water, reasoning that the trout were still looking for duns. It worked. What happened that caught me off guard, and among the sudden increase of rising trout, sulphur spinners at eye level, so many that at times they distracted your line of sight to your floating flies, was that I did not see the sulphur duns hatching again. And I mean Gangbusters. For some reason only Mother Nature knows, the duns had all but stopped, but it was merely a break before a super-hatch to follow. Sulphur duns appeared to be literally flying from the water, and I finally realized the trout were taking duns, not spinners, at 8:30 as dusk fell, having cast my proven-by-fifteen-years-of-experience-on-Spring-Creek #14 Sulphur Spinner to more than three dozen rising fish, hooking only two, and being ignored by the rest. When I changed over earlier, I even thought of fishing a spinner and dun in tandem, but being cocky, I told myself, I won’t need to do that. “They’ll take the spinner,” I reasoned. Instead I caught fewer trout, but I learned to be careful about what I thought I knew about trout and bugs.

Here is the Floating Sulphur Emerger:

Bastian's Floating Sulphur emerger

Bastian’s Floating Mayfly (Sulphur) Emerger – Size #14 dry fly hook.

Bastian’s Floating Sulphur emerger

Hook: Any standard dry fly hook,#12 to#16.

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #7 Orange

Trailing Shuck: Clear Enrico’s Sea-Fibers

Ribbing: One strand Pearlescent Krystalflash

Overback: Tan closed-cell foam, cut into strip about 2 mm wide and thick

Body: Haretron #18 Ginger or Hareline #43 Ginger rabbit dubbing

Side Shuck: Same as trailing shuck, and tied in from the same piece

Hackle: One turn of a mottled brown hen back feather

Thorax: Haretron Dark Brown #16 dubbing

Head: Orange tying thread

Tying Instructions:

1) Start thread, wind to hook point, trim tag end. It is important to extend the body to a point just to the rear of the hook barb, going just a wee bit over the bend.

2) Attach trailing shuck

3) Attach ribbing

4) Attach foam overback with three wraps

5) Apply dubbing, dub body up to within double normal head space

6) Wind ribbing, 5 – 6 turns

7) Pull overback forward; secure with three wraps, stretch foam and trim butt end

8) Cut trailing shuck off at hook length, move to front of foam, tie it in top center, like a spent spinner wing. Pull fibers to side of hook, then using thread, wrap over the base of the fibers so they sweep back along sides. Length of side shuck extends to hook bend. At this stage, wrap thread to evenly taper the thorax section.

9) Attach hackle, tied in by butt end after fluff cut off. One wrap, one wrap only. OK, that reminds me of a line spoken by Captain Ramius in The Hunt for Red October –  using your best Sean Connery imitation, say, “One ping, Percilli. One ping only, please.”

Here is the new version with the Hi-Vis Sight indicator:

Bastian's Hi-Vis Mayfly (Sulphur) Emerger

Bastian’s Hi-Vis Mayfly (Sulphur) Emerger. This fly was fished, and before I photographed it, I had to fluff it up a bit. I know, it looks nothing like what you may think a sulphur emerger should or would look like. Try telling the trout that.

The tying instructions and components of this version are the same as the Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger above, except that the legs are two small, separate bunches, side-lashed, and there is the obvious addition of the bright foam indicator. A bit of the head dubbing is applied before adding the foam sight indicator,the remaining dubbing is applied after the foam is attached with two wraps. The indicator could also be yellow or orange.

More fish and fishing images from the May 10th to 30th Spring Creek fishing outings:

Trout aken on the new Hi-Vis Floating Sulphur Emerger

Brown trout taken on the new Hi-Vis Floating Sulphur Emerger, May 17th.


Another trout on the Hi-Vis version.

Some trout took the dun in my tandem dry fly rig.

Some trout took the dun in my tandem dry fly rig. This one ate a #14 Sulphur Parachute.


Another brown on the Floating Sulphur Emerger – I know you can’t see it, you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Sulphur parachute Dun

Brown taken on a Sulphur Parachute Dun.


A nicer sized brown, he ate the dun pattern.

Upstream view of the Graystone section, great pocket water.

Upstream view of the Graystone section, great pocket water.

Another brown taken on the Floating Sulphur emerger.

Another brown taken on the Floating Sulphur Emerger.


Another brown taken on the Floating Sulphur Emerger. You can see the dun pattern, the lead fly in the tandem rig, lying just under the trout’s jaw.

Peter Rodgers playing Spring Creek brown

Peter Rodgers playing a Spring Creek brown. You can see the trout – it’s airborne!

Peter nets another trout.

Peter nets another trout.

I took this trout last night.

I took this trout last night on the Floating Sulphur Emerger.

On May 24th I fished on Spring Creek with my friend from Delaware, Ohio, Eric Austin, and several of his buddies. We all had a good day, everyone caught fish. The weather that day was a little on the chilly side. I used my tandem rig and took about 15 trout.

Last night I went to Spring Creek again. I figured the warm weather would have a good spinner fall. It turned out there were very few duns hatching, from about 6:00 PM when I started. A few duns came off at dusk. There was a really good spinner fall, but they never showed up until about 8:30 PM as the light began to fade.

I started right off with my “usual” tandem dry fly rig. I fished about twenty-five minutes until I finally rose a trout to the Floating Emerger. He missed the fly. Up until 8:00 PM, I hooked just eight trout. The interesting aspect of last night’s fishing was, compared to all three previous outings, where I took 25% to 35% of the trout on the Floating Emerger, last night, of the first eight trout I hooked, seven were on the emerger. Near the end of the evening, I had lost the emerger on a branch on the opposite side, the result of an errant cast from trying to drift my rig over potential trout lies perilously close to the far bank. By then I had taken twelve trout, nine on the emerger.  That ratio speaks to the effectiveness and preference of the trout to this pattern. When I lost the emerger, I removed the connecting tippet and Thorax Dun and replaced it with a #14 Sulphur Comparadun. The Comparadun silhouette appears very similar to that of a spinner. About 8:40 spinners were about and the trout really began rising actively. I hooked another six or seven fish in short order and called it a night at 8:55 PM.

I suspect also, that this pattern, tied on a #10 – 2x-long hook, with brown foam, and dark brown dubbing, would be an Isonychia – aka Slate Drake Floating Emerger. And so on, with other mayflies. There are near limitless possibilities, and not enough time to tie and try them all. Not this season, anyway. If you tie and try this pattern, I’d wager you will be pleased with its effectiveness.

7 comments on “Bastian’s Floating Sulphur Emerger – Part II

  1. Kelly L says:

    Oh now I see there is a part 2. Lovely flies, and fish. Awesome Don!!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Ha, ha! :mrgreen: Part II was mentioned in Part I, with a “teaser” for the pattern and tying information. Pay attention class! 😉 Ha, ha! Thanks for your interest and comments! Always!

  2. mike says:

    Nice flies as usual Don. I could use a 1/2 dozen. It’s time to get the slate drakes out again Don !!!

  3. Don Bastian says:

    Hi Mike;
    Thank you for your comment! I appreciate the fact that you like the flies. They really work, and I’m very pleased about that.
    Regarding the Slate Drakes, yes, I fished Lycoming Creek over the hill yesterday afternoon, and caught a trout and rose a few more on my BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern. We saw some hatching.
    If you are serious about ordering a 1/2 dozen of the sulphur emergers, send me an e-mail:

    Thanks again for your comment!

  4. […] is Don Bastian’s Floating Mayfly (Sulphur) Emerger. Don has a great write-up on this pattern. He lists the recipe and tells of his fishing experience with […]

  5. Don Bastian says:

    Reblogged this on Don Bastian Wet Flies and commented:

    After today’s post on my Floating Caddis-Mayfly Emerger I received two requests for tying steps to make this fly. So reblogging this original post; here they are, from my article dated May of 2013. Lots of fishing pics, info on the day, tactical stuff, etc. Note to interested tiers: Both the Orvis version with the wound hackle collar, and the version with side-lashed legs are here. See the notes on that below the Hi-Vis Emerger.

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