A Conversation on Mayflies with Ed Ostapczuk

Posted on: April 15th, 2020 by Irene Foster
Quill Gordon Mayfly (Epeorus pleuralis). Photo by Ed Ostapczuk

Quill Gordon Mayfly (Epeorus pleuralis).
Photo by Ed Ostapczuk


Irene Foster, AWSMP’s Watershed Program Assistant for the year, had a chance to speak with local angler Ed Ostapczuk about this year’s mayfly hatch in streams of the Ashokan watershed. A “hatch” occurs when insects enter the final stage of their life cycle. The nymphs molt their skin and become sub-adults after they emerge from the water surface. Mayflies are a staple in the trout’s diet and anglers who dry fly fish imitate the size and color of mayfly nymphs. One of Ed’s favorite mayflies is the “Quill Gorden,” scientific name Epeorus pleuralis.

Irene reports: I talked with Ed Ostapczuk this week to learn about the Quill Gordon Mayfly.  Ed is a knowledgeable fly fisher and the author of Ramblings of a Charmed Circle Flyfisher.


Q: When do you usually see Quill Gordon mayflies?

A: You typically start to see them in mid to late April.  This year they appeared earlier, because of the warmer winter.


Q: Where is the best place in the Ashokan Watershed to find Quill Gordon mayflies?

A: In headwaters and tributaries because they live in the clean, cold, fast moving water found in these spots.


Q: Are you seeing a lot of Quill Gordon mayflies this year?

A: The usual amount, which is about a dozen or so with each appearance.


Q: Are there different species of mayflies?

A: Yes, there are hundreds of species of mayflies, and dozens in the Catskills.  Different species prefer various environments and can be found in different locations.  For example, the Green Drake mayfly, which prefers silty pools, is rare on the Esopus but can be found in other places in the Catskills.


Q: What significance do the Quill Gordon mayflies have for trout fishing?

A: Trout mostly feed on Quill Gordon mayflies when they are in the nymph stage, and sometimes in the dun stage.  Therefore, people who are going fishing can tie their flies to look like nymphs or duns to attract fish.


Q: What habitat conditions do Quill Gordon mayflies enjoy?

A: Quill Gordon mayflies need cold, fast, and clear water because they need oxygen.  They can be thought of as canaries in a coal mine, because they are sensitive to environmental changes such as pollution.


Q: What role do mayflies play in stream ecosystems?

A: Mayflies are food for other species such as trout, other insects, or birds.

Quill Gordon fly fishing flies.

Quill Gordon fly fishing flies.

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