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The Legend of Steve Birkenmaier

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A New Species of Mayfly Discovered on the Lehigh River

by Jack Walsh

This past early June I fished the Lehigh River below the Francis Walter Dam with my friend Steve Birkenmaier.  After rigging up we approached the river hoping to find an evening hatch.  We weren't disappointed as we observed trout rising toward the far bank all along the big pool.  We identified the source of the trout's interest.  They were taking small surphurs.  Steve saw a big pod of rising fish farther downstream and he trekked off in that direction.

I was experiencing success with a size 18 surphur comparadun and I was in that zone we are all familiar with as I concentrated on a drag free drift.  All of a sudden, I heard a tremendous splash from downstream.  When I looked all I saw was Birkey's hat floating on top of the water.  Then to my extreme amazement, there emerged the biggest mayfly I have ever seen from under Birkey's hat.  It had a scrufty gray thorax and a large tan abdomen.  As I watched, it emerged higher through the meniscus and it's opaque red mottled wings flapped frantically in an attempt to dry.

This fly exhibited a unique emergence behavior for a mayfly.  It's behavior was similar to a stonefly and some caddisflies and the slate drake in that it came to the surface and then swam and then crawled to the bank of the river.  It reached dry land and then crawled up the bank through the streamside vegetation.

After a while my curiosity got the best of me and I tracked its path up the bank through the vegetation.  I was shocked to find its large tan discarded shuck lying on the ground behind the pickup truck.

 As an undergraduate, I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology.  One can only imagine how excited I am to have made this discovery.  I have named this new species Ephemerella birkenmaieri in honor of my friend.  It's common name will be "The Lehigh River Rock Slider".

I'm really not sure what size hook to use to imitate this fly as it is soooo big.  It's just sooo big!!! How big is it you ask?  Well, it's so big it makes Hexagenia limbata look like Tricorythodes stygiatus!


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