PMD Fly Patterns: 10 Top Pale Morning Dun Flies (2024)

The Pale Morning Dun (PMD) is trout candy. This small Mayfly doesn’t look special, but few flies are as productive as the PMD when mid-summer hits. Dozens and dozens of …

The Pale Morning Dun (PMD) is trout candy. This small Mayfly doesn’t look special, but few flies are as productive as the PMD when mid-summer hits. Dozens and dozens of PMD representations are available to tie and purchase, but a few standby patterns will always work.

What Is a Pale Morning Dun?

Pale Morning Duns are common insects in the United States. Anglers will find them all over tailwaters and cold spring creeks. Their heaviest hatches are sometime in June and July. Generally, they have pale bodies and large transparent wings and rarely grow larger than 9mm. They’re a reasonably small pattern and are often compared to Blue Winged Olives in their abilities to entice trout.

PMD nymphs are put in the crawler category. They move around quite a bit on the bottom, so they’re often swept up into the current and make for easy meals. As they move into the emerging stage, PMDs are unlike most other mayflies. The dun will remove the nymph shuck at the bottom and swim to the surface. Once at the surface, they have to dry their wings, making them easy targets for trout.

The duns that do escape turn into spinners after 12 hours. They’ll join the mating swarms found in the mornings or early afternoon. After the mating swarm, the spent flies will fall onto the surface for trout to eat. Fly fishermen love it when trout are feeding on the spent spinners. It’s when the best rises happen.

Best Pale Morning Dun and Pale Evening Dun Fly Patterns

Sparkle Dun

Sparkle Dun Fly Pattern

If you find that fish aren’t feeding on your PMD dries, break out the Sparkle Dun. It’s the ultimate emerger pattern. You’ll find that the rising fish may want a lower sitting emerger rather than a dry high on the water.

Thorax PMD

Thorax PMD fly pattern

Right before a hatch occurs, break out the Thorax PMD. This is another beautiful emerger pattern. Fly fishers all over the world will swear by it. You won’t find a fly shop in an area with PMDs that doesn’t carry a Thorax PMD. It sits just low enough in the water column to excite fish.

Quill Body Parachute PMD

Quill Body PMD Fly Pattern

Sometimes high visibility is what you’re missing. The Quill Body Parachute has bright colors that attract hungry fish from all over. Use it as an attractant pattern.

Hare’s Ear Nymph

Hare's Ear Nymph Bead Head Pattern

Sometimes you need a “buggy” looking fly. The Hare’s Ear Nymph is a good PMD nymph representation. While it can mimic everything from a caddis fly to a stonefly, a few simple modifications make it an ideal PMD representation. Fish it in riffles and seams.

PMD Cripple

PMD cripple fly pattern

The PMD Cripple is the perfect representation of a PMD that still has its nymphal shuck attached. If a PMD just reached the film, odds are the shuck is still attached, so fish it right before hatches begin.

PMD Film Critic

PMD Film Critic Fly Pattern

Emerging PMDs are criminally underrated, so this list is full of them. The PMD Film Critic is a nice, buggy-looking PMD that works great on rivers, streams, and still water. Tie this on right before the PMD hatch.

PMD Lawson

PMD Lawson Fly Pattern

The PMD Lawson is extremely easy to see on the water’s surface. So, if you’re fishing faster currents, tie this on and let it sit high on the water. Strikes will be far easier to see.

Snowshoe Dun

Snowshoe DUN PMD fly pattern

Right before the PMDs become spinners, they’re in the dun stage. This is where trout are known to feast on them, and the Snowshoe Dun is one of the flashiest dun patterns you’ll find.

Mil-Spec Parachute PMD

Mill Spec Parachute PMD

The Mil-Spec Parachute PMD floats down to the surface and becomes irresistible for trout. The soft-yellow color is about as accurate of a representation as you can find.

Split Case PMD Nymph

Split case PMD nymph

The Split Case PMD Nymph is one of the best PMD nymph patterns you can find. It’s small, and the yellow flash is exactly what the fish want.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Pheasant tail nymph close up

The Pheasant Tail Nymph is another jack-of-all-trade fly. It’s a good PMD nymph representation for when your traditional patterns aren’t quite working.

How to Fish a Pale Morning Dun Hatch

  • Make sure you have quite a few different PMD patterns in your box. You never know what size, color, or style the fish will want. Since there are so many variations, having a few different options will give you more success.
  • Look to fish the nymphs in areas with heavier vegetation. PMD nymphs are known to sit in these areas, so start here before you move to gravel bottoms. Be careful of getting snagged. If you are consistently getting snagged, move downstream a little ways. Also, don’t be afraid to fish a nymph rig when you’re using PMDs. The more flies, the merrier.
  • Dry-dropper rigs work well when fishing PMDs. You can throw a Parachute PMD with a Split Case PMD Nymph below it.
  • Go ahead and fish your dun patterns in the mornings and early afternoons. The Sparkle Dun is a great place to start if the fish are feeding on the flies still sitting in the film. Feel free to throw accurate spinner patterns like the PMD Lawson in the evenings.
  • Patience is vital with PMD flies. Trout love them, but it takes time to find the exact color and size of fly they want. If you can start by matching the size, you’ll have success. Don’t worry as much about the color unless you’re confident about your chosen size and it still isn’t working.
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Danny Mooers is a passionate fly fishing and angling writer from Arizona. Danny loves sharing his passion for fly fishing for trout and other species through his work for Tackle Village.
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