Barbless Flies

Match The Hatch

The March Brown

All the information you need to help get the most from your March Brown 'Match The Hatch' selection of flies.

With the Trout season starting on various rivers throughout the UK in March, fly anglers thoughts switch from Grayling to Trout. The first insect which pops up on the fly anglers radar in March is the aptly named March Brown.


The March Brown (Rhithrogena germanica) is a member of the Heptageniidae family - The Heptageniidae are a family of mayflies with over 500 described species. These flies are generally rather small with two long tails. The wings are usually clear with dark prominent veins. We will learn more about the Heptageniidae family through the season, as they make up the majority of flies the angler is predominantly interested in.

March Browns are more commonly found on the larger rocky rivers in the north of England; and throughout Scotland, Wales and Ireland. March Browns seem to prefer rocky or stony river beds with faster flowing water.

March Brown - Lifecycle

The March Brown starts as a nymph clinging to stones on the river bed. These stone-clinging nymphs are generally around 1.5cm long (about a size 12 or 14 hook). The nymph then rises through the water column and emerges on the surface. This is the point that trout usually take them (either just below the surface or as they emerge), don't be too quick to retrieve your fly if it starts to sink!

From a fly fishing perspective the four stages which we must try to imitate are:
- Nymph
- Emerger
- Dun
- Spinner

The March Brown hatch usually starts in the first two weeks of March and will continue until mid-April. During March and April hatches usually occur around midday and can last for up to three hours, with major bursts of activity only lasting around 15 minutes (have your flies ready before you enter the water!).

Match The Hatch - March Brown Imitations

The most popular imitations for March Browns are any of the flies below (all contained within your 'Match The Hatch' selection), don't worry if you don't have these exact patterns, as anything which is in the general colour, profile and size will do. These flies should be fished as you would any other dry fly, the March Brown Variant being especially buoyant. These dry flies should be used as soon as you start to see the hatch appear (remember early hatches of March Brown's don't last long), this can be anytime from 12:00 until 15:00, depending upon weather conditions.

March Browns are generally pretty easy to spot (especially in early March - as they are generally the only up winged fly you will encounter on the river). Later, in April, it is often confused for the Large Brook Dun (which is very similar). The key distinguishing feature of the March Brown is a dark mark in the centre of their pale femur. Remember these flies only have 2 tails.

March Brown Nymph 2.png__PID:bc4e83eb-08d9-47cf-ab87-c1a2fdaa7468

March Brown Nymph

If you are fishing in a morning or cannot see any signs of a March Brown hatch, then nymphs are the way to go, in early season it is sometimes more productive to use a brighter nymph, then the drab more imitative ones. Always keep in mind how deep and how fast the water is when nymphing in early season, that will tell you how heavy a nymph you need to use. All you need to remember when fishing nymphs in the early season is that you need to be near (or on) the bottom, if you're not getting snagged up every so often, you're not fishing deep enough.

March Brown Emerger

Try fishing this March Brown emerger with no fly dressing first. It will float for the first few casts and then it will slowly sink under the surface, this allows you to see which method works best and which the fish are interested in on that specific day. If you want your emerger to float high then use a powdered style floatant to keep it riding high on the water.

Don't be too afraid to let the nymph sink slowly and then manipulate it with your fly rod to help it rise through the water column, this perfectly imitates the emerging insect.

March Brown Emerger 2.png__PID:08d9f7cf-ab87-41a2-bdaa-74682d6d83f5
Parachute March Brown 2.png__PID:f7cfab87-c1a2-4daa-b468-2d6d83f50d02

Parachute March Brown

The Parachute style of March Brown you see here is tied to imitate the insect which has hatched and is resting on the surface, waiting for its wings to dry out - this is ideal for a trout to intercept it (as it cannot escape). Only fish this pattern (and the March Brown Variant below) once you can see fish rising.

When fishing with a parachute-style fly only apply floatant to the post, as you want the fly to fish in the surface film (not riding high on it like the March Brown Variant below).

March Brown Upright

An imitation of the Adult March Brown, this variant is fished dry and sits proud on the water surface. It can be used in either early (March/Early April) or very late in the season - September/October.

Apply floatant to the full hackle, this allows the fly to stand on the water's surface with only the tips of the hackle making indentations on the surface - it is believed that the pattern of indentations is the trigger to the fish taking the fly.

March Brown Upright 2.png__PID:8b51303d-b9de-442c-9908-24eb323025bc
March Brown Spinner 2.png__PID:6d83f50d-02be-4781-bce0-b40546c11895

March Brown Spinner

Once the March Brown has returned to the water to lay its eggs, the females die and float on the surface, this is the spinner. The spinner is an easy target for Trout, and they can gorge on them in the early evenings. Just treat the wing and thorax to some floatant so the fly rides high on the water.

The best water to taget when fishing with spinners are the slower back eddies, as this is where fish partol looking for any insects which are trapped in the meniscus - they make easy pickings!

March Brown - Hatch Notes

One of the best places to start when fishing rivers in the early season is to understand which insects are hatching under the water. The above patterns cover the basics of the 4 main hatch stages that you’ll see on your local river.

Once you can identify which stage to imitate you will have the perfect imitation already in your 'Match The Hatch' selection. Broadly, every insect that you’ll find hatching in the river will have a lifecycle that can be explained in 4 stages: Nymph, Emerger, Adult (Dun) & Spinner.

In the early season, there will be lots of nymph activity under the water all day but only sporadic hatches of dry flies so you will need to choose your fly specifically to target what is happening at that time. Once the fish have survived the winter having not eaten much, as soon as fly life starts to appear in the river the fish will go on a feeding frenzy, identifying what the fish are feeding on is the best place to start.