In trout streams across the country (unfortunately neglecting Alaska as we are a couple months behind everyone) the spring thaw brings about a favorite food for the river’s residents, the Blue Winged Olive. A member of the mayfly genus Baetis, once the water temps get above 40 degrees, these little grey sailboats start to hatch and offer the first consistent dry fly opportunities of the season. They are a relatively small mayfly (#16-24) but are numerous in clean, cold water streams. Once they start hatching for the year, they are reliable emergers that one can almost set a watch to. They are known to sit on the water’s surface for extended periods of time before taking flight which is why the hatch has such a significance to dry fly enthusiasts. Prior to the hatch, the Baetis nymphs are also very active swimmers leading to some great subsurface opportunities. Regardless of the stage of life cycle, this is a favorite snack for the river’s inhabitants. If you are going to do some trout fishing this spring, make sure and have plenty of Blue Winged imitations in your fly boxes. Here are 5 of my favorite BWO patterns.
- Parachute Adams – Flies become a classic for a reason. Not only is this a fantastic imitation, it also is easy to see in the water. I carry these from #16-22 at all times. (Note: This can also be a great midge imitation if you simply cut off the tail.)
- BWO Film Critic – The film critic series of dry flies are my favorites for Drakes, PMDs, and BWO. They were developed by Bob Quigley to imitate the many insects that get stuck in their shuck as they emerge offering an easy meal for the fish. This is the perfect imitation for those trapped bugs that are just waiting to get eaten while still offering you good visibility in the water.
- Barr’s Emerger – Developed by legendary fly tier John Barr. BWO’s are very active swimmers and the profile of this fly perfectly imitates a Blue Wing in the middle of the water column. This comes in a flash back version and can have a bead head for extra weight. My personal favorite is no bead or flash but each variation has a time and place where it will produce!
- Shot Glass Baetis – This pattern has quickly become my go to Blue Wing imitation for sub surface picky trout. Invited by Colorado tier Shea Gunkle, this fly does a great job at fooling those pressured tailwater trout that love to key in on BWO’s. My favorite color is the brown version but I have also had great success with the purple one mid BWO hatch.
- Pheasant Tail – Again, classics are classics for a reason. When imitating Blue Wings with this fly, make sure the thorax is tied thin, most store bought ones are too bulky in my opinion. When Blue Wings are active, you should have plenty of these in your box, #18-22 and with both flash and no flash.
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