Fly Fishing Traditions

Fly Fishing Traditions Blog and Website
"It's about Life & Fly Fishing"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays to Everyone

Hoping that Santa Trout brings you and your families everything they have wished for. Health and happiness with friends and family.

I was talking to Zack this morning and he said "All I want for Christmas is for Keesha to come home". Keesha is one of our three cats that are all sisters that we brought home 5 years ago. We had gone to the local animal shelter looking for a kitty and there they were, three eight week old kittens, sisters. Well needless to say we took all three home. Keesha went missing 3 weeks ago and we canvased the neighborhood, put flyers out, kept checking the animal shelters and no luck. Not a sign, sighting or anything. We just keep hoping.

Zack was looking out my bedroom glass door about an hour after he told me his wish and low and behold, there was Keesha looking in the window. Merry Christmas Zack from the bottom of my heart.

May your Christmas or holiday wishes come as true.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yuba River Flows

I'm sure everyone is wondering what's happening on the Lower Yuba River with the higher flows. At 4:30 today the Smartsville monitoring station (YRS) shows 13,900 +/-.

A run down on how the flows have escalated and then currently receding is as follows.

12/20/10 12:00 noon at YRS 14,500 cfs +/-
12/19/10 12:00 noon at YRS 18,000 cfs +/-
12/18/10 12:00 noon at YRS 5,503 cfs +/-
12/17/10 12:00 noon at YRS 3,992 cfs +/-
12/16/10 12:00 noon at YRS 3,980 cfs +/-
12/15/10 12:00 noon at YRS 3,823 cfs +/-
12/14/10 12:00 noon at YRS 1,456 cfs +/-

This doesn't take into account Deer Creek (DCS)

12/20/10 12:00 noon at YRS 655 cfs +/-
12/19/10 12:00 noon at YRS 2,440cfs +/-
12/18/10 12:00 noon at YRS 3,720cfs +/-
12/17/10 12:00 noon at YRS 129 cfs +/-
12/16/10 12:00 noon at YRS 108cfs +/-
12/15/10 12:00 noon at YRS 258 cfs +/-
12/14/10 12:00 noon at YRS 106cfs +/-

I'm not sure exactly how this works, but I believe that this means that on 12/19/10 the Yuba was probably flowing at over 20,000 cfs. That's a bunch.

I ran down at about 4:30 this evening to snap some photos of the Lower Yuba River at the Parks Bar Bridge. My son Zack had his wisdom teeth removed today and I couldn't get down to the river until late.

This photo was taken above the Parks Bar Bridge looking upstream around the 1st bend. The river is flowing at about 14,800 cfs. It's into the bushes quite a bit and the side channel at the top is flowing pretty good.

Here are the old bridge abutments and the water just about flowing over the top, The water is on the back side of the willows on the far side.

This photo is looking down stream from the Parks Bar Bridge. The water on the left of the willows is normally high and dry, at 5,000 cfs or less the river stays in the channel to the right of the willows.

This is the tailout of what we refer to as "The Aquarium". At this tailout, years ago, there used to be islands and the river is now channelized and flows river left. Right now there are many braided channels where the water is flowing through the willows and cutting the corner., river right. This is an example of where the high flows could be beneficial. That is if the main channel doesn't get cut deeper. It would be good to open up these side, braided channels.

This is the main channel which is river left of where the river is cutting the corner. This is an example of where we hope the river won't channelize deeper.

Here's the view looking upstream where the river is cutting the corner. We are hoping that a new channel would be carved through this area. I think this would be a good thing. With a week more of high flows predicted, time will tell.

This the "Long Island" which is about 3 1/2 miles below Parks Bar Bridge. Usually about 80% of the river flows river right. You can see here that a good portion of the river is flowing river left. The main flow is still river right.

The big question is. Where do the fish go when the flows get this high?

I'll try to get out and take additional photos as the week progresses. I'll keep everyone posted.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Alternative Fly Fishing Dictionary and Alaska Speak

Fly Fishing, like all great sports/hobbies/obsessions, is littered with its own collection of words and phrases that have evolved to describe specific circumstances or a particular event or item.

I found this, "Alternative Fly Fishing Dictionary" featuring some different interpretations of some of our best known words and phrases at

The Alternate Fly Fishing Dictionary

Trout Bum – An unfortunate affliction that only seems to target guides who sit in a drift boat all day

Mending the fly line – A flat-fisher’s nightly ritual after casting around coral heads and mangroves all day

Scuds – What you get if you drink the wrong water in Mexico

Belly in the line – an impedance to casting often caused by lodge meals or locally, bacon cheese burgers.

Wide Gape – The fully extended positions of your upper and lower jaws after losing that 10lb steelhead/insert your own disaster

Arbor – That place where the boats are parked

FishPimp – The guide in the 70’s flares and floral shirt

Single-haul – A destination that is only one flight away

Double-haul – What do you think?

Deceiver – That guy who sold you his leaky waders as “nearly new”

Tippet – A small financial reward for services rendered

Weakfish – The runt of the litter

Gink – The sound made by a bead-head hitting your fly rod

Pescador – What you must pass through to go fishing in Mexico

Crazy Charlie – What you get for turning up late when they allocate the guides

Bonefish – Any species that elicits a strong physical reaction from male fly anglers

Tarpon – See above – as in if an angler shouts “I’ve got a tarpon” you’d better hope he’s wearing loose fitting pants

Weight Forward – Typical mid-Western angler with a centre of balance issue

Spey – Self-castration by constant immersion in icy water

Alaskan Speak

Here's a guide to Alakan Fishing speak also from

There are appplications here in Northern California,

Tiddler - noun. A particularly small fish. “I tried to get my flesh fly in front of Walter [see below], but a tiddler grabbed it first.”

Blub – verb. To briefly break the surface of the water, as done by a big steelie “I knew I was about to hook up when I started seeing all those fish blub.”

Mega – adj. Big, many, or extremely. “That king was mega!” “There were mega silvers stacked up at Zoo Bar.” “Billy was mega frustrated when his brother kept catching fish behind him.”

Gagger - n. A big fish.

Slab – n. A big fish, particularly one with big shoulders.

Pig - n. A big fish.

Choker - n. A big fish.

Toad – n. A big fish.

Hawg - n. A big fish.

Torpedo - n. A big fish.

Gack - n. A gross, slimy substance. ”I need to get this gack off my hands before dinner.”

Walter, Jerry, Jethro, et al - n. A specific particularly large fish, usually a rainbow trout, or a mythical giant fish. “I know that Walter lives down by Puppy Bar, and I’m going to try to catch him today.”

Tumbler - n. A spawned-out salmon tumbling downriver. ”I got gack all over my waders when I got hit by that tumbler.” See also Chumbler.

Chumbler - n. A spawned-out chum salmon tumbling downriver. “There were chumblers everywhere– flesh flies worked good.”

Critter - n. A resident fish (e.g. trout,). “My arms are tired – let’s go fish for some critters.”

Critter - v. To move with stealth. “I crittered my way along the high bank, looking for Big Jerry.”

Crittery - adj. Shaky, unsure. “He must have had a rough night – he looked awfully crittery on the river this morning.”

Farm - v. To lose a fish once hooked, usually due to angler error. “I can’t believe I farmed Jethro this morning.”

Grocery hole - n. The gaping mouth of a giant protein-fed rainbow trout. “You should have seen the grocery hole on the choker that ate my mouse yesterday.”

Got any additions and I'll add to the list.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Artwork of Eileen Klatt

"Steelhead Trout"

I spent this Thanksgiving in Markleeville, California, in a quaint little motel and restaurant with my family and friends. My brother, Joe, had rented the whole motel and restaurant and we took the place over and cooked our Thanksgiving dinner in the restaurant. It was a memorable Thanksgiving to say the least.

In the room we were staying in, there were a couple of remarkable framed lithographs by the artist Eileen Klatt. One piece was tiltled "Rainbow/Rainbow" and the other was titled "Three Brown Trout". I was drawn to them each time I entered the room.

"Spring Chinook Salmon"

The piece of artwork above is titled "Spring Chinook Salmon". The Artist, Eileen Klatt's fish prints are found around the world. In 2009 she completed, "A Litany of Salmon", 61 life-size paintings of spawning salmon couples dedicated to the extinct salmon of the Columbia River Basin. Eileen lives in Hope, Idaho on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Artist Eileen Klatt at Work

I purchased the print above called "Rainbow/Rainbow" and the one below called "Brown Trout". I can't wait for them to arrive so I can hang them on the walls of the "Fly Fishing Traditions World Headquarters".

The photos here really can't do justice to her work. You can see much more of her artwork, in much greater detail at These prints would make great Christmas presents for your favorite fly fisher that has everything he needs. Go to Eileen's site and check her work out. Tell her, Clay sent you.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dec 1st Opening Day Above the Parks Bar Bridge

I met Frank Rinella and Blake Larsen yesterday at 7:00 and headed down to the Lower Yuba River for opening day above the Parks Bar Bridge. That stretch above the bridge has been closed since September 1st, which means it hasn't been fished in three months. I've been fishing the river below the bridge about once a week since the upper river closed. The bite has gotten tougher in the last couple of weeks. The salmon are pretty much gone and lately, it seems, so have the fish. We've speculated that the fishing pressure has chased the fish up stream. Good logic when you're not catching as many fish as you'd like or think you should.

With this in mind we anxiously had been waiting for the day to arrive to test our theories. We also were expecting the day to be a zoo with people everywhere. As it turned out this didn't pan out. We arrived at our put-in spot and we where the only and first boat. There was a couple of pontoon boats being blown up but their owners were using them to cross the river and then they were headed upstream to walk and wade. We also didn't see any anglers that had hiked up from the Bridge which was sort of unusual too. All good omens in our minds.

The water was a little off color with visibility of above 4 to 5 feet, also very good. Clear enough for the fish to see our bugs but still murky enough too give us some stealth while in my drift boat. This was also just what I was hoping for. I have an Orvis Dropper Rig Box which I filled up the night before with different combinations of Eggs and flies tied up and ready to go. Each rigg had a Troutbead, either Light Roe, or something in that color range a little darker. and 2 additional flies. I tied some up with the egg first and trailing two nymphs for the runs when we would be deep dead drifting under indicator and then some with a large nymph, like a "Superfloss Rubber Legs" or a "Rubber Leg Skwala" then a trail a nymph and end with a Troutbead. I like to use this combination when fishing rollers or buckets. Anyway I had about 10 of these 3 fly riggs tied up and ready to go. Just so you know when tying these riggs up you just have to take your best guess as to what combination of flies will work. That doesn't mean that it's a sure thing. You may need to tie some riggs up from scratch on the river if you have an intuition to change things up.

We started hooking fish right of the bat, we landed a nicely colored rainbow of about 17 inches which was the first fish landed. We then started hooking smaller fish at a drop off into a deep run. Every fish up too that point had taken a troutbead. We started getting the feeling it was going to be an egg bite day or for the most part more of an attractor day with the off colored water.

We moved downstream into a tailout that had always been pretty productive and had a couple of tentative takes, landed one smaller fish, but most of the other takes were not hooked solidly. Frank had one solid take, a couple of head shakes and when he checked out his flies, his San Juan Worm had scales on it. We chased a big fish out of a bucket and the fishing in that section was over.

We headed down a riffle and turned an inside corner to a much changed corner eddy with some soft water to the inside. It was my turn at bat and I landed a few smaller 10 - 12 inch fish in the softer water to the inside. To this point in the day we had netted a couple of nice sized fish and all the rest were smaller.

We headed down the riffle until the water returned to that quick walking speed tempo. This is typically the water that I like to target, slow to moderate to quick walking speed water in the runs. It was about 11:30 when we started fishing this run and all I can say is that we found out where the fish were hanging out. Lets just say that when we left that run Blake commented that his arm was sore and it wasn't from casting. It was good to see good numbers of fish in the 16 to 19 inches range.

One thing that was curious when fishing that run, was that the fish were predominately taking eggs with a few on Rubberleg Stones and mayfly nymphs but they were keyed on one color. Frank had tied on a Dark Roe Troutbead and Blake and I were fishing Light Roe. We could not keep the fish off the Light Roe Egg and Frank was fishing without a hint of a strike in the same lane, the same depth and the same amount of weight. When he switched and changed to Light Roe Eggs, bingo, fish on and I'm talking immediately. Sort of an eye opener for sure.

We stopped for a shore lunch and heard a shout from some friends, Wayne, Norm and Trent. We parked the boat and stumbled into a shore side wine tasting event, some good tales and quite a few laughs. After lunch we headed on down stream and the bug bite turned on. We started getting as many fish on bugs as we were on eggs. We continued to hook, play and land fish all the way down stream until dark.

How would I classify the fishing for the opening day. In the true sense of the word it was pretty "epic".


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baetis Complex - Part IV - Presentation of BWO Emergers and Dries & Proven BWO Patterns

When most of us think about fishing the Baetis hatch or for most of us, referred to as the BWO hatch, we usually think about the small mayfly duns rafting down the river. This is the portion of the life cycle that we are probably most enamored by. We must not forget the emergent and crippled BWO's that are often caught in or under the surface film or the spinners that often go unnoticed.

I'll never forget the first time I encountered a blanket BWO hatch which was on the Henry's Fork in Idaho. I was fishing in late September or maybe it was early October. I was fishing the box canyon with Pete Stahl. The weather had turned cold and we were fishing in a cold drizzle and intermittent snow. The run we were fishing had rafts of Baetis duns. I remember there were probably 100's of duns per square foot. They were size 20's and maybe even 22's. I looked in my box and the best imitation I had was some BWO parachutes in a size 18 and I gave it a go. My size 18 looked like an air craft carrier compared to the naturals. At least it let me tell my imitation from the naturals. Luck was with me that day, I guess there were a number of trout that were looking for a bigger meal. I also remember my hands being so frozen that I could hardly get the hook out of the fishes mouth to release it. It was what I remember as a glorious but miserable day. A time that I remember vividly to this day.

Well, on to the Fishing Discussion.

Fishing a Nymph Just Under the Surface

When the duns first appear, you may want to continue fishing a nymph rigg, with a long leader and present the fly with upstream casts, just as you would a dry fly to a rising fish. Let the small imitations sink a few inches below the surface film. It may be necessary to treat all but the last few inches of your fly line with floatant. This will keep the fly up in the water column and help you to detect strikes. You may want to add a tiny yarn indicator into the leader five or six feet up from the fly. Set the hook to any movement of the indicator or to any visible rise anywhere near it.

Dry and Dropper

You can also fish the Baetis complex hatch with a dry dropper setup. You can tie one or two un-weighted nymph droppers about 2 to 3 feet behind the dry. The dropper can be tied to the hook bend of a dry fly chosen to imitate the dun. You might even want to try a cripple as the fly in the surface film if the currents are smooth enough to see it.

Presenting Drys and Emergers

When presenting dry flies and emergers to a Baetis Complex hatch on smooth currents, you will be required to fish with delicate precision. The trout are almost never more careful in their feeding lanes, nor will they move far out of range to take a natural or its imitation. The fish are typically feeding in the smoothest of currents so stealth is a must.

Before making a cast, take up a position as near to the rising trout as you can without alerting them to your presence. Look for a position that will put as many conflicting currents behind you rather than leaving them between you and the trout. This is the water your line will land on. When encountering a pod of rising fish target a single fish, time its rhythms, and cast to it carefully and deliberately. This is the best tactic as opposed to casting at random to the pod of lifting and subsiding noses.

There are two prime positions to present your imitations. Try to position yourself either directly across stream from the trout, where you will use a reach cast. Or, place yourself upstream and slightly off to the side of the trout, in position for a downstream wiggle cast. Both of these casts allow you to show your fly to the trout instead of your line and leader. Be as accurate and gentle with each cast as you can. It may take a long time and many casts before all the stars align and the trout takes your fly in rhythm, in its feeding lane.

If you find it necessary to make an upstream presentation and the fish are feeding on the surface, place the fly just a foot or two upstream from the position of the fish. That way a very little amount of the leader and no line are allowed to fly through the air and over the head of the fish. It doesn’t take much to get a feeding fish to head for cover.

Baetis complex nymphs are so small and hatch so often on smooth currents, they are susceptible to getting stuck in the film, Hogan Brown has created a pattern BWO SIM which is for (stuck in the middle). The dun often finds itself half in and half out of the nymphal shuck. They are helpless in this position, and trout often feed selectively on them.

The emerger imitations should float flush in the film and should represent both the emerging dun, or at least its wings, and the trailing shuck. Many anglers and guides often fish the emergers during the Baetis complex hatches.

Rigging up

When fishing the Baetis complex hatch you should use your finest presentation outfit. Many anglers use a 3 or 4 weight set-up. This hatch requires short and accurate casts with the most delicate presentations.

Proven Baetis Emergers and Dry Fly Patterns

Emerger Imitations

Baetis Emerger

Hook: Standard dry fly, 1x fine, size 16-24
Thread: Olive 8/0
Tails: Blue Dun hackle fibers, split
Abdomen: Pale Olive to olive-brown fur or synthetic dubbing
Wings: Ball of gray synthetic dubbing, as knot
Thorax: Slightly darker dubbing than abdomen
Legs: Blue dun hackle fibers

Pattern Notes: When fishing this fly, you can either treat just the ball or knot with floatant, and fish the fly suspended from the surface film or you can also dress the entire fly and fish it flush in the film.

Krystal Flash Baetis Emerger (Originator: Rick Hafele)

Hook: Tiemco 2457, 1x short, size 16-22
Thread: Olive 8/0
Tail: Olive or tan CDC fibers as long as the hook shank
Body: 4 to 6 strands of tan, olive, or mix of olive and tan or olive and brown Krystal Flash tied in at the hook bend, twisted into a fine rope and wrapped up the hook shank.
Wings: Gray CDC fibers
Thorax: tan to dark brown dubbing with guard hairs picked out.

This pattern is similar to the Krystal Flash nymph, but with the addition of CDC it floats perfectly in the surface film and represents the key elements of the emerger stuck there with the trailing shuck and unfolding wings. You can vary the colors to match most any BWO hatch.

Olive Sparkle Dun (Source: Juracek and Mathews)

Hook: Standard dry fly, 1x fine, size 16-24
Thread: Gray 8/0
Wing: Natural deer hair, tied Compara-dun style
Tail: Olive brown Z-lon
Body: Gray-olive fur or synthetic dubbing

This pattern is a standard emerger pattern and represents the emerging process as it nears completion, the dun is fully formed, but the nymphal shuck is still attached. This fly is actually representing the emerger and the dun with a single pattern.

Barrs Emerger (Originator - John Barr)

Hook: TMC 2487 or 2488 #16-24
Thread: 8/0 Iron Dun
Tail: Brown Spade Hackle Fibers
Abdomen: Olive Brown SuperFine Dubbing Wingcase: Dark Dun Spade Hackle Fibers Thorax: Grey Muskrat or Beaver Dubbing Legs: Leftover tips of wingcase fibers

The Barr Emerger is "Go To" pattern. The idea behind this pattern, according to John Barr, was to imitate the adult insect creeping out of the nymphal shuck. This pattern is meant to be fished below the surface, anywhere from streambottom to an inch under the surface. Fish the Barr Emerger down along the bottom with a split-shot on the leader and an indicator above, or as a point fly in the Hopper/Copper/Dropper system.

RS2 Emerger

Hook: Tiemco 2487 #18,20
Thread: Gray, Olive, Olive Brown 8/0
Body: Muskrat under fur
Tail: Microfibetts gray
Wing: White Foam

Quigley's Olive Marabou Cripple (Originator - Bob Quigley)

Hook: Daiichi 1180 #12-#20
Thread:Light olive 6/0 or 8/0
Tail: Olive marabou.
Rib: Gold wire
Abdomen: Olive marabou
Wing:deer hair.
Hackle: Tinted yellow/olive grizzly or light blue dun grizzly
Thorax: Light olive or yellow spun hair

CDC Baetis Baetis

HOOK: TMC 100, sizes 16-20
TAIL:Betts' Tailing Fibers
BODY: Olive Dazl-Tron
WING: CDC, natural dun color

Parachute Baetis

HOOK: 900BL, sizes 16-20
WING: Mallard flank, tied parachute style
TAIL: Two blue dun Micro Fibbets, split
BODY: Olive Haretron or Superfine
HACKLE: Natural or olive-dyed grizzly

DIVING BAETIS SPINNER: Pattern from Planet Trout

HOOK: TMC 100, #16-#22 or Daiichi 1100, #16-#22

THREAD: Gordon Griffith 14/0 sheer, olive or dark Brown

TAILS: Dun Micro Fibetts

EGG SAC: Olive-Yellow or Rusty Brown dubbing

ABDOMEN: Olive or Rusty Brown Goose or Turkey Biot, to match the naturals color

THORAX: Pearl Bead

WING: Z-wing or Tan or Gray raffia ( Swiss Straw)

HACKLE: Starling

This particular rendition is from Allen McGee …it may also be viewed here at WESTFLY- where the egg sac seems to be missing…this pattern is best presented on a tight line and dead drifted…the spinners are washed away after completing their mission and won’t be returning to the surface, unless pushed there by the current…

You can pick up Dave Hughes book, "Western Mayfly Hatches" at Amazon books by going to the following link. It is where most of this information came from.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baetis Complex - Part III - Presentation for BWO Nymphs and Proven BWO Nymph Patterns

I personally have the most experience fishing with baetis nymphs on the Lower Sacramento River below Redding here in Northern California. Some of the best baetis nymph patterns that I have come across have been developed and thoroughly tested there. Patterns developed by Mike Mercer, Hogan Brown, Ken Morrish, Brian Silvey, to name a few, have developed "go to" patterns where ever baetis complex bugs are found. There are times on the Lower Sacramento where the small bugs dominate the preference of the trout and it's becomes "go small or go home".

As a note, fishing the baetis complex on the Lower Sacramento is almost entirely a deep, dead drifting affair with long fine leaders.

Baetis Complex Nymph Presentation

On most streams and rivers and when targeting the Baetis complex, the pre-hatch restlessness of the swimming nymphs make then available for some time before the duns appear on the surface. Baetis nymph patterns are most effective as (1) searching dressings fished deep along the bottom or (2) fished high in the water column over feeding trout just before the hatch. There are some instances where trout will continue porpoising and tailing to nymphs throughout an entire hatch and ignore the duns completely.

Searching Dressings Fished Deep

During the hours when no BWO hatch is happening, small nymphs can be fished with a free drift on or very near the bottom using the split shot and indicator method. I usually rigg with a 9ft 3x leader to the split shot and then tie two to three nymphs tied hook bend to hook bend. I match the terminal tippet to the small size of the baetis imitations and go down to 5x fluorocarbon. I've come to recommend the thing-a-ma-bobber as the indicator of preference.

Unweighted Nymphs Fished Shallow

In the hour or so before the hatch, the same flies can be fished with some success using the traditional wet fly swing, just inches deep. Mend the line to slow them to the speed the restless naturals might move in their attempts to move to the surface and then back down to try again.

When the duns appears, it's a not a bad idea, to continue fishing a nymph, but high in the water column. Rigg with a long leader and present the fly with upstream casts, just as you would a dry fly to a rising fish. Let the small imitations sink a few inches below the surface film. It may be necessary to treat all but the last few inches of your fly line with floatant. This will keep the fly up in the water column and help you to detect strikes. You may want to add a tiny yarn indicator into the leader five or six feet up from the fly. Set the hook to any movement of the indicator or to any visible rise anywhere near it.

Dry Dropper

You can also fish the Baetis complex hatch with a dry dropper setup. You can tie an un-weighted nymph dropper about 2 to 3 feet behind the dry. The dropper can be tied to the hook bend of the fly chosen to imitate the dun. You might even want to try a cripple as the fly in the surface film. You are effectively giving the trout two options.

Your Outfit

It is stated that when fishing the Baetis complex hatch you should use your finest presentation outfit. Many anglers use a 3 or 4 weight set-up. Here on the Lower Yuba when I'm wading I'll typically stick with a 5 weight. We typically come across the BWO's in the runs which is more nervous water, or in back eddies. There are some flats that have more of a spring creek feel to them and I'm sure my presentations could benefit from going with a smaller rod and line. Whichever outfit you use, this hatch requires short and accurate casts with the most delicate presentations.

I'm most often fishing the Northern California rivers from my drift boat and am usually gunned with a Sage XP or Z-Axis 6 weight. We're usually fishing deep under indicator and the 6 weight handles this rigg really well. It also helps when you hook up a large Lower Sacramento or Lower Yuba rainbow.

Baetis Complex Nymph Imitations

The Baetis Complex nymphs range in size from a size 14 down to size 24. The most common sizes are 16 to 20. Colors of the naturals vary from pale olive to dark olive-gray and dark olive-brown to brown. Their imitations should be tied on 1x short to 1x long hooks and are usually tied un-weighted.

It must be said that there is no better way than to to do stream sampling of your own home waters and match (1) size (2) shape (3) color of the naturals. There are just too many sizes and variations to cover all the baetis complex nymphs. As with most imitations, the size and the shape are of the most importance.

Many experienced fishermen and guides have found that trout routinely feed on these small nymphs even when there is no hatch activity. Many times a small Baetis nymph will out perform a larger imitation in non-selective situations, especially in waters where good numbers of the naturals are found. When the hatch does occur, fish will feed selectively on the tiny nymphs during the early stages of the hatch.

Proven Baetis Patterns with Recipes

For the fly tyers out there, here are some recommended patterns that also have tying recipes. There are many commercially tied patterns available out there at fly shops all over the west, but in many instances the recipes are proprietary and not readily available. This list provides patterns that you can tie and will cover the Baetis complex hatches wherever you find them. Tie them in the right sizes, and colors to match the baetis nymphs you find on your streams and rivers and you'll be good to go.

I've provided a list of commercially available "Go To" flies in a previous blog article

Pheasant Tail (Originator: Frank Sawyer)

Everyone should carry Pheasant Tail nymphs and Flashback Pheasant Tail nymphs in their boxes. It is one of the best all around nymph pattern you can find.

Hook: Standard nymph, 1x long, size 14-24
Weight: Scant turns of undersized lead wire, or omit
Thread: Brown 8/0
Tails: Pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Fine copper Wire, counter wound over abdomen
Abdomen: Pheasant center tail fibers, as herl
Wingcase: Pheasant tail fibers
Thorax: Pheasant tail fibers as herl
Legs: Tops of thorax fibers

Pheasant Tail Flashback

Though the Pheasant Tail as per the pattern above is more imitative of the natural nymph, many tiers consider the Pheasant Tail Flashback the more effective pattern. To tie this pattern as a Flashback, use Pearl Flashabou in place of the pheasant-tail fibers for the wingcase.

Baetis Nymph
(Originator Unknown) No photo available at this time. Refer to the book "Western Mayfly Hatches" listed at the end of this article. This impressed me as a good one to use as a standard pattern tied to match the baetis nymphs in your stream.

Hook: Standard nymph, 1x long, size 12-24
Weight: Scant turns of undersized lead wire, or omit
Thread: Olive 8/0
Tails: Olive-dyed mallard flank or partridge fibers
Abdomen: Light olive to dark olive-brown fur dubbing
Wingcase: Mottled turkey tail or dark goose primary feather section
Thorax: Slightly darker fur than abdomen
Legs: Olive-dyed mallard flank or partridge fibers or thorax fur picked out

Pattern Notes; This is a good standard nymph pattern for members of the Baetis complex for a more accurate match. This pattern is well suited to collecting of a natural and then matching the color. Remember that colors of the baetis Complex can change from stream to stream and even different portions of the same stream. It is most likely that trout will accept this pattern in the medium range of colors, most of the time. Size and form is most important.

Krystal Flash Baetis Nymph (Originator Rick Hafele)

Hook: Tiemco 2457, 1x short, size 16-20
Weight: None
Thread: Olive 8/0
Tails: 3 to 6 light gray hackle fibers
Abdomen: 4 to 6 strands of peacock Krystal Flash, or a color to match your own naturals, tied in at the hook bend, twisted into a fine rope, and wrapped up the hook shank
Wingcase: Mottled turkey tail or strands of dark brown to black Krystal Flash
Thorax: Tan to dark brown fur dubbing with guard hairs picked out

Pattern Notes: This small nymph sinks well because of the Krystal Flash body, yet the loosely dubbed thorax retains some life like action. It can be fished deep or just under the surface. It presents a realistic impression of the natural when tied in the appropriate size and color. It is durable and easy to tie.

Hogans S&M Nymph (Originator Hogan Brown)

Hook: TMC 3769 #16-18
Thread: Dark Brown 8/0
Weight: Copper Bead
Ribbing: Wapsi Olive Ultra Wire, SM
Abdomen: Olive Thread 8/0
Tail: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Wingcase: Dark Brown Goose Biot
Thorax: Dark Olive Antron
Legs: Olive Krystal Flash

Notes: I first started using the S&M Nymph when fishing the Lower Sacramento River and it has been a proven producer. When the Lower Sac goes into the small bug bite mode I usually have an S&M nymph or a Military May nymph rigged up. From what I have researched the S&M nymph is weighted by use of a Copper bead head but has additional sinking capabilities through the use of a thread body, streamline shape, and Ultra wire for the distinct segmentation. Hogan uses a Goose Biot for the wingcase which provides a distinct color contrast to the thorax which is typical with natural Baetis nymphs having a darker hue on the top of the thorax. Krystal Flash is used for the legs which provides attraction and movement to the fly yet does not detract from it's sinkability. I've often used it as a dropper on the Lower Sac and Lower Yuba when I need to get the nymph down quickly.

Other Proven Hogan Brown Nymphs: I don't have recipes for some of Hogans other nymph patterns such as Hogans Military May - BWO and Hogans Better Baetis. You can get them anywhere that sells Iydlwilde Flies.

Pale Baetis Nymph (Originator Jeff Morgan) Pattern from Westfly

Hook: Dai Riki 310, size 20-22
Thread: 8/0 rusty dun
Tail: Three short widgeon flank feathers
Abdomen: Tying thread, perhaps counter-ribbed with iron gray 8/0 thread
Thorax: One or two wraps of pale olive dubbing
Wingcase: Mottled oak Thinskin
Legs: Pale olive Antron fibers, sparse

How to Fish - In rivers, the fly can be presented near the surface, but it is usually most productive when fished near the bottom on a dead drift with the indicator or tight line presentations. To achieve the right depth, you may need to put weight on the leader or use the fly on a dropper with a heavier fly on the point. While the fly works well as a searching nymph, it can also be productive during a hatch (more trout than you might suspect are taking nymphs off the bottom rather than duns off the top).

Hot Spot Pheasant Tail (Originator Unknown) pattern from Westfly

Hook: Mustad 9671, sizes 8-20
Thread: Brown
Tail: Four pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Fine copper wire
Body: Pheasant tail fibers wrapped on hook
Thorax: Orange or chartreuse Haretron or sparkle dubbing
Wingcase: Pheasant tail fibers pulled over the thorax

Uses - The bright thorax may help fish focus on this variation of the traditional Pheasant Tail Nymph. "Hot spots" such as this bright thorax may not be as unnatural as they might appear.

Variations - Can be tied with or without a beadhead. Vary the size to match different insect species.

You can pick up Dave Hughes book, "Western Mayfly Hatches" at Amazon books by going to the following link. It is where most of this information came from.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baetis Complex - Part II - BWO Behavior and Habitat

The Blue Wing Olives have been coming off regularly on the Truckee River and you need to check out Matt Coles blog and he'll give you some good insight as to fishing the BWO hatch. You can check out his weblog at

With that said, here's Baetis Complex, Part II, Behavior and Habitat

The Baetis Complex or Blue Wing Olive mayflies are said to be the most important to the fly fisherman. Knowing the behavior and habitat of these mayflies can be most beneficial when you encounter them on your favorite stream. We often see BWO's in the eddies and soft water as we float the Lower Yuba and the Lower Sacramento River.

, BWO Nymphs

Nymphs for the Baetis complex are found in most flowing water habitats. In freestone streams they live in quite pools, slow eddies and even white water rapids, but are most common in shallow, sun-struck riffles where algal growth is most abundant.

Though the BWO nymphs are found in fishable numbers in freestone waters, these nymphs often reach their greatest abundance in gentle tailwater and spring creek currents. Our local Lower Yuba River has these elements and a good population of baetis nymphs, although their population is subject to seasonal scouring which can affect their habitat.

Behavior of the nymphs of the Baetis complex is predicted by their nature as being a member of the Swimmers group. Quick pulsing movements of the abdomen combined with flips of the tail propel them in short bursts of three to five inches. When they stop swimming they immediately cling to the substrate facing upstream. Their active behavior causes them to be a common component of stream drift. This makes them available to deep nymphing methods almost 365 days a year.

The Baetis complex nymphs feed on "diatoms" or small "detrial" material they scrape from the surface of submerged vegetation or rocks. The nymphs go through as many as 27 instars. The mature nymphs, those ready for emergence, are easy to recognize by their dark well developed wingpads. By turning rocks over and inspecting the nymphs you fins, you can predict with fair accuracy the likehood of a coming hatch. If you see the baetis nymphs with the darker colored wingpads, a hatch is probably coming up.

Baetis, BWO Emergers and Duns

To emerge a baetis nymph releases it hold on the bottom and floats or swims to the surface, drifting downstream with the currents as it rises to the surface. After breaking the surface film, the dun quickly bursts out of the nymphal cuticle. The dun normally leaves the surface immediately but on cold days they may float as long as fifty feet before getting airborne.

The surface film can be a substantial barrier for these tiny bugs, especially on smooth currents. Wind and broken water breaks up the barrier and makes their emergence much easier. When BWOs are hatching in calm waters many fail to make it through the surface film. The result is a high percentage of cripples, stuck in the surface film. When this happens at least some of the trout focus on feeding on them and will ignore the duns on the surface. The fish may refuse your best dun imitations and your best presentations. This is time when you need to fish emerger imitations.

As with most match the hatch fishing, observation is the most important tool in your bad of tricks. If you ever carry a pair of binoculars, this is where they really help. Watch the BWO duns as they float on down the current and when a trout rises and breaks the surface, check to see if the duns are still floating on downstream. If they are, theres a very good chance they are keying on the emergers and cripples.

Baetis, BWO Spinners

Seven to eight hours after emergence the duns molt to spinners. Mating flights usually occur mid-day, from late morning to early afternoon. After mating, females of many Baetis complex land on protruding rock and sticks and crawl underwater and lay their eggs. After laying their eggs they either crawl back up to air or they let go and are swept downstream and are often eating by awaiting trout. This submerged egg-depositing behavior is unique, among mayflies, to members of some of the Baetis complex. Again some and not all.

There are other species in the complex that lay their eggs on the open water's surface. The females soon die after all the eggs are laid.The trout will sometimes feed on the tiny transparent, empty hulls. This is a time when a spinner pattern may solve this problem. When fish are taking spinners it is often easy to overlook and not an easy portion of the hatch to solve.

You can pick up Dave Hughes book, "Western Mayfly Hatches" at Amazon books by going to the following link. It is where most of this information came from.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Baetis Complex - Part I - Blue Wing Olive Mayflies

Here in Northern California and as we head into the fall and winter it is time to get ready for the main portion of our blue wing olive season. This is an over view of the Baetis Complex, or in common terms the Blue Wing Olive complex, that we will encounter here in Northern California and in the west.

Family Baetidae

The Baetis group of mayflies represents the most complex family of mayflies. The Baetis are of the Swimmers group of mayflies. There are sixteen genera and more than 60 species of Baetidae that occur in the west. This is often referred to as the Baetis complex. It is considered by many, to be the most important of all western hatches. The BWO hatches are so diverse and can be so prolific that they cause more selective feeding, more often than any other insect group. This is why getting to know and understand the Baetis complex is so important.

The most important thing to remember is that fly patterns for one species of Baetis will be just as effective for the others. You will need to change the size and the color as you encounter the different species on the river that you find yourself.

Emergence and Distribution

The Baetis complex is a large and widely distributed group, found in great numbers in all of the western states. With proper adjustments in size and color of your imitations you'll be able to match any Baetis hatch. For the fisherman, knowing the identification to the Baetis complex level, is as much as you practically need to know. You will need to focus your attention on finding an appropriate imitation and then fishing it with the most productive presentation. It is more important to get to the business of fishing and not worry about which species it may be within the complex. In simpler terms, collect a sample, match size and color and get on to fishing.

The Baetis complex hatches can occur at anytime of the year, depending on the species, the geographic area and the current weather conditions. Most adults emerge in the winter and spring. The exact timing of the hatches depend upon the species and the water temperatures in the waters that they live. Because the Baetis complex is so large, you must study the hatches on your own home waters in order to predict the hatches with any accuracy. Here in Northern California, the BWO hatch is primarily a later fall, winter and early spring hatch. With that said, because of their abundance and diversity, it makes the Baetis complex, or Blue Wing Olive mayflies, important at one time or another, on almost every western river and stream.

The daily emergence times of the various species change with the season but are typically in the warmer part of the day. In early spring the hatch will be from early to late afternoon, when the air and the water are the warmest. Mid summer hatches might move towards morning, or more commonly evening, when the conditions are cooler. In the fall, the hatches move back towards the warmest hours, again occurring between late morning and early afternoon.

It is well documented that the Baetis complex hatches occur on cool, overcast and even wet and snowy days. On warm and sunny days, the hatch is often truncated into a brief period. On cloudy days you'll get a trickling hatch that can go on for two to four hours with trout up in the water column and feeding all that time. On a bright day the hatch will often be heavy, but last only a half an hour to an hour. On these days the hatch can be over before you realize it is going on.

Because of the small size of the Baetis complex, the hatches of these mayflies are often overlooked by fisherman. The fish rarely make this mistake. For some reason when you have hatches of Blue Wing Olives happening at the same time as that of a larger insect, the trout often ignore the larger meal and become selective to the Baetis complex. A lot of anglers make the mistake of fishing imitations of the larger bug and the fish are focusing on the smaller Baetis.

Some fishermen consider Blue Wing Olive duns to be the most important stage of this complex, but studies have shown that the nymphs are a consistent and important food item nearly every week of the year. Trout feed heavily on nymphs during the pre-hatch activity and can also become selective to spinners when they fall in abundance. Because of their small size, emerging adults are often trapped in the surface film during the transition from nymphs to duns. This is often the “feeding zone” that trout concentrate on. Ralph Cutter refers to this as the "killing zone". This is where having cripple imitations will be very effective. Feeding trout will often ignore nearby floating duns. You need to be aware of this multiple, masked hatch, and when this happens and have fly patterns to match emergers, duns, spinners in order to fish a Baetis complex hatch effectively.


The one saving grace of the Baetis complex is the way you can reduce their complexity by considering them all one group. They can be matched with color and size variations of the same set of flies. One problem is the broad spectrum of water types in which they live. You need to carry patterns that float on riffles, others that combine flotation with a fairly accurate silhouette to fish on nervous, uneasy water and finally you'll need flies that show the exact form of the insect on water so smooth that flotation is never a problem.

The Baetis complex hatch, or the tangle of hatches, is where the use of the "one precise right fly" just doesn't work. If you read John Gierach's book, Trout Bum, he has referred to fishing the BWO hatch as the "progression" of a blue wing olive hatch.

As the day goes along, you might begin by fishing a Baetis nymph pattern down deep along the bottom because you know there are lots of them down in their habitat. Then you'll switch to the same nymph fished shallow. You'll begin to notice duns and some trout will start feeding on them and you can be successful changing to a dry fly. But sometimes the trout will get finicky and you'll notice they're taking cripples, so you'll have to change to an emerger. And so forth, right through to the late afternoon spinner fall.

So what John Gierach has stated is that if you stick with one pattern through a blue winged olive hatch, you'll deal with some trout but probably end up frustrated. If instead, you observe the different stages of the hatch and how things change as the hatch progresses, and change patterns as the fish do, you'll continue to catch trout throughout the hatch. That's the goal.


So, pick up a new flybox, or recycle an old one, and label it BWOs. Fill it with patterns that match the size and color of the BWOs on your stream or river. Fill it with, nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners. Make sure you have dun patterns for (1) riffles (2) nervous water and (3) smooth water. If you do this you'll be ready for a Baetis complex hatch where ever you roam.

I will follow up this article with 4 additional articles with specific information on the habitat, flies, and techniques for presenting flies for the Baetis nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners

You can pick up Dave Hughes book, "Western Mayfly Hatches" at Amazon books by going to the following link. It is where most of this information came from.*&s=books&qid=1287687533&sr=1-1

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fishing Report - Lower Yuba 10-13-10

I fished the Lower Yuba today with an old acquaintance and friend, Greg DeYoung. We both had commitments in the afternoon so we hit the river at day break and fished until about 1:00. We had planned on fishing from Parks Bar to Sycamore RV park but when we did our shuttle the gate at Sycamore Grove was locked.

The Sycamore RV Park is now owned and run by the Yuba County Park Department along with Hammon Grove. Well, all I can say is don't try this too early. We decided, rather than wait around and twiddle our thumbs, to go down to the Marysville Gun club instead, which is about another 2 miles plus or minus.

We ran into a local guide Dave Barbieri back at Parks Bar and he said they showed up and opened the gate a little after 7:00. So I guess that's the story. Don't try it before 7:00.

We rigged with a Pettis Egg, and BWO nymph to start and through the day used, Troutbeads, various Caddis nymphs, Hogans Military Mays, HBI nymphs, Hogans S&M nymph, Rubber Legs, Lafontaine Pupa. You get the picture.

We noticed right away that there were salmon in the pool at the put in and in the riffles around the Parks Bar Bridge. A fair number of them, which seemed to be headed up stream. There is a small redd area in the willows above the bridge but no salmon were staged on them. We had a couple of quick hits as we started downstream below the bridge and hooked a smaller rainbow but lost it right at the boat. So I considered we got the stink off the boat. Maybe not!

We saw a nice pod of salmon at a dropoff at the big rock face with the eddy pool river left about a mile down from the bridge. We got a solid take and a head shake right away at that droppoff behind the salmon, but that was it for that run. I couple of quick hits but no hookups.

One technique comment about fishing eggs at the droppoffs or behind salmon, it does seem like the set has to be pretty quick or they spit the egg out. You've got to stay pretty tight to your indicator and ready to set or keep in tight contact with the flies if tight lining.

The large run above the old island which we have heard referred to as "The Aquarium" had a few salmon in it but not many. The riffle below "The Aquarium" had a few salmon on redds.

One of the biggest spawning areas is to the north of the big island. At the head of the riffle there were probably 8-10 pairs of salmon on the redds and as we floated down the long riffle there were more but not in full swing as of yet. The rainbows seemed to be starting to stage behind the salmon but in my opinion not in big numbers as of yet. By the time we got to the big island the sun was up it was probably mid 80's and bright as can be. Fishing this riffle is definitely much better in low light conditions, early in the morning or on a overcast or drizzly day. I think the whole fishing situation will change as soon as we get some overcast weather and the fish feel a little more comfortable and less exposed. Sounds like pretty good reasoning anyway. Isn't that what fishermen do?

I guess I'm feeling that the best fishing right now, with this hot spell, is probably early in the morning and then later in the evening. I've heard that lower down the river the caddis have been coming off in the evenings and swinging soft hackles or dead drifting in the film has been pretty good. I haven't been able to get out and give that a go, dang it!

In summary, we had one of those days where we had numbers of downs with the indicator in the runs, hits when tight lining, fish on behind salmon at the head of the runs before heading up the riffles, fish on and lost getting them to the boat, activity but not many concrete results. Like I said maybe we didn't get the stink off.

Have some fun out there. We make sure we do!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blue Wing Olive "Baetis" Fly Patterns

The Blue Wing Olive mayfly is present nearly year round all over the world. It is important to remember that in dealing with the Baetis group of mayflies that patterns for one species will be just as effective for the others. You may need to change the size and the color as you encounter the different species as you move from one stream or river to the other or even on the same river in different sections. Collect samples and match the size, color and shape.

It has been stated that the Baetis complex of mayflies is just about the most important group of all western hatches.

I have updated the BWO Baetis patterns with updated information. Hopefully this will be usefull on your favorite stream when the BWO's are present.

Hogan Brown Patterns

Hogan Brown is a signature tier for Iydlwilde Flies. He honed his craft right here on my home river, the Lower Yuba River. Hogan Brown's patterns are some of my "Go To" patterns on a daily basis, whether I'm fishing in Northern California or Southwestern Montana. He's one of the premier fly designers in Northern California. You can purchase his patterns at most of the finest fly shops in the west. You can get my info on Hogan Brown and his patterns at

Hogans Better Baetis

Hogan came up with this pattern 10 years ago when his fishing buddy asked him if he had a "better baetis" pattern. Sounds about right! It was designed as a small mayfly nymph attractor. He recommends using it as a dropper off an emerger or a dun or even to fish it down deep under indicator.

Hogans Military May Olive

Hogan developed the "Military May" while fishing on the Lower Yuba River about 5 years ago to match its complex mayfly hatches. It has become one of my "Go To" patterns on the Lower Yuba and the Lower Sacramento. He recommends using the "Military May" under indicator or as a dropper off a dry fly. A guides tip from Hogan is to pair this up with a more subdued mayfly nymph. He says "Give the fish both flash and plain".

Hogans S&M Nymph Olive

The "S&M Nymph" was based upon Hogan's observations on the Lower Sac and the Lower Yuba. This pattern is designed with a trim body that is darker on the top of the wing than underneath. He states that "Sometimes fish don't like flash". He would recommend this pattern 365 days a year on tailwaters to freestones. This is his first fly that made him think he could actually be descent in the fly tying business. I'd say so. Right on!

Hogans Sipper BWO

Hogan likes the way the "Sipper" looks really alive in the water and imitates a struggling emerger or cripple. He likes to fish the "Sipper" behind a hackle stacker or as a point fly if he feels he can see the strike.

Hogans SIM Mayfly Olive

Hogan came up with the "SIM Mayfly" as an option to his "Sipper". He wanted an emerger pattern that would sink a little better, but still would move freely in the first 1" to 6" of the water column. He recommends fishing this behind a "Sipper". Being it is a sunk fly, it is best paired with a visible fly that is easier to see. He has used the "SIM Mayfly" if trout are seemingly unwilling to commit all the way to the surface.

He sometimes swings the "SIM mayfly" on a long leader leading up to a hatch with a little split shot. Another option is to fish it in the film line or the swirls with a small indicator and split shot.

Bob Quigley's Patterns

Bob Quigley is probably best known for his cripple patterns, but he has created a varied set of patterns to match various stages of the BWO and Baetis hatches. If you are going to put together a box to match all the phases of the BWO hatch you could not go wrong by filling this box with Bob Quigley's patterns. You don't have to look any farther.

Bob Quigley is a signature tyer for Iydlwilde Flies. You can purchase his flies through most quality fly shops.

I have been enamored with Bob Quigley's patterns from the first time I tied on a Quigley's PMD Cripple. This pattern should have a place in your fly box.

Quigleys Half Dun BWO

This Emerger pattern is a great one for fishing in the film during a hatch. Grease your leader to within 6 inches of the fly to keep in in the film.

Quigleys Hackle Stacker BWO

Bob Quigley's hackle stacker technique is utilized on this BWO pattern. The hackle stacker technique is one to master and to add to your fly tying technique arsenal.

Quigleys Micro CDC Cripple Olive

The Micro CDC Cripple is a great pattern for the smallest BWOs

Quigleys Flim Critic BWO

The Film Critic has gained popularity on the flats of our Lower Yuba River where the fish can be maddingly fussy.

Quigleys Loop Wing Dun BWO

The Loop Wing Dun is a simple and effective parachute pattern to be fished low in the film.

Quigleys Loop Wing Dun Female baetis

Bob Quigley developed this Female baetis pattern for the really fussy fish.

Quigleys Loopy BWO

A good cripple pattern on the quiet water pools and stillwater.