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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bugs - The Baetis "Blue Wing Olive"

The last few times that I've fished the Lower Yuba River I have run into a fairly strong hatch of Blue Wing Olives or BWO's as we affectionatly call them, most of the time I call them "those darned BWO's". I've seen them coming off, but can I catch one of the fish that are eating them. Forget-about-it. I'm usually rigged up with my 6 weight and nymphs, shot and all when I run into a hatch. So I'm not really set up right to start casting dries, emergers, cripples, or soft hackles like I should be. I usually just stand on the banks and give my buddies a hard time about not being able to hook something. A single person peanut gallery so to speak.

Anyway, this brings me to thinking about what I should be attempting to do when the BWO's start coming off and start catching some fish instead of laughing at my buddies.

The Blue Wing Olives

Blue wing olive mayflies look like tiny, greenish-gray sailboats on the water to us, but they look like lunch to the fish in the Yuba River. These bugs often have greenish bodies and wings that are light gray to almost black. The photo below is a BWO "Baetis" Dun.

The Blue wing olive hatch progresses with the bugs swimming to the surface of the river, they then split their nymphal shells and emerge as winged insects. These newly hatched winged insects are called duns.

I really believe that the Blue wing olives are a prime trout food from fall through spring and we should prepare for this hatch. This gives us anglers a good chance to catch rising fish during this period. The baetis nymphs can be from size 18 to as small as size 24. I always seem to do better with soft hackles, emergers and cripples although this is what I tend to have the most confidence in.

If it's cold and wet and cloudy, and you see fish rising, there's a good chance that the trout are up and feeding on blue wing olive duns - usually during the warmest time of the day. My last few trips to the river have confirmed this. I have also noticed a BWO "Baetis" spinner fall. See photo of a BWO spinner below.



Blue Wing Olive Mayfly

Scientific Names: Family Baetidae, genera Baetis, Diphetor, Acentrella, Plauditus; Family Ephemerellidae, genus Attenella

Common Names: Blue-winged olive, tiny olive, BWO, pseudo

Nymph Size - 4 to 12 mm (3/16" to 1/2")

Nymph Color - Dark Brown, Olive Brown, Olive

Dun Size - 4 to 10 mm (3/16" to 3/8")

Dun Color - Wing Smokey, abdomen Olive to Olive Brown

Spinner Size - 4 to 12 mm (3/16" to 1/2")

Spinner Color - Wing Clear. Abdomen Olive Brown to Reddish Brown


Fishing Blue Wing Olive Dry Flies

For fishing the Lower Yuba River or any river that has hatches of BWO's the experts say we should carry dry flies that range from size 16 all the way down to a tiny size 24.

Size 24, you've got to be kidding! I am kidding, I don't think I can see a 24 let alone tie one on. We may not be able tie them this small, but they are there and the sharp-eyed, picky trout can easily find them.

I've read that fishing the wrong size fly will often find us watching in frustration as feeding fish ignore our offerings. So we must learn how and attempt to fish smaller patterns.

A good tip is to use two flies when you find it necessary to fish and match tiny dry flies. Take your time and wade as closely as possible to the rising fish and then tie a size 18 fly and then add a dropper using a smaller fly, a 22 or even a 24. It's easy to spot the big - size 18 blue wing olive fly and then spot the smaller size 22 fly.

Good dry flies for blue wing olive dun hatches are: Sparkle Duns, Comparaduns and Hair-wing duns. A light tippet - 5X for larger flies and 6X for flies size 18 and smaller - brings more fish to the fly. Learn to use and tie good knots with flurocarbon.


Dry Flies for the BWO

Parachute Baetis - 18, 20, 22

Baetis Compradun - 18, 20, 22

CDC Baetis - 18, 20, 23

Fishing Nymphs and Emergers

Trout will start eating nymphs a hour or more before the duns hatch. Try to pay attention to the timing of the hatch when the duns are coming off. Time your nymphing to the pre-emergence.

The BWO bugs, which swim like tiny fish, rise toward the surface and then sink back down.

When fishing a BWO nymph fly in shallow riffles or runs prior to the hatch, use nymphs, such as Pheasant Tails, Hare's Ears and Copper Johns in sizes matching the naturals. If you are specifically targeting the BWO's rigg with a small strike indicator - a small dry fly or stick-on piece of foam on the leader. This will help detect when the fish have taken the fly.

Once the hatch gets going, some emerging bugs will get stuck while climbing out of the nymphal skin at the surface. An emerger fly - such as an RS2 or a CDC Emerger - hook fish that are locked into eating cripples. Trout often lock onto cripples during the hatch and ignore the upright-winged duns.

It's a good idea to change to an emerger if duns are on the water and the trout aren't rising to a dry fly. Watch the rise forms or bring a small pair of binoculars to determine of the fish are taking the emergers or duns on the surface.


Pale Baetis Nymph - 18, 20, 22

Hot Spot Pheasant Tail - 18, 20, 22

Emergers & Cripples

Baetis Cripple - 18, 20, 22

Quigley's Marabou Cripple 18, 20, 22

Barr's Emerger - 18, 20, 22

CDC Bubble Emerger - 18, 20, 22

Diving Baetis - 18, 20, 22


Blue Wing Olive Spinners

I've also read about the "Blue Wing Olive Spinner Secret". Most anglers miss the secret part of the blue wing olive hatch. The adult blue wing olives that survive the trout fly off to streamside brush and molt into the sexually mature insect, which is called a spinner. Spinners have bright, clear wings and big eyes.

Within 24 hours, the spinners mate and fly to the river's surface to lay eggs and die.

On many days, the spinners land on the water's surface at the same time the immature nymphs hatch into duns. Anglers see the upright wings of the duns - and tie on a dry fly with an upright wing.

Few anglers see the spinners - with clear, almost invisible wings - sprawled flat on the surface at the same time.

But the trout - especially the bigger, warier fish - see them just fine, and they lock onto the safer, easier prey.

Tie on a spinner - such as a Hackle Spinner - and watch tough trout get much easier!


BWO Spinner Pattern

CDC Biot Spinner - 18, 20


Well I think after that I'll be a little more prepared for those pesky BWO's the next time I encounter them. Good Luck and have some fun out there!


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Have any Questions or Comments? Let me know, Clay.