Fall is finally here and anglers across the West are beginning to see the return of the blue winged olive mayflies. Blue winged olives are a major part of a trout’s diet in almost every river and stream for most of the fall fishing season, and it is important for fishermen to understand what patterns to use and when to use them in order to be successful throughout this hatch. Last week in part one of this blog, I talked about how and when these tiny mayflies hatch. This week, I will go over some of my favorite patterns for matching each of the blue winged olive’s life stages, as well as talk about how I like to fish them.
Blue winged olive nymphs are excellent swimmers and they can be found in almost every section of the water column for most of the fishing season. Some of my favorite blue winged olive nymphs are tied with tungsten beadheads which helps them sink in fast water. These patterns can be effective when drifted along the bottom of the river below a strike indicator or when fished beneath a dry fly along the banks in the shallow water, depending on sunlight and the strength of the hatch. My favorite blue winged olive nymphs include the tungsten Micro Mayfly, the Iron Lotus, and the slim body Pheasant tail in sizes 18 to 22.
As the blue winged olive nymphs begin to hatch, they often drift upwards to the surface, buoyed by a tiny bubble of gas along their back. I keep a wide variety of colors on hand including olive, brown, gray, and green. Much like the nymphs listed above, these patterns can be fished deep below an indicator, just below the surface behind a dry fly, and everywhere between. Size 18 to 24 Barrs Emergers, CDC wing RSII’s, and CDC Loop Wing Emergers are all deadly blue winged olive emerger patterns.
Blue winged olive mayflies are notorious for getting stuck in their nymphal shucks, and many times a good drift with a floating crippled or stillborn pattern can coax a take from a suspicious trout. It is important to keep a few different colors and sizes in your box during the blue winged olive hatch. My favorite two patterns are the Last Chance Cripple and the Quill Body Baetis Cripple in sizes 18 to 24.
My favorite blue winged olive life stage is without a doubt the adult. Blue winged olive duns will often ride along the surface of the water for long distances while they are waiting for their wings to dry out for flight. There are hundreds of blue winged olive dun patterns available to fishermen these days, but itParachute Adams, Extended Body BWO, Hacklestacker BWO, Comparadun
The end of the blue winged olive hatch usually leaves millions of spent mayflies floating downstream and collecting in foam covered eddies for trout to feed on. A handful of size 18 to 22 Rusty Spinners and Crystal Wing Spinners in green, olive, gray, and brown should keep you pretty prepared for the many blue winged olive spinner falls that you might encounter this fall fishing season.
With these bugs in your box, you should be well armed this fall fishing season, and should be able to catch fish throughout almost any blue winged olive hatch. As always, make sure to stop by Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards, Colorado to stock up on all of your flies, gear, and tackle before your next fishing adventure.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer