Author: Tucker Ladd
It’s Saturday morning, the beginning of your weekend and you roll out of bed to find that it’s overcast and rainy. What are you going to do? Stay in bed for a few more hours? Take in an afternoon matinee down at the local theater? Not if you’re me!
The first thing that comes to my mind is this: a rainy day is a great day to be out on our local waters experiencing one of nature’s most beautiful insect hatches, that of the blue winged olive. Oftentimes, when conditions are less then favorable for the fisherman, those same cloudy, cool conditions may be prime for an unbelievable day of fishing.
You may now be asking yourself what exactly is a blue winged olive? In short, it is a very small mayfly with slate grey wings and an olive or bluish body. Talk to a fly-fishing nerd and you may hear the BWO referred to by its common Latin name baetid - members of the family baetidae. I’ll spare you the details.
It doesn’t matter if you call them baetidae, baetis or BWO, the important thing to know is that these tiny insects are important to the fish that feed on them, and hence present an opportunity for the fly-fisher in the know. Found throughout the Rocky Mountain Region, and even on the East Coast, BWOs are a year round food source for many trout.
Another question you may be pondering to yourself: what does rain have to do with BWOs? The best hatches of BWOs occur on days when conditions are rainy and overcast. Days when fair weather fishermen are at home reading a book, bellied up at their favorite watering hole, or simply sitting in their vehicles because the autumn rains (common in the Mountain West) have supposedly spoiled their fishing fun, these insects are spreading their wings.
BWO hatches typically begin during the latter part of the morning and continue into the afternoon hours - if you are fortunate enough to time it right, and find yourself in the middle of a BWO hatch it can be quite the spectacle. Surrounding you will be millions of tiny little mayflies, many of which will float by on the water’s surface like tiny sailboats or flutter by on the afternoons cool breeze. Trout will be feasting on them like it’s their last supper, and with winter right around the corner, it almost is. The same conditions that are ideal for these hatches are actually perfect for top-water trout - disturbances created by raindrops cool and oxygenate the water, so the trout move up the water column. If that’s not enough to get you excited, the rain also knocks the tiny bugs down just below the surface, allowing the trout to gorge just out of sight of lurking predatory birds. You can literally be standing in a down pour of rain, fishing a long flat run and see dozens of gluttonous fish rhythmically rising on these tiny morsels we call blue winged olives.
Remember that when conditions are less then ideal for you, those same conditions can be a dinner bell for our fine finned friends. With the upcoming weekend forecast, you can guarantee that you will see a great emergence of BWOs.
Some great BWO patterns to try are as follows:
And the old stand by…Pheasant Tails.
Next time you find yourself standing in the rain along your favorite stretch of river, strain your eyes and see if you can spot the beautiful mayfly commonly referred to as…baetid...I mean baetidae…whoops, baetis.