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Five Tips for Fishing the Spring Blue-Winged Olive Hatch

Zeke Hersh / Apr 2, 2023

Believe it or not, spring is right around the corner but you would never guess. As I write this, I am watching large snowflakes float to the ground at our Frisco shop. While we've been having quite the snowy winter, we are starting to see some warmer ambient temperatures and snow melt between storm cycles.

If it is getting warmer here in Frisco, you know some of the lower elevation river sections are seeing the temperatures get even warmer. This makes my mind wander to some fond memories of spring blue-winged olive hatches and the actively feeding trout gorging themselves on those tasty morsels.

I’m not too sure why I enjoy the springtime hatches more than other seasons. Maybe it’s because it’s some of the first opportunities to see the first really active feeding trout on the surface or maybe just the excitement and anticipation of seeing fish moving out of their winter holding patterns to potentially eat your fly in shallower and faster water than they have been in for months. There are many more inspiring thoughts that come to mind but no matter what the spring blue-winged olive hatches are something to look forward to on the snowy days of winter.

The spring hatch as with any blue-winged olive hatch has some unique characteristics and there are some tips that can help you have a successful day on the water.

A selection of our guides and I came up with some good advice to use as we start to see these spring hatches.

1. The Weather is Key

Something I talk about frequently with this hatch is that the weather is key. If you want to fish dry flies, pick the right day for the best opportunity. Sure you can possibly see blue-winged olives hatches on any day, but the conditions have to be perfect. What this usually means is that the water temperature has been warming a bit from its icy winter temperatures and preferably you have some overcast conditions.

I usually tend to think this is as a cold front is starting to arrive and you will typically see warmer daytime temperatures and some overcast skies. These are prime blue-winged olive hatch conditions. Depending on where you are fishing these conditions might extend through the cold front and as the cold front moves out, but I feel your best chances of an epic dry fly day are as the front is moving in.

2. Choose the Right fly for the Water

Springtime fishing can be challenging and there are many obstacles you may have to overcome. Sean Cowman offers some great advice to help combat some of these challenges you might encounter. Sean advises you to fish the right fly for the type of water and conditions you might be fishing.

In faster water, you may find it necessary to fish a fly with a more buoyant body or one that is more visible in the riffles. Or if you are fishing small flies in slow water or low light you may have to fish a pattern with a hi-vis post. These are a few situations you may run into, so having a good mix of patterns that can work in various different water types is very important. You may even find yourself having to fish a double dry rig for the best opportunity to see your flies or give the trout a couple of different offerings.

3. Match the Hatch

Kaleb Orrock brings this tip to the table and some great advice on how to go about matching the hatch. Sure sometimes you can fish something that doesn't look remotely close and have great success, but these situations can be few and far between or in specific conditions with faster water, low light, or other varying situations. While you might luck into one of these situations, more often than not you will have to match the hatch for the best opportunity to catch the rising and sometimes picky trout.

Kaleb points out how important it is to match the naturals that are on the water and hatching. The best way to do this is to simply catch a natural and use your scientific fly fishing skills to then match the size, profile, and lastly color of this natural. Keeping in mind the color of the belly of the natural as this is what the trout will be looking up at.

4. Cover All Stages of the Hatch

Making sure you have all the stages in the blue-winged olive life cycle is a great point that Andrew Contreras brings up. You want to be prepared with all stages of the hatch, from nymphs, emergers, adults, and cripples. On some occasions, you could show up to water and the signs look to be pointing to fish rising to adults. On further inspection, the trout are taking nymphs and emergers just subsurface and not even looking at a dry fly adult.

While this is not the most desirable outcome for many fly anglers, if you have the right pattern for the stage of the hatch you are experiencing, it can be just as rewarding. As the lifecycle evolves and the adults start to hatch you can transition to the dry flies, and catch your share of the rising trout. The key here is that you are adapting to the hatch and catching fish at all stages. For the weeks to come make sure you have a good selection of flies in all stages of the hatch and in a few different colors and sizes. This tip will contribute significantly to some great success throughout the day on the water.

5. Use the Right Floatant

We are pretty lucky these days to have some pretty tech floatants in the fly fishing world. Having a mix of these at your disposal will add to the success of your spring blue-winged olive hatch fishing experience. Pre-dressing your flies with one of the best liquid floatants can be a great forethought that can bring dividends to your dry fly fishing experience. The liquid floatant will act as a waterproofer and keep that fly riding high for a longer period than other applications. The key here is to make sure and pre-dress your flies and let them dry. At some point, you will probably need to reapply or fish a new pattern that has not been pre-treated.

This is where the gel floatants come into play. A favorite gel floatant of mine is Loon Aquel as it works great, dries quickly, and with its stable viscosity, you won’t be having a hard time applying it on cold days. Powders are another option that should always be included in your floatant collection. With a few different types of powders out there, it can be hard to make sure you are using the right one. I am a big fan of the Loon Top Ride or dry shake, which is a desiccant and I primarily use this for drying out the fly after it has become waterlogged. Most of the time I will reapply a small amount of gel after I have dried the fly with the desiccant.

However, I might just use the desiccant for situations where you need a high-floating fly for a couple of drifts. But because this powder is not a waterproofer, be ready to reuse the powder after those drifts. The other powder options offer this high floating characteristic as well and can have added sparkle attributes to attract the trout's attention and can be specifically used for fishing CDC or sparsely hackled patterns. This floatant usually has a small brush so you can brush the wings and hackle of these delicate dry fly patterns. Although I do not use this product very often, it can be extremely helpful when you are fishing for picky trout in tricky situations such as the blue-winged olive hatch. The last dressing I am going to talk about is not a floatant or dry shake at all, but a sinking agent. This dressing is usually overlooked but I have had occasions where using this application can be very helpful in different situations.

A sinking dressing, like Loon Henry’s Sinket, can be very helpful when fishing emergers and nymphs as droppers behind dry flies or when adding weight to your setup is not desirable. I don’t use this often, but I can assure you that having a small bottle of sinket can turn a tough fishing situation into a very successful one. The spring blue-winged olive hatch is anticipated in the next couple of weeks and we will see many rounds of the hatch as we move through the spring for the months to come. There are of course many other great tips and tricks out there, but we hope these help you overcome some challenges that this hatch can present.

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