Trouts Journal

PHOTO ESSAY | In Search of Blue Wings

Ivan Orsic / Apr 21, 2023

My love of blue-winged olives is a well-documented one. As it turns out, Trouts guide Sam Kinney likes them plenty, as well. After a string of days guiding on the water, Sam has been chomping at the bit to get out on the water and put his 4 weight to the test. Nothing gets a self-respecting trout anglers heart going quite like rising fish and with some clouds in the forecast, we were hopeful to run into some spring risers on the South Platte.

It was a cold start to the morning. From the truck, we had a pretty decent view of the river. We spent a couple of minutes scanning bank to bank, looking for any evidence of risers or those diminutive blue and olive mayflies. There was none. But, like any self-respecting angler, Sam had an itch to scratch and that 4-weight needed some action. With low flows on the South Platte, two tiny dries and some 6x was the choice.

Sam rigged up as we talked about some of his recent trips. He noted that he'd been seeing some pretty decent-sized blue-wings on the Platte this spring upwards of size 16 or 18. That was music to my ears. Big Blue-Wings, you say? Well, dang, what trout in their right mind is going to turn down more protein after some slim pickings over the winter.

Before long, Sam and I were making the walk down to a section of flat water with some lofty dreams of early spring morning risers. A fool's errand in many respects, the blue-wings have been showing up around lunchtime and into the afternoon as a general rule, but hope can make you do some dumb things.

Was it a dumb decision to throw dry flies at 8 am with the temps in the mid-30s? Yes. As it turns out it was, Sam gave it the old college try, but then reality sunk in. We'd have to wait for the dries. It was time to bring our presentation sub-surface and throw some nymphs.

We turned over a few rocks and found plentiful caddis and blue-winged olive nymphs. A caddis nymph would have been a perfectly decent choice, but Sam went with ole reliable. Some small mayfly and midge nymphs always tend to do the trick around Deckers.

Before long, I found myself chasing down Sam with some interesting camera settings.

Sam was hooked up. He corraled a dandy of a South Platte rainbow into the net and our day was off to solid start.

Kinney showing this dandy off.

A closer look before we said...bye now.

A couple of casts later and Sam was scooping another. A healthy brown tricked by a foam back emerger.

While Kinney was getting into a rhythm with the nymph rig, I kept my eyes peeled for risers downstream. After a good ten or fifteen minutes of going cross-eyed staring at the flat water off of these productive nymphing runs, I started to see some action on top. Sporadic rises to start. No real hatch to write home about, but a couple of bigger blue-wings were getting snatched up by a handful of fish hanging out in some shallower water. Kinney grabbed his trusty four-weight and a couple presentations later...

Another wild brown to the net.

Bye now.

Kinney kept inspecting rocks and found a great example of a very underrated food on the South Platte - a cranefly nymph. A great reminder to not be so afraid of choosing big flies no matter the flows. Big protein is big protein and fish like a big meal.

After fishing up on Y Camp Road for a spell, we decided to head downstream. Kinney re-rigged his dry fly rod and chose an old classic - Craig Mathews Sparkle Dun. A must for any self-respecting trout anglers box. Sparsely dressed, this fly is an absolute killer on tailwaters and freestones, alike.

Target acquired.

Kinney delivers a laser.

and bingo, bango, bongo. Another dry fly eater for ole Kinney.

Oh, hi...ok, Bye Now!

By no means was this a banner day of dry fly fishing on the South Platte, but Kinney was able to grind out a couple of willing risers. As he noted at the beginning of the day, "I'd rather catch 10 on the dry than 30 on the bobber rig."

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