Fishing the South Holston Tailwater - BWOs - Part 4
So far we have only discussed fishing a Blue-winged Olive baetis hatch. I am not
going to get into fishing the Eastern Blue-winged Olive hatch because I don't think it
is that significant on the South Holston tailwater. What is significant is the Little
Blue-winged Olive hatch.
There is not a great deal of difference in fishing the LBWO and the BWO (baetis)
hatch we have discussed. The single biggest factor is the size of the fly, of course.
Again, I recommend that you catch the olives you see and compare them for hook
size. These are normally a hook size 20 to 24 depending on the species. These
mayflies are also bi-brooded and tri-brooded (hatch two or three times a year) and
there are many different species on the South Holston. Many anglers think they are
midges. They are very difficult to distinguish without catching them or examining
one close up. Considering the many species and the fact they hatch more than one
time a year, you are subject to see a hatch of these mayflies anytime. I would
estimate that there is a hatch of these occurring as much as one-third of the time,
day in and day out, throughout the year.
If there are other mayflies, caddisflies or stoneflies hatching, the Little BWOs are
probably not that important. When they are the only thing hatching, which is
sometimes the case, you need to be able to fish the hatch.
I was first turned on to this by a lady that caught a huge trout nearby where I was
fishing. Talking to her, I discovered she was using a size 22 dry fly she ties to match
the Little BWOs. She told me she catches large trout on these flies on a regular
basis. I started doing the same thing that day and was able to catch over a dozen
trout when no one else but her was catching anything.
You fish this hatch by stage the same way you fish the baetis hatch. They hatch in
the same type of water, that is slow water, the same way the baetis do. However,
fishing the hatch is more difficult simply because of the size of the fly. The nymphs,
emergers, duns and spinners all of very difficult, if not impossible, to see.
Again, if you cast these flies in fast water, you will catch few trout and you will
probably never be able to see your fly. I usually just watch my leader and tippet for
any movement that is unusual. If I think a trout is taking the fly, I pull back on the
rod with a long, steady sweep a couple of feet. You should be using a 6X tippet (for
20 hook sizes) or 7X tippet (for 22 and 24 hook sizes) and setting the hook any
other way may break your tippet. By the way, a slow to medium action rod works
better than a fast action for this type of fishing.
If you are fishing the emergers in the skim or the dun or spinner dry, you may be
able to see the fish take the fly. This may only be a slight rise ring or flash of the
fish. There are some other things you can do to help detect takes. One method is
to use a dropper rig with the nymph or emerger. By that I mean use a larger dry fly
(such as a parachute style fly) ahead of the nymph or emerger a foot or so. This
will let you watch the larger dry fly for strikes. You want get nearly as many takes
doing this but you still may be able to catch fish.
Another method is to occasionally move your fly an inch or two, faster than its drag
free drift. This will create a slight surface disturbance and show you where the fly is.
The downfall of this method is it may scare the fish. If you loose track of your fly,
you may try it but make sure your fly is not in the most productive place when you
If you practice fishing these small flies, you will become more and more proficient in
doing so. It is frustrating at first because you cannot see the fly but you will soon
learn to rely on watching your tippet and leader to detect takes and you will soon
learn to catch fish when others are not able to do so.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh