Flies Needed Now for Fishing the Smokies
Blue-winged Olives - Part 4
Insects and other food the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Baetis)
2. Blue Quills
3. Quill Gordons
4. Little Black Caddis
5. Winter Stoneflies
Blue-winged Olive Spinners:
The last two days I just wrote away and forgot to mention in the opening that I was
writing about Blue-winged Olives. I have gone back and corrected that. It appears
that I was writing about any mayfly and although what I said fits many different
species of them, it doesn't fit them all. By the way, the last two days were good
days for a blue-winged olive hatch. I didn't go to the park and I don't know if
one occurred anywhere, but it was cloudy, overcast and misting rain here in Pigeon
Several years ago we had been fishing the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone
National Park but had moved on because we were only catching a few trout. A few
nights later we meet a guy at our motel in West Yellowstone that we saw fishing the
river the last day we were there. He informed us that he had returned to the
Yellowstone that day in the same area and caught over twenty cutthroats. We
asked how and he replied that he caught them all on spinners within a couple of
I asked which spinner and a funny look came on his face. He said, "spinners, I
caught them on spinners, the ones I purchased at Blue Ribbon Flies". The next
time, thinking he may have misunderstood me, I asked which species of mayfly. He
again, almost aggravated, said "I caught them on spinners". I shut up realizing that
he thought a spinner was a species of mayfly. My point in bringing this up is that
obviously many anglers don't know what a spinner is. This guy was not a beginner.
He had been to Yellowstone several times.
I had a Smokies guide tell me just two years ago, that he didn't know what I was
taking about when I said spinner. The guy is an excellent angler and probably a
good guide. I was shocked. At least he was honest. I proceeded to tell him what a
spinner was but it really made me feel bad in doing so. If you do not know what a
spinner is, please go to this page and read the sections about mayflies, otherwise
what I am about to say will make no sense to you.
This is our Perfect Fly "Blue-winged Olive Spinner".
Many anglers don't fish the BWO spinner falls simply because they have never
seen one occur in the Smokies. We have never seen them in large numbers but
depending on what else is going on (hatch wise) they could be important in small
quantities. The little mayflies hatch sometimes when nothing else will. Another
reason is that often, (depending on the time of year) the BWO spinner fall occurs
very late in the afternoons and even into the evenings. In cold weather, they can
occur earlier during the day. In hot weather, they may even occur in the early
Spinner falls are directly comparable in size to the hatch. After the females have
mated they will return to the water at some point to deposit their eggs. The female
deposits her eggs two different ways, depending on the species, and some species
use both methods. She may fall on the water and lay them, or she may crawl in from
the bank and paste them on the bottom. When she is finished, she washes away
with the currents, sometimes beneath the surface, and sometimes floating on the
surface in a spent position.
My advise is that if you encounter a BWO hatch, start looking about mid-afternoon
for the spinners and do so until near dark. The big problem is that you cannot see
them most of the time. They are slim, thin and if they are falling near dark, you just
don't have enough light to determine if a spinner fall is going on or not. We use a
skim net that fits over our landing nets and skim the surface of the water to
determine what is going on. Often you will catch them in the net when you cannot
see them looking directly down to the surface. The other problem is that the trout
just sip them in with almost no surface disturbance. They are not going to tell you
much either. If you do determine that a spinner fall is occurring, fish it by all means.
You may be very surprised at the results.
You can rig to imitate the spinner as a dropper behind or near the surface of a
more visible dry fly. This is helpful in seeing the small flies. You can also try
fishing the spinner by itself. All in all, there have only been a few times that we have
been successful in the Smokies with Blue-winged Olive spinner falls. When we
have, we have caught a lot of trout in a short time.
The spinner falls take place at the ends of the long runs, heads and tails of the
pools, eddies, calmer pockets and in moderate to slow water -not the fast water.
If you find spent flies on the water that have collected in calm areas, then you
should fish those areas. We think it is a matter of the intensity of the hatches and
they are usually not that prolific in the Smokies. You just want to be prepared to fish
it in the event you find a spinner fall occurring. Again, let me remind you that you
only need hook size 16 and 18 imitations for them at this time of the year.
Copyright 2009 James Marsh