Rain and cooler weather have brought lots of Baetis (Blue Winged Olives/BWOs) and our first small winter stoneflies. There are still some lingering Mahogany Duns and October Caddis around, as well as a few leftover small caddis around. Much of the McKenzie has dropped and is in good shape to wade and float, the clarity is good. Most of the Middle Fork is off color and high making it less productive. Fish have largely been feeding subsurface and nymphing has been most productive as of late especially. If the water is high, fish will be found pushed towards the bank in search of more calm water. Dries, wets, and streamers can all be productive as well given the right conditions.
The big player in terms of aquatic insect hatches is the Baetis family of mayflies also known as Blue Winged Olives or BWOs. With our cooler weather, these mayflies will hatch on overcast days during the middle of the day. They are often found hatching in more calm water, and most of the time trout will be seen rising to emerging duns. We are beginning to see our first hatch of small winter stoneflies. Female October caddis are still lingering around and will been ovipositing, or laying eggs, in the river on cloudy days during the day or in the evenings. Mahogany Dun Spinners can be found congregating in the evening and the fish will key into a spinner fall of them. There are a few leftover small caddis that are on their last leg.
Dry fly selection this time of year is largely based on time of day and conditions present. If the weather has been warm, it will take an overcast, rainy day for the Blue Wings to come off, and it will happen during the cooler part of the day. If the weather has been cooler, the Blue Wings will come off during the warmest part of the day. Here are our favorite dry flies for early fall Baetis hatches: Sparkle Flag BWO #18, Morrish’s May Day BWO #18, Parachute Extended Body BWO#18, or a Hatchmaster BWO #16-18. Some lingering October Caddis can still be seen in the evenings, and during the day if it is a cooler, more overcast day. Try these larger dries to mimic them: Norm Woods Special #6-10, Orange Stimulator #6-10, or a Swisher’s Foam PMX #10. with a dropper. Mahogany Duns are still around, and you can catch a spinner fall in the evening if you time it right. Some flies we like are: Tilt Wing Mahogany Dun #16, Extended Body Mahogany Dun #16, Galloup’s OG Bent Cripple #14, or a Rusty Spinner #16-18 for the spinner fall. Small Winter Stones are making their debut and small Dark Dry Flies mimic them well: Black Elk Hair Caddis #14-16 or a J’s Hi Tie Caddis Black #16. Lastly there are some small caddis hanging around from earlier this fall. A small Tan Elk Hair Caddis #14-16, or a Swisher’s Dancing Caddis #14 can bring a fish to surface and is a great searching method.
Nymphing will be most productive this time of the year. In the clearer portions of the river fishing small nymphs is productive, especially in the winter. In stretches where water clarity is subpar, sometimes you need something larger to catch a fish’s attention, so sizing up your nymphs isn’t a bad idea. Some larger searching nymphs include: Mega Prince #8-12, Tunghead 20 Incher #8-12, Sili Leg Stone #8-10, or a Double Bead Peacock Stone #8-12. Baetis nymphs are very active this time of year, here are some shop favorites: Jigged TNT Baetis #16, Split Case BWO #18, or Berry’s PCP #16. We are starting to see the first winter stones of the season, which means the nymphs are active subsurface in preparation for their emergence. Fish a small sized 14-16 dark nymph to mimic them like: Black Copper John #14-16, Hart’s Dark Lord #12, or a Bead Head Bird’s Nest #14-16. Other effective nymphs as of late are: Dally’s Tailwater Jig #14, X-Heavy Rainbow Warrior #14-16, Jigged Frenchie #12-14, Bead Head Lightning Bug #16, or a Jigged Hot Butt Hare’s Ear #12-14.
Swinging flies is another way to search this time of year. Swinging small soft hackles can be deadly when bugs are coming off, the small flies mimic emerging insects. Swinging small streamers when the water is high imitates disoriented sculpins and baitfish that are fleeing downstream. Add small erratic strips to really drive the point home that your small streamer is a distressed fish. Here are some good choices for smaller soft hackles that are fishing well: Baetis Drymerger #18, Soft Emerger BWO #18, or a Soft Hackle Bead Thorax Mahogany #14. For small streamers try: Jr Sculpzilla, Tactical Jig Zonker #12, or a Thin Mint #8-12.
Feel free to stop by the shop or give us a call if you need anything. Have fun out there and don’t forget your rain shell!