The Spring Trout Primer

Midges and Baetis Baby!

It happens every year -- Spring finally comes, the fish get a move-on and remember how to really put on the feedbag. I'm not talking polite midge-sipping, I'm talking full-on Joey Chestnut bug-eating contests. 

Around these parts, the first sign is the emergence of the buffalo midges. These are plump juicy morsels that run up to legit size #16's in some cases.

midge fly

The great thing about these "big" midges is that the fish is that you can leave behind the size #24 flies and tie on something you can actually see. As referenced in the previous midge link, my overall favorite pattern for both the smaller and bigger sized midges is the "Foamerger". It's especially effective because it covers the buffaloes as well as the first showing of Baetis. Not sure exactly why, but early on in the baetis hatch, the fish will choose my foamergers usually 2 to 1 over a well-tied baetis dun pattern -- even in a thick emergence of the natural mayflies.

foamerger midge emerger fly pattern

Here's a quick video on how to tie them.

Rounding up the midge front, you can of course use Cheech's popular Bunny Midge in larger sizes and the Orange Asher also becomes a great pattern as well. I've had many a day on the water where the Orange Asher will literally move fish several feet away to come up and pluck it off the surface. 

orange asher midge cluster fly pattern

Moving onto the Baetis/Blue Winged Olive (mayfly)... favorite time to fish this hatch is in the early stages before either the fish or the hoards of DFO (dry fly only) dudes have clued into what's going on.
baetis blue winged olive fly pattern BWO

By far, my most successful outings with dries and emergers is well before the main hatch becomes very consistent -- which can be tough, because it's hit or miss as to whether I'll see any surface action. Remember that the bugs get moving far in advance of when you see fish start to snack on them up top. In many cases, you need only drop a nymph or emerger as a dropper from a dry fly and you will be into fish fast and heavy in the hours leading up to the actual "hatch". No need to dredge the bottom of the river here. The fish are used to seeing the bugs on the move and will often actively feed throughout the water column as more and more insects poke their heads out of hiding and move around. Patterns such as the RS2, Barr Emerger or any other nymph or emerger should do the trick. Make sure you match the size and color of the naturals for best results. I like beadheads, personally, and something with a hot-spot can be a differentiator. This is an example of that style of pattern:

Finally, we get to dry flies. You'll find no shortage of good adult mayfly patterns out there. From the simple parachute style pattern to a couple of others that have proven very effective for us (below). I find it effective to fish the dries with a dropper. When the fish are really keying in on the adults, look for cripple style patterns to distinguish yours from the naturals (see the Fripple) and often times suspending a small unweighted dropper that can hang in and around the surface film can also be effective. Softies are good for this.  Either way it's a great time to be out on the water. Enjoy!!

parachute baetis blue winged olive
Biot Parachute Baetis
fripple bwo blue winged olive fly pattern
Ext Body Fripple

Real Mayfly blue winged olive bwo baetis dry fly pattern
The "Real" Mayfly

And a video tutorial for the Real Mayfly: