I returned to the river yesterday looking for rising fish, which didn’t happen. What I found were a variety of bugs floating down the river without fish eating them. Most of them were blue wing olives (BWO), a small mayfly that can hatch almost any month of the year. That got me thinking about my fly box and the fact I needed to restock it with my favorite blue wing olive imitations.

BWO and Imitation | www.johnkreft.com

I wrote a post entitled Blue Wing Olives a couple of years ago where I provided more information about the insects and imitations. I encourage you to give it another read.

Here is a good image of a blue wing olive or Baetis.

Baetis | www.johnkreft.com

And a few flies I use frequently to imitate the hatching BWOs.

Improved Sparkle Dun – BWO

Improved Sparkle Dun BWO | www.johnkreft.com

The Improved Sparkle Dun – BWO is a standby in my fly box. I pull it out often and knot it onto my leader.

RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple – BWO

RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple BWO | www.johnkreft.com

I developed the RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple – BWO to imitate the transitional style of flies. I don’t fish it like a normal soft hackle fly. Rather, I fish it as a dry fly. A little Frog’s Fanny floatant keeps it on the surface. Many flies floating down the river have wings stuck in the surface film and I believe my fly does a pretty good job imitating the profile of a wing stuck on the water.

BWO on Water | www.johnkreft.com

Here is another transitional fly I like…the CDC & Biot.

BWO CDC & Biot | www.johnkreft.com
BWO CDC & Biot

Lastly, here is a new fly I’ve tried recently. It’s a BWO Klinkhåmer Variant.

BWO Klinkhamer Variant | www.johnkreft.com

I gave one to a friend who caught a fish with it, but I’m still waiting for my first strike. I think it looks like a fish-catcher, but time will tell.

These are a few of my favorite blue wing olive imitations. Tie them in sizes 16 – 20 (or smaller) and you’ll end up with a few very effective flies to fool fish. For more ideas, check out the Mayflies fly pattern page.

If you plan to be out on the water, be sure to have a few favorite blue wing olive imitations in your fly box.

Enjoy…go fish!


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  1. I was on the Delaware west branch and Willowemac last week and had good success with a #20 soft hackle baetis emerger fished in the film. This fly almost always produces fish.

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