By the time you read today’s post, I’ll be fishing at East Lake. It will be the first lake I’ve fished this year and I’m hoping for hatching Callibaetis mayflies and rising fish.

In preparation of my trip, I decided to review my own information about Callibaetis mayflies to make sure I have the flies that have proven successful in previous years. Perhaps you saw last year’s post – Early Season Fly Fishing on East Lake.

I hope we see a few of these.

East Lake Brown Trout Close-up |

Or a nice rainbow.

East Lake Rainbow Trout |

Here are my favorite flies I used last year to match the various Callibaetis phases:

RiverKeeper Callibaetis Emerger

RK Callibaetis Emerger |

This is usually the first fly I tie on my leader when I see fish rising. I can’t prove it, but I believe fish key on this phase. The fly is an emerger/cripple pattern.

Fischer’s Callibaetis Cripple.

Callibaetis Cripple |

If the RiverKeeper Callibaetis Emerger doesn’t work, I tie on the Callibaetis Cripple.

Callibaetis Spinner

Callibaetis Spinner |

Spinner fly patterns work when you can see natural spinners on the water. This fly has been effective for me in previous years.

Those are the three flies I used the most. But I plan to carry a Sparkle Dun as well…

Sparkle Dun - Callibaetis|

…and a Callibaetis Hatchmaster

Callibaetis Hatchmaster |

And last, but not least, I’ll have a few Beetle Bailey flies in case the Callibaetis aren’t hatching. I don’t know why, this fly just seems to catch fish!

Beetle Bailey |

For some reason, a Parachute Adams works pretty well to imitate a Callibaetis.

Parachute Adams |

Did you notice these flies are all dry flies? That seems to be what I mostly fish, but nymphs can be effective as well. But if they’re not I will tie on a Callibaetis nymph and slowly strip the fly.

Here is my favorite Callibaetis nymph these days – Fred’s Callibaetis Nymph – Variant:

Fred's Callibaetis Nymph - Variant |

We fished East Lake about this time last year and I was impressed at the prolific Callibaetis hatch. I decided to re-post information about the Callibaetis mayfly life cycle and fly imitations I use to help you lake fly fishers. 

East Lake Callibaetis Spinner |

Callibaetis mayflies are known as the speckled duns because of their mottled wings.

Two wonderful sources for more information about these mayflies are the books Western Mayfly Hatches by Rick Haefle and Dave Hughes along with Arlen Thomason’s BugWater. But here’s my short version from what I’ve read.

Callibaetis mayflies begin as nymphs, swimming around in the lake. The nymphs are fairly good swimmers. Trout see them a lot and become a major part of their diet. Their body color varies between light gray and brown. When it’s time for them to hatch, they swim to the surface and quickly pop out of their nymphal shuck. That’s when the adult (or dun) hatches and flies off the water. This can be a prolific and consistent hatch for several days. Sometimes they get stuck, which is a good time to try cripples. After they hatch, they fly away to the vegetation and wait to become sexually mature. A few hours later, the dun molts a final time and out comes a spinner. This is the phase where the females line up a male to complete the process. The male’s spinner wings are clear, whereas the female spinner wings will have dark blotches on the leading edge.

When do the trout eat them? Well, they eat them during all phases:

  • Nymphs – swimming around as they grow and finally when the nymph swims to the surface to hatch. Find the right zone where the nymphs are and you will have some great fishing.
  • Emergers – sometimes the dun takes it’s time hatching and is vulnerable. You’ll see fish swimming around and rising with a gulp, gulp, gulp. Be careful not to pull the fly out of their mouth! Not that I haven’t…
  • Cripples – are stuck getting out of their nymphal shuck. They struggle to free themselves, but are unable to do so. Cripples are an easy meal for trout.
  • Duns – a newly hatched insect will spend a short time on the water, but not too long. I think this is the least chance of catching fish, but that doesn’t mean I don’t tie on a dun and fish it.
  • Spinners – This can be both exciting and frustrating. There may be hundreds of spinners on the water and ask yourself “why would they eat my bug?” But they do! Just find a fish eating, figure out which direction it’s swimming and put a spinner pattern in front of them and keep your fingers crossed!

Pick your favorite flies and make sure you have them in a couple different sizes. Callibaetis will hatch 2 or three times per year. Each successive hatch is a little bit smaller. In the waters I fish, they’ll start as size 12 and the next flies hatching will be size 14. The third mayflies hatching will probably be size 16. (Depending upon where you fish, the first hatch may be size 14).

Hope you get out soon and check out the Callibaetis mayflies in the lake’s you fish!

Enjoy…go fish!

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