The Blue Winged Olive may appear deceptively small and unimpressive, but it’s a classic dry fly that has stood the test of time. Popular among fly fishers across the country and further afield, this little fly imitates the Baetis mayfly.
Want to find out more about how to tie and fish the Blue Winged Olive? Our Fly Fisher Pro detailed guide has all the info you need to know about the Blue Winged Olive pattern!
What Is a Blue Winged Olive Fly?
The Blue Winged Olive (BWO) cleverly imitates the Baetis family of mayflies, with an olive-colored body and wings in shades of dun or blue.
It’s a small but important fly that rides high in the water and is extremely tempting to trout and other fish. In fact, the BWO deserves a spot in every fly angler’s fly box due to its versatility and reliability.
What Is a Blue Winged Olive Hatch?
A Blue Winged Olive hatch refers to when the Baetis mayfly is hatching in large numbers. The trout go crazy for these emerging mayflies as they rise up through the water column.
They may even refuse to eat anything else and will selectively eat just these insects during the hatch. This means that it’s an excellent time to crack out your Blue Winged Olive patterns, tie them on, and catch some fish.
The Baetis mayfly tends to hatch during the warmest parts of the day, between 10 am and 3 pm. It’s not always easy to tell when a Blue Winged Olive hatch will occur, but it is mainly triggered by the water temperature and barometric pressure.
See also our post on Barometric Pressure and Fishing to understand how barometric pressure affects fishing.
Most hatches happen when the water is between 40-44 degrees F. If you are fishing during a mayfly hatch, you won’t go wrong with your Blue Winged Olive patterns and will take home an impressive haul.
Where To Fish the Blue Winged Olive?
The Baetis mayfly is found in streams, creeks, rivers, and lakes all over the US and even worldwide, so it’s not hard to find a suitable spot. Just set up your fly rods, fly reels, fly lines, and tie on a Blue Winged Olive, and you’re all set.
Blue Winged Olive flies perform well on fast-flowing, choppy water. If you’re heading out to a riffly, lively stream or river and want a fly that will ride high on the water, the Blue Winged Olive makes an ideal choice.
You can fish the Blue Winged Olive all throughout the trout season so long as it’s not icy where you live. Many fly fishermen use the Baetis pattern from September through to April. They perform excellently on any trout stream in the country and are dependable flies to take on trips further afield, too.
Blue Winged Olive: Materials
- Hook: Standard dry fly hook
- Thread: Ultra Thread in 70 Denier – Olive
- Wings: Hackle tips in dun
- Tail: Hackle Fibers in blue dun
- Abdomen: Dubbing in a shade that matches the local mayflies
- Hackle: Saddle Hackle / Dun Neck
How To Tie a Blue Wing Olive
Tying your own dry flies is very rewarding, and it’s never too later to get started. When you tie your own flies, you’ll take your fly fishing experience to the next level. There’s nothing like catching a whopper of a fish with a fly you tied yourself.
To get started, you’ll need some fly tying materials. You can get some great fly tying materials sets that include all the tools and accessories you will need – buy online or check out your nearest fly shop.
You can choose to buy your tools individually, but you’ll spend more money when you buy each item separately. For basic fly tying, you’ll need fly tying scissors, a bobbin holder, hackle pliers, and a whip finish too. You’ll also need a vise to hold your hooks secure while you work.
There are some great fly tying videos online which are very helpful when you’re just getting started or tackling a new pattern. Here’s a helpful and easy to follow video tutorial for tying the Blue Winged Olive fly:
If you want to tie your own Blue Winged Olive flies for fly fishing, you can tie them in any size from 14 – 22. It’s fun to experiment with different thread shades and colors, and you can vary the body color according to the seasons.
Baetis tend to have a darker olive body in the spring and a lighter olive shade during the summer months. You can even try tying some BWO flies with grey bodies for fall fly fishing.
Check out our recommendations for the best fly tying kit if you’re looking to get started here.
How To Fish Blue Winged Olives
When you’re fly fishing a Blue Winged Olive, success lies in reading the water, making an accurate cast, and then achieving a natural drift. Ideally, you want to get your Blue Winged Olive very close to the trout and then just drift it gently and naturally past.
During a mayfly hatch, it’s essential to select the right size Blue Winged Olives to fish. When there’s so much forage available for the trout, they are very fussy and selective.
Fly fishing with the right size of fly will make all the difference in the number of fish you catch. Our top tip is to take a range of different size Blue Winged Olives with you on fly fishing trips, so you’re prepared for every possible situation.
You’ll also need to make repeated, precise casts and then aim to slowly drift your Baetis dry flies past any lurking trout looking for an easy and tasty bite. It’s commonly known that trout like to conserve their energy, so they won’t move further than they have to – especially when there are emerging mayflies in abundance.
Perfecting your cast and presentation is critical here, or the trout just won’t be interested. They can quickly spot an artificial fly if your presentation is lacking, and will steer clear. Spend some time working on the accuracy of your cast and a lifelike, natural presentation, and you’ll catch way more fish.
When do you get a strike, take care not to set your hook too quickly, or you will risk losing the fish. Allow yourself a little bit more time before you haul that fish in, tricky as it may be, and you won’t regret it!
The Wrap Up
So there you have our complete guide to the Blue Winged Olive pattern. The Blue Winged Olive is a popular among many anglers, and it’s a reliable choice to take on your fly fishing trips anywhere in the US. The Baetis mayfly is found all over, and this fly pattern will be sure to bring you plenty of success.
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