The Smurf Emerger
For the past few months we have focused our attention on large streamer or steelhead patterns. Partly because steelhead fishing has been less than stellar, perhaps it is time to begin focusing on trout patterns again. This month we will be looking at a small mayfly that is so widespread we should be able to put it to good use on almost any northwest stream or river.
At our March Fly Tying Night we will be tying up a blue wing olive emerger pattern called The Smurf Emerger. Credit for this creation goes to John Smeraglio of The Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop in Maupin. When John last spoke at our meeting in April of last year he gave us the details of the fly, including the recipe. It has few materials and is an easy pattern to tie, as long as you have good eyesight or have some kind of magnifiers for the smaller sizes. Club member Lane Hoffman has shared with me that it is an easy to tie pattern and is very effective, especially in the smaller sizes.
First, a little background about Blue Wing Olives. Mayflies come in a great number of of sizes and colors, with around 2500 species worldwide, and about 700 species in North America alone.They can be divided into four major groups based on the behavior of the nymph stage of each species: the Swimmers, the Crawlers, the Clingers, and the Burrowers. The Blue Wing Olives, or BWO’s as they are known affectionately by flyfishers, fall into the Swimmer category of mayflies. This is important to flyfishers because the nymphs use their tails to help them swim around and that frequently carries them out into moving water where they can be easily taken by trout.
Blue Wing Olive is a common name for a large group of mayflies within the Baetis family, made up of over 150 species. They are present in all kinds of waters and it would be difficult for a flyfisher to collect aquatic life samples by screening any stream or river without collecting some BWO’s. Individuals of all species exhibit similar looks and behavior, with small differences that would be important only to an entomologist (insect geek), but not to the average angler. And the name itself for the BWO group can be confusing at times to the angler because not all mayflies that fall into the blue wing olive category have blue tinted wings or olive colored bodies.
On our western rivers we can find BWO’s hatching strongly from September through April, but extending through the end of spring. Along with midges, the BWO’s are the flies that the trout fishers can rely on during the colder months of the year. If you are seeing mayflies size 16 or smaller chances are they are some variety of blue wing olive. Pheasant tails and hare’s ears are good nymph imitations. Baetis cripples, CDC cripples, and soft hackles, along with the Smurf Emerger are good BWO emerger patterns. The adult BWO is well matched by Sparkle Duns, Comparaduns, and Parachute Baetis patterns.
The emergers can be presented just as you would a dry fly, although the emerger may rest just under the surface film. You can cast upstream and let it dead drift past you and finish the cast by letting it swing across the current. I have had decent success in some waters fishing the emerger as a dropper off a dry fly or even off a nymph. Moderate to slower moving water, including eddies are good places to fish BWO patterns. And don’t forget those foam lines which seem to concentrate the insects, and therefore also concentrate the fish.
Fishing BWO imitations may appeal to many of you because it doesn’t require you to get up early and you don’t have to fish until dark. The peak time for BWO hatches is mid-day through early afternoon. And curiously, the best BWO hatches seem to be on overcast or drizzly days.
When trying to match a blue wing olive hatch, the size of the patterns is critical. BWO’s get up to size 16 at the most, and the majority are 18’s and 20’s, with some species being 22’s. The smaller sizes can be challenging but you should have a variety of sizes in your flybox. Whether it is a nymph, emerger or adult, start tying the 16’s and work your way down as you master the process. Finer thread sizes will make the tying of smaller flies less frustrating and you will be happier with your finished product. I have become fond of Veevus 14/0 thread.
Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, March 28 for our next Fly Tying Night. We’ll be meeting at 6:00 pm sharp to tie up some of John Smeraglio’s Smurf Emergers. Hope to see you there!