By Steve Smith, Rivers Wild Flies

Spring fishing is upon us. Other than the sporadic midges, the first major hatch to hit the rivers is the Baetis hatch. Properly referred to as “Blue Wing Olives” these mayflies are just that,  blue winged with an olive body.  This small mayfly pops up like little sailboats, mostly on overcast days, creating some great dry fly action. This hatch can bring every fish in the river to the surface for an easy meal. Hungry trout will often feed on the nymphs at the start of the hatch, then move to the surface as more duns emerge. As the hatch progresses, trout will move into slower riffles and eddies that trap the adult duns.

One of the most overlooked stages is the “cripple” or “emerging” stage. This is when mayflies are the most vulnerable. Many never survive the efforts involved in splitting the nymph shuck, crawling out through the surface film, expanding and drying off their wings. The cripple pattern imitates mayflies “stuck” in this stage.

Key features to the cripple pattern include the shuck, biot body and the CDC wing. Antron yarn is used to imitate the shuck that is hanging below the surface. The CDC wing, along with a couple of turns of hackle will actually float the front of the fly, imitating the Blue Wing Olive’s struggling to crawl out on the surface. The body features a goose biot. This produces a neat, segmented body with small ridges similar to the natural. Since this fly rides low in the water it can be difficult to see, especially in a riffle. I recommend fishing tandem dry flies in this situation. A parachute BWO trailed by a cripple just might be the right set up. So if you’re lucky enough to experience a Blue Wing Olive hatch, try a cripple.


Any standard dry fly hook 16-22
Thread: 8/0 olive
Tail: Dark olive Antron yarn
Body: Olive oose biot
Dubbing: Fine olive dubbing
Hackle: Dark Dun hackle
Wing: Natural CDC feather