Elusive Olives

As I’ve stated previously, I’ve been tying a lot. I’ve had my vise in my truck and have been tying a couple flies here and there, or when I get a little break at work. It’s all been in anticipation of Blue-Winged Olives, which have been somewhat early this year in PA. My focus has been on tying emergers with a CDC loop wing. Early season Olives are known for struggling to take flight so I thought emergers might be a good tactic. Of course, I know that when it comes to my luck, specifically fishing luck, if I go looking for a BWO hatch it won’t happen. I tied a cluster of nymphs as well…just in case.

No, this picture was not staged. Yes, there is trimmed deer hair all over my truck.

I work abnormal hours. Most of my days off are mid-week while the rest of civilization is working away. As a result I usually fish alone. While prepping for this year’s dry fly season I had asked a couple of guys about where to fish for a good shot at BWOs. When I received an invite to tag along with a fellow www.paflyfish.com member I jumped at the chance. I still can’t express enough that not only are most members of PA Fly Fish extremely knowledgeable, they are also very gracious, and a hell of a lot of fun to fish with. This past Saturday was no exception. Aside from all of the tips and pointers I picked up, it was nice to not be talking to myself for a change.

I'm sure that my tandem rig is tangled here.

As our day progressed, it became apparent the BWOs weren’t going to cooperate. We saw a handful of sporadic rises and about two duns floating along. Good thing that I wrapped up those nymph patterns. We ended up drifting all sorts of sub-surface flies and had a decent bit of success. My go to set up was a size 20 olive or black zebra midge with a clear glass bead head trailed off of a bead head olive nymph tied on a size 16 hook. Most fish took the little zebra midge. As our day was wrapping up, we were working through our last pool, I had a big take. Several minutes later we landed a 23″ rainbow with shoulders and perfect fins to close out the day. The fishing was decent, the company was excellent, and hopefully I’ll get another crack at olives before it’s too late. Upon further review, my luck may not be as poor as I previously assessed.

Beautiful 'bow fell for a size 16 olive nymph.



Not having fished in PA since December I decided to take a ride. I have been tying a lot lately in anticipation of Baetis in March and hadn’t been out. My tying is streaky. Either I don’t touch my vise or I have it on me at all times just in case I get a free minute. Recently it has been the latter. After checking my fly box for progress last Saturday, I determined two things. I couldn’t handle being a production tyer and I needed to fish.

BWO's for March...or maybe sooner.

I headed for a spring fed trickle that had a steep gradient and good cover. The tumbling pockets and small pools had brook trout written all over them. Not being familiar with this stream I didn’t know what to expect but as I initially crossed the run, I saw a lone trout dart for cover. At the end of the day I had hiked more than I actually fished.

Clean and cold.

I had been dying to get out and try my original Diamondback Diamonglass fly rod that I had acquired over the winter. This was my first experience with a fiberglass rod and I’ll admit that they live up to the hype. The Diamondglass has a smooth, willowy action that can’t be hurried but at the same time, isn’t so slow that it’s sloppy. At 7′ 6″ for a 3wt line, it seemed a good choice for this small stream. An advantage of a fiberglass rod on a run like this is that it will load easily with almost no line out and on my walk back upstream, two little native char put a nice bend into it. Not bad for a February day.

If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up...and then selling it to me.

Soft-hackles For Spring

February already. Where does the time go? As the unseasonably warm PA winter marches towards Spring, plans have begun for annual pilgrimages to many of the trout rich streams Pennsylvania has become known for. Anglers, myself included, will be keeping fingers crossed that these trips coincide with the yearly hatches that keep trout looking up. The Hendricksons, Quill Gordons, Sulphurs, Cahills, March Browns, and of course, the Drakes. It is time to start stocking fly boxes.

Call it a new years resolution, but the one style of fly that I’d like to fish more of in 2012 is the venerable soft-hackle. Popularized by the late Sylvester Nemes in America, the soft-hackle, spider, or North Country fly has had a long history in angling. This style was perfected by the people of Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire in the UK while normally fishing for sustenance and not sport. It is quite a killing style even today. The definition I most refer to for a soft-hackle comes from Mike Harding, “…a hook with a slim body of touching turns of old-fashioned silk, and headed with a twist or two of feather from a game bird or farmyard hen.”

This particular example I’ve tied is something that I’ll use for Sulphurs later in Spring. I’ve used elements of the common Partridge and Orange and the more obscure Dotterel Dun. This version is quite basic (less is more) but many variations can be made. Underbodies of silver mylar or fluorescent orange thread will show through the gold silk when wet. A fine wire rib or even a herl thorax can increase it’s effectiveness. Fishing soft-hackles is just one more way to stay in touch with the history of fly fishing, which I find important, and I might even land a trout or two.

Hook: TMC 3769 size 14 (any wet fly or nymph hook will work)

Thread: Pearsall’s Gold #6A (I recommend the real stuff)

Hackle: Whiting dyed dun genetic hen cape

Capture the Pearsall's on top of the hook shank about an eye-length back.


Wrap silk back to the mid-point of the hook point and barb. I use a bobbin holder for the smaller silk spools.


Wrap silk back up to tie in point.

Prepare and tip mount hen hackle.

Only a wrap or two of hackle is needed.

Tie off hackle and trim excess. Build small head and whip fisnish. Cement if you like.

A few finished soft-hackles for Spring.

Thanks as always for reading.