Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Blue-winged Olives, Stoneflies and Rising Trout

Last weekend, 3/14 & 3/15, we managed to fish both days.  Saturday in Pennsylvania with a couple of friends, and that Sunday by myself on the South Branch of the Raritan River.  

Both days were typical late winter early spring days; cool, breezy and a mix of bright sun and clouds.  The river on Saturday was crystal clear and slightly lower than normal.  Blue-winged olives hatched in pulses, and tiny midges danced in the air and in the leeward sides of rocks and trees.  Trout rose in  tempo with the insect activity, and after carefullt watching the rises it was apparent that some of the trout were taking the olives, and others were gently sipping in the tiny midges.  The olives were a size 18, and the midges were generously 1/8 inch in length with slender black bodies and clear wisps of wings. It always amazes me that these minute insects have all the parts necessary to create energy to move their legs and also their wings to fly.

As I usually do, I wandered off upstream from the others and found one of my favorite runs with rising fish and free of anglers.  As we had seen in the runs downstream, some of the fish rose to the olives, and others sipped in the midges leaving only a couple of subtle rings as evidence.  Took a few small wild browns on a size #20 simple snowshoe emerger before the rise tailed off and the sun went below the hills.

On that Sunday I fished close to home, and while the PA stream was a limestone creek, the South Branch is a freestone stream that has an abundance of stoneflies along with mayflies and caddisflies.  I got to the stream mid afternoon, and initially I didn't see many insects in the air or on the water.  So I started out throwing a black woolley bugger at the opposite bank and stripping it back through likely holding water.  I got a few chases and bumps but no hook ups.

Around four o'clock the sun had come out in full force and with that the little black stoneflies appeared.  The females skittered and dropped down to the water to lay their and the trout began to chase them on top.  The breeze helped out to by knocking the clumsy fliers onto the water surface where many struggled before being eaten.  I put on a #14 dark gray caribou caddis and using my 10' 3wt rod and a long leader of 10 feet, I skittered the fly where trout were taking the naturals.  I think it took two casts before I took a stocked holdover rainbow of about 12 inches.

By the time I had to get off the water, I had caught a bunch of stocked rainbows, and one brown of about 10-11 inches, all on this one fly.

Sharpen your hooks and keep your distance.

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