Airflo and Fishtec online marketing manager Ceri Thomas looks at how to make the most of the blue winged olive spinner fall, an important summer time hatch on UK rivers.
Mid and late summer mark some of the best late evening fishing of the year, when after hatching blue winged olive’s return to the water and lay their eggs. Spent and dying after this reproductive process, the ‘spinner’ stage of this insect becomes trapped in the surface film making them easy prey for river trout.
Imitating this hatch when the fish are ‘locked in’ requires a very specific type of fly, with the correct wing profile and silhouette. Your flies must sit flat in the surface film, or they will be ignored or refused. Get it right though, and the dry fly sport can be spectacular.
The best spinner fly imitations are very simple in design, and tend to have splayed wings at right angles to the body, therefore allowing the flies to sit ‘just right’ in surface film, perfectly imitating the spent insect.
These flies are fairly small, so size 16 to 18 are the best hook sizes. I tend to make them using the excellent Fulling Mill down eye dry fly hooks. Poly yarn, deer hair and CDC can all be used to make buoyant spinner wings. Patterns such as the rusty spinner, sherry spinner and KJ red spinner will all work very well as spinner imitations. You can see a video on how to make the KJ red spinner on the Fishtec blog here.
With the correct flies in your box, you will stand a far better chance of some great sport; however it’s not always a simple case of just turning up and fishing. For your late evening dry fly spinner fishing to be truly effective you need to think about tactics – so I have put together 10 top tips and tactics for fishing the BWO spinner fall productively.
Spinner fall fishing tips & tactics:
1. Pick a long flat pool – Not a turbulent boulder strewn stretch, or very fast riffle water. The ideal ‘spinner water’ is flat and fairly still, with a slow to moderate flow. Here spinners get trapped in the surface film, and it is much easier for trout to spot them and pick them off at their leisure. This sort of water can be rock hard in the day time, but will come to life in the evening. Wading will also tend to be easier in such locations.
2. Know your stretch – Make sure you know your way in, and crucially out of the stretch of river you intend to fish. This is extremely important, as stumbling over a rocky river bed in the dark can be dangerous. You can also plan how much time you should spend working your way upriver to the exit point.
3. Choose a pool where you know there is a good head of fish – The evening rise is short and frantic, so if you hit the wrong section of river you may end up struggling. You won’t have time to move spot. So do your research in advance.
4. Hit the river late – Do not make the mistake of entering the river too early. You could end up spooking your target fish, and putting them down before the rise begins. I tend to begin fishing an hour before sunset. In July/August that is around 8.00 pm.
5. Do not leave the river too early – Fish on as late as you can. Biggest mistake is to pack up as it is getting dark. The height of the rise is almost always as the light finally dies. It is at this point where fish can have a ‘stupid half hour’ and will lose caution – make sure you don’t miss it! You can carry on fishing into the night by making a mental note of where rising fish were in relation to your position, and by simply blind casting at whatever you can hear rising.
6. Pack a head torch – Essential for changing flies, and exiting the river in one piece. Make sure you don’t forget this piece of fishing gear, its vital! The head torch I am using at the moment is the TF Gear night spark from Fishtec, it’s a cracking bit of kit, very bright and fully waterproof.
7. Use a long leader – The flat nature of ‘spinner water’ means a long leader is essential. I like to use as long a leader as I can, usually this is two rod lengths (18-20 foot). I make these by adding an armspan length of tippet (normally 4 -5 foot) to a 15 foot long Airflo tapered mono leader. This means turnover is perfect, with very little chance of spooking the fish with the end of my fly line. The extra leader length also adds more range to your casts.
8. Make accurate casts – Might be an obvious thing to say, but it really matters! Unlike some other hatches, spinner feeding trout will very rarely move far to intercept a fly. They tend to hover just sub surface, with a very small window of often just a few inches across. This means your fly need to land within this window, right on the nose. Sometimes you may think a refusal is down to a fussy fish, but it could be it simply hasn’t seen your fly… So practice your accuracy.
9. Creep up on your fish – As it gets dark you can get much closer to a consistently rising fish. It is better to have that precious ‘one shot’ at close to medium range, rather than a long distance effort where you have a worse chance of a decent hookset, and risk spooking the fish with an imperfect cast. Make every effort to be quiet in the water – a gentle approach with frequent pauses in your movement can really pay off, and allow you to get close enough for a perfect cast.
10. Take care with your tippet diameter – Don’t go too fine! The wing design of spinner fly patterns means they can twist your leader up easily, especially if your tippet is overly thin. This can ruin presentation and cause tangles. Bear in mind that a thicker diameter won’t bother the trout in low light conditions, especially if you de-grease the leader every few casts. For spinner sizes 14 – 18 I tend to use 5X Airflo co-polymer (Typically about 4.0lb BS) this helps combat tippet twist, with added confidence for bullying big fish to the net.