Friday, May 3, 2013

Soft-Hackle Callibaetis Nymph

Soft-Hackle Calibaetis Nymph tied by Steven Bird

Calibaetis Nymph

The speckled dun mayfly (callibaetis), easily identified by its striking speckled wings, is native to the weedier sections of cold-water lakes & ponds, & is sometimes found in the slower sections of rivers, throughout North America. Western waters, & particularly the lakes of the Pacific Northwest, receive the most prolific hatches. Callibaetis patterns are a staple of stillwater anglers in northeastern Washington, my home region.

Adults, when they are showing, are handily imitated with a version of the Adams tied with spread, twin tails of barred mallard or wood duck flank feather fibers, #14 or #16; yet, about 85% of the time, the nymph version gets the nod.

The naturals are strong swimmers, actively flitting & clambering about the weeds, & available to trout year-around, in a variety of sizes, as callibaetis emerge throughout the spring/summer/fall season, so multiple generations are always present. Nymphs, generally 3/8 to ½ inch long at maturity, complete emergence in the surface film. The heaviest hatches I’ve seen have been on mild, overcast days, throughout the day. During hatches heavy enough to get trout going up top, you will notice the rise forms of fish taking the nymph from just below the surface far outnumber the splashy rises of trout chasing duns. Check the stomach contents & you’ll find that trout are eating a far greater proportion of nymphs over winged adults. (I’ve found this to be mostly true of just about all hatches, all species, anywhere.)

When callibaetis are hatching & trout are visibly feeding on top, I’ll fish a 12’ leader with fluoro tippet, grease the leader except for the last foot or so, & fish it dead or with short twitches. Most often I’ll see the take, but if not, there is an exciting tell-tale line wake to act as indicator a happy occurrence is on the hook.

While many are suspending midge larva under bobbers, I’m often fishing a callibaetis nymph. Barring those times when trout are definitely showing a preference for the midge, I think the callibaetis nymph brings a better grade of fish, on average. For fishing the water, most often, I use a floating line tipped with a 15 to 18 foot fluorocarbon leader dressed with a sink compound & count it down until I find the zone, then fish it with short twitches interspersed with long, slow pulls & pauses.

Natural coloration tends toward shades of olive, olive/brown – though checking out the considerable & varied renditions of the nymph in the spectrum of colorations offered by creative fly tiers can be a source of confusion to those anglers who haven’t seen the actual nymphs inhabiting their homewater. You wonder: ‘just what the hell color are they anyway?’ The usual creative fancy aside, the broad array of variations is probably due, mainly, to the fact that the naturals themselves vary in coloration, depending on locality. But it’s not a big problem, really. You might keep a fish for a nice trout supper, clean it as promptly as possible in hopes of finding callibaetis in the stomach still undigested enough to give you a clue as to coloration, or, you might purchase a large aquarium net (which you should have for nymph sampling anyway) lash it to the end of something like a broom handle, poke it down & swipe it through the weeds in about 4 to 6 feet of water. That should get you some samples – & no doubt some other interesting critters as well. But for those who just want to go fishing I’ll offer this: You really can’t go wrong with an olive callibaetis nymph imitation, most locations. Here’s one I call the Eastside Callibaetis, because it works so well on the eastern Washington lakes I fish.

Eastside Callibaetis

Hook: #12-#14 – the one pictured is tied on a Mustad 3906B Ex. long shank hook – the TMC 200R in #14-#16 is also a good choice, particularly if a lighter imitation is desired for fishing on top

Thread: Olive or camel

Tail: 5 or 6 fibers from a dyed olive or natural bronze mallard flank feather, about the same length as the body

Abdomen: Olive, vinyl tubing – I use the Hareline Dubbin/Standard Tubing/Light Olive – wound over the rear 2/3 of the hook shank – which produces a nice medium/dark olive when wound over darker thread (the abdomens of naturals are fairly long in profile)

Thorax: Peacock herl

Hackle: One turn of olive dyed grizzly hen hackle, stripped on one side (best to keep the hackle sparse on these, I’m convinced)

Head: Mix a pinch of olive hares ear or chopped antron fibers with black hares ear to achieve a black with greenish highlights – twist-dub & wind several turns in front of the hackle – & finish

Flyfish the Upper Columbia/NE Washington with Steven Bird:   

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