Our Man In Canada
May 2nd, 2005

Callibaetis Mayfly Nymph - Smith's All Natural
By Brian Smith

The early spring hatches of Callibaetis is one of the year's most important to stillwater fly fishers. The keys to successful outings when this prolific species is hatching are learning to anticipate and recognize the signals of mayfly activity, and having a suitable nymph pattern.

An emerging adult dun is recognized by its sudden appearance on the water, joyfully sailing along on the surface breeze for a short distance, then flying off into shoreline vegetation and tree cover from which they emerge to mate. When mating is over, clouds of female spinners engage in a flitting, bouncing dance over the water's surface as they return to deposit their eggs. When they've finished, they drop to the water and die, their wings spread out in spent configuration.

When trout are feeding on duns or spinners on the surface, they provide wonderful dry fly fishing. However, trout feed much more prolifically on the nymphs as they rise through the water column above the shoal, often popping into adulthood while several feet underwater. Consequently, fishing nymphs during the emergence presents a much greater opportunity for lots of action. One of the first signs that there is a major migration of nymphs to the surface is the appearance of the first few duns.

In stillwaters, hatches of Callibaetis, which can be heart stopping, take place in the shallows, usually in less than six feet of water. Therefore, these nymphs are best fished with a floating line. Whether you're fishing from a floating platform or from the shore, it's best to cast into deeper water, then retrieve toward shallower water, using hand-twists of the fly line, interspersed by quick jerks and 10-second pauses, as you lift the fly from deep to shallow water. Strong stillwater hatches of any migrating insect are best fished this way.

Although Callibaetis nymphs are abundant in many colors and sizes, four colors are generally sufficient to handle all situations—olive gray, rusty brown, dark gray and pale gray. Primary feathers dyed olive gray and pale gray, natural goose and rust-colored pheasant swordtail are excellent natural imitators of a nymph's prominent gills. They are also effective for constructing the thorax. Rusty brown and dark gray nymphs work best in brown, tannin stained waters, while pale gray and olive gray are the most effective in clear waters, rich with aquatic life.

Current Issue Canadian Fly Fisher

Mature Callibaetis nymphs possess two important features that cannot be overlooked in representation—a prominent three-pronged tail, and a darkening of the thorax area. The tail is tied one-half the body length with stiff feather hackle or primary biots in the same color used for the body.

When the nymph approaches maturity, the wing case area darkens. This is best represented by a dark, natural fiber, such as peacock herl, which also adds texture and a light reflecting property to the fly.

Dressing flies with natural materials adds another critical ingredient that creates an overall impression of a living insect — tiny air bubbles. Natural materials trap and hold these bubbles more effectively than synthetic materials.

Natural Callibaetis Nymph Recipe:

    Hook: Tiemco 200R, sizes #12 - #16.

    Thread: Brown UTC.

    Tail: 3 pheasant tail fibers.

    Body: 3-4 pheasant tail fibers.

    Wingcase: 3 strands of peacock herl.

    Thorax: 4-5 pheasant tail fibers.

    Legs: Grouse hackle, brown gray phase.

Tying Steps

Step 1: Start tying the thread just behind the hook eye. Choose a rusty brown phase of pheasant sword for the entire nymph pattern. Tie in the tail so that it extends one half of the body length past the bend.

Step 2: Bind body fibers in at the bend, wind them toward the eye of the hook for 2/3 of the shank length, and tie off.

Step 3: Tie in the peacock herls for the wing case at the point where you've tied off the body, followed by the thorax material. Wrap the thorax material up the shank to just behind the eye.

Step 4: Choose a brown phase grouse hackle, spread the fibers, clip the tip from the hackle, leaving 6-8 fibers on each side of the feather. Tie the whole feather on just behind the eye and over the thorax, then spread the fibers to each side of the fly.

Step 5: Fold the wingcase over the thorax and hackle, and bind it down and finish the head. A final touch is to draw the tail fibers gently between your thumbnail and fingertip, which causes them to curve upward. ~ Brian Smith

Credits: This article is from the Canadian Fly Fisher magazine. We appreciate use permission!

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