3 Tactics for Fly Fishing Mixed Hatches

RiverBum.comThis weeks Fly Fishing Tip is brought to you by RiverBum.com and Jake Ricks of Utah Fly Guides.

Midges AND Blue Winged Olives – What’s a guy to do?

I was practically giddy yesterday as I got to the river and saw clouds of bugs hovering just over the water. I looked closely and saw that it was both midges and blue winged olives hatching at once. This situation can present something of a problem because sometimes one fish will key on one type of fly while the very next fish you see rising may be eating the other. Admittedly, it was a great “problem” to have. Occasionally though, you may find that a third and even a fourth type of fly may even be hatching together. This can further complicate your approach.

Here are 3 things to try if you encounter this fortunate yet tricky situation:

1. Fishing Tandem Flies

Tie on 2 or even 3 (where legal) dry flies at the same time. Yesterday I found this rig to be deadly as I caught fish on both a BWO Comparadun and a Double Midge that were rigged in tandem. Simply tie the larger of the two on first. Then tie on about 18 inches of tippet to the bend of the hook of the first fly and tie the smaller pattern to that tippet.

2. Study Rise Forms

Watch rise forms closely to determine which type of insect the fish are eating. It’s sometimes somewhat difficult to be able to always identify which type of insect the fish ate by the rise form but with some practice you can do it. You can refer back to previous tips or read up elsewhere on identifying rise forms*. Yesterday the splashy rises were for clustered mating midges, the gulps were for mostly adult or crippled blue winged olives, and the really subtle sips were for spent midges accumulating in the slower back eddies. Once you determine what the fish are eating by how they are eating you’ll have a better idea of what fly to try.

3. Go big

This tactic has baffled me a bit over the years, but has made me one happy angler at the same time on several occasions. I don’t know why exactly, but sometimes a fly that’s noticeably bigger than the others will draw strikes from otherwise picky fish. Yesterday my friend proved this by catching several really nice fish on a size 12 Paramerger even though it was much larger than the size 22 and 20 flies that were hatching. His size 20 RS2 tandem fly fished with the big Paramerger also caught fish but probably not as many. Go figure.

Hopefully you encounter even just one hatch the next time you’re out, but if you happen to have more than one type of insect hatching at the same time give these things a try.

Good Luck and Tight Lines!

Jake Ricks
Fly Fishing Professional, Guide, and Author
Utah Fly Guides

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*Books on trout rise forms you might be interested in:
The Rise: Streamside Observations on Trout, Flies And Fly Fishing
In the Ring of the Rise

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About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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