Old-Guy Fly

The Hi-Vis Baetis Parachute.

Spring heralds the first substantial hatch of the year: the baetis (blue-winged olive) mayfly. These little guys hatch prolifically on the Paradise Valley spring creeks, but also in good numbers on the Yellowstone River and other freestone fisheries. The diminutive size of the baetis means it can be difficult to see one’s fly on the water, especially when among the naturals, and particularly for those of us with aging eyes. The solution? Adding a bit of bright fluorescence to the fly, which makes it easier to pick out as it floats downstream. And the trout don’t seem to mind the extra color.

Hook: Daiichi 1180 or TMC 100, standard dry-fly hook, size 16-22
Tail: clump of light-blue dun hackle fibers
Body: olive beaver dubbing
Wing (parachute post): mixture of fluorescent pink and fluorescent yellow Darlon or Antron
Hackle: medium-blue dun
Thread: 8/0 olive Uni thread 

This is a relatively easy fly to tie, with probably the most difficult step being the wrapping of the parachute-style hackle. The most common error is to dub the body too heavily; try to keep a slender profile, with just a slight taper as you move toward the head. 

1. Begin by covering the entire hook shank with a layer of 8/0 olive Uni thread.
2. Wind the thread to the hook bend and tie-in a small clump of light-blue dun hackle fibers that have been measured to be the same length as the hook’s shank.
3. Dub a tapered body with olive beaver dubbing from the tail to approximately two-thirds the length of the hook shank nearest the eye.
4. Tie-in a parachute post of mixed hi-vis colors of Antron or Darlon.
5. Wrap thread around the base of the post, extending slightly up it, to form a base for winding the parachute hackle. Measure a blue dun hackle feather by bending it around the post, making sure that the hackle fibers extend one quarter the length of the tail and beyond the hook eye.
6. Strip some fibers from the butt of the hackle feather to expose a clean stem, and tie it alongside the parachute post. Take some more olive beaver dubbing and cover the shank around, and just beyond, the post and hackle stem, making sure to leave a small area of exposed hook shank for finishing the fly.
7. Begin wrapping the hackle feather at the top of the thread wraps on the post and then make four more turns of hackle gradually working your way down the post, toward the hook shank.
8. Lift the parachute hackle fibers near the eye to stop from capturing them with the thread when you finish the fly.
9. Finish the fly by making a small head from several half-hitch knots.

The baetis is a multi-brood mayfly species, hatching again in the fall months. Naturals in the spring brood tend to be bigger, best imitated with a size 18 (or even size 16) fly. But while you’re at the vise, go ahead and tie up some 20s and 22s to imitate the smaller fall baetis.

No complicated fishing instructions are necessary. The key is to get a drag-free drift right over the feeding fish. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? One key is to pick out a single rising fish, rather than “flock shooting” at a group of risers, and to aim your cast a couple of feet above the rise forms. If possible, a downstream-and-across reach-cast can be the most effective in controlling drag.

Ian Gonade works at Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston.