Big Bear’s Baetis Nymph

Editors Note: This article was written by Gary Hitterman of Casa Grande, Arizona. Gary is one of the finest fly tyers in the country

The holiday season is over and there is now free time in the evening to tie some flies. I look at all of my fly boxes and I’m determined to refill all the empty and near-empty compartments before spring. As I look at the patterns I reminisce about some of the flies that friends have shared with me over the years. In one box I see a Baetis nymph that catches my eye. My good friend Bear Goode shared this pattern with me several years ago on the San Juan River in northern New Mexico.

I have known Bear Goode for more than two decades. I first met him when he was a young guide on the San Juan River. Today he is the senior guide for the Float n Fish Fly Shop. On one trip I arrived in the darkness before dawn to wait for the shop to open. Bear was already at the shop getting his drift boat ready for the day’s float down the river. I helped him with the boat to this truck, then we chatted for a while waiting for his clients to arrive. Bear pulled out a fly box from his shirt, picked out a small nymph and handed it to me. He said that this was the pattern that I should use before the blue-winged olives appeared. He handed me a a few of the patterns to take with me that day. To repay Bear I asked him meet me at the Sportsman Inn that evening for dinner.

Bear’s clients arrived and he greeted them. I wished them well, hopped in the truck and drove along the river to the Church Parking Lot. I gathered my gear and walked along one of the dirt paths to the river to start my day’s adventure.
When I first started I drifted the Bear Baetis Nymph near the bottom. When the nymphs grew more active I drifted the tiny nymph 12 to 18 inches off the bottom. I even had success later using the nymph when I tied it a foot below a dry fly.

At dinner that evening I told Bear how well the tiny nymph had worked just before the hatch. I asked him how and why he came up with this great pattern. He related that the Baetis nymphs on the river have a body that is dark on the back and lighter on the belly. Many other mayfly species also exhibit this same color difference. He first tried to recreate this two tone body by weaving it on a size 20 hook. But, all his attempts left the body too bulky. Bear then went back to a simpler design. He used some cream thread for the light underbody and a few pheasants tail fibers for the tail and the dark upper body of the nymph. He made a darkened thorax by using dark brown thread. Bear uses black antron for the wing case and legs. The combination he used resulted in a more slender body and the proper coloration to adequately copy the natural.

Next time you expect a little blue-winged olive hatch be prepared to fish the nymph ahead of the emergence. Try the Bear Baetis Nymph for some productive, exciting fishing.

Big Bear Baetis Nymph

Hook: Nymph hook, size 18-24
Thread: 6/0 for 18-20 hooks and 8/0 for size 22 and smaller<
Tail: Pheasant tail fibers
Overbody: Pheasant tail fibers
Underbody: Cream thread
Wing Case: Black antron yarn (18 to 24 fibers)
Thorax: Dark Brown thread or fine dubbing
Legs: Black antron fibers

1. Tie in the cream thread and wind it on the entire shank stopping just above the barb of the hook.

2. Get five or six pheasant tail fibers. Make certain that the tips are even and tie in with two loose wraps of thread. Make the tail longer than it should be and make certain the fibers stay on top of the shank. Pull the fibers so the tails are about one fourth the length of the shank of the hook. Make a third tight wrap to hold the pheasant tail fibers in place.

3. Lift the pheasant tail fibers up and out of the way.. Advance the thread forward 4 wraps, with each thread wrap touching the one beside it.

4. Now pull the pheasant tail fibers forward and on top of the 4 thread wraps you just made. Take two turns of your tying thread around the pheasant tail fibers and the shank of the hook to secure. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you reach the middle of the hook shank.

5. Trim off the excess pheasant tail

6. Wind the tying thread forward almost to the eye of the hook. Tie in some black antron ( a two-inch piece) by the tips and wrap thread back over the yarn to the point where the pheasant tail body ends. Tie of and cut the cream thread that you’ve been using and replace it with dark brown tying thread. Cover the front of the hook with the dark brown tying thread.

7. Pull the antron yearn over top of the dark brown thread and tie in just behind the eye.

8. Don’t cut the excess antron. You’ll now split that yarn into two equal parts to form the legs. Keep the legs (now divided) on either side of the thorax. Trim the antron so the legs are about one half the length of the shank.


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