If Mayfly fishing has earned the name ‘Duffers Fortnight’ owing to the ease at which the trout can be caught then the lake Olives are definitely at the other end of the spectrum. It can be the most frustrating time of the year when this fly starts to hatch the trout tend to become fixated on a particular stage of the cycle and will, for the most part, ignore anything else. There is nothing easy about fishing the Olives there is however a great sense of satisfaction to be had when you get them right.
There are three methods in which we can target the Olive feeders, Wets, Dries or Nymphing. It is by being able to resort to any of these styles that will increase your odds of success. There is no doubt that over the last number of years, Dries and Nymphing have increased in popularity and increased the success rate. You cannot, however, forsake the Wets, they have been catching fish during olive hatches for well over 100 years and still do. So, with this in mind, I am writing this piece to show my approach to this traditional method.
The lake Olive is the second major hatch of the year that occurs on our Loughs here. It has brought about it a rich tradition in methods and flies down through the generations! They have generated a rich heritage in Irish Fly Fishing, classic patterns such as the Golden Olive, Sooty Olive, Cock Robin were all created to imitate the lake Olive.
This dainty little fly, a member of the Ephemera family is a beautiful creature. As a rule, it hatches anytime from mid-April right through till the end of May. It is not as big as its cousin, the Mayfly, so to represent it we stick to size 12s, occasionally size 10s. Its coloration, while olive in the main, shades can vary greatly. This can be down to the area from where they are hatching and also to the light levels on the day. They also tend to prefer to hatch on darker days.
Generally, the lake Olives are peculiar to ground where there is a silty bottom with vegetation and while that will narrow your search for the spots down a wee bit there are still vast areas on the loughs that will hold them. Local knowledge, as always will play a part in finding these places but don’t forsake nature, always be on the lookout for birds. I know some people don’t like seagulls but I love them because they love lake Olives! When you see a number of Seagulls hovering over the water at this time of the year the chances are they are on to a hatch of fly. An individual lake Olive won’t sustain a gull but a large hatch of them will.
I have observed the nymphs on their journey up through the water table, their ascent is marked by sporadic bursts of swimming with short rest intervals and then just near the surface they take a longer than normal rest and then make the final burst to break through the surface to become adults. It is when the trout are locked into this stage of their cycle that the wet fly method scores best.
My favoured line is the Airflo 6th sense slow intermediate as I find this fishes just subsurface on a slow to medium retrieve. If the day is windier and the boat moving faster, I may switch to the fast intermediate version. Three fly cast on standard 3x Masterclass copolymer and I always like to fish the bumble type pattern on the top dropper as this can represent the hatching dun perfectly when drawing it up through the wave. My go-to team of three would be, Burkinshaw bumble on the bob, Red Ribbed Sooty on the middle and the classic Cock Robin on the point.
I think what opened my eyes to our traditional wet fly style of fishing and its versatility was up in Durness in Scotland a couple of years ago. My buddy Kevin Kerrigan and I were fishing the famous Limestone Lochs for a couple of days. One day while tackling up to go afloat on Borroleidh Loch we saw a number of gulls working just above the water’s surface. When we got out on the Loch, we could see there was a great hatch of lake Olives. Switching to our traditional Irish patterns the response was immediate! Once we pulled our wets over rising fish they hit us with aplomb and we had an amazing day’s action with some cracking wild browns. The age-old Irish method worked well for the Scottish cousins.