Larger numbers of Baetis have been showing up everyday on the Lower Madison. I spent a few afternoons last week tossing dries to rising fish over there. I usually scan the weather forecast for overcast days where the wind will be minimal. A typical Baetis session for me will involve driving or hiking along the river and stopping along the way at likely areas to check for rising fish. Typically, I look for shallow, weedy flats, foamy eddies, and softer water along the banks where the bugs will start to collect. Depending on the glare, the rising fish can be hard to spot, so I will often just sit and wait for a bit in areas likely to be holding feeding fish. Below are some of my favorite Baetis dry fly imitations that we sell at the shop.
Different daylight situations usually determine what specific color fly I will use. The white post of the Parachute Blue Wing Olive is easier to see in glare situations that make the water appear dark. If the water has a light grey surface tint, I will go with a darker pattern such as the Smoke Jumper Baetis.
I will usually fish dry flies this time of year only if I actually see rising fish. If you are in an area where there are bugs on the water and just aren’t seeing trout heads coming up, consider throwing an emerger pattern. This is especially true if you are seeing sub surface swirls where the tail may be the only part of the fish to break the surface of the water. Swinging soft hackle imitations in this situation is also a good bet. Or try dropping a Baetis nymph of the back of a larger bushy adult pattern utilized as a strike indicator. Below are some of my favorite sub surface Baetis patterns.
I have also personally seen small groups of Baetis fluttering around south of Livingston on the Yellowstone River last week, and a few starting to show up on the Upper Madison River. The hatch is just getting going and should keep all you dry fly junkies satisfied until the caddis come around, so get out there and wet a line!