This diminutive offering is the blue-winged olive version of “Barr’s Emerger”, invented by John Barr in the mid-70’s.
For a hook, I’m going to use a Dai-Riki #125 in size 22 but even 24’s are fairly easy to tie. Start by mashing the barb and getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.
For thread, I’m going to try something new and go with Veevus 16/0 in a dark brown. Its small diameter allows it to grip tying materials really well and, at the same time, not add too much bulk. Start your thread on the hookshank behind the hook eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.
For the fly’s tail, really a trailing shuck, you can use just about any feather with thin, brown or ginger colored fibers. Here, I’m using a large brown hackle feather from a dry fly neck. While keeping their tips roughly aligned, strip 8 or so fibers free from the stem. Snipping the curlies off keeps them from causing problems during tie-in. Place the butt ends of the fibers on top of the hook shank and take a couple of thread wraps to secure them. Don’t worry about how long the fibers are as they’ll be trimmed later. Continue taking thread wraps to bind the fibers to the top of the hook shank, well down into the bend. Then, advance your tying thread forward to halfway between the hook point and the barb. Use your scissors to snip the hackle fibers off so they’re approximately a hook gap in length.
I like beaver dubbing for the body of the fly because it’s so fine, here, I’m using olive. You only need the smallest of pinches. If there’re any guard hairs in the mix, strip them out before you begin dubbing. It’s really quite easy to do. Dub the thinnest of noodles on your tying thread, it need only be about 1 1/4” long. Start taking wraps with the noodle so the dubbing begins right at the base of the trailing shuck, then continue taking wraps forward up the hook shank to build a tapered body on the fly. Don’t worry if the dubbing extends into the thorax area, you can take care of that later. Just make sure to end with your tying thread at the hook point.
Although not essential, a strand of flashabou is often used to give the fly a little shimmer. Snip a single strand free from the hank. Tie the flashabou in on top of the shank, securing it all the way to behind the hook eye. Once it’s locked down well, snip the excess off close.
For the wing case and legs, I like wood duck. Rather than waste a really good feather that can be used for making Catskill-style dry fly wings, I’ll choose one instead that has the distinctive black and white tips, and rarely gets used. After removing the lower, webby nasty stuff, pull down 8-10 fibers and then strip them off. Once again, it’s a good idea to trim away the curlies. Return your tying thread back to the hook point and then secure the butt ends of the wood duck to the top of the shank, almost up to the eye.
For the thorax of the fly, I’ll use natural colored beaver fur. As before, strip out any guard hairs. This time form an even shorter, thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread. Start taking wraps with the noodle so the dubbing begins just back from the hook eye. Continue taking touching wraps rearward, making sure you go all the way back to the hook point before working your way forward once again. With your thread immediately behind the hook eye, fold the wood duck case over and take a thread wrap or two to secure it. Then, pull the flashabou over and lock it down in the same manner. It’s a good idea to fold the flashabou back and take a few wraps over top of it to ensure it won’t pull free. You can then snip the excess off close.
Separate the wood duck butt ends into 2 equal clumps and pull each down either side of the fly. While keeping tension on the fibers, take thread wraps to lock them back in that position. Try not to take too many wraps and build up bulk while doing this. Complete the head of the fly with a short 4 or 5 turn whip finish and then snip or cut your tying thread free. Once again pull the wood duck butts back and trim them off to form legs just slightly longer than the thorax of the fly.
These little guys work incredibly well especially when trout aren’t quite ready to commit to taking high-riding dun imitations. There’s no reason not to carry them year round.