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How to Tie Ed Engle’s Bubble Wing BWO Emerger

Producer: Tim Flagler

This is Ed Engle’s Bubble Wing Blue Winged Olive Emerger. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past couple of decades and don’t know who Ed Engle is, you’re seriously missing out. Ed quite literally wrote the book on tying small flies and one of them on fishing them as well, both are must-reads.

Ed: The fly’s called a Bubble Wing Blue Winged Olive Emerger and it’s made out of pheasant tail, so you could call it a Bubble Wing Blue Winged Olive Pheasant Tail Emerger or you can just call it a Bubble Wing Blue Winged Olive Emerger.

A few years ago, Ed’s friend Bruce Ashley shot this remarkable photo of baetis nymphs in various stages of emergence, sampled from a river in California.

Ed: These were blue winged olives, a little bit larger than some, maybe they were sized 16’s, and the blue winged olive on the bottom, the wing was just beginning to pop out and he said it looked like a little sphere and it deflated a little in the photo but I immediately understood why Swisher and Richards were tying that floating nymph because they’d obviously seen this before, and I modified it a little bit with that silver lined clasp bead which is a little brighter and would stand out, and it’s worked well.

Here, Ed’s going to tie the pattern on a size 18 TMC 2488 but ties it on other sizes as well.

Ed: Typically I’ll tie this fly down to size 22. If you’re going to do that, you want the bead to be in proportion and you’d have to go to an extra-small silver lined bead. You can also tie it up – tie it in larger sizes up to a 14.

After getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of his tying vise, Ed loads a bobbin with a spool of black 10/0 Gudebrod. Feel free to substitute here as this stuff is now difficult to find. Get your thread started on the hook shank immediately behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping off the tag.

Ed’s tried many different materials but finds unwaxed dental floss to be ideal for first holding then securing small-sized, silver lined glass Killer Caddis beads. A 10” length, knotted at one end, can be used to attach 5 or 6 beads. Pull one bead from the group toward the free end of the floss and then fold the floss over leaving a small loop holding the bead. Place the loop and the bead on top of the hook shank with the front edge of the bead aligned with the back edge of the hook eye. Start taking thread wraps to secure the assembly to the top of the hook shank. Initially it’ll want to rotate but just keep binding it down with tight wraps and it will eventually stop. You can then reach in with your tying scissors and snip the excess floss off close. Continue taking thread wraps a little ways down into the hook bend.

The tail and body of the fly are formed using four olive colored pheasant tail fibers. While keeping their tips aligned, snip them free from the stem. Lay the fibers against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure and carry them to the top of the hook shank.

Small copper wire is used to rib the fly. It adds segmentation and helps to protect the delicate pheasant tail below. Secure the wire to the near side of the hook with tight wraps of tying thread then continue taking wraps down to the base of the tail. Pull the pheasant tail fibers back and bind them down as well. You can then advance your tying thread up the shank to behind the bead.

Start making touching wraps with the pheasant tail to build up the abdomen of the fly. Leaving some space behind the bead, anchor the pheasant tail with a few turns of tying thread before advancing the thread to in front of the bead. Really get the fibers locked down before returning your thread to behind the bead.

Get hold of the copper wire and start making counter wraps with it over top of the pheasant tail. When you reach your tying thread, use it to anchor the wire then helicopter the wire to break it off close.

Peacock-colored ice dub is used for the thorax of the fly. A small wisp is all you need. After building up a short thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread, use it to develop the fly’s thorax, first behind then in front of the bead. Pull all 4 pheasant tail fibers back and use wraps of tying thread to keep them in that swept-back position. Do a couple of 3 or 4 turn whip finishes, seat the knot well and snip your tying thread free.

Pull the pheasant tail fibers back once again and snip them off to form short, little legs that angle back. And that’s Ed Engle’s Bubble Wing Blue Winged Olive Emerger.

Ed: The way I most often fish this fly is I’ll use some sort of dry fly, typically some sort of blue winged olive dun imitation because what’s happening is all the energy’s toward the surface of the water when you fish this and then I’ll tie a section of tippet material maybe anywhere from 8 to 15” behind the dun, behind the dry fly and that’s where I’ll put this fly and this fly will sink a little, you don’t see it, so I use that dry fly as a strike indicator and you also catch fish on it.

Ed: The other way you can fish this is, you can fish it as a dropper fly, if you’re doing an anchor fly in a nymphing rig you could put it as a dropper fly, or you can put it as a point fly and put weight on the leader maybe if you’re fishing with a strike indicator it works that way too. But my favorite way to fish it near the surface behind a dun.