Pass Lake Callibaetis. (Say Whaaaaaat?)

Once or twice a year a friend or customer tells me they encountered a big hatch of Callibaetis mayflies on Pass Lake. I’ve fished Pass Lake a quite frequently for about 15 years now and I’ve often seen Callibaetis, but I’ve never seen numbers of them big enough to stir much interest from me or the fish. I always told them they were almost certainly seeing the big chironomids bombers and that Pass Lake doesn’t get anything beyond a sporadic Callibaetis hatch.

Yesterday, I proved myself wrong.


So I rowed my way to an area of the lake where a PFF customer told me he was catching lots of fish on dry flies (thanks, Paul!). Upon my arrival, I quickly found a couple fish willing to eat my leech fished in about 20 feet of water on a full-sinking line. Before going to this part of the lake, I had fished my favorite haunts with little success. I also noticed on the fish finder that (I’ve installed on my pontoon boat) that the fish were really scattered throughout the lake and also the water column. So, when I arrived at this suggested location, I was happy to see a few more fish and hook a few right away. After about an hour, though, something happened that really got my heart pumping. Like someone hit a light switch, fish started rising like crazy right next to the shore!


The wind was blowing towards the bank where the fish were rising so I immediately started re-rigging my 4-weight from my chironomid/indicator setup to a 10-foot standard trout leader with an adult chironomid dry fly, thinking that the wind was blowing the hatching chironomid adults up close to the bank. With so many fish rising everywhere next to shore, it felt like an hour before I had my dry fly tied on and was ready to cast. With great anticipation I finally had everything ready and I cast the dry fly just a couple feet off the bank. Nothing. I cast again. Nothing. The fish were rising all around my fly.

Hmm… I clearly was not in the zone. So I changed to another chironomid dry fly. This time I could watch a couple fish take a swipe at it but refuse it at the last second. DAMN IT!

After about an hour of fish rising all around my fly, I decided to just row right over the top of the fish to see what they were eating. To my surprise, I could see hatching Callibaetis and Callibaetis nymphal shucks in the surface film.

Right away the fish started rising again once I rowed back away from the bank. I fumbled through various fly boxes and found a single Callibaetis Thorax dry fly. WHAM! Fish-on after only a few seconds. Then another and another fish ate the fly. Unfortunately, I broke the hook off while trying to release a fish so I switched to a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear and began imitating the nymphs, fishing the Hare’s Ear on a floating line and stripping the fly slowly just under the surface. The first cast I watched a big brown swim behind the fly and follow it a foot or two before eating the fly. Over the next hour I released eight fish, almost all of them browns.

Then the hatch ended as quickly as it came.

For the next few hours I went back to the leech and sinking line. I continued to find a few more fish but without any discernible pattern. Most of them, however, were in deep water and seemed to be aimlessly roaming the flat bottom that makes up most of the middle of Pass Lake. Strange.


Overall, in about seven hours I think I landed around 13 fish, lost a few more, and certainly missed a few as well. It was a fun day, both discouraging (that I couldn’t find a consistent pattern) but also thrilling when the fast and furious Callibaetis hatch happened.

If you’re going up to Pass anytime soon, consider taking this fly . I didn’t have any with me and I think they will go nuts for it if you encounter the Pass Lake Callibaetis hatch like I did.

Good Fishing,


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