Early Season Flies – Part One

Ok, I promised a kelvinator I would post the flies that I regularly use on the Kelvin . I pretty much use these same flies on the other rivers I fish as well. I have decided to split the series into three so watch out for the next sections over the coming weeks.

Anyway, the list I will give you in this little series is on no way a complete guide to entomology for that you should read a book or even head over to Pale Watery who gives you a more detailed guide of the main hatches on all the Clyde system and when you can expect them. So….

First Out the River

The first fly you will encounter on the rivers in this fine part of Scotland is the Large Dark Olive (Baëtis rhodani if you want to really impress people on the river bank). It hatches from the beginning of March to roughly May time. Despite its name it is not really a big fly and you will see hatches of it from midday until the middle of the afternoon – you will probably see them between the frequent spring rain showers. They often end up getting blown over making them an easy target for any trout switched on to them.

There are a couple of flies I would use to imitate a LDO however the main one would be a Comparadun.

I was taught how to tie this fly by Alberto Laidlaw. I struggled with it for a few months and eventually perfected it last season. When I say perfected I mean it still looks pretty bad however if it sits ok on the water and catches trout I am happy. The key I was told was to make it bushy. It looks perfect as a large dark olive and it can be tied in a variety of sizes. As far as I am aware these can be bought in the shops.

If you are going to tie your own the ingredients are:

  • Tail – Micro Fibetts
  • Body – Superfine Olive Dubbing
  • Wing – Coastal Deer Hair
  • Thread – Olive (although I sometimes use yellow)

I tie comparaduns in various sizes and with various body colours, for example, golden olive and black.

Incidentally, Alberto is the inventor of the “Gryffe Olive” – another good general olive imitation. Its ingredients are:

  • Tail – Micro Fibetts
  • Body – Hairs EarWing Post – Deer Hair
  • Hackle – I spoke to Alberto on the telephone today and he states a nice Blue Dun is the best. The one in the picture is tied with a golden badger.
  • Thread – Yellow


Alberto states the tail should be “distressed”, in other words split apart using your nail. I generally do this streamside.

Underwater Action

The nymph of the LDO is worth imitating even when there is no hatch and no trout rising – this is because it is an “agile darter”.

You can use a Pheasant Tail Nymph (pictured) to search for the trout feeding amongst weeds or around stones on the river bed. If you have a freaky sixth sense you can use your Zen to detect takes – if you are anyone else you can use an indicator like a piece of yarn or an bushy fly like the comparadun.

The above pheasant tail nymph was tied the traditional way only using copper wire and pheasant tail fibers


The Kelvin has good hatches of Large Dark Olives – I think the earliest I have caught trout on a dry fly was around the start of April. Generally you will notice pockets of trout rising and if you are careful enough you can pick several off before they get spooked.

In Part two I will show some other dry flies for the LDO and another useful nymph.


  1. alan atkins · March 2, 2008

    Another usefull fly for imitation of the large dark olive is the Waterhen Bloa. I have had tremondous success using this fly on the Kelvin and other rievrs i fish. Often, the trout will ignore the dun and will taregt either the emmerger or the crippled and dying flees that don’t make full emmergence. In this situation, either a klinkhammer or waterhenbloa fished damp will be the right medecine. I always tackle early season trout with either nymphs , emmergers or clyde style spiders – magpie tail, teal and black, or hen blackie

  2. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    You beat me to it Alan, my next post will be about emergers…and a couple of patterns to imitate them !

  3. Jim · March 2, 2008

    Damn you Alistair… Now I have to work on updating the entomology section hahahaha

    Great subject for a post, very well thought out and put together.
    I’ll leave out what I use for emergers since you’re doing them next, I do use them more than duns for Dark Olives though. The dun pattern I use is similar to the “Gryffe Olive” in style but has different materials… Dk Dun Microfibbets split, blended Dk Olive/Grey Rabbit or Beaver body, Olive Grizzle Hackle and Grey Roman Moser Dust Fibre wing post. For nymphs I use a dubbed olive Baetis nymph, Hares Ear or Olive Pheasant tail.
    Aint Fishing great, everyone who comments here could leave a different pattern or method that works for them and all of it would travel to work on our own rivers if we fish it with enough confidence… Brilliant. I can see a Gryffe Olive or Waterhen Bloa getting wet on my home river this year.

    Heres hoping the snow passes quick and we get to see the Dark Olives early.

    Thanks Alistair


  4. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Hey Jim,

    I love the diagram on your site with the hatches split into months of the year. It is very clear and concise.

    You may have noticed I dumped my idea of posting the “5 flies” I fish with most often – I realised I have a few more up my sleeve for when those trout are being particulary bloody minded.

    We should swap flies next time we meet – I treasure the bug your pal gave me – it is very lifelike – scares me when I open my box 😉

  5. Jim · March 2, 2008

    Thanks Alistair, it’s very much a “work in progress” area …. like the rest of the site I suppose. Hopefully this year will see a lot of work uploaded, including an improved hatch timetable.
    If you had to I’m sure you could get away with 5 fly types for the season but it’s nice to have a few specials for moody fish and it’s fun to try new ones as well.
    I’m game for a fly swap, got a lot of tying to do so we’ll talk and whatever type you fancy swapping I’ll tie some extras.


  6. Paul Lee · March 2, 2008

    Cheers Alistair great info there looking forward to the other parts so you got any idea when tou`ll be fishing the Kelvin looking forward to fishing it with you and whoever else may be there why don`t you orginse a day at the Kelvin for everyone who frequents your site (Permit holders obviously) also the Glasgow Angling Centre are having an open day for more on that ….

  7. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Hey Paul, glad it helps – Being shy at heart I really only fish with a small number of people and would not want to organise any major gatherings – makes me edgy 😉

  8. Andy peutherer · March 2, 2008


    Love reading your stuff online, genious entertainment for an angler.

    Although i fish the fly i also love catching coarse fish like roach esp on rivers and was wondering if you knew of any numbers in the kelvin?

    Have heard a few stories about lots of roach and dace being caught but though you may know a bit better.



  9. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Hi Andy – I would love to know myself where the roach are on the Kelvin – I have heard rumours and think that some people are getting them mixed up with Grayling (there are no Grayling in the Kelvin) – not sure about Dace was it from a reliable source?

    By the way, I like the site and your art work is amazing…


  10. Andy Peutherer · March 2, 2008


    thanks for the reply, the info about roach on the river was just from a guy i met at the canal so not sure if it was reliable or not.

    you would kinda expect that waterfoul might have spread them to the kelvin though as the canal is teaming with roach and rudd etc

    was also wondering what may be lurking in the part where it meets the clyde, possibly roach and mullet?



  11. scott · March 2, 2008

    i remember years ago my granda telling me about the pike in the kelvin near his house in somerston, other than that im clueless haha, probably loads of eels aswell.

  12. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Andy – I reckon there should be roach in the Kelvin – I certainly dont see why not 🙂 I have seen Mullet as far up as the bridge near the Arches so I reckon there should be some around the mouth of the Kelvin – it is just getting them that would be the problem.

    Scott- I never hear about Pike getting caught on the Kelvin – not even by the guys spinning for Salmon. I wonder if they have all been killed only leaving them few and far between 🙁

  13. andy · March 2, 2008

    Just heard back from a guy in a forum who doesnt reckon on roach being in the river but i deffo think there should be at least perch and some pike in some of the slower deep parts near the weirs etc

    Will give the wabbler and maggot a go when the weather settles a bit.

    Got some info on some boating and other ponds in the city that have coarse fish too…

  14. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Aha – I take it you are Andro1d 🙂 I do know that very small Jack Pike have been caught – in the 2lb size. I have looked at sections further up the river near Torrance and there looks like some good deep pools there which should hold Pike. Let me know how you get on !

  15. andy · March 2, 2008

    aye thought the river got a bit more pikey possibly further up. Looks a bit slower and deeper on google maps. Will give it a go when the river has calmed down a bit. Gimme a shout if your up for an excursion!

  16. Paul · March 2, 2008

    Heard stories of big pike caught in the pool where the Allander joins the river in the past.Dunno how true these stories were though.

  17. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Hi Paul, yup I know the pool well – I reckon any PIke have been hauled out long ago by people spinning for salmon.

  18. andy · March 2, 2008

    I struggle to think why these muppets would kill another fish in the river when they are supposed to be anglers. you would think anyone with a bit of savvy would realise that pike are there for a reason.

  19. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Yep – some people will kill anything Andy !

  20. scott · March 2, 2008

    The only positive thing that comes out of a pike cull is that the fish that survive should theoretically at least be massive. I would be surprised if there were no pike in the kelvin at all given its proximity to the canal, at my end of the canal the pike , perch and roach were all taken at some point by local anglers to stock various other waters nearby, therefore every bit of water close to me over half an acre has a massive stock of coarse fish.

  21. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    My understanding is there are few benefits to a Pike cull – the Pike regulate the size (of fish) and amount of population by themselves by eating each other as well as other species.

    Once a significant proportion is culled then the balance is then lost so you will iether have lots of big pike eating the trout and coarse species or lots of small Pike eating the….trout and coarse species. I am pretty sure there is more to it than that however when you mess with mother nature it generally messes with you right back 🙂

  22. Charlie dunn · March 2, 2008

    There is roach in the kelvin-I caught many there years ago in the yorkhill stretches.They are most numerous in high summer-and they are usually accompanied by shoals of small dace,which will readily take a dry fly.

  23. Charlie dunn · March 2, 2008

    On the pikey subject-my personal best from the kelvin was a fish of around 6 pounds from a well known pool(for salmon)in the kelvingrove stretch-easily beating my previous best from the allander stretch by 4.5 pounds-they do exist!

  24. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Charlie Dunn – how are you, have you been hibernating over the winter ?

    Roach and Dace ? Have you heard of any being caught in the last few years Charlie – I have never caught a Dace in all the years I have been fishing the river which I find odd – saying that though it may explain some of the stories I hear about people catching Grayling in the river – maybe some people are getting confused between the two.

    I do hear the odd Pike popping up but not any in any serous numbers – do you ever hear of any further upstream getting caught by people spinning?

  25. Charlie dunn · March 2, 2008

    Hi Alistair-To be honest,i have seen neither species for quite a few years-but then i dont fish these particular pools anymore.I also believe that these were stray clyde fish-and that they move into the kelvin in the low flows and high water temps(i think there may be higher oxygen content in the river)of summer-but here’s a cracker-my mate caught a BARBEL there in 2001-the only one i’ve ever heard of in the kelvin-no shit i saw it-about half a pound!.

  26. Charlie dunn · March 2, 2008

    The pike that are there are part of a pretty small population that prefer the slow upper stretches-I met (edited the name out) and he said there was a big double figure pike in the allander pool cutting lures from line-but this was at the tail end of the year,and i think it was a rumour started by anglers looking for exuses to fish after season!

  27. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Charlie – I wonder what has happened over the last few years which has caused them all to wander off – I mean, I am pretty sure you would get roach in the upper kelvin (well, the middle reaches around the Junction pool) but in the lower stretches ?

    A Barbel ? – was that below the weir behidn the house?

  28. Charlie dunn · March 2, 2008

    Yes,thats exactly where it was-but i nearly forgot to tell you-there was a decent pike approaching double figures lying just above the weir at q m d in july last year-the biggest i have ever seen in the kelvin! On another subject, i was at loch lomond last week,and my whole joey makerel was picked up by a 3lb brownie-that was safely returned after a spirited fight.

  29. Charlie dunn · March 2, 2008

    I would bet money that if you go down to the bottom stretch to the deep pool below the last fall in high summer-you WILL see roach and dace and mullet all in the same pool.The pool i am reffering to is the one on the right hand side looking downstream against the high wall.

  30. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Ah yes – I know the section you are talking about – must admit that stretch does lpk nice and deep and slow – looks pretty difficult to fish though….

    Thats mighty interesting that the Mullet come up the kelvin that far although I suppose there is nothing to stop them….hmmmm interesting !

  31. Pingback: First Trout of the Year - A Rewrite | The Urban Fly Fisher
  32. Pingback: Early Season Flies - Part Two | The Urban Fly Fisher
  33. Andy · March 2, 2008

    Can you guys tell me where this pool is as id love to give it a go?

    cheers 🙂

  34. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    Do me a picture and I will take you there personally 🙂

    Only kidding!

    Mail Me – I dont give directions through the site !

  35. andy · March 2, 2008

    Hi Alistair, did you get my email ok?

  36. Andy · March 2, 2008

    Heading up to Lewis next week to my girl friends folks. Going fishing obviously!

    Anyone got any suggestions on some flees to take?

    If you dont know already about fishing in Lewis its well worth the trip, virtually 70 percent trout lochs!



  37. nikki · March 2, 2008

    there is barbel in the kelvin i have caught 1 lol dont think it has dace possibley roch lol

  38. Alistair · March 2, 2008

    I have no idea about Loch flies – I got a pal to pick all mine out.
    A good place to go and ask would be
    if noone answers on the blog.

    Nikki – I hear people have now been banned from fishing below the Transport Museum at the bridge due to people poaching and netting the river – you know anything about this ?

  39. Pingback: Just starting out in fly fishing? 6 steps to success! | The Urban Fly Fisher

Comments are closed.