Fly Patterns - Baetis Cripple

                          Baetis Cripple


Why feature a mayfly pattern during the winter months, you ask? That’s certainly a legitimate question. But the answer is simple: Baetis mayflies hatch regularly during most of the year, including winter. We non-scientific anglers call this diminutive insect a “blue winged olive.” Graceful in their appearance, and muted in their subtle coloration, these lovely little fellows wane in their size as the season progresses: From about ¼” in the spring to 1/8” or smaller in late fall and early winter.


Set forth below is an excerpt taken from the following web page:


Baetis nymphs are normally outstanding swimmers, but they are reported to lose this ability when they emerge. They get to the surface buoyed by gas bubbles, or by crawling to the surface on some object and letting go to drift along in the film (rather than crawling out). They have trouble breaking through the surface film, escaping their shucks ( and drying their wings to take flight, which means that almost any type of surface fly has its uses. The Baetis angler may need to use deep nymphs, floating nymphs, emerger) patterns, or dun patterns during this emergence. Common wisdom says floating nymph and emerger patterns are the most useful. Dismal weather invites the best hatches of Baetis mayflies; look for them on overcast, rainy days, as long as the water temperature is above 40°F.”


The website is a powerhouse of information on aquatic insects; articles are often accompanied by excellent images such as these two of a Baetis dun and nymph:



This month’s pattern is called a “cripple”. I am often asked the following question: What is a “cripple” and how does it differ from an “emerger”? Again from the web site: “In fly fishing, a cripple is any insect which has been injured or deformed so that it cannot escape the water. This may include stillborn emergers or fully emerged adults which have been damaged, often by wind or waves, so that they can no longer fly. Trout often favor eating crippled insects.”


Personally I take a practical approach: For fishing purposes, the difference between the two terms is of little significance. Patterns we call “emergers” can be used to imitate “cripples.” The pattern I have selected for this month is generic enough in appearance to bridge the gap and accomplish our aim: To fool our beloved prey. The Baetis Cripple pattern belongs to Bob Quigley, the guru of spring creek fly angling (especially his home water, the Fall River). It floats well, uses readily available materials, and is visible despite its tiny size.


Tying Instructions

1. Smash the barb and cover the hook with a layer of thread, leaving the bobbin to hang just below the back of the barb.

2. Cut a small bunch of relatively long pheasant tail fibers and tie them in a just above the back of the barb. Don’t trim the butts as they are used in the next step.

3. Wind the butts of the pheasant tail fibers 2/3 of the way up the hook shank and tie them off there.

4. Dub a small thorax in front of the abdomen, leaving enough room to mount the wing and hackle in front of it.

5. Cut a small bunch of tan deer hair, stack it, and tie it ahead of the thorax with the tips extending out over the eye of the hook. This will be the cripple’s wing. The length of the wing should be approximately equal to the hook shank. Trim the hair butts, leaving a small visible butt; this is done to resemble the remains of the nymph’s wing case. Place a tiny drop of super glue on the wraps.


6. Prepare a properly sized hackle and tie it in on the wraps taken for the wing. Wrap the hackle 3 or 4 times around the shank and tie it off.

7. Whip finish in front of the wing, behind the eye, and trim the thread. Add a tiny drop of super glue to the threads.

Tying Tips

1.    Tie these bugs in different sizes, from #16 to #22.

2.    When fishing the Baetis Cripple, put floatant only on the deer hair and hackle; the rest of the fly should be submerged and therefore needs to be free of floatant. Consequently, you should not use desiccant/silicone powders with this pattern.

3.    If you want the bug to fish slightly subsurface, then add some copper wire ribbing to the abdomen.

4.    Don’t forget to also have some Baetis dun patterns (e.g., Parachute Adams) and nymphs (e.g., Pheasant Tail Nymphs).


Go crank some of these bugs, fool some trout with them, and…




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