The Power of Olive
By: Frank Day
Most anglers have their standard "confidence" colors handy at all times. This usual array of black, blue, pink, and purple flies may be your choices as well, because it is well known that they work, because they've done so before. One of the most underrated colors out there is olive. It's drab, boring. It's not as confidence inspiring as some sleek, mean looking black and blue fly. Olive is quite often overlooked entirely. Many anglers will try it once or twice and then continue the self fulfilling prophecy of catching fish on their favorite color by fishing it all day, every day. I've fished olive on occasion, but an experience from this past fall gave me a reason to fish it at all times as a new "confidence color".
I fished on the Oregon coast quite a bit this fall in low clear water conditions. It was perfect for sight swing fishing; just enough water to make everything easily reachable, with the perfect flow. The water was clear enough that I could watch a fish react to my fly making it the perfect laboratory for swung fly experiments. This particular day proved to be different than the previous several outings. Previously all the usual colors had worked. In fact there really wasn't a color that hadn't worked. There was a pod of twenty or so chum salmon that had just parked themselves in the tailout of a run I was fishing. I could see their dark gray oval forms holding, occasionally shifting to one side or the other.I dug in my box for my go to fly at that time, a hot pink rabbit strip leech fly that I'd tied and really taken a liking to.
My first cast presented the fly a little short. A quick adjustment and the fly was on a collision course with the middle of the pod. As I got ready for a grab, but watched them all shift out of the path of the fly. Subsequent casts proved to be futile. All manner of colors were tried; chartreuse's, oranges, reds, purples, blues, and blacks. They all provided the same result. The only fly in my box that hadn't been tried was an Aquaflies Mini Intruder in olive. I'd never previously fished an olive fly to a chum salmon and had my doubts, but tied it on none the less. I had enough doubt that I didn't really watch my swing until it went tight. I looked to the pod and a fish was angrily shaking his head and proceeded to bolt up and downstream for the next ten minutes. As I tailed him I still didn't really believe the olive fly worked. Yet, there it was right in the pocket of the lower jaw.As I turned him loose and watched him swim back to the pod I still didn't really believe it. It even crossed my mind that I had somehow lined him. That thought quickly faded as my swing went tight again. I couldn't believe it two fish in two casts. As I tailed this fish I saw that the fly was pinned perfectly in the scissors from the inside going out. Now the message was starting to beat its way into my thick skull. I turned that fish loose and made another cast. It went tight again. I caught seven fish in seven casts on that olive mini intruder. It was one of the most unreal experiences I've ever had swinging flies.
Since that day I've fished olive quite often. It continued to prove itself that fall on chum and even a Chinook. Olive flies now get swung all times of year in any water condition. I've fished olive this winter when the standard patterns just don't seem to cut it, and the fishing's tough. Between fly anglers, plug pullers, and the bobber and jig/worm crowd fish see just about every color imaginable multiple times per day. A color they rarely see, if at all is olive. A neutral drabby color like olive will sometimes move a fish that bright fluorescent colors hasn't.
I like the Dirk Wiggler in olive and the Signature Intruder in olive for most winter fishing conditions. They have a large profile that is visible in the high off color water we often encounter. They both have ample movement, and a set of larger dumbbell eyes to cut through heavy currents. For lower clearer conditions I like a fly like the Mini Intruder or even an an even smaller fly such as a Klamath intruder in olive. They are on the smaller side to not spook fish in conditions where the size of the Dirk Wiggler or Signature Intruder might. The mini intruder is a great first pass and the Klamath intruder provides a follow up option for the shy fish. All of these flies are also excellent midday summer steelhead flies.
The next time you’re thinking about tying on that same black and blue fly think about the power of olive. Tie on an olive fly and have faith in its difference. Fish your favorite run top to bottom like you mean it and see what happens. You might just be as surprised as I was.