I have written here before about having memorable Winter fishing in Central Oregon at Tetherow Crossing on the Deschutes R. one very cold day. I wasn’t prepared to identify or even have the right patterns to fish for the browns. There were smaller fluttering insects landing on the water followed by little wallops at the surface. I had no clue if the insects were coming off or landing and laying eggs. In those days I focused on the fish and were they visibly feeding. That was about it. I tied on the closest pattern I had, a black Elk Hair Caddis and caught fish.
Later, I described the where, when and what of it all and a Sisters, Oregon shop owner filled in the details. Little Winter Stoneflies. I have tied up some black Stimulators in the past, but frankly I am superstitiously fond of the all Black Elk Hair Caddis. You can explore other patterns, just be alert for the hatch. There does not have to be snow in the ground, although they be easier to see. Small (size 10-12, slender, Hare’s Ears or more exacting) black nymphs would round out your presentations. Remember how these Stoneflies emerge and how they return to lay eggs.
A S-B-S tutorial by Brian Marz for a Golden Stoneflypattern just in time. Note the unique color of the pinkish-tan calf tail that Norm Woods uses for his wing material. Norm Woods’ Chubby Chernobyl by Brian Marz The pinkish-tan calf tail may not be readily available (an Oregon thing), so you will have to substitute a non-pinkish hued calf tail. An animated, buoyant, buggy looking critter just in time for Summer.
Norm Woods' Chubby Chernobyl Golden Stone (Brian Marz)
Ah, May/June! Chasing the Salmon Fly and Golden Stone crawl outs and hatches. Fishing your nymphs on the bottom where they crawl toward shore or below the rapids, where they have been dislodged and been carried into slightly deeper water. It is a fun Western U.S. event and interesting to witness the actual emergence (crawling onto shore/emergence from the nymphal body).
This action will carry on into July depending upon water temps. The California Stones (Salmon Fly) will end first and the Golden Stones will linger longer. It is a chuck it-sling it-stay tight to the fly-short line-drift affair. You can and probably should attach a second fly to the Stonefly (smaller nymph or a wet fly). Just remember, to avoid tangles, to think of your cast as a lob, open loop affair rather than trying to produce a standard cast with a tighter loop. Tangles and hooks into the back of the neck may result. Some will advocate throwing a longer line, and indeed sometimes you will have to chuck and duck and mend to get to a prime lie. But, I would advise the beginner to fish shorter and tighter to the fly with only a mend or two at most. Casting a heavy nymph by loading rod with water tension…
There are the simpler Stonefly patterns: Bitch Creek, Montana Stone, Brooks’ Stone (look up on Google Images). Some 20+ years ago the Kaufmann Bro’s of Tigard, Oregon presented the Kaufmann Stonefly. It is still here, and more often than not, it now has rubber legs. The original blended dark dubs can be substituted with tans and golds for Golden Stones, Brown Stones (large and small). Always heavily weighted to dredge the depths (remember most Stoneflies crawl toward shore to emerge onto land at the pre-emerge phase at some point). Research the time of Spring-Summer for various Stonefly emergences.
Not too many years ago, the beginning fly fisher was told they had to carry at least two nymphs in assorted sizes: the Pheasant Tail Nymph (PTN) and the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear (GRHE). Maybe I wrong, but the Hare’s Ear almost seems to have gone the way of the Muddler Minnow, Woolly Worm, Montana Stone or….. Well, maybe I am wrong. The Hare’s Ear Nymph is an excellent crawler/clinger nymph pattern. I suffer tying these because I almost seize up around rabbit. In fact, years ago, I regretfully eliminated the Hare’s Ear from my beginning tier’s lesson plan because I could not breath around the fur. It is the only fly tying material that seems to affect me so. Anyway, tie this pattern from size 8 to size 16, mostly in the natural Hare’s Mask. You can fool around with rubber legs and some flash at the tail, but it isn’t necessary. The Gold bead head can be omitted if desired. I have not had as much success with this pattern on stillwaters (not a good Hex or Callibaetis pattern for me). It is outstanding on rivers. You will notice in the attached link, the tier uses hackle barbs for the tail rather than the traditional Hare’s Mask guard hairs. That is quite acceptable. That way you don’t have to buy a Hare’s Mask and can buy the dubbing and sub hackle barbs for the tail.
Several years back, John Barr’s Copper John emerged upon the FF scene and gained immediate popularity because it worked and because, for its size, it quickly sunk. The copper wire body was adopted-adapted to many patterns. Consider wire wraps to suggest segmentation and to add additional weight to get a pattern down quickly and tumbling along. The wire body, metal bead and lead wraps beneath the dubbed thorax combine to get the stonefly pattern down quickly. A small chuck and duck pattern. Barb the hook streamside.
Note the Wire Abdomen on this Duplicated Commercial Tie
Sometimes the anchor fly is heavy for short line dredging of a fast running slot. However, this short piece in the Harford Examiner by Alain Barthelemy suggests, in shallower runs, a big but lighter fly is in order.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be
satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”