The Great Big Bug Migration
Capitalizing on Stonefly Behavioral Drifts.
By: Jacob Noteboom
In most rivers in the west stoneflies are a very important insect group as early season trout food. You should carry several sizes, colors and weights of flies to match them.
Think back to the early days of your youth; remember those sudden growing pains at night that woke you from your sleep? Remember growing out of your favorite pair of shoes? Now picture you’re a teenaged salmon/stonefly, who just grew too big to live under his favorite rock. Conveniently you also have this itch in your back that turns out to be wings forming, and the only way to scratch that itch is to crawl out of the water and hatch. An ‘Urge to Emerge’. The only issue with this, is the journey to the bank. This is where we as fisherman, can capitalize on the coming of age journey of the Stonefly family.
Smaller mayfly/caddis hatches may also come into play in this scenario, as they are a main forage for Golden Stones. With an abundance of prey emerging to hatch, Golden Stones will become more active in their hunting. Higher flows in the springtime will often dislodge these predators from areas that would normally be calm enough to hold them. Trout will often be sitting at the back ends/tail outs of runs and pools, waiting for an unlucky stone to lose its grip.
Pay attention to current seams and choke points as you fish spot to spot. Stonefly nymphs are awful swimmers and are very much at the mercy of the current when they become dislodged. Unless they are caught in an upwelling, stoneflies are going to mainly be tumbling along the river bottom, so you are often required to fish deeper. This will lead to hang-ups, so get ready to be using your anti snag roll cast quite often, at least when fishing a strike indicator in which you have less control as to where your fly drifts. European nymphing is a great way to have more fly control when fishing near the bottom. Since you are virtually tight to the fly, you can feel rocks and bottom structure instead of putting all of your faith into watching a Thingamabobber bobble as your fly is bouncing around on every rock in the river. Use longer Euro style rods such as the Echo Shadow II series or TFO's Drift rod.
As far as terminal tackle goes, I typically use a 3x tippet, but casting heavier nymphs is never pretty, so you could also use an 8lb Maxima butt section with 6lb Maxima for tippet. Maxima is a much stiffer mono, which I find aids in turning over the heavier split shot and nymphs I throw. Pattern-wise my favorite confidence stone is the Tungsten Poxy-back Stone. I also throw the Improved Rubber Leg Golden Stone frequently with great success. Take a variety of patterns and colors with you, but with higher flows and turbid water, darker browns or blacks provide a great silhouette. If the fish can’t see it, they can’t eat it! Good luck, fish deep, fish heavy, and as always feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call at the shop with any questions you might have. Tight lines, -Jacob.