Small stonefly from early March
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an entomologist. I know few Latin names for insects. What I can do is identify the different orders and life cycles. This is usually all you need to know to catch some fish. As the years go by I find specific identification less important. Some of my fly patterns have morphed together to cover stoneflies, caddis flies, and mayflies. Most important is the presentation.
The fly in the photo is an adult stonefly. It starts out as an egg, turns into a growing nymph for most of it’s life and finally emerges from the water as an egg laying adult for a short period of time before it passes. I call all the stoneflies I see this time of year Winter Stoneflies. I’ll find them from mid January to mid March. They are usually black in color and range in size from #22 to #18. The fly in the photo is a dark amber color about size 18. This is the first time I have seen them this color during this time of the year.
Stoneflies are not good swimmers or flyers. You’ll find them crawling among the rocks in faster water. If dislodged they tumble downstream until they can get hold of something. When they emerge they crawl out of the water and turn into an adult on the bank. Often they end up on the waters surface by accident or to lay eggs. You’ll often see them flapping around trying to get out of there. Easy pickings for fish at this point.
Any small dark colored nymph will work well to represent the winter stones. They are often in the drift with a host of other insects in various sizes, so size is not critical. For the adult I often fish the good old Griffith’s Gnat in a size 20. This fly does double duty, because it also works well for the midges that have been hatching. These hooks are tiny so using a short shank wide gap hook will increase your hook ups. Offsetting the point also helps. Experiment with the action of the fly, because the adults usually don’t sit still on the water. This is a simplistic approach to cover the small black stoneflies and that emerge this time of year.
Another insect to watch out for is what I call the Early Stonefly. I’ve seen them from early March through April. They are black and considerably larger than the Winter Stones. Usually about a size 14 or 16. I don’t think many escape the eye of a trout as they blunder across the waters surface.