Why Stoneflies Should be a Staple Nymph Pattern in Your Box | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

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Stoneflies from a fly fishing perspective are a staple food. These aquatic insects are essential for river ecosystems and present year round. If you are looking for a basic pattern that is effective all the time then the Stonefly nymph may very well be the go to bug.

I have a fishing partner and he is a hog hunter. They guy almost always has two bugs that I see him catch fish on.  Golden stonefly nymphs are number one and number two is the Cased Caddis or Peeping Caddis. I can’t recall a time I asked or heard a friend ask, “what did you catch that on ?” and didn’t hear back in a nonchalant voice, “Golden Stone.”

When I looked into the entomology a little I found out really quickly why they were so effective. I was truly surprised by the abundance and livelihood of the stonefly nymph and have since fully adopted the fly as a heavy point fly option. The size, density and attractiveness make it an ideal searching pattern that often leads to great success. 

  1. Egg Stage (Duration: Weeks)
  • Egg deposition: Adult female stoneflies lay their eggs on or just below the water’s surface.
  • Egg dispersal: These eggs drift downstream, carried by the current.
  • Hatching: Depending on the species, hatching occurs within a few days to several weeks.
  1. Nymph Stage (Duration: Months to Years)
  • Nymph habitat: Stonefly nymphs spend most of their lives underwater, hidden from view.
  • Adaptations: They thrive in fast-flowing, oxygen-rich water and prefer rocky aggregate bottoms.
  • Longevity: Nymphs can live for several months to several years, depending on environmental conditions. Most live for years in the substrate, leading to their regular abundance. 
  1. Emergence and Adult Stage (Duration: Hours to Days)
  • Emergence process: Nymphs crawl out of the water onto rocks or vegetation.
  • Critical moment: Emergence triggers trout feeding behavior.
  • Unique features: Stonefly adults have folded wings covering their abdomens.
  • Short lifespan: Once emerged, they have only a few hours to reproduce before they die.

Why Stoneflies Are Fantastic for Fly Fishing Anglers

  1. Abundance and Availability:
    • Stoneflies are abundant in many rivers and streams, providing consistent food sources for trout.
    • Their long life cycle ensures availability throughout the year and regular hatching. 
  2. Large Size and Nutritional Value:
    • Stonefly nymphs grow up to several inches long, making them a substantial meal.
    • Rich in protein and nutrients, they are not only irresistible to trout but easy for them to see and eat.
  3. Exciting Dry Fly Hatches:
    • Adult stoneflies create thrilling dry fly fishing opportunities.
    • Their large size and fluttering flight attract trout to the surface.
  4. Versatility and Conservation Importance:
    • Stonefly patterns work well in various river systems and regions.
    • By protecting clean water, we ensure healthy stonefly populations.
    • Healthy stonefly populations lead to healthy fisheries.

I always seem to experiment with different patterns and I think this year I'm going to stop experimenting and just go with a few that I really love.  Either way, here are four popular stonefly patterns that are both easy to tie and effective for fly fishing:

  1. MFC Juan's Golden iStone Golden:
    • This pattern is likely the most difficult to tie out of the group but it's worth it.
    • I prefer a golden color but also tie it with a black body and white speckled rubber legs.
    • Effective in various river systems.
      Golden iStone - Stonefly Nymph by MFC
  2. MFC Golden Stonefly:
    • The MFC Golden Stonefly pattern is straightforward to tie.
    • Its bright golden color, UV dubbing, and segmented body make it a reliable choice.
    • Fish it deep to target trout feeding on stonefly nymphs.
      MFC Golden Stonefly Nymph
  3. Two Bit Stone:
    • As the name suggests, this pattern represents a larger stonefly nymph.
    • Tie it with a gold or my personal favorite the gold body, rubber legs, and a beadhead for weight.
    • The sleek body allows for rapid descent.
    • Effective during stonefly hatches and throughout the year.
      Two Bit Stone - Golden Stonefly Nymph
  4. Jigged Rubber Leg Stone Fly (Girdle Bug or Pat's Rubber Legs):
    • The Girdle Bug/Pats Rubber Legs is a classic stonefly pattern.
    • I prefer the coffee colored chenille body, rubber legs, and a jigged beadhead in Size 8.
    • Easy to tie and versatile.
      Girdle Bug or Pat's Rubber Legs - Stonefly Nymph

Remember, stoneflies play a significant role in trout diets, so having these patterns in your fly box is essential. In reality you don't need a ton of different flies in your fly box.  More importantly, have several that are effective and have them in various size and weights. Stoneflies are one of my staple patterns because they are darn right effective. I suggest you start experimenting with using one regularly. If I were going to go with one and only one of the suggested flies then I'd head out with the Jigged Pat's Rubber Legs in Coffee color.  I carry them everywhere and they work well.

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Christian Bacasa, Host of the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

By Christian Bacasa
Host of the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

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