As I write this, I am peering outside the window of my New England home and watching the downward progression of some rather large flakes of that white fluffy stuff, accumulating in my yard at an above average rate. It is really easy to get lost in a daydream, thinking back to some of those moments from last season when the birds were singing; everything was green with life, the weather was a bit more enjoyable with the feel of cool water pressing against my legs as I wade into that favorite stretch of water in search of whatever fish I was after. Yesterday I was out there grinding through a rather uncomfortable day of iced up guides as I floated through roughly 10 miles of frigid water, and I can't wait for longer days, warmer weather and everything else that draws me to the water.
For most, winter is a time to take stock of ones flies, recognize where you’ve got some holes to fill, and maybe add a few new flies to experiment with in the already ridiculous amount patterns from last year. Most anglers put in the work at the vise to ensure that they don’t have to (as much) when the weather is good and the days are longer, and they can spend time doing what we love most, fishing.
What fly should I use?
I probably get asked this question a hundred times a season, and although I am a fly tier by trade I will tell you that the fly you choose isn’t nearly as important as your ability to read water, present the fly, and adapt to the conditions afforded you. It truly is the case, as I have literally caught fish on nearly bare hooks with only a small scrap of red felt all the way up to some of the most time consuming recipes, so that when you lose one to a tree or the river bottom you feel like you just lost a part of your soul. Each and every one of us who fly fishes has some pattern or patterns that give us a great deal of confidence whenever we get that chance to step into our favorite piece of water. If you do tie flies, you hold the key to how simple or complex those patterns are that grace the slots of your boxes, and I truly believe that is one of the wonderful aspects of tying. It parallels the other aspects of fly fishing as well, because as your knowledge and experience base grows, you start to realize that you hold the key to how simple or complex you want to make this endeavor.
So to complicate your decisions even more, here is a list of a half dozen fly patterns that I never leave home without. Although I am a trout oriented angler by trade, I have been known to chase a rather wide scope of species in any given season, so I split the difference on bugs and baitfish imitations. What you will find in this short list is that these patterns are very adaptable and can cover a rather large scope of situations based upon color changes, size and some substitutions of materials. I think overall it benefits the angler to adopt patterns of this nature whether you are a seasoned veteran or first time angler. So grab your vise, a good beverage of choice and lets begin.
This rather simple stonefly imitation might be small in stature, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in triggers that trout just can’t seem to pass up. Although smaller-sized and darker varieties of stoneflies hatch in late winter, there are a pile of other varieties that hatch throughout the season as well. Throughout the season, many sizes of these types of insects get kicked into the drift, making them readily available to trout rather regularly. Some species of stoneflies take several years to reach maturity, so smaller versions not only represent some nearing full maturity, they also represent the larger varieties immature as well. The Infant Stone does double duty as a very good representation of small to medium sized mayfly nymphs and I suspect it does get taken as such, so it doesn’t hurt to have some in your nymph arsenal in a variety of colors and sizes. A few minor changes in hook size and color and you can represent a rather large scope of what you may encounter on any stream.
Hook: Ahrex FW 561 barbless nymph 12-18, TMC 100
Thread: Veevus 8/0, UTC 70 denier
Bead: To match
Tails/Legs/Antennae: Hareline daddy long legs
Rib: Small ultra wire
Wingcase: Midge Diamond Braid
Thorax: Hareline dubbing