The Golden Stonefly

The golden stonefly - a dinner gong to fish

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I've found this big and beautiful stonefly on a few of the rivers I've fished. It's all a question of luck and timing and being retired. It's an evening hatch but I usually find these flies in the bushes in the morning (I don't do too many evenings, I like to be home for Coronation Street). I've encountered them from mid-June to mid-July. There is also a "survival of the species mini hatch," as Gary Corbett would call it, that I've come across in late April/early May, but I know the main hatch occurs June/July.

The earlier hatch is smaller in size than the main hatch. The early ones are maybe 18mm (.70") long and the main hatch may get as big as 38mm (1.5"). What's interesting though is that I use the same,smaller size fly for both hatches, and on top of that I'm catching fish in the mornings. I'm assuming the trout recognize the size and colour - big and gold.

The nymph is a carnivorous, crawling nymph that has been known to feed on minnows. It crawls ashore to hatch, which is why I find the adults in the bushes. I've never tried a nymph (although I have found many during my bug survey); I have way too much fun with a dry. The nymphs take two to three years to mature so my guess is that a nymph would work great no matter what time of day. And come to that, it can be fished all year, but I'll still stick to my dry (especially in some of the obstacle courses that submerge me each year).

I use a parachute fly of my own making. Mustad 94831, or 79580, size 8 or 10 hook, yellow thread, two short tails (optional) created by dividing a small clump of yellow dyed grizzly hackle (or yellow deer hair, or whatever), a body of gold dubbing, white poly wing-post around which is tied a yellow-dyed grizzly hackle (or a mix of yellow and grizzly). Now this is a big fly so I use plenty of hackle. The body is plump, like a hot dog, so the dubbing has to be built up. I imagine that yellow, closed-cell, round foam would make for a great ribbed body but I don't have any. I also cut a wing from some Wapsi Thin Skin material that lies flat along the body and overhangs the end quite a bit. I tie it in just behind the wing-post. Sometimes I'll add a rib of doubled yellow thread that I take over the top of the wing so's it stays flat to the body.

Commonly used patterns for the dry are the Orange or Yellow Stimulator. There are several patterns for the nymph but I couldn't tell you which one works best.

The first time a fish attacks my fly in late April or mid-June I almost jump out of my waders. It's mainly because I don't expect a fish to take it if you know what I mean. I'm much more used to fishing dry flies a quarter the size of this one. However, once the first trout is released that fly doesn't get cut off for the rest of the morning.
June 20, 2007. I don't know what made me look at my hatch chart this morning but something must have stirred up a few brain cells. What I saw in the chart jumped right out at me - it was time for the golden stonefly!

My wife had an early appointment in town and called on her way home to tell me she wanted to go fishing. I was not going to say no.

While we were gearing up I suggested that she put a golden stone parachute on her line, but she declined and chose to stay with the grey ghost zonker that had been working so well for her. I tied the golden stone to my line.

We started out shortly after eleven with a bright sun shining in a clear blue sky. The digital indicator in the car showed that the air temperature was seventeen. On hitting the trail yellow Swallowtail and blue Spring Azure butterflies hovered in the air and tiny peepers hopped ahead of us. The woods were hot and humid and salty sweat dripped into my eyes. We continued upstream, encountering dragonflies, damsels, caddis, grey fox mayfly and adult hellgrammites as we walked beside the river.

The first pool was shaded from the high sun, the water temperature was seventeen and at an excellent level. My wife waded up while I parked my behind on a soft rock below. Within a couple of minutes she had a nice fish on her zonker muddler, only to lose it when her line went slack. Two more smaller hits followed but then the pool quieted down and she retired to share my rock. Instinct told me that I was not going to hook anything but I had to try. I was right.

The next pool was in the sun and not one fish inspected our flies. The following pool was shaded and half-a-dozen fish were rising to tiny black caddis. I'd tied a couple of number sixteen black parachutes the previous night and this is what we put on my wife's line. A perfect upstream presentation and she had on a beauty that ran her all over the pool. Her seven-foot, three-weight rod was almost doubled over. After making sure I'd seen her efforts she did it again with an even bigger fish which eventually ran downstream and threw the hook. She stepped back to take a rest and it was my turn.

I removed the sausage shaped golden stone parachute from the keeper and began false casting. I started short without a raise and then lengthened line and placed the fly in the middle of the pool. A shining speckled fish rose in the air and dove down on the golden stone. A plump thirteen-inch trout came to hand. Three more followed, each one smaller than the other.

Interestingly enough, on our way out of the river, I came across a golden stone nymph running around on top of a rock. He appeared agitated, just the same way as I had observed them prior to hatching in my aquarium project. He would run around, dip himself underwater and then reappear on top of the rock. He was getting ready to hatch.

To prove a point we fished an entirely different section of the same river the next evening using the very same flies; my wife with her zonker and tiny black parachute and me with the golden stone. The golden stone was the only fly to raise four fish. They came out of nowhere, and I missed every one of them.

Patterns Favourite patterns I Caddis pupa I Orange patterns I Minnow patterns I Golden stonefly I Tent Dweller flies
Zonker muddler I Lee's bakers dozen I Latin cross ref I Old timer patterns I Parachutes I Red/yellow flies

Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997