There’s very little in fly fishing that will get me as excited as a large hatch of stoneflies. A female stonefly bouncing along the surface of the water and laying eggs will provoke absolutely savage strikes from hungry trout. Trout will recklessly slash at the surface to grab these large insects before they can escape. This is great news for the angler as the trout will not inspect flies the same way they would if they were sipping spent mayflies off the surface film.
Stonefly hatches in my area are often quite small. On the uncommon occasion that there is a large stonefly hatch, I want to make the best of it, and not be wasting my time tying on tens of different fly patterns to see what works best. Luckily the relatively small number of stonefly species makes it possible to narrow down your selection of flies much more easily than other types of dry flies. I have three main confidence patterns that consistently produce when stoneflies are around. The two most common species of stonefly in my area are the larger golden stone fly, and the smaller yellow stone fly. My fly choices reflect this, and if you have these species in your area I highly recommend the following flies.
Sofa Pillow Fly
Effective in sizes 8-10 for Golden Stones, larger if you want to imitate salmonflies.
This is a variation on the widely popular simulator dry fly (which is an effective fly in it’s own right). It’s a bit bushier, with a thicker profile than a classic simulator fly. It’s my go-to fly if larger golden stoneflies are around, and will even work as a salmonfly imitation if tied in larger sizes.
While large trout can be caught on surprisingly small flies, my experience is that’s the exception not the rule. When conditions are right, fishing a large dry fly such as the sofa pillow fly allows you to target large trout that would normally only go for nymphs and streamers. Don’t be afraid to give this fly a little twitch to mimic a struggling stone fly. A very subtle twitch is often all it takes to convince a suspicious trout to slam this fly.
Little Yellow Stone Fly
Most effective in size 16.
The little yellow stone dry fly is a bit of a unique looking stone fly imitation. instead of using deer or elk hair to mimic the long wings of stoneflies, it aims to mimic each set of wings individually with hackle. If you look at a stone fly in flight, you will see that the two sets of wings are very distinct from each other. I find that the large amount of hackle makes this fly sit quite high on the surface, which makes it a great fly for dead drifts. I find this fly particularly effective at dusk.
I like to use this fly in sized 14-16.
The yellow sally is intended to imitate the stonefly by the same name, and it does a pretty good job of it. What I really like about this fly, is while it does a good job of being a stonefly imitation, it also has the classic mayfly profile. It’s a good in-between if there are yellow stoneflies and large mayflies hatching at the same time, as it does a good job at imitating both.
Those are my three confidence flies when stoneflies are around. Of course I carry other stonefly patterns with me, but these three are the most consistently productive by far.