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Artistic view of a Male Pteronarcys californica (Pteronarcyidae) (Giant Salmonfly) Stonefly Adult from the Gallatin River in Montana
Pteronarcys californica

The giant Salmonflies of the Western mountains are legendary for their proclivity to elicit consistent dry-fly action and ferocious strikes.

Lateral view of a Female Sweltsa borealis (Chloroperlidae) (Boreal Sallfly) Stonefly Adult from Harris Creek in Washington
I was not fishing, but happened to be at an unrelated social event on a hill above this tiny creek (which I never even saw) when this stonefly flew by me. I assume it came from there. Some key characteristics are tricky to follow, but process of elimination ultimately led me to Sweltsa borealis. It is reassuringly similar to this specimen posted by Bob Newell years ago. It is also so strikingly similar to this nymph from the same river system that I'm comfortable identifying that nymph from this adult. I was especially pleased with the closeup photo of four mites parasitizing this one.
27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

FisherOfMen's profile picture

Posts: 115
FisherOfMen on Jan 2, 2012January 2nd, 2012, 5:44 pm EST
I regularly fish Little River, NY. It is maybe 15 yards or so across average. That might be off, I'm going from memory. I've heard that in smaller waters you don't need to be so concerned about fly selection, as they can't pick and choose what they're feeding on. So, do I need to have a fly selection that would impress any big brown, or can I get along with, say, five or so basic patterns? I see large mayflies there most times I'm there, and I see empty stonefly casings on the rocks. Can I stick with a few sizes of adams, a few stonefly nymphs, and some misc. like San Juan and hopper?
"Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught." -Author Unknown

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. -Edmund Burke
Troutnut's profile picture
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2758
Troutnut on Jan 2, 2012January 2nd, 2012, 9:12 pm EST
You can't determine how many flies you need based on the size of the river alone, except for the very loose rule that in very small streams (like <5 yards across) you rarely need specialized flies. I can think of one or two small ones like that where the fish get really picky, but there's an exception. There are lots of 15-yard streams where the trout can get really picky, though.

It all comes down to what sort of food is in the river, how much food there is, and what the water's like -- how fast, how deep, etc. Generally the fish will be most picky in slower water where food is really, really abundant.

Still, it's hard to tell what you'll need without trying, and a few attractor patterns like the Adams will work most of the time on most rivers. I would suggest that you start out with those. If you keep running into feeding fish that reject your flies consistently, you'll know you need to get more complicated (or improve your presentation). In other words, start simple and build up as needed.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Jesse's profile picture
Posts: 378
Jesse on Jan 3, 2012January 3rd, 2012, 1:44 pm EST
Jason is definitely right here. You have named a few good patterns that will catch fish on that particular river. You have also started out on the right foot; you've noticed some of the bug activity on the river and your now utilizing that information to try and catch fish. That's great! But you won't always be able to catch trout on those patterns, and if there is diverse aquatic bug life in that stream a wider variety of patterns will be needed. Like Jason said, some small streams (lets say a small ten foot at the widest brookie stream), you could get away with throwing one or two patterns and still be successful. But there are some streams that are small with a wide variety of bugs and the fish will get really choosy. Just keep paying attention as your doing, and slowly build your knowledge. Good start though!
Most of us fish our whole lives..not knowing its not the fish that we are after.
Strmanglr's profile picture
Posts: 156
Strmanglr on Jan 4, 2012January 4th, 2012, 11:44 am EST
Start using a net to catch bugs in the water. Keep it with you on your vest, use it when you go out each time. Take a camera with you and take pictures of what you find. RECORD it in something with date, time of day, water temperature. You might jot down a few notes about the weather the week before your catch. It's fun to do, especially if you tie, and it gets you more involved and physically connected to what is going on in your river.

Talk to other people who fish it they very well might be able to tell you the major hatches that take place over the year.
FisherOfMen's profile picture

Posts: 115
FisherOfMen on Jan 7, 2012January 7th, 2012, 2:26 pm EST
Thanks all! I'll keep this stuff in mind. I just took a fly-tying lesson from a local guide service yesterday and I'm starting to research effective patterns to be ready for any hatch.

Thanks again!
"Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught." -Author Unknown

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. -Edmund Burke

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