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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.

Case view of a Pycnopsyche guttifera (Limnephilidae) (Great Autumn Brown Sedge) Caddisfly Larva from the Yakima River in Washington
It's only barely visible in one of my pictures, but I confirmed under the microscope that this one has a prosternal horn and the antennae are mid-way between the eyes and front of the head capsule.

I'm calling this one Pycnopsyche, but it's a bit perplexing. It seems to key definitively to at least Couplet 8 of the Key to Genera of Limnephilidae Larvae. That narrows it down to three genera, and the case seems wrong for the other two. The case looks right for Pycnopsyche, and it fits one of the key characteristics: "Abdominal sternum II without chloride epithelium and abdominal segment IX with only single seta on each side of dorsal sclerite." However, the characteristic "metanotal sa1 sclerites not fused, although often contiguous" does not seem to fit well. Those sclerites sure look fused to me, although I can make out a thin groove in the touching halves in the anterior half under the microscope. Perhaps this is a regional variation.

The only species of Pycnopsyche documented in Washington state is Pycnopsyche guttifera, and the colors and markings around the head of this specimen seem to match very well a specimen of that species from Massachusetts on Bugguide. So I am placing it in that species for now.

Whatever species this is, I photographed another specimen of seemingly the same species from the same spot a couple months later.
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.
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Roguerat's profile picture
Posts: 456
Roguerat on Nov 14, 2015November 14th, 2015, 3:45 am EST
Spence's comments on how slender a natural is vs. dubbed imitations (Baetisca aside!) has me wondering IF.

Say I'm tying a sz 12 Iso pattern on a std dry-fly hook, using 6/0 thread; would downsizing to a sz 14 1XF 3XL hook, 8/0 thread, and paying attention to dubbing buildup yield more realistic results? Would the hook-gap be sufficient, would it bend out, lots of IF stuff on my mind.

I know presentation plays a part regardless of a fly's appearance but I still wonder.

I checked this site for posts or threads on hook size and all but couldn't find anything.


'Less is more...'

Ludwig Mies Vande Rohe
Upstate NY

Posts: 160
Catskilljon on Nov 14, 2015November 14th, 2015, 9:37 am EST
The idea of tying larger imitations on "smaller" hooks is valid for a few reasons. I tye my Iso's and March browns on 2X long hooks, usually one or 2 sizes smaller than "normal". A spring Iso is huge, at least they are in the Catskills and the March browns are almost as big. To tye an imitation the same size would require at least a #10 standard shank dry fly hook and possible an #8. By using a longer shank, smaller gape hook, you not only gain the floating benefits of a lighter diameter wire but since the bend is 40% of the weight on a standard hook, the smaller gape decreases the weight too.

You don't want to take this too far though, like tying the same fly on a #16 6X long hook as the benefits, while good on the floating side are greatly reduced on the hooking and landing a fish side. Long shanks and light wire is a poor combo when fish get over 17". Ask me how I know! CJ

Martinlf's profile picture
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3047
Martinlf on Nov 14, 2015November 14th, 2015, 10:25 am EST
I tie larger dry patterns on 2XL hooks, mostly for the reasons CJ notes regarding weight and flotation. But in regards to refusals, at least for most fish, the hook doesn't appear to matter, otherwise we'd never catch a fish. It may for some, though. The owner of a local fly shop told me about getting multiple refusals with fish in a popular catch and release stream. So he cut the hook off and immediately started getting hits. I fish a few flies, mostly caddis, that are tied upside down, with the hook buried in a CDC wing, never to penetrate the meniscus or be seen by a fish. They seem to work well at times on fish that seem picky. Note, I say "seem." I think we exercise a good bit of of interpretation, and precious little scientific experimental design, in terms of evaluating how well things work in regard to our flies, especially our pet inventions. Also, as CJ notes, hooking and landing properties of hooks are significantly important to consider. I'm very fond of Tiemco 921's for small flies. The short shank provides a larger gap relative to the fly size. They are a bit heavy, but flies tied with them seem to float relatively well due to the small size. And they hook and hold exceptionally well. I've never had a bigger fish bend one.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Roguerat's profile picture
Posts: 456
Roguerat on Nov 14, 2015November 14th, 2015, 11:36 am EST
This is good to know, and I plan on downsizing some of my dries this coming winter- I see a lot of time at the vise ahead, but that's good.

MI Iso's and March Browns are pretty much the same, 10's and 12's and some of the bigger flies I tye; Hexes and the bigger drakes are in a different class altogether but I see XL hooks working for these as well.

The Tiemco 921 is interesting in that it's 1X fine but 2X short, I need to look for these.
Which begs a whole 'nother topic on circle hooks and how they would work for flies...?

Oldredbarn's profile picture
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Oldredbarn on Nov 14, 2015November 14th, 2015, 1:44 pm EST

That mind of yours is always running isn't it?! :) Good stuff!

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood

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