Friday, April 26, 2013

Favorite Salmonfly Nymph

Salmonfly Nymph tied by Steven Bird


     Probably everybody in the West who has fished a freestone stream has at least a passing knowledge of the giant stonefly, Pteronarcys californica, commonly known as the ‘salmonfly’. A close look at streamside rocks & bushes May & June will usually reveal the empty husks of recently emerged stoneflies, & some of these may be nearly two inches long.

Salmonflies inhabit well-oxygenated flows with gravel/rubble bottoms. Most any freestone stream in the West will harbor some, though medium to large rivers will produce the strongest hatches. I love fishing dry versions of this stonefly when trout are up & feeding on them, but, day-in, day-out, I take more fish on the nymph during the salmonfly hatch period. And not only during the emergence period, but as a big-fish pattern, year around. This stonefly species lives two to three years instream as a nymph before crawling out of the water to complete emergence to adult, so there are always at least three age groups of various sizes available to trout.

Stonefly nymphs are strong crawlers but lousy swimmers. Emergence occurs April-June, with May probably the most prolific month in most locales. For several weeks prior to emergence, nymphs become very active & bold, & trout will be taking advantage of the many exposed & busted loose drifting in the current. The imitation wants to be fished deep, dead-drifted or crawled on the bottom, so I weight them with copper fuse wire wound through the thorax area of the hook shank.

There was a time I fished a simple, large, black Wooly Worm to simulate the salmonfly nymph (still an effective pattern), yet when I read Charles Brooks, Nymph Fishing For Larger Trout, I became intrigued with his version of the giant stonefly nymph which utilizes two soft hackles installed fore & aft of the thorax. I tied some & fished them to excellent result on the Thompson River, in Montana. The pattern shown here is the one I’m using now, inspired by the Charles Brooks pattern. 

Soft-Hackle Salmonfly Nymph

Hook: #4-#6 TMC 200R

Thread: Black (I use 3/0 uni-thread to get quick build-up to form the body shape.)

Tails: Two dark brown or black goose biots, divided, one on either side of the hook shank – wrap a turn or two of black dubbing before tying in, to keep tails spread wide

Ribbing: Black D lace wound over the abdomen to create segmentation

Abdomen: Black yarn overwrapped with black D lace to slightly ahead of center – a considerable lump will be formed when the plastic lace is wrapped & snipped off, wind over the bump with black dubbing

Rear Hackle: One turn of bronze-black body feather taken from a cock ringneck pheasant (These are blackish with bronze & reddish highlights.)

Thorax: Black chenille

Front Hackle: Same as rear hackle

Head: A bit of black dubbing ahead of the front hackle – you may add a couple of biots or pheasant tail fibers here as antennae – & finish

Flyfish the Upper Columbia/NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com

Salmonfly Nymph - Steven Bird

3 comments:

  1. This is a great looking Stonefly Steve !
    I'm adding this pattern to my tying materials shopping list.
    I found a spent Salmon Fly on the river a couple weeks ago. They are awesome looking bugs aren't they! The thing was over 2" long , bigger than any stimulator I had in my box. That's a good sign for the river isn't it ?

    Where do you get your old copper fuse wire for weighting these ? Old Christmas lights = fine copper wire , in a pinch.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great looking Stonefly Steve !
    I'm adding this pattern to my tying materials shopping list.
    I found a spent Salmon Fly on the river a couple weeks ago. They are awesome looking bugs aren't they! The thing was over 2" long , bigger than any stimulator I had in my box. That's a good sign for the river isn't it ?

    Where do you get your old copper fuse wire for weighting these ? Old Christmas lights = fine copper wire , in a pinch.

    Saul

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Saul! Glad you like the pattern (killer on the Kettle & Sheep Creek this time of year). And cool, really good sign that you saw one on the UC. There used to be heavy hatches of salmonflies in the old days, but pollution from the pulp mill in Canada wiped them out during the '60's. In the early 70's a lot of guys were still fishing big Sofa Pillow dries to some affect, though you never saw the naturals anymore. Last year, some biologists doing a sturgeon larva survey caught a fully mature nymph in one of their traps & gave it to me; & also, the last few years, I've been seeing an increasing number of golden stonefly casings along the river. Nearly as big as the salmonflies & usually more plentiful. Cessation of pollution from upstream & now we're starting to see some exciting improvements in the river's taxonomy.

    Copper wire: I'm using 24 gauge, .51mm copper wire purchased in 100 FT rolls at Ace for about 5 bucks. Hanging on the rack in the electrical department, in a nifty little blister pack dispenser. Probably enough to last forever.

    ReplyDelete