Photo by Thomas Ames Jr.
If there is a harbinger of Spring that will catch the eye of the winter worn fly fisher it is the little Taeniopterygidae Stonefly, known as the Early Dark Stonefly and/or Winter Stonefly. Get a day where the temperature hits the mid 40's and the sun is shining and they will seem to be everywhere. I live on the banks of a decent trout stream and on those mild days my porch, deck and fence posts will be covered with them as they seem to be content to just soak up the rays.
They are a major hatch as far as numbers go but a minor hatch as far as surface activity is concerned. First, they crawl out of the water to hatch in sometimes inhospitable conditions such as high, flooded rivers. Second, most freestones in our area will be pretty empty of trout until the stocking trucks arrive. Third, in the words of Thomas Ames, Jr. "Fish are more likely to rise to early stoneflies when adult females are ovipositing and when there are other insects, like midges or early mayflies, to draw them to the surface."
I'll always have some imitations with me especially on March days at the Y Pool and those imitations will represent this insect's life stages with the egg laying stage being the most important IMNSHO. This also gives me a chance to play with quill bodies which is a fly tying skill that is being lost to the flow of time.
The egg laying stage -
Size 20 dry fly hook
sparse blue dun hackle fibers
body - dark grey stripped quill (Sharpies work well on getting the right shade of color
Hackle - Grey or black
This high floater can be skidded across the surface to imitate egg laying stones and does a good job at imitating the Winter Caddis too!
Now, to imitate the insect as it is hatching you need pattern like the one developed by the great Art Flick. Just take the pattern above,ditch the stiff hackles for small, webby brownish hen hackles and use a browning quill for the body. This fly will be fished around the rocky edges of the shore (Y Pool) just beneath the surface. It can also be used to fish over the spent stoneflies.
This fly is more important for getting your spirits up than for bringing trout up. That's why I'm mentioning it!!
The "Other" Swift River
Massachusetts has two Swift Rivers with the western river being a free flowing jewel. It's also a major tributary of the EB, dumping in to that river in the town of Cummington. It is a cool, mossy and shaded place that is one of those thin, blue lines that we all want to fish but.....
It's not hard to find and you should give it a try.
The Ground Hog is wrong!!!!!