The most engaging aspect of fly fishing for me is the continual drive to develop better trout fly patterns, over the past 10 years I’ve been very happy with the results for most insect imitations but one insect I have not achieved is the Green Stonefly Nymph.
These frequent many of South Island’s back-country rivers in particular liking forest clad headwater (our favourite rivers to fish). Yes I have tied Stoneflies for years with no less than 10 varying patterns but this upcoming season I have decided to focus on the aim to design a practical pattern that works more consistently the traditional patterns we use no . So how do I go about this process? In this blog I will illustrate this in the hope that it may be useful for other anglers in the quest for the perfect patterns.
1 – The Homework
Seek out written and visual information on the insects appearance and biology, for me black and white illustrations are first and foremost as they reveal the overall form and proportions of the insect , a print out of this can be handy to view at the tying vice.
Then I go deeper reading about the life cycle and variations and habitats , next search out video as its always good to see how the insect moves and its colourations we are so lucky having Google and YouTube but keep your searches relevant .
2 – Why reinvent the wheel?
Again through research accumulate resource on the many current and traditional patterns that are already in use and pick out the components you see that are of value to you, it’s good to extent your search from local to international as in this case the USA has huge amounts stonefly patterns whilst not the same species as ours there is common features. You may even find the form you are looking for and be happy with that so be objective, at the same time watch out for over influence sometimes this can inhibit new ways of thinking! The blank canvas can be motivational.
3 – Chin Wag
There is no substitute for talking with other anglers and fly tiers, we all have thoughts knowledge and findings that is not written down or been illustrated many of these are derived from all important river time. Taking with other guides I find very fruitful at the same time all ideas should be considered and fresh out looks welcomed so even new comer have validity here. Through this “Stonefly process” I have enjoyed talking with some of South Islands best guides and this has given me foundation, added to my own knowledge and research I am edited to get going.
4 – The infinite observer
I consider it vital to get out and observe the insect in or near to its living environment to this end i often make time to go out and collect the insect with nets and study then in dishes of water this gives real insight into all the subtleties the insect processes such as how it moves, size and colour variations etc. What the insect looks like when drifting in the current can also be key here I find underwater filming a very good tool, so get out collect, observe and photograph and film! it’s a lot of fun and more affordable than ever. Observe and note the main features you consider important to use on the imitation.
5 – Impressionism Vs Realism
An interesting subject it relates to art and what we are doing is an art so this becomes personal with no rules no wrongs no right! it’s important to note that often just using 2 key features (impressions) of the natural insect is enough to work on trout, this takes us into the domain of how do trout recognize food? a subject that all aspiring fly tiers explore. When we observe the New Zealand Green Stonefly there are so many features …large wing buds, segmented body, large legs often 2 tone colours of Rust Brown and Emerald green. So when designing experimentation is important (hey we have to go fishing more), practicality also a factor i.e. how long do you want to spend tying the imitation? How well will the pattern stay together? Again it’s art so find your balance and what works for you and the trout.
6 – Materials
Research and think hard about materials that will be suitable for your project we are so lucky to have such a huge multitude of natural and synthetic materials on the market. Do you need particular colours? in the case of the stonefly yes we need shades emerald green, orange-brown and ginger-brown if these are not on the market it’s time to get blending your own dubbing mixes or sets of permanent markers. Are the materials needed soft or hard? Will they move in the water? Is animation important? this line of questioning is the start of a fun process in trout fly design. Aside from fly shops and online suppliers craft stores and $2 shops can produce surprise so it can be advantageous to think outside the square. Finally, I find it very productive to assemble all the materials for a project in one container.
Follow me as I document this process applied to the New Zealand Stonefly Nymph this upcoming season will I find what the trout are looking for? will I fail? time will tell if it’s all part of infinite backcountry river adventures you and I share we can only be happy. Come join me on this adventure?