Everyone knows the large stonefly hatch (Pteronarcy californica) can be a frustrating hatch, especially if you are driving for five or six hours or more to hit some of the fabled waters. Many a fly fishing writer has given the reasons for missing the hatch, or just plain complaining that they can't get a trout to look at a stonefly dry. Then they start to analyze patterns and wonder about color and size and materials. Then they wonder about how to fish the imitation. Do I plop it on the water? Do I land it as gently as I can land a size four or six, long-shanked fly? Do I dead-drift it? Do I skitter it? Do I let it float high or let it settle into the surface? All this thinking can drive you to frustration or you can enjoy it as part of the intrique of fly fishing. It's up to each of us how we will respond.
I've found that by fishing a few smaller local waters, I can take the frustration out of the equation. These smaller waters are easier to read, and have willing, hungry trout in them. Whole sections of water can be worked from bank to bank. If the stoneflies have been around, I can usually get a few willing trout even if the bugs have disappeared from the stretch I'm fishing.
I fished a stretch of water on June 4th. Stoneflies had been in the area the previous week and so a few of us decided to give it a shot. I had a couple of hits on a Twisted Foam Stonefly but was unable to hook the fish. I then decided to tie on a small brown stonefly as a dropper; size 12 hook. I took a couple of small 10-inch browns but still had a few trout hitting the dry with no hook-up. I finally managed a small 12-inch brown on the dry fly. He totally inhaled the pattern and I had to use some foreseps to reach down and remove the fly from its mouth. I picked up a couple more browns on the nymph and had a few more hits on the dry. I was very disappointed on missing around ten trout that hit the dry. Looking for excuses, I blame the hook or maybe the size of the fly. The dry was tied on a Mustad hook and the point just didn't seem to be that sharp. I have heard others be very vocal about Mustad hooks, but have had enough fish caught on them that I didn't pay much attention to them. Now, I am wondering if in the larger hooks, the sharpness is diminished. Maybe it was a combination of the hook and the size of the fly? Maybe it was a factor of the foam fly riding too high? I'm going to tie up some new flies on a different hook and go out either Monday or Tuesday night and give it another shot. I'll let you know the results.