Sunday, March 21, 2021

A New Season Is Upon Us

It's that time of the year when the days get longer, the sun higher and the aquatic insects start to stir in earnest.  The Little Black Stoneflies have been hatching in recent weeks and now that we are well into March they are active just about every day.  The Chimarra caddis larva are also present in the water, and of course, the Blue-winged Olives are hatching just about every day, somedays better than others as is typical.  We are also fortunate to have good water levels thanks to decent snowfall totals here in the Northeast.

Yesterday we fished for a while on the South Branch of the Raritan River and did well with stocked rainbows.  Nothing huge, but some respectable fish, all of them taken on size #18 Zebra midge.  I fished two flies, no added weight, up and across drifts with all the takes right down on the bottom.  There were lots of midges in the air and the Little Black Stoneflies pulsed as they usually do - they showed for five minutes or so and then disappeared for a while before a bunch would again be over the water.  Nothing rose the whole time I was on the water, maybe it was a little too cold or the fish just weren't interested in looking up.        

In the March issue of the Riversage Journal, we featured an article and a video on the Little Black Stoneflies (LBS).  We have posted here in past years how effective a floating adult pattern can be on windy days when the hatching LBS adults get blown onto the water surface as they struggle to get air born, and how during the egg-laying activity of the the LBS the females skitter along the water surface using the surface tension to pull the egg sac off the end of their abdomen.  A high floating, hackled fly can be just the ticket to take the trout that chase these moving morsels.  

In 2013 our friend Micah Dammeyer aka Knee Deep Fly Fishing, designed a great pattern for imitating the Little Black Stonefly adults that has replaced our past designs for this hatch.  It is fairly easy to tie and uses readily available materials. Here's a video we made on how to tie Micah's Twisted Stonefly pattern.  


When the trout are feeding on the Little Black Stonefly adults it will be quite apparent as the rises are typically aggressive as the fish chase the clumsy fliers as they skitter along the water surface. I fish this pattern on a 9-foot or longer leader tapered to 4X.  You can use a lighter tipper, but be forewarned, you may break fish off on the take as you skitter the fly on a taught leader. If an active fly doesn't draw strikes, try dead-drifting the fly over the rising - you may have to go down to 5X for this if you get no response.  As with any day on the water the fish often will determine the method of your presentation.

If you go out in the next couple of weeks be sure to carry some Blue-winged Olive dries in sizes #18-22, Chimarra Caddis larva in size #18, and Micah's Twisted Stone or in a pinch, a gray elk hair caddis in sizes #12-14.

I'm going to fish again today, it's a beautiful day and the temps are expected to reach the low 60's.  Around my home the daffodils are pushing up through the decaying leaves and when I went out on the deck this morning songbirds filled the air with music of hope and better days to come. Spring is surely on the way.

Sharpen your hooks!

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