Stonefly Nymph

It was early April and about noon when I returned to fish the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only section of the Wiconisco Creek. The snow and ice were gone from the stream banks but the winter like weather held on. It was cold fishing and the stream level was up and off color from recent rains. I fished the Wiconisco Creek a month earlier and was impressed by the huge number of little and early black stoneflies on the ice and snow attached to the stream banks. However, harsh weather temperatures coupled with a mixture of rain, sleet and snow delayed my return to fish that particular stream. Not a vehicle was in the parking lot when I arrived. The special regulation section is situated mainly on lands of the Ned Smith Gallery. Ned Smith, prior to his passing, was a staff illustrator and wrote a monthly column for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Gallery is ideal for a family visit and some good early spring fly fishing if the weather cooperates!

After about a month and a half of surface fishing Big Spring near Newville, PA, to rising trout taking a size 24 midge and the often reliable noon to mid afternoon appearance of the size 20 Little Blue Winged Olive, I was ready to fish the first large bug appearance of the new year and returned to the Wiconisco Creek. About 2:00 P.M., which is usually the warmest part of the day, the fluttering stones were present, but in disappointing numbers. The lethargic trout showed no interest so I re-rigged to a tandem of size 16 stonefly nymphs. My reasoning was simple. The water temperature was in the high 30's and according to my Wiconisco Creek notes, the stoneflies and the trout would not be surface active until the water temperatures are in the mid to high 40's. Besides, I had been fishing the Yellow Breeches catch and release section (with its warmer water) using the tandem size 16 stonefly nymph rig and catching a reasonable number of trout. I had confidence in the simple stonefly pattern and no doubt would have caught more than the four brook trout that day if stream and weather conditions had been favorable. As I noted in my fly fishing book, Creel Zero, the freestone Wiconisco Creek has one of the best stonefly hatches in the Harrisburg and Carlisle areas. I fished slowly along the Wiconisco Creek and scanned the water surface for over an hour and half and only saw one surface rise. I was disappointed in the lack of surface activity, but buoyed by the meaningful results I had subsurface fishing. I exited the cold water and walked back to the truck in the parking lot, which now contained one other vehicle. I plan to return to the Wiconisco Creek when the weather improves and will no doubt find the trout up and taking a decent hatch of stoneflies. We are fortunate to live in the Millersburg, Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg area where we have so many productive trout streams with in reach. Don't be discouraged if one stream isn't producing fish on a given day….just drive a few miles and try another!


Hook: Quality nymph, size 14-16
Bead: 2.0mm Copper tungsten
Thread: Black, 8/0
Tail: 2 Goose biot fibers in black
Abdomen: 1 Goose biot fiber
Flashback: Flashabou olive
Thorax: Dark mink fur

General Tying Instructions:

1) Pinch the barb, insert hook through bead and secure hook in vise.
2) Attach the thread behind the bead, build a slight dam to secure the bead in place, and wrap thread to the bend of hook.
3) Tie in 2 goose biot fibers to form the tail. Tail should be about ½ hook shank length.
4) Tie in a single goose biot fiber, by the tip, facing toward the hook eye. The notch at the stem end of the goose biot fiber should be facing up. Wind the fiber forward and notice the raised rib/segmentation effect.
5) Tie in a short piece of olive Flashabou at the front of the abdomen.
6) Loop dub a small amount of dark mink fur to form the thorax.
7) Fold the olive Flashabou forward, cut the Flashabou tag end and whip finish behind the bead.

Flashback Bead Head Pheasant Tail

It sounded like a swarm of angry bees in the distance. The volume of the sound would increase and then it would fade. The sound was puzzling until I realized that it was NASCAR weekend in Bristol, Tennessee. Another fly fisher confirmed that the sound was emanating from Bristol Motor Speedway about eleven road miles from our fishing spot on the South Holston River. He referred to the half-mile long racing track as Thunder Valley and I could understand why. As we walked upstream into the canyon, as the locals call this section of the river, the angry bees sound diminished thanks to the increased height of the cliffs. The fishing we experienced was outstanding due to the presence of size 20 little blue winged olives.

We arrived on the South Holston River two days earlier and were thrilled to find little olives on the water in the early afternoon and fish up taking the little critters. The next day the olive appearance was skimpy and we were somewhat disappointed but still caught enough trout to keep our interest. The third day we found little olives smattering the water surface at mid morning, signaling what was to become a banner day of trout taking olives. We fished subsurface and surface flies with good results. The surface fly was a size 20 Little Blue-Winged Olive Parachute fly and the subsurface fly was a size 22 Flashback Bead Head Pheasant Tail nymph. Usually in a group of fly fishers, there are those that favor fly fishing with subsurface flies and those that prefer to use surface flies. My theory is to use whatever works! You might see me fishing flies on the surface or those flies that are fished subsurface. In order to enjoy fishing the four seasons, one must be able to embrace this mind set. This mid March fly fishing trip to the South Holston River was pleasing and rewarding to both the subsurface and surface fly fishers. Just a reminder, always be aware of water release schedules when fishing the South Holston River. The TVA water release schedule can be obtained by calling 800.238.2264. Additional information about fishing the South Holston River can be found in my recently published book entitled Creel Zero.

Since more fish were caught subsurface on the size 22 Flashback Bead Head Pheasant Tail, I would like to feature it as the Fly of the Week. There are numerous ways to tie this fly but I like to keep my fly tying as uncomplicated as possible. If the fly is fairly easy to tie, consists of readily available materials and catches fish then why hamper yourself with tying a complicated pattern? I don't know about you, but I would rather be fly fishing than tying time consuming flies!


Hook: Quality nymph, size 22
Bead: 1.5mm Gold in brass or tungsten
Thread: Camel, 8/0
Tail: Ringneck pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Fine copper wire
Abdomen: Ringneck pheasant tail fibers
Flashback: Flashabou olive
Legs: Ringneck pheasant tail fibers
Thorax: Peacock herl

General Tying Instructions:
1) Pinch the barb, insert hook through bead and secure hook in vise.
2) Attach the thread behind the bead, build a slight dam to secure the bead in place, and wrap thread to the bend of hook.
3) Tie in 5-6 pheasant tail fibers by the tips to form the tail. Tail should be about hook shank length. DO NOT cut the stems of the pheasant tail fibers.
4) Tie in a three inch length of fine copper wire for the rib.
5) Wind the pheasant tail fibers stems forward to form the abdomen.
6) Take the copper wire and counter wind over the abdomen.
7) Tie in a short piece of Flashabou at the front of the abdomen.
8) Tie in 6-8 pheasant tail fibers with tips out over the bead. The tips should be about ¾ length of the hook shank.
9) Tie in two strands of peacock herl and form the thorax.
10) Fold the Flashabou forward, while evenly separating the pheasant tail fibers and pushing the fibers rearward and slightly down. The Flashabou will hold the pheasant tail fiber tip legs in place. Cut the Flashabou tag end and whip finish behind the bead.


Gayle and I were fortunate to be able to spend the month of January near Canaveral National Seashore, on Route A1A, south of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Canaveral National Seashore has two launch ramps suitable for outboard skiffs and the southernmost ramp, at parking lot number 5, also offers wading opportunities for redfish and spotted sea trout plus other fish species.

Salt water flyfishing on the "flats" of the world-famous estuary known as Mosquito Lagoon can be a treat. Redfish and spotted sea trout are the most commonly caught species. Tidal movement and weather can impact on fishing in the lagoons and good planning is necessary for wade fishing or boat fishing. In our case, a one mile drive from our beach house put us in the Canaveral National Seashore and on fishable waters. Since we did not have a "flats" type boat, we could only fly fish by wading the flats. We did note that some anglers kayaked along the shoreline looking for tailing fish. We made a mental note to return next January and possibly February with kayaks or a flats boat.

We were told to look for redfish and sea trout in shallow water during the winter months. According to the local anglers, the fish like to sun themselves over sandy open areas when it can be found in the aquatic weed bottom. When the fish are not sunning themselves, they are feeding in the aquatic weeds for baitfish and shrimp. We were told to cast a fly that hits the water very softly and does not spook the shallow water feeding fish. That fly was the Bendback streamer. This fly is easy to tie and is easy to cast. They mimic baitfish and shrimp close enough to fool most fish and, as we were told, the fish take them readily. Some tiers of the Bendback prefer to leave the bent portion of the shank bare, but the guides in this part of Florida prefer to wrap the shank with sparkle braid or other flash material. The Bendback is drawn through the shallow and weedy water with the hook point up, much like the Clouser fly. A guide and fly tier told us that the most common mistakes in tying the Bendback are to over bend the hook shank and to add excessive bucktail hair. A slim profile when wet is the preferred appearance for this streamer. The shank should be bent no greater than 30 degrees. Recommended tools to make the bend are the six-inch crescent wrench or the same size needle nose pliers. The bend starts about a quarter inch behind the hook eye. Not all hooks can be bent without breaking. I used the suggested Mustad stainless steel 34007 with good results. A Bendback is a combination of bucktail hair and synthetic material. The fly fishers I talked with in Florida swear by Hologram eyes placed on all streamers. I plan to carry that thought to my limestone and freestone trout streams when using streamers. Like any other fly, one should carry a good selection of sizes and colors so use your imagination when tying the Bendback. I plan to use the appropriate sizes and colors (after on stream testing) on our PA trout streams.

Hook: Mustad 34007, size 1, bent in the Bendback shape
Thread: Black Danville, 210 Denier
Body: Copper Sparkle Braid
Wing: Dark brown bucktail (look for bucktail with longest hair) with copper Krystal Flash and copper Flashabou
Head: Black Danville, 210 Denier thread Eyes: Black Hologram 1/8 diameter.

General tying instructions:
1) With the point of the hook facing up, bend the hook slightly downward at about one quarter inch behind the hook eye. Debarb the hook and place it in the vise with the hook point downward.
2) Start thread at newly made bend behind the hook eye and wrap to the normal bend of the hook. Tie in the Cooper Sparkle Braid and wind to the hook eye forming the body.
3) Reposition hook in vise with point up.
4) Tie in about six strands of copper Flashabou and about ten strands of copper Krystal Flash at newly formed bend.
5) Tie in a clump of bucktail hair about half the thickness of a pencil at the newly formed bend. Important, keep the bucktail hair sparse. The copper material should not be longer in length than the bucktail hair.
6) Brush the bucktail hair and the copper material to blend it together.
7) Form a thread head large enough to accommodate the eyes and apply several coats of cement or epoxy. I prefer using Sally Hansen Hard as Nails hardener.
8) Stick on the eyes and apply the final coat of the hardener.

Stripper Midge

If you have not read Recent News and Happenings, I suggest you go back to it. The piece will provide the springboard to the Fly of the Week update. Specifically how the Stripper Midge caught my attention. Since my return from the South Holston River in Tennessee I have used the stripper midge in the Run and the Yellow Breeches with good results. Can't wait to try the stripper midge on Yellow Creek!

Prior to the Florida trip, which included a stop over in Tennessee, I contacted the South Holston Fly Shop for a bug update and was told that the small nymph patterns were still the fly of choice. However, staff member Matt Guinn informed me that the stripper midge was a good fly for the trout bite. The stripped peacock quill (in this case I am referring to a single eyed peacock tail feather fiber (herl) with the flue (fuzz) stripped off.) brought back fond memories of fishing Spring Creek in central Pennsylvania so I decided to tie a dozen or so stripper midges for the December South Holston River trip. Two size 22 stripper midges fished about 15 inches below a strike indicator of New Zealand wool was an effective rig. The white wool, which did not deter trout from rising to the flies, is fast becoming my preferred strike indicator because it does not spook trout even in heavily fished waters.

Stripping peacock quill for a segmented body appearance was popular many years ago. Peacock herl was used as a key fly tying material at that time and it is still used effectively in today's fly patterns. The multi-colors of bronze, black, green and some blue under varying light conditions could have been the first of the attractor materials for fly tying. I know it caught my attention. The stripped peacock quill has the dark and light brown bands running the length of the quill. These bands provide the segmented appearance when wrapped on a hook. I use the thumb and forefinger technique to strip the short hair like fibers from the quill. The thumb and finger approach is simple. Stroke the short hair like fibers toward the base of the quill several times until bare.

One last piece of advice when fishing stripper midges in mid winter. When you notice trout sipping midges off the surface, don't automatically switch from the subsurface stripper midge to a midge surface pattern. Here's why. Bruce McFate and I were fishing the Yellow Breeches Creek several days ago when we had the last above freezing temperatures in our area. The stripper midges were productive but I noticed several trout up sipping midges and I changed to a dry fly midge pattern. Numerous dry fly changes later I was frustrated. I could not interest the trout in any of my size 24 and size 26 midge patterns that had taken trout in the fall and in the early winter. Scanning the water surface I noticed only one size midge bug and they were about a size 32. I could not compete with the natural's diminitive size so I re-rigged with the tandem stripper midges and white New Zealand wool as a strike indicator. I positioned the stripper midges at the eight inch and fifteen inch levels below the strike indicator and caught trout. I noted a few times in my recently published book Creel Zero
that one should not stop learning about fishing while fishing. It is an ongoing process so keep an open mind, observe what is happening around you and tuck it away for future reference.

Hook: TMC 3761 or equivalent, size 22-24
Thread: 8/0 black, brown or olive
Bead: 1.5 mm Tungsten black nickel or gold
Body: Stripped peacock quill
Wing Case: Pearl Polar Flash or Flashabou
Thorax: Black, brown or olive rabbit dubbing

General tying instructions:
1) Pinch the barb, insert hook through bead and secure hook in vise.
2) Attach the thread behind the bead, build a slight dam to secure the bead in place, and wrap thread to the bend of hook.
3) Tie in one strand of stripped peacock quill at the hook bend.
4) Wrap the quill to the hook eye forming a segmented body.
5) Tie in a small piece of Flashabou for the wing case.
6) Dub a thorax using the appropriate color rabbit fur. I usually use the finer hair from the face mask.
7) Pull the Flashabou over the thorax, tie off behind the bead and cut the surplus Flashabou. The fly is completed and ready for fishing.

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Site Last Updated on April 23, 2014