Three Stones for the River

Guest blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, MT

Brook's Montana Stone Classic tie with synthetic yarn and without herl

Brook’s Montana Stone
Classic tie with synthetic yarn and without herl

Large stoneflies (Plecoptera) abound on our western trout and steelhead rivers. The number of stonefly patterns available to the angler is large. There’s a lot to choose from, both adults and nymphs. Clearly nymph patterns are the most important as they are year round food for the fish. Despite the wide variety of stonefly nymph patterns out there, in my mind there are just three that should be in every angler’s fly box on a western river. They can be tied with different sizes and variations to suit conditions as well as different stoneflies. They are basic, simple, and effective patterns regardless of variation, anywhere stoneflies are found. They can be fished year round.

Brooks’ Montana Stone

Top to bottom-Olive tones for Skwala, Yellows for Golden Stone, and Black for salmon flies

Top to bottom-Olive tones for Skwala, Yellows for Golden Stone, and Black for salmon flies

The innovation of West Yellowstone angler Charles E. Brooks, the Brooks’ Montana Stone is tied “in the round”. Brooks, through extensive on-stream observations, discovered that natural nymphs tended to drift in an upright, stable position in the current near the bottom of the stream. Thus fish most likely never saw the underside of the nymph. At the time, most nymphs were tied in a manner that gave them different top and bottom colors. The Montana Stone was a good example. Entirely black on top with a bright yellow thorax on the bottom. By contrast, Brooks discovered that artificial nymphs tended to roll around in the stream presenting all sides of the fly to the fish. He observed fish being startled when the bright underside of a Montana Stone presented itself. Adapting to these observations, he devised a new fly—the Brooks’ Montana Stone—which presented the same profile and color to the trout no matter where it tumbled in the stream flow—“tying in the round”. It was an innovation that persists in many stonefly nymph patterns today.

The original pattern as described in Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout (Brooks, 1976)

  • Hook-Size 4-8, 4X long, weighted with .30 lead wire
  • Thread: Black
  • Tail: Raven or Crow primary feathers
  • Body: Black, fuzzy yarn
  • Rib: Fine copper wire
  • Hackle: One grizzly and one brown grizzly with gray or white ostrich herl

Brooks originated this pattern before the extensive use of synthetics, so today’s variations can take advantage of new materials. I am not sure, but I don’t think the Brooks’ Montana Stone is tied commercially, especially in its original form. So, if you want to use this pattern, you’ll have to tie it yourself.

Minch Stones

Minch Black Stone

Minch Black Stone

Matt Minch is a fly tier, angler who lives and fishes part time in Gardiner, Montana. He has fished around the globe and devised this pattern, which is really an enhancement on the Brooks’ stone using synthetics. The Minch

Minch stones in black and golden

Minch stones in black and golden

stones are quick and very easy to tie and work well in any turbulent stonefly water. Change size and colors to match different stoneflies. Many anglers fish the larger black stone in tandem with a smaller golden stone as a trailer since both salmon flies and golden stones emerge around the same time in late spring. With tungsten beads, they are quick sinkers and can be very effective fished without an indicator on a tight leader. In fact on the Gardner River as runoff subsides in late June, these are killer flies in tandem swung into small eddys along the edge of the raging stream.

 

Fish hold tight to banks as runoff subsides - Indicators useless here

Fish hold tight to banks as runoff subsides – Indicators useless here

 

The pattern as described by Walter Wiese of Park’s Fly Shop:

  • Hook-Size 4-10, 4X long, weighted with brass or tungsten bead
  • Thread: Black
  • Tail: Brown Marabou or Chickabou clipped short
  • Body: Flash chenille in black, yellow or olive
  • Thorax: Tan or pale brown dubbing
  • Wing: None
  • Rib: None
  • Hackle: brown grizzly saddle hackle
  • Legs: None

 

Mega Prince

A trio of Mega Prince Stones

A trio of Mega Prince Stones

The original Prince Nymph was created in the 1940 by Monterey, California fly tier Dave Prince. It has been one of the top selling commercial patterns ever since. At some point, steelheaders upsized the Prince Nymph into the Mega Prince.

Ties in sizes 4-8, the Mega Prince makes a good stonefly nymph imitation. The addition of rubber legs adds a lot of motion to these flies.

I am not sure that there is any precise pattern recipe for the mega prince and I’ve seen all sorts of variety in the pattern called a Mega Prince in local fly shops. Again it is one of those patterns that with slight changes in color and size can imitate many different stone fly nymphs. It is also one of those patterns that works well with a short trailer of any smaller nymph pattern. Tungsten beads get this thing down quickly.

The pattern as I tie it:

  • Hook-Size 4-8, 4X long, weighted with tungsten bead
  • Thread: Black or Orange
  • Tail: Goose biots
  • Body: Black, Olive, Yellow, fuzzy yarn or synthetic dubbing
  • Wing: White Goose biots
  • Rib: Fine copper wire
  • Hackle: brown
  • Legs: Rubber (optional)

Easy to tie, effective early and late in the season, these large stone fly nymphs are easy to fish where big stones are found. For my old fingers, large flies, especially in colder weather are essential. These are the ones.

One thought on “Three Stones for the River

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *