My first experience with Stone fly hatches as a fly tier came about in Western Washington along the upper East fork of the Satsop River on the Olympic Peninsula. Daryl, a good friend from Mountain Home Idaho and I were exploring a section of the Satsop that we could only seem to find on the map. It seemed that the river narrowed considerably and wound its way through some older clear cuts, to a point where the springs began to be the main substance of its flow. After being unsuccessful for a couple of hours trying to pick up the stream, we picked an old overgrown logging trail, and headed out on a compass heading that "should" eventually intersect us with the stream. After maneuvering the truck for a couple of miles, we came to a logging cul-de-sac and were forced to stop. Getting out of the truck to stretch in frustration, we quickly realized we both were listening to running water not far off. In short order, we had climbed and fought ourselves through rainforest a short but frustrating 50 yards. There we stood, on the bank of a narrow stream of 10-12 feet wide, staring at a beautifully formed hole on a bend which tailed out into a long shaded run. We had found it! In a mad scramble we were back at the water's edge with gear on and rods in hand.
The banks were lined with chest-high ferns and moss-covered blow-down. And the entire stream was canopied by trees, so that the only way to effectively fish the stream was to wade. Both of us wanted to see the entire stream, so instead of splitting up we agreed to skirt the stream as far down as we could go. Then wade up together, taking turns at casting to likely water. About 300 yards down the run we discovered that the stream actually flooded into a flat where it split in multiple small channels and meandered itself through tangles of low brush, and at that point, we stepped into the water and began slowly working upstream through the fishable water.
Immediately we found hungry fish. Both of us were fishing smaller Elk Hair Caddis patterns in the #12-#14 range, and what came to hand were brilliantly colored wild Cutthroat in the 6-7" range. All we could do was smile at each other and shake our heads in amazement. What a find! About 100yds into the stream, we both noticed some bugs in the air. They started out as a few big lumbering orange-to-brown colored stoneflies, but soon were filling the air. In no time at all, the water came alive with fish. All we had in our boxes to even come close, were 3-or-4 #10 October Caddis patterns between us. It proved a decent substitute though, as fish after fish literally attacked the fly shortly after hitting the water. Nearly every cast brought a rise, and the fish jumped up in size to sporadic 9-10 inch Cutthroats. As we watched, the 1½ inch long natural would flutter to the surface of the stream, and at times several fish would fight over it with multiple slapping rises. All of this was happening in water that averaged knee deep, with the occasional mid-thigh deep hole. We fished until all of our closest patterns had either been lost to fish or donated to the rainforest, and called it a day.
Knowing we would not be able to hit the stream again until the next weekend, I headed home with thoughts of fishing that hatch again with an exact pattern. Digging through my pattern books and talking to the local shop, the closest thing I could find to the Stonefly we had encountered was the standard Stimulator in yellow/orange, and a reference in one book to the Birds Stone pattern. Neither fit perfectly, so I decided to take the best of both that applied. The tail and wing of the Stimulator was kept, combined with the clipped rib hackle of the birds Stone. I tied the pattern on a #10 hooks and utilized size #8 hackle, which improved the way the fly sat in the surface film. Originally tied on #10 Mustad #94831 hooks it needed to lay low on the water, have a slightly darker abdomen, and wear distinct antennae. The antennae along with the V-clipped hackle completed the pattern named the Satsop Stone. It was a perfect match the following week on the stream and the only change made to it in more than 20 years was to move to a Stimulator style hook. My experience streamside however has never demonstrated a difference between the 2 hooks as far as the fish are concerned, and is mainly a cosmetic change to satisfy my own preferences. I have also experimented tying it with and without the antennae and the notched hackle, and there is a noticeable difference in performance when tied those two attributes.
The first attempt at matching that particular Stonefly hatch miraculously came to be the pattern that I would in time carry from coast-to-coast. After more exploring with this pattern, it was soon identified as an excellent pattern for the summer run Steelhead which led to some extremely exciting rises while fishing a 5wt fly rod through otherwise trout waters. The Satsop Stone as we named it has fished perfectly on any water I've been on that held Golden Stones or Salmon Flies. Often when there is no Stone fly hatch to be found, I feel it has fished well simply because of the realistic and "buggy" footprint it shows on the water. It floats extremely well, always lands on its feet, and is the perfect indicator for tandem rigs in pocket water and boulder fields.
Aside from its home waters of the Olympic Peninsula it is my fly of choice for the Yakima River of Eastern Washington, my favorite search fly for fishing Pennsylvania's Pine Creek Gorge, and my go-to fly on the Susquehanna River for smallmouth's on dries. It's also extremely productive on any waters where smaller gold stone hatches are found when tied as small as a size #14. Give it a try. It should prove to be a solid performer in your fly box as well.
- Hook: #10 Stimulator Style Hook
- Thread: Rusty/Brown 6/0 Uni-thread
- Tail: Natural light elk hair
- Abdomen: Amber Hareline dubbing
- Rib: Furnace Saddle hackle (clipped to black)
- Wing: Natural light elk hair
- Thorax: Amber Hareline dubbing
- Hackle: Brown (1x Larger)
- Antennae: Furnace hackle quills
Step#1: Wrap thread base on hook. Clean and stack a small section of Elk hair and tie in the tail above the point of the barb.
Step#2: Tie in your furnace hackle, tip first.
Step#3: Dub your abdomen
Step#4: Palmer your body hackle forward & clip the hackle down to the black center portion of the hackle fibers.
Step#5: Clean and stack a section of Elk hair and tie in your wing. Clip the butt-ends and wrap a smooth tapered base under the thorax.
Step#6: Tie in your antennae and clip to length.
Step#7: Tie in your brown neck hackle.
Step#8: Dub your thorax, keeping it slightly tapered.
Step#9: Wrap your hackle forward.
Step#10: Trim the bottom of your hackle to a V-notch. & apply head cement.
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