Recently the Early Black Stonefly (EBS) hatch was brought up on PaFlyFish.com and as luck would have it, I was out this past week in central PA to hunt this hatch. And it is a hunt.
Now what these stoneflies are actually called unofficially and officially seems to vary or at least I am easily confused by which one is which and that sends me running for my references. To clear up this issue I took a look at my book collection. My friend Dennis Charney likes the Thomas Ames, Jr. book Hatch Guide For New England Streams. Ames identifies the these flies family as Taeniopterygidae, appearing in mid February and ranging in sizes as large as #12 down to #18 hooks.
Another book I like to use is the Pocketguide to Pennsylvania Hatches by the venerable duo Charles Meck and Paul Weamer. These are two giants in the Pennsylvania fly fishing pantheon of authors. The pocket guide identifies the EBS as Taeniopteryx inivalis with a start date around February 20th.
Henry Ramsay has a great pattern for EBS dry-flies in chapter 15 of his book Matching Major Eastern Hatches. Use his formula for the little yellow stonefly and just substitute black for the yellow. The size and profile are perfect for this bug.
I thought the hatch has been pretty good this year. I have caught a few trout on a skated or skittered presentation lately.
It’s interesting to see how the trout respond to this hatch on a low water year. Guide Eric Richard from Coveted Waters Guide Service believes this hatch becomes more important to the fish during low water years. Trout may not be as willing to chase other fish during blue sky days but sipping stoneflies off the bank or around cover is less dangerous. I think the key here to remember is that when conditions are prime for the fish to take these flies of the top it also means the water is low and clear which means the fish are prone to predators.
We had a good day on Thursday finding fish and finding flies but finding the nexus of the two was the trick. We did locate two spots that had fish feeding on EBS but the conditions (low, clear water & blue bird sky day) dictated that we only had a few shots at these fish. I rose several but had a tough time setting the hook from the distance I was fishing. I had a lot of slack in my line which is almost always a bad thing.
Hopefully we keep getting rain and the creeks come up a bit more. It was interesting to find the best clusters of EBS in the the sun. When the wind was calm we could see them heading out over the water. We did not see any mating flights but Eric has told me the fishing can be amazing when they happen.
Keep getting out there and looking, conditions are prime this year for early season dry fly fishing. It may be technical but that is what makes us superior to our western counterparts, it’s not just cast and blast out here on the east coast. Remember the O4P’s of fly fishing, Observation – Position – Presentation – Presentation – Presentation!