This weekend I had the opportunity to witness a full on stonefly hatch at the d̶o̶g̶ ̶p̶a̶r̶k̶ Mianus and it was really something. The hatches were sporadic throughout the afternoon, but the reactions from the trout were swift and furious. A stream that seemed completely barren moments ago would suddenly erupt with dozens of trout rising all around me. They were just going nuts for these stoneflies that seemed to appear out of nowhere, falling from the sky. It was a real rush to finally see rising trout in the flesh after a long winter of only seeing this kind of thing happen in a fly fishing video. But what really amazed me was how selective these fish were. I mean- we're talking fresh off the truck, dumb as rocks stockies and they were inspecting actual insects like wine snobs. They would either pass on some of them or smack at them with gusto after checking them out. I have no idea what went into making that decision. A few weeks ago they were perfectly happy to eat pellets of fish food and now they're entomologists?
Needless to say, things quickly went from "oh my god this is going to be awesome" to "what does it take to get them to take my fly?!". I tried every dry in the box that looked close, even a blue sedge that I was convinced would do the job. Those flattened wings just looked like a perfect match. Nope. I could see two browns holding in the current, and they would look up and closely inspect each increasingly desperate presentation. And then politely decline. Sometimes they wouldn't even bother looking. I went down to 6X tippet. Nope. I really focused on the drift, mending and getting it just right. Nope. I picked up one of the many stoneflies that were crawling into my jacket and gave it a second look, imagining what it would look like from below. Forget about the wings, they want the bodies. The closest thing I had was a flying ant pattern. A long skinny black body and little white wings. A couple casts later there was a feisty rainbow on the end of my line and a smile on my face. There were still some refusals after that, but I had some takes too. It felt great, like I had solved a meaningful puzzle. But I knew I still didn't have the right pattern to fish this hatch. Something to take to the bench.