Fishing Cold Water in the Great Smoky Mountains - Winter
Stoneflies - Part 13
There are two families of stoneflies that have genera with species that hatch in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the winter in cold water. These little
stoneflies can hatch anywhere between water temperatures of forty and fifty
degrees. The first one is the Taeniopterygidae family or Little Brown or Little Black
Winter stoneflies as they are usually called. The species of these that hatch in the
winter months are usually a hook size 14 or 16.
The other family of stoneflies that have genera and species that hatch during the
winter in cold water is the Capniidae family. Species that hatch in the winter are
usually called Little Brown or Little Black Snowflies. They are usually a hook size 18
but they can be larger depending on the species.
One great thing about stoneflies is the fact the different genera of a family all have
species that look quite similar. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part it is
not necessary to know the particular species and in some cases, even the genera
the stoneflies you are trying to imitate are from. Another good thing is that unlike
mayflies and caddisflies is the fact they all hatch the same way. They crawl out of
the water to hatch.
Now remember I am referring to species that HATCH in the winter. There are many
other species of all nine families of stoneflies that are in the water. In fact, the
nymphs of most of them are just about reaching their last instar or becoming full
grown. I mention this because when you fish an imitation of a stonefly nymph during
the winter, your odds are usually pretty good.
You can catch trout on a small stonefly nymph or a large stonefly nymph. Small
trout will eat both small stonefly nymphs and large stonefly nymphs. Large trout,
even large browns, will eat both small stonefly nymphs and large stonefly nymphs.
What is the difference? Does using a large imitation better you chances of catching
a large trout. The answer is NO it will not. All it will do is to insure you will catch
fewer smaller trout. Large trout eat both small and large stonefly nymphs equally as
well. Small trout eat mostly small stonefly nymphs but will also occasionally eat a
You can take my word after fifty years of fishing (often for my living) many years as
much as two hundred and even more days per year (almost never less than a
hundred) or you can continue to let your mind fool you into thinking big flies will
catch bigger fish. As a general rule, all that will accomplish is fewer small fish. It just
about makes no difference what species of fish you are after, warm water, cold
water, saltwater or fresh water. There are some exceptions that are obvious. You
wouldn't want to try to catch a 1,000 pound shark on a dry fly. You would be smart
trying to catch a 600 pound blue-marlin on a 4 inch long squid over a twelve inch
long one. Small squid would be what you would find in most of their stomachs.
I know I got off subject but it is important to understand that using a size 16 or 18
stonefly nymph imitations isn't dumb. It isn't dumb even if you want to catch a large
brown trout. I saw a man cut open several large brown trout (all over twenty inches)
all wild trout from a stream in Montana, to gut them. I ask him to open their
stomach's for me to see. I didn't dare touch them because he was breaking the law.
I saw dozens of small stonefly nymphs and only a very few large salmonfly nymphs
in their stomachs even though the river he was fishing (with live bait) was full of and
well known for Salmonflies.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh