EGG-LAYERS AND SPENT FLIES
Egg-bound females usually deposit their cargo while fluttering across the surface or sometimes by dropping egg clusters from several feet above the water. The former puts them on a collision course with trout and grayling. Ovipositing usually takes place from late afternoon into the evening. Where stonefly populations are healthy this can happen on an impressive scale, although a more likely scenario is a trickle of females returning over several hours. Owing to their bulk, large females seldom hover over the water when off-loading their eggs and instead scuttle across the surface, carried downstream on a diagonal path, often making a commotion. This makes life easy for fly-fishers. All you need do is cast a large adult stonefly pattern up and across at 45 degrees, before allowing it to drift downstream. It pays to constantly tweak the line so that your fly fidgets on its journey towards you. Smaller and more nimble stoneflies, such as needle flies, willow flies and small browns, tend to lay their eggs by fluttering across the surface. This often occurs late in the day and sometimes on a grand scale, which might fool novice fishers into believing the mother of all hatches has kicked off, yet an inspection of the surface film will reveal a lack of nymphal shucks. Eager to get their fill, trout and grayling have been known to feed with abandon as they lunge at the buzzing stoneflies, especially during calmer periods of weather. This impatience is curious because, once spent, the females litter the surface and are easy pickings. This gives us two bites of the cherry: a cast at fish splashing about the pool and then again at trout that have assumed a more orderly queue to sip down wasted females that have been filtered into feeding lanes. Owing to their busy appearance, flies festooned with CDC fibres are the preferred patterns for many fishers. Bosnian ace Renato Opancar has a fly (left) that’s absolute mustard when fish have eyes for the fluttering adults. I put my faith in a Stewart-style Spider tied using a genetic hen hackle. It has a degree of stiffness that allows the fly to teeter on its tips when treated with floatant, making it a plausible imitation during the egg-laying carnival. The same fly works its magic on fish mopping up after the main event. The semipalmered hackle’s increased surface area prevents it from sinking quickly, allowing it to loiter, like a swamped natural at the surface. Although fishing a team of three flies is common when presenting Spiders, this pattern is best fished singularly as you would a dry-fly.
“It pays to constantly tweak the line so that your fly fidgets on its journey towards you”
One on a summer’s evening when brownies can become preoccupied with egg-laying stoneflies.
A needle fly nymph. These small stoneflies are particularly common in the north of England.