We’re quickly approaching fall in Michigan, one of the best seasons to be a fly angler here in the mitten. As soon as we get some rain, salmon and steelhead will begin to show up, drawing the attention of many anglers. However, some of the best sub-surface trout fishing can also be had during September and October, right as the first leaves begin to hit the ground and the fish out of the big lake start to “do their thing.” It’s no secret that you can fish an egg pattern and have success. But, the activity of spawning salmon and the leaf litter from fallen trees have other impacts on aquatic ecosystems that anglers can take advantage of. For example, as salmon create their redds they completely alter the riverbottom, dislodging nymphs living in the gravel over large portions of streams. Secondly, aquatic insects rely heavily on leaves and other debris as a food source, making them much more active as this litter finds its way into streams. All of this combined with the cooler water temperatures add up to an increase in the number of nymphs that are floating downstream, and an increase in the likelihood that you’ll find a feeding trout that’s interested in your fly. A fly that is suggestive, and has the ability to catch a fish’s attention will help you take advantage of this. That leads us to the mottled stonefly pattern that some of us here at Nomad Anglers have grown to like over the past few years. It’s a simple Pat’s Rubber Leg pattern with one substitute – variegated chenille -- that gives it an extra buginess that fish can’t resist.
There’s no doubt that this looks like a stonefly to trout, but this fly also looks a lot like a big juicy cranefly larvae or a cased caddisfly that has been dislodged. Whatever the trout think this is, it just works. Fish it on a tandem nymph rig or by itself on a hook that’s at least 2X long in sizes 6-10. Add a bead for additional weight if you’d like. For the most part this is a quick and easy tie, but getting the legs to sit right can be a challenge at first, so we’ve got illustrated step-by-step instructions below. Give this pattern a shot this fall and see if it works for you!
Begin your thread about an eyes length behind the eye of the hook. Snip one piece of barred sexi-floss from the pack and fold it in half. Tie in the floss so that the two loose end of the floss are pointing forward off the eye of the hook approximately half an inch. Wrap the rest of the floss backwards and leave the folded end of the floss hanging of the back of the hook.
Snip a 3 inch piece of fly fish food material free from the strand. Tie it at the back of the hook where you ended with your thread. Advance your thread to approximately half way up the hookshank. Wrap the chenille forward until you reach this point and make two wraps over the chenille to hold it in place.
If the chenille lays forward on the hook as shown in the picture above, fold it back and take a few wraps in front to hold it out of your way. Snip another strand of sexi-floss from the pack and cut it in half. Tie in one of the pieces of floss on the near side of the hook. Wrap forward to approximately ¾ of the way up the shank. At that point, tie in the second piece of floss and wrap backwards until you reach the point where the chenille is secured. Carefully advance your thread to behind the eye.
From the top your fly should look like this:
Wrap the chenille and use it to help you position the legs properly. I usually make one wrap behind the back leg on the far side of the hook, then two wraps between the front and back legs and about 1.5 wraps before capturing the chenille and whip finishing the fly. Trim the antenna to approximately ¼ inch, the tails to approximately ½ an inch, and the legs to a length somewhere in between.