Fly Tying: Little Black Stonefly Nymph presented by Tightline Productions

Trout Unlimited is proud to partner with Tightline Productions L.L.C. and reknowned fly tier Tim Flager to bring you exclusive content to enhance your fly fishing.

By Tim Flagler

As we transition out of winter and into spring here in the northeast, we can expect aquatic macro invertebrate activity to begin increasing in rivers and streams. One of the earliest to get stirring are stoneflies, particularly the smaller models. I’m no bug expert and, as a result, simply lump together what I’m sure are multiple, different species and refer to them as “Little Black Stones”. Whether they are technically “Early Black Stones”, “Early Brown Stones”, “Willowflies” or “Snowflies”, I’m really not sure. As nymphs, the bugs I’m talking about are easily distinguished from other more standard looking stoneflies by their near body-length-long antennae and tails, and more triangular, rather than rectangular, shaped little wing pads. They’re also a good bit smaller, let’s say in sizes from 16 down to 20. The nymph pattern I’ve come up with to represent these (Little Black Stones) as a group, is simple to tie and relies heavily on very small rubber leg material to imitate the antennae and tails. The thinner and more limber the material you can find, the better, as you want it to move as much as possible underwater. A segmented, stretch tubing body, a single pheasant tail fiber wing case and a brushed out, dubbed thorax complete the pattern.

I greatly prefer to fish this fly unweighted, relying instead on a few split shot or another weighted fly to get it down to the bottom where the trout are likely holding. I want my Little Black Stonefly nymphs to be as close to neutrally buoyant as possible and get tossed around freely by the slightest micro currents. These bugs will hatch out into adults in the late winter and early spring, especially on warmer days. If you’re lucky, there’s dry fly action to be had, but it can be rather erratic with trout slashing at the adults as they skitter randomly across the water’s surface. In other words, your fly needs to be in the exact right place at the exact right time or you’re out of luck. Nymphing greatly increases your odds of success. It may have a lot to do with spring fever but I always seem to have a ton of fun and pretty good success nymphing the Little Black Stone hatch, it’s a great warm-up for spring.



Materials List for Little Black Stonefly Nymph: 

  • Hook: 3X-long nymph hook (here a Dai-Riki #285), size 14-20.
  • Thread: Black, 8/0 or 70 denier. 
  • Antennae/Legs: Black Centipede Legs, mini.
  • Abdomen: Black Stretch Tubing, micro.
  • Wingcase: 6-8 natural pheasant-tail fibers.
  • Thorax: Dark hare's mask.
  • Adhesive: Head cement.
  • Note: Pick out the dubbing of the thorax with some Velcro.

Tim Flagler is the owner of Tightline Productions, L.L.C., a video production company located in Califon, NJ. Although Tightline produces video programs over a wide range of topics, their speciality is fly fishing. Almost every week they produce a new fly tying or “how to” video which appears not only on their Vimeo and YouTube channels but on and the Orvis fly tying blog as well. These videos often get picked up by other sites too, including Frankenfly, Chiwulff, The Limp Cobra, Globalflyfisher, Gink and Gasoline and Wideopenspaces, just to name a few. Many of the tying videos take the viewer well beyond just the tying of the fly and show what it looks like underwater, what natural it represents and how it can be fished. Tightline Productions, L.L.C. is a TU Business member.


said on Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Great pattern, clear and concise instructions/video........tripping over myself getting ready for Eastern Sierra opener on my fav quiet stream, should the road open in time, if not, there is always plan "B"...........see ya'll on the water burning gears....grizzface14


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