by Dave Hise
One of the first days I knew the Sly and the Family Stone pattern was a winner was an unseasonably warm, late February day on an unnamed Michigan stream, where air temps topped 70°. Such a day in Michigan this time of the year is an extremely unusual occurrence. Along with the beautiful weather, came an intense behavioral drift of both Allocapnia and Taeniopteryx stonefly nymphs; the tailouts, the river’s edge, and the bushes and ground along the bank were literally slithering with these slim bodied stones. Soon after, the adults began fluttering clumsily about and the trout and birds were taking full advantage of the stonefly buffet. The drift lasted most of the afternoon and we even witnessed numerous steelhead skimming the waters surface taking the nymphs out of the film; a beautiful sight! The Sly got into the trout and steelhead unbelievably well. Needless to say, we had more than a productive day catching both trout and steelhead on these small wiggle stone patterns.
What sets the Sly and the Family Stone apart from all others is two things: its articulated hook that gives it that wiggly lively motion of a natural, and the slimmer profile compared to many other stonefly patterns. Many stonefly imitations have large profiles and are often, to my mind, overdressed. Many anglers and tyers are mind bent on fishing and tying giant stoneflies. They work, for sure, but trout see a lot of them. Not to mention, these patterns are often tied on straight-shanked, 3x long hooks. These patterns look too stiff to me. How often do you see the living natural in a state of rigor mortis? The Sly really has a lot of great motion. The pattern looks as though it’s wiggling in the water, swimming as a real nymph does.
The most effective way to fish the Sly is under an indicator as one pattern in a right-angle rig. In addition, when the adults and nymphs are active during emergences, this pattern can be deadly when fished on a greased leader, trailing an adult stone pattern behind it. Swing the Sly through and trout pick up on that motion and strike hard. The Sly is deadly for both trout and steelhead; but, it has even produced a smallmouth or two. I have had the best of luck in the late winter through the spring when the tiny winter black (Allocapnia) and the early brown stones (Taeniopteryx) are migrating to the streams edge by swimming, drifting, and crawling. Allocapnia are often seen peppering the snow on the warmer afternoons in late February and early March, and Taeniopteryx are found during the warmer afternoons in March, April, and sometimes May. Steelhead anglers in the Great Lakes region are quite familiar with these slim bodied insects because they make up such an important part of the steelhead’s diet. But the Sly works in most any stonefly hatch, especially early in the hatch when the nymphs are swimming and crawling and are susceptible to feeding trout.
Pick up a selection and see just how susceptible they can be to that special movement and slim profile only the Sly can offer.
Dave Hise is a master fly-tyer who was honored with Orvis’s Fly-Tyer of the Year in 2005. He is also a professional guide and owner of Casters Fly Shop in Hickory, NC.
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