Brown Willow Flies - Skwala Stoneflies

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Brown Willow Flies
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Brown Willow Flies Arrive Early!  
Get the scoop from: Rick Hafele.

Large morsels like brown willow fly adults catch the interest of some nice trout.

Early Spring

Besides unusually mild weather, signs of an early spring abound throughout the Northwest. Robins have returned in full force, the plum trees in my yard look like they will bloom any day, and one of the first important stonefly hatches of the year, the brown willow flies, are already out on the banks of the Deschutes River. In fact during a fishing trip to the Deschutes River the first week of February, the bug activity looked more like mid-March. Blue-winged olives popped off the water, brown willow flies crawled on shoreline grasses, and small saddle-case caddis (family: Glossosomatidae  genus: Glossosoma) ran around in hordes looking for mates. And this was only the 4th of February! In a typical year these spring stoneflies donít come into play until early or even mid-March, and continue until mid to late April. But given their premature arrival I thought it best to provide some info on them now.
In the next newsletter Iíll discuss the saddle-case caddis, one of my favorite spring Ė or in this case late winter Ė caddis hatches.

While females have normal functional wings, they are still reluctant to fly, so even when Skwala adults are abundant you will see very few in the air.  This doesnít mean fish arenít seeing them however. The adults stay near shore and frequently fall in, plus females often run out onto the water to lay their eggs.

Early Brown Stones Are On The Water Now

There are two species of brown willow flies: Skwala americana and Skwala curvata. The genus Skwala is just one genus of the stonefly family Perlodidae. With 31 genera and over 120 species, the family Perlodidae is one of the most diverse of all stonefly families. The family is divided into two major sub-families, Perlodinae and Isoperlinae, which can often be distinguished by size; most Perlodinae are three quarters to a little over one inch long, while most Isoperlinae run about a half inch long or less. Skwala falls into the large-sized Perlodinae sub-family along with two other important genera to the angler, Megarcys and Isogenoides. Though the family Perlodidae is widely distributed with different species spread across all of North America, the genus Skwala, or brown willow flies, occur only in western streams from the Rocky Mountains to the coastal mountains along the Pacific Ocean.

The nymphs of brown willow flies can be easily confused with golden stone nymphs. Skwala nymphs, however, lack gills at the base of the their legs, while golden stone nymphs have thick bushy gill filaments where each leg joins the thorax.
Skwala Nymphs
Skwala nymphs are predators and crawl actively along rocky bottoms in search of prey like small mayfly nymphs and midge larvae. Their preferred habitat is quick choppy riffles with a substrate of large gravel and cobble. They tend to be most abundant in large low elevation rivers and moderate sized mountain streams. Because of the nymphís predacious nature and active hunting style, nymphs end up in stream drift where trout have a chance to see them, so when these nymphs are present and abundant they can be well worth imitating.
At first glance Skwala nymphs look a lot like golden stone nymphs (family: Perlidae & species: Hesperoperla pacifica and Calineuria californica). However, Skwala nymphs have no gills on their thoracic segments and only two small finger-like gills under the head. Golden stone nymphs in contrast have thick bushy gill filaments at the base of each leg. In addition Skwala nymphs are light yellow to tan in color with dark markings on their head, thorax, and abdomen, while most golden stone nymphs are darker in color.

Brown willow fly and golden stone adults also get confused with each other. Brown willow fly adults however, hatch about month or two earlier than golden stones, have dark chocolate to burnt-orange colored bodies rather than golden brown, and though large, are not as large as golden stone adults (size 10ís and 8ís vs. 8ís and 6ís).

Grass covered or willow covered banks are the perfect spot to fish your dry patterns of brown willow flies.  Many times you donít even need to be in the water, as some of the best trout will be with in a foot or two of shore waiting for adults to fall off the bank.
Like other stoneflies, prior to adult emergence Skwala nymphs migrate to the banks where they crawl out of the water when ready to become adults. These migrations create the perfect time to fish nymph patterns. Fish your flies dead-drift,  close to the bottom in riffles and the tailouts below them. As your fly drifts downstream let it swing close the bank and hang near shore where fish might be holding. From my experience fancy nymph patterns arenít needed. One of my favorites is a beadhead red fox squirrel nymph on a size 10-3XL hook. You can also use a relatively small size-10, golden stone nymph. Even when adult Skwala are out, trout uninterested in surface food will often gladly accept a well-presented nymph.
One thing you will generally not see during a good hatch of brown willow flies is the adults flying out over the water. This means you will need to look carefully for adults on shoreline grasses, shrubs and trees to determine if they are present and abundant. Why not in the air? If you look closely at the adults crawling around on the banks youíll see why; many of the adults will have wings only about half as long as their abdomens and too small to be of use. These are males, and what they lack in flight ability they make up for in crawling speed. Females have normally developed wings and can fly, but they too generally prefer crawling quickly along the shore in grasses and willows rather than taking to the air. After mating on shore, gravid females often run out onto the water rather than fly out over it to lay their eggs. What this means to you is that it is important to fish adult patterns close to the banks where adults are crawling or falling in. Interestingly adult stoneflies with short non-functional wings, a condition known as brachyptery, occur in a wide variety of stonefly species.

Male brown willow fly adults have short non-functional wings. While they canít fly they can crawl quite fast.
While there are specific Skwala adult patterns available, I find a size-10 stimulator with a dark brown body and dark wing generally works quite well. In fact a variety of stonefly adult patterns will work as long as they have a dark brown body on about a size-10 or 8 hook. The real key is location and presentation. First, look for good bank water. Banks with some depth and structure for fish and with overhanging grasses or willows for the stoneflies are ideal. Next make a good drag-free drift close to the bank. Try to imagine a brown willow fly adult that just fell out of the willows and plopped onto the water. If you get a good drift over a trout you will often be rewarded with a swirl and disappearing fly.
Brown willow flies will be found in good numbers on many of the best trout streams throughout the Northwest.  Besides the Deschutes, you will find them on the Yakima, Owyhee, Willamette, McKenzie, and many more. Mild weather with low snowpack and the resulting low winter streamflows can produce the perfect storm for excellent brown willow fly action. And donít wait, these stoneflies are at a river near you now!
Get your Trout Fishing PhD
Rick Hafele & Dave Hughes Nymph Fishing Workshop 02/20/10...

Skwala Hatch Matching Flies
Skwala Hatch Matching Flies

Anto-May Nymph #10
Jimmy Legs Nymph #12
Bead Head Stone Nymph, Golden  #8 & #10

King Stone Nymph, Golden  #8
FFS Stone Fly Nymph, Golden #8 & #10
Little Golden Stone #10
Gold Rib Hare's Ear Nymph #10

Skwala Dry #8
Peacock Stimulator #8
Little Olive Stone Dry #12
Sodom & Nemora #12

Skwala Stone Dry
Skwala season is some of the best fishing of the year with hungry trout and minimal crowds on the river. This fly has natural colors of a Skwala stone and is very visible, which is important when fishing the flat light of March and Aprilís cloudy days. The egg sack and rubber legs trigger strikes. 

Skwala Stone Dry

Item Description Size Price To Top
  TFS-0065 Skwala Stone Dry 8 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Stimulator, Peacock Body
This is the deadly pattern, which has been kept top secret by some sneaky early season trout guides for nearly two decades. Show this fly to early season bank-feeders for explosive success.

Stimulator, Peacock Body

Item Description Size Price To Top
  01114-08 Stimulator, Peacock Body 8 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Silvey's Little Olive Stone Dry
Brian Silvey: When you walk into Brian's tying room you can't help but notice the piles of materials, dozens of rods, reels, scattered fly lines and what fly is in the vise. Brian ties hundreds of patterns before he fine tunes the fly to the one version that works the best. Then, that fly makes the cut to be in the exclusive company of his box. I steal them from him constantly. Why?

They work. Really well. Spend enough time with Silvey and you realize he's obsessed with figuring out exactly what fish want to eat. His ingenious approach, fish-contagious talent, and tying aptitude have contributed to his success. When he guides, proven patterns are on your line. When he plays, every fly is an experiment to find the next great pattern. Thankfully, his creations are available for us not so brilliant tiers, to have these patterns join the exclusive company of our fly box too!óMarty Sheppard
Little Creek Outfitters

Silvey's Little Olive Stone Dry

Item Description Size Price To Top
SIG-0237 Silvey's Little Olive Stone Dry 12 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Karnopp's Sodom & Nemora Dry
Justin Karnopp says, "I grew up fishing the Nemora hatch on the Middle Deschutes and found that the fish there tended to selectively feed on the larger, egg-laying females. Trout also seemed to key in on the fluttering action of the wings. None of the local shops offered any winter stone patterns that were very good, in my opinion, and most of them were very difficult to see in the flat light of that particular canyon. With the lack of an effective pattern to fish I started working on my own design. Iíve fished some variation of this pattern during Nemora hatches for 15 years and have tweaked it a number of times to arrive at the present tie." He goes on to explain,
"I feel this fly has all the triggers that trout key on for Nemoras. The egg sack is a key, as are the rubber legs which give the fly some action. The parachute with strands of flashabou inter-mixed make the fly easy to see during those dark days in March and April when Nemoras hatch. This fly is deadly during Nemora hatches and makes a great dropper on a two-fly rig behind a Skwala. In Western MT, this pattern also doubles as an ant/beetle and makes a good general attractor.   Itís a good one to have in your box and will fish all season long.

Karnopp's Sodom & Nemora Dry

Item Description Size Price To Top
SIG-1380 Karnopp's Sodom and Nemora Dry 12 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Anto-May Nymph
Advantages of Design
Bead heads are not oversized to maintain proper proportions. Black beads are more realistic (bugs donít have gold heads) and out-fish brighter beads in heavily
fished waters. Heavy wire hooks donít straighten under the weight of significant fish. This fly is counter-shaded like natural insects, heavy and extremely durable.
Ken Morrish, who perfected this fly says, "Even though this is my go-to mayfly pattern, in the larger sizes, 10ís and 8ís, the Anato-may is your sleeper stonefly nymph.  I say sleeper because its name narrows the scope of the pattern.  However, the silhouette and colorations of the olive version make the perfect Skwala nymph." 

Anto-May Nymph

Item Description Size Price To Top
SIG-0094 Anto-May Nymph 10 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Jimmy Legs Nymph
This pattern was spawned from the guides in Idaho and Montana taking an existing pattern called the Rubberlegs (Stonefly imitation) and retrofitting it for better fishing results.
 They would take the Rubberlegs and bend the hook to give it a more realistic nymph/stonefly profile. Then they would take their forceps and knot all of the legs. Idylwilde was just looking out for these hard working guides by putting the pattern on a factory bent hook and knotting the legs for them. The Jimmylegs have been a semi-well kept secret of the guides for a few years. This is your chance to get something that can level the playing field for you.

Jimmy Legs Nymph

Item Description Size Price To Top
NSF-0101 Jimmy Legs Nymph 10 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Gold Rib Hare's Ear Nymph
Quoting the venerable
Morilla, on If you were to ask one hundred fly fishers for their list of ten "must have" nymphs that could be used throughout the year, on virtually any water, to imitate the widest variety of hatches, and would likely get you into fish no matter the circumstances, the "Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear" would probably be, if not the most frequently cited pattern, it would at least be in the top two or three. It is probably the most adapted, adaptable, modified, and recognizable nymph pattern in the U.S.
In the 1969 edition of Professional Fy Tying, Spinning and Tackle Making Manual and Manufacturer's Guide, the famed George Leonard Herter describes the wet fly version and states:

"The Hare's Ear and Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear both were made by fly tyer David Hemming of Redditch, England in 1832." p. 459 (He also notes on the same page that the only difference between the two patterns was the gold rib.)

Gold Rib Hare's Ear

A more complete version of the quote from Ernest Schwiebert's Nymphs (1973), would reference a work by Charles Cotton in 1676 where Schweibert states:

"...His list of flies included sixty-five patterns. Several are surprisingly nymphlike in character, as discussed earlier in this introductory chapter, and the Great Blue Dun that Cotton recommended for late February sounds like a prototype for the relatively modern Hare's Ear - the most effective hatching-nymph pattern ever dressed." (pp. 5 - 6)

In the 1978 revised and enlarged edition of Trout and Salmon Fly Index, Dick Surette posits, again in reference to the wet fly variation:

"This old pattern was in existence prior to 1839, when T. C. Hofland referred to the fur from between the ears of a hare. The originator can not be traced, but is from England..."

All we have to say is that in size ten, it's a pretty good Skwala nymph pattern and a consistant producer of trout.
Item Description Size Price To Top
  12100-10 Gold Rib Hare's Ear Nymph 10 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Andre Scholz to Perform at the 10th Annual Sandy River Spey Clave
Saturday, May 15, 2010 - 11:00-11:30am

Andre Scholz landing a salmon from the Gala River in Norway!

Andre Scholz joined the Winston advisory team as a special member of the Winston Pro Staff in 2005. He resides in Schwerte, Germany and has a degree in Sports Science from the University in Bochum. Andre has made a name for himself in Germany and Scandinavia as one of the leading two-handed (spey) casters in the world. His exceptionally smooth, almost effortless casting and detailed knowledge of the sport have brought scores of students to his European casting clinics.

Winston rod designer, Sam Drukman, and Andre met at the 2004 FFR Show in Denver, CO.
Sam was immediately impressed with Andreís masterful technique. 
Since then Andre has worked closely with the Winston design team in designing the new Boron IIx and Boron II-MX spey models, the lightest in the world.

Andre uses a Scandinavian style line that incorporates Poly leaders.  With this system he creates loops that are so perfect, that all angling spectators are instantly struck with envy and awe. He casts equally well on water or on a mowed lawn.  His anchor is so light, he casts on the grass, without a grass leader.

I took a short Spey casting lesson from him at the 2006 Sandy Clave.  Andre uses lighter weight heads and loads the rod only in the tip. He grips the rod with his top hand very close to the reel, so his hands are close together.  Almost all of his power comes from his bottom hand during the entire cast.  The back loop forms into a tight V-shape.  The forward cast is a narrow bullet that delivers amazing distance and accuracy.

Andre's influence can be felt in Winston's two newest Spey rod models: the 13' 3" 7/8 and the 15' 9/10. These lightweight, crisp action rods have stolen the show in their size categories.  The 13' 3" 7/8 was the most popular two-hand rod model at The Fly Fishing Shop in 2006. This is because it is possibly the most adaptable spey rod ever built.  It accepts all casting styles and throws a huge variety of fly line weights.  All of Winston's spey rods tend to be very forgiving, but are also very high performance. 

An extremely charismatic and extraordinarily talented caster, Andre represents Winston at many domestic and international fly fishing venues. This year, Andre will be offering beginner and advanced spey casting clinics hosted by Winston Dealers across the country.

You can try any or all of the Winston Two-Hand Rods at the Sandy River Spey Clave.

Andre Scholz in Norway
Andre with a Gala River salmon.
Summer Steelhead Spey School Sponsored by R.L. Winston Rods
Summer Steelhead Spey School On the Deschutes River  Spaces Limited !!!
Test Report: 67126 BIIX Spey Rod
The Legend of Mighty Mouse
"Reaching Out
From Tight Quarters"
HD Windows Media Player
FREE Rio Spey Line! FREE Instructional Spey Casting DVD!
Mark Bachmann, Deschutes River, Winston B2X67126
Item   Price To Top
FREE LINE-B2X SPEY Free Rio Skagit Flight Shooting Head System fly line with Winston B2X & B2MX Spey rod purchased in 2010. Includes: PowerFlex Core Shooting Line, Appropriate size Skagit Flight Head, and Custom Sinking Tip. $FREE SALE ENDED

Length: 12' 6"       Line: #6/7     Pieces: 4   

Winston Spey

Mark Bachmann, Deschutes River, Winston B2X67126
New for 2009! Possibly the ultimate light line steelhead rod for the Deschutes, Grand Ronde, North Umpqua, Klickitat, etc. We have already caught a bunch of Deschutes steelhead with this rod. These fish have ranged from 4-11 pounds. We have used both the Airflo Scandi Compact and Rio AFS lines to fish size 4-6 traditional wet and waking flies. There is little discernible difference between the performance of these two lines on this rod. We fished this Winston in some howling winds, which it handled as well as any small rod we have used. It was rigged with a Waterworks/Lamson ULA Force 3.4 reel for perfect balance. The Winston BIIX 12' 6" 6/7 is destined to be one of the most popular two-hand rods ever made. Mark my words: "This is truly a great fly rod."
Andre Scholz Scandinavian Shooting Head Recommendation: 390-420 grains.
Floating Line Recommendations: Airflo Scandi Compact 390, Rio AFS 400, Rio WindCutter 6/7
Use: 450-grain Skagit Compact or Skagit Flight for sinking tip work.
Rod weight: 5 1/2 Ounces.
Item Series Line Wt Action Handle Price To Top
67126 B2X 6/7 Medium Fast Spey $835 SALE ENDED
The Legend of Mighty Mouse
Don't think that the 67126 is just for summer fishing!   
We've had great success in the winter too!
Josh landed this fresh winter steelhead with the Winston 6/7 B2X
The Winston 67126B2X, like all Winston Spey Rods is very liberal in its line-wants. We've fished everything from 390-550 grain lines on this rod with great success. Pictured above is a fresh winter fish that Josh Linn landed 01/12/10 with the little 6/7 Winston. This was from a large river at high flow, proving that this rod isn't just for small water.
The comic book hero, Mighty Mouse is a dynamic personality in a diminutive body. That may well describe the Winston 67126 BIIX rod, which weighs in at 5 1/2-ounces and is able to subdue fresh steelhead that weigh contest. Landing a 15-pound steelhead is never easy, if it were we would undoubtedly find some other pastime to challenge using lighter tackle, or fishing from really hard places. These are challenges that force us to develop superior skills, and which hone our sense of enjoyment of the sport.
The short study video, "Reaching Out From Tight Quarters" by Josh Linn & Marcy Stone, shows one approach to using the Perry Poke Cast to reach-out across a broad tailout while the angler is pinned to a high vegetation-covered bank by a steep unwadeable drop-off into deep water. The Perry Poke (developed by Carl Perry) is a dropped-forward-loop, which aligns the forward cast to the target. Once accomplished, a much shortened rear D-loop may be used because much of the actual  rod-loading loop forms over the water, forward of the caster. The casts displayed in this video were performed with a Skagit shooting head, 4-inch long fly and 13' of T-11 for a sinking tip.
The video comes in two versions. The full size HD version is 69,409 KB and takes a long time to load unless you have a very fast connection. It does however, have very good detail for studying the details of the casts. Click > to replay this video without having to wait for it to reload. The WMV version is 4,286 KB, which loads pretty fast over normal broad-band connections. There is no sound with either version.

Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket
Good looking in any setting. Practical indoors and outdoors!
Black Brick Details
"The Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket is one of those garments that kind of sneaks up on you and wins your heart with tenderness and total reliability. I've got about 30-days of use out of mine, and it shows very little sign of wear. Because of the wool outer facing, the Wool Pro fabric looks so traditional that you might not realize that this may be one of the highest-tech clothing layers we have ever tested. The inside fabric is soft, silky Poly Pro mesh which keeps you both cool and warm at at the same time. the way to wear this Cardigan sweater style piece is next to your skin or with a very light synthetic garment under it.
Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Black

New for 2010

  • Constructed with Polartec Power Dry Wool/Poly fabric
  • Perfect layering piece with next to skin comfort and high warmth to weight ratio
  • Fast wicking and quick drying performance
  • Articulated elbows for active comfort
  • YKK zippered chest pocket
Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Black
Item Description Size Price To Top
7212-2-BK Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Black Color Medium $100 SALE ENDED
7212-3-BK Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Black Color Large $100 SALE ENDED
7212-4-BK Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Black Color X-Large $100 SALE ENDED
7212-5-BK Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Black Color 2X-Large $100 SALE ENDED
Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Brick

New for 2010
Great for innerwear or outerwear. Equally great for casual dress or layering.
  • Constructed with olartec Power Dry Wool/Poly fabric
  • Perfect layering piece with next to skin comfort and high warmth to weight ratio
  • Fast wicking and quick drying performance
  • Articulated elbows for active comfort
  • YKK zippered chest pocket
Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Brick
Item Description Size Price TTo Top
7212-2-BC Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Brick Color Medium $100 SALE ENDED
7212-3-BC Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Brick Color Large $100 SALE ENDED
7212-4-BC Sage Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket, Brick Color X-Large $100 SALE ENDED
Sage spent a lot of attention to detail when they made the Wool Pro 1/2 Zip Jacket. The garment used for the detail shots below had been worn many times, yet shows almost no wear.
The pocket is lined to prevent stretch & sag.
The pocket is lined to prevent stretch & sag.
This zipper works very smooth.
This zipper works very smoothly.
The Poly Pro inner fabric feels good against your skin.
The Poly Pro inner fabric feels good against your skin.
Parts fit together perfectly and wear well.
Parts fit together perfectly and wear well.

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark & Patty