Hi, How Can We Help You?


Stone Fly Nymphs – Best Picks

The stonefly is one of the most abundant river bugs. There are many different sizes and colors of this bug. These flies are one of the main food sources for trout and other river fish. They are a large meal and they are always available to trout.

When we’re nymphing (fishing subsurface flies), stone flies are one of the best choices. You can fish them in small, medium and larger sizes – and trout will bite them year round.

Pats Rubber Legs, 20 Inchers, Copper Johns and large Pheasant Tails are some of the best stonefly nymphs available.

This article will show you some of my favorite stone fly nymphs, and will explain why they work so well. Whether you’re in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, East coast, etc… Trout will be eating stone flies in your local rivers. So get some!

#1 – Pats Rubber Leg Stone Fly

This is one of the most classic stonefly patterns. It looks very realistic, and it is also very simple. The hook shank is wrapped with lead wire to get the fly to sink fast. The body is made of chenille, and the legs and antennas are just rubber leg material. This can be sili-legs or sexi-floss, etc.

If you’re unsure of which stonefly to use, start with a Pats Rubberlegs. It comes in many different colors and sizes. Sizes #10-#14 are most popular with this fly. I really like fishing the black/brown version, but you can play around with endless color schemes. It comes in olive, purple, black, beige, etc. You can also select your own chenille and tie your own Pats.

The lead wrapped body allows this fly to sink more than other flies. This will get it in the strike zone faster than other flies. This is great for fishing deeper water, as well as faster water. You can either wrap lead on part of the hook shank, or the entire hook shank – depending on how heavy you want it.

The Pats works well because it looks like many types of stoneflies. You can go to different states and fish the Pats, and the trout will believe it to be real.

#2 – 20 Incher Stone Fly

This is another great stonefly pattern for all western rivers. It just looks buggy, and it’s been around for a very long time. Although it’s a simple pattern, it imitates a stonefly extremely accurately.

I like to fish the tungsten bead version to get the 20 Incher down fast. In the summer months, I will fish larger size #10’s and #12’s. For winter fishing, I will go down to a #14 or #16.

The 20 Incher is a fly that never gets old. It will catch trout just about anywhere.

You can find this fly in any western fly shop across America. If they don’t have it, then you should question their credibility!

For shallower riffles and runs, I like to fish the unweighted version since it sinks slower. I will often add just a bit of split shot to sink it. For deeper runs, I like to go with the tungsten version (pictured above).

#3 – Copper John

The Copper John doesn’t imitate just one bug in particular. It can be used for mayfly imitations, as well as stonefly imitations. The green ones can even work for caddis imitations.

This John Barr pattern is one of the most famous trout flies of all time. It just works well, and it comes in many different colors. For my stonefly imitations, I like to fish the Copper John in black. Many of our stoneflies in CO have a darker hue, and black just works well for me.

In smaller sizes, the Copper John isn’t that heavy. However, in sizes such as #10 or #8, it is very heavy. This allows it to sink fast and get in the trouts zone.

It is best to carry Copper Johns in multiple sizes and colors, so you can be prepared for different scenarios. However, most of the time i’m fishing a #16 in the black color. Try out different colors and see what works best for your local waters. Sometimes trout will key in on a specific Copper John, which can provide some amazing fishing.

#4 – Large Pheasant Tails

The Pheasant Tail is a fly that can imitate tons of insects. In smaller sizes, it can make a great BWO imitation. However, in larger sizes, it can really look like a stonefly nymph. Fishing a #10 or #12 tungsten Pheasant Tail is one of my favorite stonefly patterns. It is not overly realistic, but trout really eat it.

Sometimes it is best to fish a fly that isn’t super realistic. The large Pheasant Tail has the general profile of a stonefly, but it can look like lots of other bugs. I like to fish it with a CDC collar. This “Cul-De-Canard” soft hackle has lots of movement in the water, which can entice a bite from trout. If I want my flies to look really buggy, I will usually add some sort of soft hackle. CDC works very well for this.

You can see in the photo above that the CDC wraps around the entire bead. Once it gets wet, it flows in the water very smoothly.

#5 – Jigged Stoneflies

There are many different ways of tying a jigged stone. Jig flies ride upside down, so the hook is facing up. This prevents snags from happening. It means that your fly can slide over rocks and debris without getting hooked. Jigged flies are super popular nowadays, and for good reason.

The jigged stone above is a pattern I tied. I found a similar recipe on the internet and tried to imitate it. The 3/16″ tungsten bead is extremely heavy, which gets this fly down fast. The size #10 hook has a large gap which improves your hookup rate. This jigged stone is styled after a Copper John. By utilizing turkey biots and ultra wire, it is very reminiscent of most Copper John patterns. I added biots for the antennas as well. For the legs, sexi-floss or sili legs work well. The abdomen is just black ice dubbing.

Jigged stoneflies look awesome, and you’ll lose less of them on the bottom of the river. I recommend every fly angler has a few jigs in their box.


Since stoneflies are such a big part of a trouts diet, it is best to have some imitations in your fly box. If you show up to a new river and you’re not sure what they’re eating, try a stonefly.

By experimenting with colors and sizes, you can find out what stones your local trout like. Certain areas will have top producing patterns, so it’s best to stop into your local fly shop. As your stonefly collection grows, you will be more prepared for different rivers and different seasons.