Golden Stoneflies are the most abundant larger stonefly hatch that we have here in the west. Golden’s thrive in both freestone and tailwater fisheries. While the presence of golden’s are an indicator of good river health, the bugs don’t need as pristine conditions like their distant cousins the Salmon Flies. They like fast rocky water, with high oxygen levels (similar to the Eagle River). Typically the Golden’s begin hatching two-three weeks after the salmon flies, this is usually around June-July depending on the water temperatures. The bugs can be present on rivers until the late fall, with some hatches tailing off in mid-October. Given that these bugs typically hatch at night, many anglers often overlook fishing with golden imitations. I recommend every angler to familiarize themselves with the golden stonefly hatch as it is a very enjoyable underrated bugs.
After the eggs have hatched into the nymph stage the golden stone nymphs typically will live below the water for about a year until hatching out. Like most stoneflies around or just after dark the golden’s emerge from the water column and begin to scurry across the surface of the water to the river’s edge. This is where the goldens attach themselves to a rock and shed their last exoskeleton. They then proceed to shake and dry their wings before taking flight. It is common to see the exoskeleton remains on the rocks on the river banks. Like most aquatic bug hatches the hatch begins downstream and moves upstream.
As an adult the goldens typically live for 3-6 weeks. Before mating they spend their adult lives eating algae, small bugs, and other vegetation. After the mating occurs the females begin to sporadically fly above the water, where they begin to deposit their eggs. This is the stage when the stoneflies are most vulnerable to trout. After the eggs are deposited they fall to river bed where they begin the life cycle.
Throughout the year the nymphs are present in the water. Typically in the late spring is when anglers can have the most success nymphing golden stonefly patterns. As the summer hatches begin the trout will begin to key in on the dry fly patterns. The trout can key in on these dry flys sometimes until late fall.
3 Nymphs Imitations:
3 Dry Fly Imitations:
Of course on different rivers trout can prefer different patterns with different colors and sizes. All anglers should try to examine a natural golden stonefly to determine the color and sizes.
- Target fast water. Golden stoneflies nymphs thrive in fast rocky water. This is where the trout are in tune with eating them. When water flows rise, they bugs are often ripped off of rocks and tumble through the fast water until grabbing another rock.
- No need for perfect presentation. When the female golden stone’s lay their eggs, they often crash onto the surface of the water from the weight of the egg sacs. This often attracts the trout and they aggressively react with a strike. Unlike dry fly fishing mayfly patterns, anglers should try to make their dry fly imitation smack the water. This will often get an aggressive reaction from the fish.
- Early bird gets the worm. While most articles about fly fishing golden stones recommend fishing them in the late afternoon or around dusk. I have found the early morning to be a very productive time to fish golden’s on the surface. In the month of August on the Colorado River, throwing golden imitations at first light along the banks is extremely productive.
- Put a dropper or two on. Since the golden’s dry fly imitations are so large and float so well, put on some tippet below the fly and tie on a bead head fly. This will improve your chances and usually doesn’t have an impact on how your dry floats.
- All about the action. The golden’s emergence involves a frantic scurry across the water. While the egg laying, involves a clumsy water smacking egg deposit. Be creative with your presentation, you don’t always need a perfect drag free drift. Similar to dancing caddis patterns on the surface, this can work when fishing golden’s. At the end of drift try skating or dragging and dropping your flies on the surface. Try a variety of different techniques and see what might rise a strike.
Often overlooked the golden stones are one of the most prominent bugs here in the west. While sometimes it can be hard to figure out when and where to use them. Hopefully these tips and tactics will help you be successful on the river. Next time you are out on the water this summer be sure to try fishing a golden stone dry fly pattern and slap it onto a fast riffel. Big fish love to eat these bugs and who doesn’t like catching big fish?