Many of us would argue that nymph fishing is one of the deadliest forms of flyfishing in the book. Those who are into this form of fly-fishing would also agree that a well-fished nymph would take trout more often than any other form of flyflicking. To me, short line nymphing on a mountain stream is simply one of life’s pleasures. Slipping and sliding over large boulders, suffering from a wet butt is part of what it is all about but that cold, tumbling water that is sparkling with millions of tiny bubbles is also home to some of the brightest coloured Brown Trout to be found. Those bold, orange-red spots, circled with a blue-grey ring over an iridescent brown/green body, to me are a reflection of one of the most beautiful fish species in the world.
Life in boulder strewn mountain streams for old speckles is not easy. The relentless, tumbling current can sap energy in a very short time and to live in conditions such as this they have to find pockets of slow water to live in. Can you imagine sitting tucked in behind a boulder all day and darting out to grab a morsel of food as it streaks by? Tough stuff, but they seem to love it.
In water like this mayfly hatches are normally restricted to the family of mayflies we loosely refer to as the swimmers, being the Baetids and the old Kossie Dun. As the morning warms up the little Baetids will drift off throughout the day. These little blue mayflies never hatch out in big numbers but they are constantly coming off during the day. On evening if you are real lucky you may encounter a hatch of Kossies. If it happens your day is made, for at times they can bring up every fish in the system.
In water such as this there is another bug that is a major food source for old speckles but it is often overlooked by flyflickers and that is the stonefly. In Australia we have around two hundred species, most are small, skinny looking critters and are often referred to as needle flies. The most common family around our mountain streams is known as Gripopterygidae. They have little creamy-white gill tufts at the base of their bodies and they can range in size from 3mm to 30mm in length.
Stoneflies generally hatch out early in the morning. Some stonefly nymphs actually climb out onto exposed boulders to hatch out. They are cunning little things; they actually climb out on the side facing the morning sun (Easterly aspect). There they rest, allowing the morning sun to help dry the shucks so that they can escape into our world. On most mornings, around early spring, you will see the evidence of an early morning hatch but you will have to be on the water before a breeze comes up, as the shucks are soon blown away.
Some species, such as those belonging to the Eustheniid, are large, up to 60mm with orange flashes under their wings and around their necks. They look like they will bite but they won’t, as they are mostly vegetarian. These guys tend to crawl up grass stems or any overhanging vegetation to hatch out.
Left: Gripopterygidae Stonefly or Needle Fly
Stonefly nymph shucks on rocks just above the water line
Gripopterygidae Stonefly nymph