The first 2019 365-52 Fly Tying Challenge themed week is Winter Confidence Flies.
I am a New Jersey native and if you aren't familiar with our trout waters they get cold....really cold during the winter months as . The majority of our trout waters are freestones, I believe almost exclusively aside from the Pequaonnock River which is technically a small tailwater below Macopin Intake Dam. Other than that, when the mercury falls you better bundle up as winter water temperatures can hit the low 40's and into the 30's. If you aren't aware, once you hit water temperatures below 40, trout basically shut down and stop feeding until the temperatures start rising again. That and the fact you are cold as the angler, and are dealing with frozen rod guides and more, make fly selection pretty critical. During spring, you can catch fish on basically anything. In winter, you should go as tactical and waste as little time as possible if not for your own sanity.
That brings me to the first fly of the 365 challenge, The Infant Stonefly Nymph by Rich Strolis of Catching Shadows. Rich was a fly guide for a number of years and is a successful commercially endorsed tyer for Montana Fly Company. He recently released his first book, Catching Shadows, and was an immediate hit. It featured his fly designs and the development and fishing philosophy behind them, and his Infant Stonefly Nymph instantly became a confidence pattern for me.
The Tiny Black Stonefly, the Early Black Stonefly, and the Early Brown Stonefly hatch in the North East between Mid February and early April. These are a delight for freestone fly fishers, because while trout won't often look up for these hatches, they do eat a bunch of the nymphs. Anytime you are on the water and the sun pokes out or you get a slight temperature rise, you'll see these bugs and you should be fishing them. Rich's Infant Stone is my favorite representation of these nymphs. You can tie it in sizes 10-18 to represent the various species over that time period, in any color needed. While midges are the staple of the winter trout's diet, these larger morsels provide much needed calories.
Below is Rich's original recipe for the Black Infant Stone featured in Catching Shadows
Hook: Partridge Sproat Wet 12-16
Bead: 1.5-2.5 mm black tungsten
Thread: UTC 70 black
Ribbing: Small Ultra Silver
Wingcase: Hareline Midge Diamond Braid Black
Antannae/Tail/Legs- Hareline Daddy Long Legs Black
Thorax: Hareline Microfine Dub or Black Mole Fur
Abdomen: Thread/Wire coated with fine uv resin
Here is what I used to tie this pattern including the tools. I substituted the hook to a Firehole 419 Competition Dry Fly Hook. I also prefer using Solarez Bonedry resin for the wingcase/collar.
Fly Tying Notes: This fly is a relatively simple pattern, but the Hareline Daddy Long Legs are very fine, and can get twisted quite easily. They also are often kinked in the packaging. My advice is to cut them into manageable sections to eliminate curling, but it also helps if you use small uv resin to cure them in place. Does it matter to the fish? Nope!