What Insect?

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
I've been fishing a stream on the west side of the cascades, for the last few weeks. I've never really fished during winter; I usually hit the snow instead. I've tried just about every pattern in my fly box, including midges, eggs and streamers. However, I have only been able to catch fish on a #10 hares ear nymph. It works both dead drifted and swung. Does anyone have any theories about what the fish might think this fly represents? I thought winter was all about eggs and midges, but neither of those have worked for me.
 

billninke

WFF Supporter
I've been fishing a stream on the west side of the cascades, for the last few weeks. I've never really fished during winter; I usually hit the snow instead. I've tried just about every pattern in my fly box, including midges, eggs and streamers. However, I have only been able to catch fish on a #10 hares ear nymph. It works both dead drifted and swung. Does anyone have any theories about what the fish might think this fly represents? I thought winter was all about eggs and midges, but neither of those have worked for me.
Crane fly larva
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I think the hare's ear just looks like so many things they see throughout the year, from bugs to minnows, could be anything. And I'm a fan of stoneflies. They usually live multiple years, so are there year round, and provide a juicy bite. What I ran today
20201127_125112 (2).jpg
 

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
I figured it would be a stonefly. None of my actual stonefly patterns have worked though. I guess I'll just keep using the hares ear.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I figured it would be a stonefly. None of my actual stonefly patterns have worked though. I guess I'll just keep using the hares ear.
I've been a fan of the pat's rubber legs since the folks at Red's turned me on to it several years ago.
 

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
Pat's Rubber Legs is what I was using, unfortunately. They've been my go-to stonefly pattern for a while, but I think I might need to experiment with less buoyant patterns. Chenille really holds air and that is problematic for contact nymphing.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
Your right that pat's is problematic. The rubber legs create resistance, that's where I'm having problems, it rising in the current. Smaller body chenille, or even dubbed, helps, as does smaller rubber. I'm trying bead versions too. I just haven't found as productive a fly without the rubber legs, yet.
 

Jim Speaker

Active Member
A #10 Hares Ear is a pretty spot-on match in terms of size and profile for a Drunella doddsii nymph (lesser green drake) which are prevalent in a lot of our Western WA streams.

That said, others are right about it being such a general looking nymph that they could be taking it as anything. In my opinion, if tied fairly buggy, you're probably getting enough movement (legs/buggy dubbing going nuts in the current) and size and profile are right, plus it's a large enough food source that fish are willing to move for it despite the water getting cold and their metabolisms slowing.
 

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
A #10 Hares Ear is a pretty spot-on match in terms of size and profile for a Drunella doddsii nymph (lesser green drake) which are prevalent in a lot of our Western WA streams.

That said, others are right about it being such a general looking nymph that they could be taking it as anything. In my opinion, if tied fairly buggy, you're probably getting enough movement (legs/buggy dubbing going nuts in the current) and size and profile are right, plus it's a large enough food source that fish are willing to move for it despite the water getting cold and their metabolisms slowing.

I think you may be onto something here. The hare's ears I'm using are more brown than grey and they also have copper beads, so size, shape and color are all a match.

It doesn't seem like the fish are moving at all, so I think they're very much keyed in; I've only caught one fish on the swing (probably luck), while all the others were caught via contact nymphing and really (really) picking apart the water.
 

Troutnut

Active Member
Usually, during this time of year when there's no major hatch brewing, the case of one fly working while the other tried-and-true pattens fail probably has a lot more to do with luck, presentation, and opportunity than anything else. I bet if you gave an equal chance to pheasant tail nymph or any other proven nymph with a similar size and sink rate, using the same presentation you're using with the hare's ear, you'd catch just as many fish. Since you're contact nymphing, you could experiment with this using a hare's ear as the point fly and something else as a dropper, then switching back and forth every so often, and seeing which fly catches the most fish.

A size 10 hare's ear is a decent approximation to a mature Drunella nymphs, but the nymphs in the river in the moment should be immature and much smaller. You're really encountering fish that aren't seeing a ton of food right now and are feeding opportunistically, but they're also lazy because it's cold, so they mostly won't move very far for food, and a nymph right in front of their nose is the best tactic. If you've tried smaller hare's ears or similar nymphs without luck, my guess is that they weren't sinking down to the fish's level as well as your size 10. I bet a size 14-16 perdigon would catch those fish too.
 

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
Usually, during this time of year when there's no major hatch brewing, the case of one fly working while the other tried-and-true pattens fail probably has a lot more to do with luck, presentation, and opportunity than anything else. I bet if you gave an equal chance to pheasant tail nymph or any other proven nymph with a similar size and sink rate, using the same presentation you're using with the hare's ear, you'd catch just as many fish. Since you're contact nymphing, you could experiment with this using a hare's ear as the point fly and something else as a dropper, then switching back and forth every so often, and seeing which fly catches the most fish.

A size 10 hare's ear is a decent approximation to a mature Drunella nymphs, but the nymphs in the river in the moment should be immature and much smaller. You're really encountering fish that aren't seeing a ton of food right now and are feeding opportunistically, but they're also lazy because it's cold, so they mostly won't move very far for food, and a nymph right in front of their nose is the best tactic. If you've tried smaller hare's ears or similar nymphs without luck, my guess is that they weren't sinking down to the fish's level as well as your size 10. I bet a size 14-16 perdigon would catch those fish too.

Thanks for the reply. There is a good chance you're right. In any case, I went back to that river two more times and even the hares ear stopped producing. I've since decided to move on to another river.

I found some research, about a cascades river, that says mayflies and caddis are virtually the only food items taken during winter. However, I have not been able to figure out exactly what would be available. Would I be correct in assuming that #14-16 caddis larvae and #18-20 mayfly nymphs would be the way to go? What about cases and colors? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
 

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