7 Tips for Fly Fishing the Golden Stone Hatch

-Tip #1 Fish Em All Summer

Golden Stones are a well known hatch in Montana during late June and July, but these Stoneflies continue to hatch throughout the summer months. We sell more Golden Stone patterns at the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop than any other Stonefly, because a lot of Missoula fishing guides fish them all summer long. Even when you’re not seeing them flying around and Hopper season is in full swing, tie on a Golden Stone and you’ll be surprised how much more receptive the fish are to the Golden as opposed to other patterns.

Tip #2 Go For The Gold

Anglers are so entranced by the Salmon Fly Hatch. Big and famous, we want to fish them all the time. Our guides, however, are less than impressed. Bigger bugs are harder to cast, harder to turn over and miss a lot of trout because they push that nugget out of their mouths. As soon as the Golden Stones start to fly, tie one on. Your drift will improve, as will your accuracy. The fish seem to prefer the Golden Stone as a natural as well, so as soon as you can, go for the Gold!

-Tip #3 Don’t Forget About The Nymph

Missoula has some of the best fly fishing in Montana, with the dry fly action bringing people from all over the world to fish these rivers. The dry fly fishing is very consistent, but there are definitely some down days. Then you have to forget Dry Or Die, and put on a Golden Stone nymph pattern. On those down days when fishing is tough, the golden stone nymph can be a game changer, keeping you hooked up all day on fish. Because Golden Stones hatch all summer long in the Missoula area, they’re always a go-to nymph when the dries have died!

-Tip #4 Fish The Film

Many Golden Stone flies are heavily dressed, and for good reason. The high water of late June and early July can sink a lot of bugs! Fast water also forces the trout to make split second decisions, often breaking the angler’s way. But as the water drops, and trout get a better look at the bugs, they become more discerning. All Stoneflies return to the water to lay their eggs and then depart, prepping to do it again. It’s the departure trout hate! The occasional big, splashy rise is a trout chasing a Stonefly out of the water to eat it. The trout has expended the energy to rise, it needs a caloric reward to justify that energy expenditure. Occasionally, a Stonefly will get swamped, and float in the film, helpless. Trout will key on those insects, and rise gently to eat an insect that can’t escape. Take your early season Golden Stones and cut them down so they float in the film. Don’t have scissors? Only apply floatant to the wing, and that helps the fly ride lower. Yes, your fly swamps more easily and are more difficult to see, but the rewards from the trout are significant.

-Tip #5 Give ‘em A Twitch

As stoneflies lay their eggs, they seem to dance on the surface. That means trout are used to seeing a little motion in the natural. Many times, they want to see a little motion in your imitation as well! We stress a little movement. The naturals don’t go skipping 5 feet across the surface, so your imitation shouldn’t either. But it’s difficult to mend precisely to the fly, which is why we see flies zipping that 5 feet! The best way to activate your fly without moving it is make tiny circles with the tip of your fly rod. Point the rod at the fly, and make circles about 1 foot in diameter. This will remove the slack, slowly, and then move the fly gently. Once it moves, stop for a moment, then make another small circle to reactivate the fly. The small circle is much easier to master than a big mend.

Tip #6 Move With The Times

It’s easy to be lazy when the salmon Flies are on. 7’ 1X leaders with size 4 Foamburgers work just fine when the water is high and sometimes off colored. But as the Golden Stones begin to hatch, the water might be dropping and clearing, or it might not. Because the river is constantly changing when the Goldens hatch, you need to adjust your flies and leaders accordingly. Big, fast water gets a short leader and foamy Golden. If the water is slower and clearer, then a more realistic pattern on a longer, lighter leader is more effective. Make sure to assess the water you’re on and adjust accordingly.

-Tip #7 Nocturnal Stones

If you read our page on fishing Mouse patterns then you probably already know that we spend a lot of time on the rivers during the night. When you spend that much time night fishing, you see things that most anglers never see. No, we’re not talking about ghost fish, we are talking about things like the Nocturnal Golden Stones that hatch throughout the night and early morning. We typically see these hatching in July and August. Many of our guides will throw on a big Golden Stone right out of the gate in the morning and have great success using this tactic in the first few hours of daylight.

Additional Golden Stonefly Resources

Missoula Montana Guided Fly Fishing Trip

Come enjoy a day on the river with Missoula’s best fly fishing guides. We float the Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River. All gear, lunch and transportation provided.

Montana Guided Fly Fishing Float Trip