NPDES Training Institute

The Angler Magazine

When I tell my well-travelled fly fishing clients that we have "Salmon flies" in the Hooch they think I'm crazy. Not only do we have Salmon flies which is fishing slang for the Giant Eastern Stonefly or in scientific categorical terms Order/Family-Plecoptera ,Genus-Pteronarcyidae.
There are 600 species of stoneflies found in North America and they are the most pollution-sensitive groups of macro invertebrates. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam has mainly three species Pteronarcyidae or (Giant Salmon Fly), Capniidae or (Small Winter Stoneflies) and Taeniopterygidae or (Winter Stoneflies).  One could view the presents of  stoneflies in the river as a good sign of the health of the river ecosystem or rather the "Canary in the coal mine" concept.  We have many more species of aquatic bugs such as mayflies and caddisflies which are more resilient than stoneflies so having all three species means a diverse mix of aquatic bugs, which is good also.

Giant Eastern Stonefly nymphs are often mistaken for Hellgrammites(Dobsonfly) because of their large dark silhouette but the sure way to distinguish between the two is to look for two tails and six legs on stoneflies and Hellgrammites have no tail and twenty or more small legs.
Pteronarcys live from one to three years as nymphs dwelling on the bottom of the river preying on other invertebrates and will crawl to the shore line of the river to shed their exoskeleton in early spring in March and April.  During this migration to hatch into adults trophy trout cannot resist such a substantial meal and anglers willing to chuck and duck large #4 down to #10  brown to black stonefly patterns will score big. While we have a healthy population of these large flies there are not near the densities you would find on Western rivers so imitating the adults with large dry flies is futile.
The Small Winter Stonefly and the Winter Stonefly  have their life history reversed from most aquatic insects, with the adults emerging during the cold months rather than during the warm months.   The larvae live deep on the bottom of the river in leaf packs and woody debris. They are known as shredders. Scientist have discovered that these nymphs can consume 30% of their body weight each day of leaf matter that falls into the river. We have caught fish on small weighted black nymphs #18 down to #22 during the migration to shore in December through January. Adult Little Winter Stones and Winter Stones lay eggs in February and March and  very in sizes from #14 down to #18 which is much bigger than the nymph patterns because the wings are disproportionately larger than their body. Many anglers mistake the adults as caddis flies as the silhouette is similar with a tent-like horizontal wing. A good way to distinguish between adult caddis and stones is their flight pattern. Caddis are direct cousins to the common moth or butterfly which fly erratically with two wings the stone fly adult has four wings and flies in a straight path. Caddis dance and skitter when they land on the water surface whereas Winter Stones glide in unison on thesurface often making a small "V".

For a free hatch chart and respective fly patterns unique to the Chattahoochee River please visit