Last year I purchased John Barr’s book Barr Flies. I have really enjoyed the book and have found many useful patterns in it besides the famous Copper John. One of my favorite nymphs for an all around pattern has become Barr’s stonefly. He calls it the Flashback Tungstone because he uses a tungsten bead.
I personally don’t use tungsten beads because of the high price. If I want more weight I can use a larger diameter weighted wire or more wraps under the body. For these reasons I simply call the fly the Flashback Stonefly.
Whatever you want to call it, it is a highly effective pattern. I have used it extensively on the freestone rivers here in Northeast Oregon and the fish simply like it. Both bull trout and rainbow trout have a hard time not eating it. It has also became my favorite nymph to use when steelhead fishing. It has accounted for quite a few of the steelhead I have landed.
I personally tie the fly on a size 6 Daiichi 1530 hook. This is an extra heavy, 1x short steelhead nymph hook. It also looks good on a size 8 Daiichi 1560 hook if you don’t need quite as heavy of a hook shank. You can tie this pattern on longer hook shanks as well. There are substantially bigger stoneflies in our rivers, but this is a good medium size that catches a lot of fish without taking lots of room in the fly box.
I began tying the fly with brown as John Barr suggests in his book. But after looking at many of the stoneflies in my local rivers, I didn’t find any that were any color other than black or a very dark brown. I have been tying the fly with either black, dark brown or occasionally with a synthetic peacock dubbing. They all work well. Tying the fly with peacock hurl looks great also, but the fly won’t last nearly as long. Another material I really like for bodies is marabou. It provides a naturally tapered body that really breathes in the water. I don’t know if fish can tell the difference, but it looks good to me. I tie the majority of mine with dubbing, but if you are bored with that give the marabou body a try.
The two other liberties I have taken with the fly involve the legs and thin skin on the back. John Barr uses thin skin under the flash back. I did it without and the fly looked nearly indistinguishable. Therefore I have left that step out. I began tying the fly with hackle legs and they worked well. When steelhead season arrived I decided to tie them with rubber legs instead and I haven’t went back. The rubber legs work just as well and I think provide a slight advantage in speed and ease of the tie.
I fished stonefly patterns inconsistently in the past because they never caught fish consistently for me. I am not saying that I have tried every stonefly pattern out there. There may be some others that catch fish consistently that I have not tried. When I started fishing the Flashback Stonefly, it caught fish consistently, whether it was the middle of the hot summer or the freezing winter. It has earned a permanent place in my fly box.