Plecoptera - the Stoneflies

On most spate rivers and upland streams stoneflies are a vital source of trout food, particularly in spring and autumn.

Large Stonefly
Orange-striped stonefly, Perlodes mortoni
February Red
February Red, Taeniopteryx nubulosa
Yellow Sally
Yellow Sally, Isoperla grammatica

Flies of this order, which contains around thirty species in the British Isles, are also known as the hard-winged flies.

Life Cycle

The stonefly has a life cycle similar to that of an upwinged fly except that there is only one winged adult stage.

Yellow Sally stonefly larva


Stonefly nymphs have two tails, and so they can be immediately distinguished from the three-tailed nymphs of the upwinged flies.

Yellow Sally adult

Adult stoneflies

Stoneflies generally hatch by crawling out onto stones in shallow water or up emerging vegetation. This method of hatching is not an easy antic to mimic without the artificial fly getting snagged on the bottom. The adult stoneflies are therefore of greatest importance to flyfishers.

Most of the stoneflies of early and late season are dark brown or grey, often with a yellowish tinge to the underside of the body. Apart from the dark stoneflies, there are also two very common summer species with yellow wings and a few others with mottled brown wings.

After mating, the female stonefly lays her eggs, either by dropping them on to the water or by dipping down to the surface. Spent stoneflies often struggle and sink below the surface film; perhaps that is why some of the most effective imitations are tied in a spidery wet fly style.


Pryce, D., Macadam, C., & Brooks, S. (2007) Guide to the British Stonefly (Plecoptera) Families: adults and larvae. Taunton: Field Studies Council.

Hynes, H.B.N. (1977) Adults and Nymphs of British Stoneflies (Plecoptera). Ambleside: Freshwater Biological Association.

Excited at the prospect of flyfishing? So are we, and we're pretty sure you would find the Winding River Mystery trilogy of action-packed thrillers gripping reading too. Dead Drift, Dead Cert, and Dead End are Pat O'Reilly's latest river-and-flyfishing based novels, and now they are available in ebook format. Full details on our website here...

Buy each book for just £4.96 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy