Tying the Yellow Stimulator

Most folks think of Randall Kaufmann, famed West Coast angler and shop owner, as the inventor of the Stimulator, but the question seems up for debate. The fly’s true originator may be Jim Slattery, who claims that he first tied the stonefly pattern to fish the Musconetcong River in central New Jersey in 1980. Based on the Sofa Pillow, Slattery’s fly was originally called the Fluttering Stonefly, but he renamed it the Stimulator after a New York City punk-rock group.

Slattery’s Stimulator was a bit different from what we use today. In his version, the thorax and the abdomen were about the same length, and the hair for the wing was not stacked. But the basic shape, contrasting colors, and materials mix were the same. When the Stimulator made it to California, Randall Kaufmann modified it, creating the version we know today, but kept the original name. Whoever can get credit for inventing it, it has become an incredibly popular stonefly imitation and all-around attractor fly.

Stimulators' First and Only ALbum

The Stimulators, a punk-rock band from New York, inspired the pattern’s name.

Because the Stimulator (often known as simply the “Stimmie”) is so buoyant, it works great in broken or fast water, as well as in freestone streams. I have fished it for 25-inch rainbows in Alaska, 18-inch cutthroats on the Yellowstone, and 6-inch brook trout in Vermont mountain streams—and the fish seem to love it everywhere. It’s also a great indicator fly for when you want to fish a nymph as a dropper.

This video, from South Dakota tier Hans Stephenson, walks you through the steps for tying a Stimmie with clear, coherent instructions and high-definition clarity. Tie them small for brookie streams or gigantic to imitation salmonflies, and you can mix and match colors and materials to create many different and effective versions of this great pattern.

          Yellow Stimulator
          Hook: Daiichi 1260, sizes 4-16.
Thread: Red, UTC 140 denier.

          Tail: Deer or elk hair tips. 
          Rib: Copper wire.       
          Body: Yellow dry-fly dubbing.   
          Body hackle: Brown dry-fly saddle.   
          Wing: Deer or elk hair.   
          Head hackle: Grizzly dry-fly saddle.
          Head: Hot orange Ice Dubbing.

4 thoughts on “Tying the Yellow Stimulator”

  1. Hi Phil,
    I met Jim Salttery this summer fishing while fishing the Madison. I visited his Campfire Lodge fly shop and later his great pancake breakfasts. I did some blogging on my trip out west this summer and wrote up something about Jim. You might enjoy it, he did.
    It was a great honor to meet him. After talking to him being a Pa. fly guy and knowing the streams he cut his teeth on and the people who taught him I saw he is the real deal.
    Some of the famous flyfishers are simply movie stars or masters of promotion. Jim just seemed like a guy I would like to fish with. I didn’t get the chance but I did enjoy his little diner in the Campfire and really enjoyed the small fly shop and Ron who worked there talking soft hackles and flymps. Also the real deal. Anyway just wanted to say hi and thanks for a good article on the Stimulator. Best Regards
    Bruce Cox
    Springdale, Pa.


  2. Wow! Never heard that before.

    I remember when Randall came out with that fly specifically to fish the Deschutes Giant Salmonfly Hatch because I was living in Oregon at the time. I remember wondering why in the world he put a yellow head section on it because the naturals are brown with orange, not yellow. But, it floated and fished better than the Improved Sofa Pillow that I used at the time on the Deschutes, so I started tying and using it. Typically tied it in sizes 6 and 4 on either a 3X or 4X long hook because the naturals were 2½ to 3″ long. Don’t remember what year that was though. I was there from 1976 until about June of 1987.

    I also tie it to match some size 16 Little Yellow Sally’s.

    One thing I might point out however, is that instead of leaving the wings so nice above the body, grab them and crank them down into a delta shape along the body. That matches the profile of the naturals when they get stuck on the water laying eggs. Makes a surprising difference in number of strikes.

  3. Pingback: Your State Fly Pattern - Page 8 - The North American Fly Fishing Forum
  4. Around 1982 or 83 my friend and I were floating the Deschutes R. He ran into a group of anglers who were catching a lot more fish than we were. It was guided trip but they were using a helicopter and flying upstream out of Maupin, OR. When asked, my friend told them we had not found the secret fly as yet on this trip. At that point the guide, flopped out a half dozen Stimulators for us to use. He said they were rather new and he wanted to get the word out. He figured they should sell quite well. They quickly turned our trip around. We later learned that Randall Kauffmann was the guide who gave him the flies as his company was the only group using a helicopter on the river.

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