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.
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 streamsand 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.
Hook: Daiichi 1260, sizes 4-16.
Thread: Red, UTC 140 denier.
Body: Yellow dry-fly dubbing.
Wing: Deer or elk hair.
Head hackle: Grizzly dry-fly saddle.
Head: Hot orange Ice Dubbing.