Fly Fishing Guides!

We Need You!

First posted March 24, 2010 Last updated April 7, 2011
illustration by John Nelson; for more of his work, see

Would you like to help the scientists who are working to keep rivers clean and healthy?
Are you frequently on the river? If so, we need your help.

The scientists have a hard time getting around to all the rivers. They are lucky to get out to sample a river only once every few years. Poor devils! We get to be out on the stream dozens of times a year. And that is how we can help the scientists.

Please read over this website and learn about the North American Stonefly Project. If you want to be involved, please email David Nelson, at: NelsonDL (the "at" sign) (I have to put my email address this way so that the spammers cannot find it.) Then print out a copy of the Datasheet and obtain some vials (buy from a flyshop [may be hard to find one who has them] or online from BioQuip). I would suggest the 8804P vial, 21mm x 70mm, 4 dram. They sell for $5.90 a dozen, or a gross for $42.80. (You probably will want some of these for your own collecting of aquatic and adult stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis flies; if you keep them on your tying bench, your flies will better resemble the naturals I am looking for a good source for plastic vials, will post when found.) Fill them with denatured alcohol (simple rubbing alcohol is a second choice, not quite as good but OK) from the drugstore or hardware store, pop a few in your fishing vest. If you need a net, I recommend the BioQuip 18" collapsable net 7118GR with two or three 12" extensions 7321AA (they fit into luggage more easily than the 24" extensions. And now the tough part: GO FISHING!

When you are on the river and notice any stoneflies in the air, catch a few (about 6-12, as we need both sexes), then turn over a few stones and see if you can find some pre-emergent nymphs OF THE SAME SPECIES (they will look just like the freshest shucks you see on the rocks), and catch 6-12 of these. Including a few shucks would also be nice, especially if you cannot find a corresponding nymph. The reason is that scientists often need both male and female adults and several nymphs in order to identify the stonefly to species. If you cannot give us a full sample, we may not be able to make the ID to species. When you get home, mark the outside of the vial (or write on a slip of paper with a pencil and stick in the vial) your initials, a specimen number (which you make up; see datasheet instructions) and the date, then fill out a datasheet , starting with the same initials, the specimen number, and the date. This should allow us to correlate the specimens and the data. Unless we can absolutely and correctly correlate the data and the specimens, we will have to throw them out. All the specimens from a single site and single day can go into the same vial. If you collect from a different site (move upriver by more than 100 yards), a different river, or on a different day, put the new ones in a separate vial, with their own datasheet. Once you have some specimens, all we need are the dates that you see the same bug flying. If you are not sure it is the same stonefly, collect some more specimens. If it is a new stonefly hatching, please collect a full sample of adults and nymphs.

You should ideally change the alcohol the day after you collect them and just prior to shipping. If you do not ship them within one week, you should put them in the refrigerator or freezer. This helps to preserve the specimens in case the scientists need to do molecular studies on them.

Ship the vials to:

If you are using the US Mail, ship to:

Dr. R. Edward DeWalt
North American Stonefly Project
Illinois Natural History Survey
1816 S Oak St.
Champaign IL 61820


If you are using a private package carriers, ship to:

Dr. R. Edward DeWalt
North American Stonefly Project
Illinois Natural History Survey
607 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign IL 61820

Note: the US Postal Service (and other shippers as well) has a pact with the devil and will try to destroy your specimens! Your goal is to frustrate them and preserve all your hard work. Wrap the vials separately in protective foam, then wrap them collectively in protective foam, then place in a Ziplock bag, then another Ziplock bag, then place in a strong cardboard box. If you can kick it across the room and they don't break, the USPS will probably (probably) not be able to break them, either. Fill the bottles so that there is no air in them. If there is an air bubble, the specimens will be knocked around during shipment. Be sure to include the datasheet in the box, one datasheet per vial.

This is a project related to water quality, and all we want are stoneflies. While mayflies are beautiful and caddiflies are charming, they are not as sensitive to water quality as stoneflies. PLEASE DO NOT SEND US ANYTHING BUT STONEFLIES.

Some states require collecting permits to collect insects of any kind, so know what the regulations are for your area. Do not collect in national parks, as this is definitely illegal without a permit, which is nearly impossible to get.

We are going to create a webpage for EACH of the collectors for the project. Just email us a photo of yourself out collecting (email address is above), plus a short essay (100 or so words) on who you are, and if you are a guide or a shop, how site visitors can reach you. Will will include a hyperlink to your site and/or an email address. Here is our current list of participants. Here is a sample page on one of our contributors.

Thank you for your help. This project will create a database of emergence and occurrance of stoneflies in the US and Canada, and will be available to any scientist working on stoneflies. We also will be working to make the database available to you, so you can check what the species were that you sent in, or could find out the stoneflies and emergence dates for rivers you are planning to visit.

Again, thank you for your help.

The North American Stonefly Project Team

Click here to see list of collectors and the map of collecting sites
for the continental US

(updated May 29, 2010)


Maps for Alaska and Canada pending