Tag Archives: salmonfly hatch

Bitterroot Salmon Fly Hatch

It has been a hang on to your seat type of June already. The enormous  snowpack has finally started to cut loose and has really made things interesting on the Bitterroot and Big Hole rivers. We are still finding good clear water, but there are some days we are running very high up the system to find it. Our flows are double the norm which has made for interesting days floating long stretches, sometimes 20 miles or more.  By covering more water we are able to search out enough holding areas to make a good day for our anglers.  Sometimes a fantastic day.

The big water has definitely got the fish feeding hard. Contrary to some beliefs, big water is very healthy for trout. When the water is murky and fishing seems impossible, when you do actually catch a fish he is absolutely stuffed full like a little football. It’s just a matter of there is so much food in the water and low visibility that your bugs often have a little chance of finding the mouth of a trout.  That’s where we come in.

This season’s salmon fly hatch has been disappointing honestly. With the high flows often surging week to week, the salmon bugs are having a tough time finding the right conditions to hatch. We’ve seen plenty here in there and had occasionally explosive days of dry fly fishing. But just like Skwala time, the river has been unpredictable and salmon flies really don’t like that. They like a gradually falling river with nice sunny temperatures to heat them up and promote their hatching.  Not this year unfortunately for the little buggers.

Tough weather has pretty much come day after day, but we are still having a great time out there salmon flies be damned. Running a variety of tactics and different bugs under the surface we are finding lots of good healthy fish ready to eat the fly. Sometimes you have to take them how you can get them, and big hungry trout are always on my list of things any way I have to do it.

Bitterroot Salmon Fly Time

Well the bugs have popped pretty early this year, even though the water is ripping along pretty good.  I was kinda hoping they’d hold out a bit longer until water levels dropped, but smoke em when you got em, eh?  I just came from Rock Creek and not much is happening over there except for high speed hang on for your life runoff, so the Bitterroot is a welcome sight with the upper portion dam controlled.  The boat traffic can get a bit hectic during the salmon fly hatch, but what river doesn’t get busy when the bugs are in?

Running different stretches of the Bitterroot, we can find solitude even in the busiest of times.  Good guides instructing our anglers in proper techniques gets the job done on any water, any river.  Knowing entomology and how it relates to different parts of a river system can greatly improve your success rate behind the fly rod.  When salmon bugs are popping way upstream, other insects are starting to crank up downstream, long away from the rolling whitewater and canyons that house the famous stonefly.  Drakes and goldens can fill the void of salmonflies and provide just as good fishing, and on a water type slower and easier going.  Catch them where you find them, don’t be afraid to search around in places you wouldn’t first guess.

Montana Salmonfly Hatch: Rock Creek

salmon bugAh, yes!  The time is here, time for the big bug on the big water: stoneflies.  More specifically pteronarcys californica, the giant stonefly, or commonly known as the Salmon fly.  This almighty of bugs shows itself around mid May on main rivers throughout Montana and Idaho, but really goes nutso early June on the upper ends of pristine river systems such as Rock Creek, the Big Hole, Blackfoot, Madison, and many other clean rocky bottomed streams.

rock creek salmonfly hatchThis adventure led us to the world famous Rock Creek.  Though there are a multitude of Rock Creeks throughout the west, even a modest handful right here in the Bitterroot, there is only one Rock Creek to serious fly fishermen.  The Rock Creek flows from the north Pintlars and eastern Sapphires and flows due north till its confluence with the Clark’s Fork some 50 speedy miles later near Clinton, Montana.  We guide the upper sixteen miles only, as permits only held by a few outfitters control the lower forty.  So be it, the upper 16 is sweet.

rock creek salmonfly hatchThe Crick as we call it, has one of the earliest and most prolific Salmonfly hatches in Montana.  By early June we’re chomping at the bit for Skalkaho pass to open up so we can make the annual rumble over.  Chris and I hauled a long time client over recently to roll the crick with big bugs and fast action: hang on as the gradient of Rock Creek is unlike any other river we guide.  Left, right, back to the left, mend that sonofabitch, all in about fifteen seconds, and so the entire day goes.  When times are good, which they pretty much always are, fish are flying at your bug or at least snarfing up your favorite dropper off the dry fly.

rock creek salmonfly hatchSalmon fly is definitely here in Montana, the buzz is on, you can feel it in the conversations from Craig on the Mo, where I just came from, to the brewery in Hamilton, where I just came from.  My crew will be on the Big Hole, Bitterroot, and the occasional Rock Creek tour for the next few weeks.  Get in touch quick to get a spot fishing the hatch with us, before shes all over and its back to the little bugs of summer.