General Pointers on the Salmonfly Hatch

Posted on May 29th, 2015

Salmonflies have begun to emerge from the Colorado River from Gore Canyon downstream to the Two Bridges area.  Being perhaps the most anticipated hatch of the year, emerging Salmonflies  generally brings about as much excitement to fly fishermen as Christmas morning to a ten-year-old.  However, this can also bring about as much disappointment and confusion when it comes to hitting it just right.

Some things to keep in mind for fishing this hatch:

This is an inconsistent event.  There will be days of intense feeding, as well as days of frustratingly little feeding–and there really are few things more frustrating than being in the midst of a million hummingbird sized bugs and not getting a single trout to eat your imitation.  This is partly due to the fact that there are a million naturals around; sometimes the fish are already stuffed from gorging on the abundance of easy pickings.

Always be prepared to fish adult and nymph patterns.  Even though there are tons of adults crawling and flying around, particularly early in the hatch, there are still thousands of bugs in the river migrating to the bank to emerge that often times present a far easier meal to trout below the surface.

Don’t be afraid to move if you are not successful in one location.  Just as it is with all hatches, there will be locations that may have better action at one point in the day than another.  This can be due to angler pressure, water conditions, intensity of the hatch, and subsequent feeding routines of fish in different places.

As well, be patient.  These are the largest members of the Stonefly family that hatch at night for safety from predation.  They are terrestrial hatching, meaning that they crawl from the water onto dry ground where they can find a spot to anchor themselves to and begin the slow process of shedding their exo-skeleton. (The shuck left behind is called the Exuvia).  They then hang out in the bushes and willows adjacent to the river, mate and then wait for the warmth of the day to take flight and lay eggs.  That might not happen until early to mid-afternoon.  It may be necessary for you to start with a dry dropper rig early in the day and then switch to straight up dries once you start to get your first few hits on the dry.

Unlike a Mayfly hatch, where free drifting emergers rise through the water column to the surface and float until their wings dry, there are no such drifting mass quantities of bugs as they “hatch”. Rather, the adult Pteronarcys only come in contact with the water to either lay eggs or if they are unfortunate enough to be blown into or crash land on the water.  As they are not the most graceful fliers, this is a good possibility when they are actually flying. If you notice a lot of airborne adults, this should help boost the potential for fish hitting the surface.

Time is a wasting. This is a relatively short lived hatch, generally lasting a week to three. Exactly the sort of thing sick days were meant to be used for.

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