One of the best things we have in Montana is dry fly fishing. The first signs of our best summer dry fly season kicks off with Salmon Flies, Pteronarcys californica. These big orange fellas are an attraction for any fly angler. We have people who travel from around the world for a shot at fishing size 2 and 4 dry flies to willing trout. Who doesn’t like casting a huge dry fly along the bank? You can see that big hunk of fur and feathers from a mile away, mend it like an amateur, and fish it on heavy tippet. Fishing this hatch should be easy, right?
Well, ya it is easy. In fact its incredible as long as you time it right. Which contrary to popular belief, isn’t very easy at all. It’s almost impossible to get multiple amazing days of fishing the Salmon Fly hatch. Most anglers employ some sort of strategy in order to curb the odds and catch the perfect day on the water, some work better than others and most usually only yield results every few years. Yes, its that tough to get the magic day on the river and we aren’t talking about the “we caught some fish and we had a fun day” type of stuff. This is the “something is wrong if it drifts for more than 2 feet without getting eaten” type of fishing.
So what is the best way to catch the magic day on the river? The answer is the same for most things with fly fishing, there really is no right answer. There are many ways to skin the cat if you will. The most steady way to make it happen is fish the same river every year during the hatch. Eventually, you will time it right. Most people who go for this method will usually tell you they find the magic every 4 years or so. When you think about it, that really isn’t very many times. It’s only going to be about a dozen fishing days in your entire life, they should be cherished.
Perhaps, my favorite method of catching the hatch is the crazed driving around everywhere like a mad man trying to time it right. It probably isn’t the most effective since any Salmon Fly information you get is already too old. That Instagram photo of the big fish with the Chubby in its mouth on The Big Hole from today means the fishing was good today. Tomorrow is already too late. When your buddy says they had epic fishing with the big bug from Russell Gates to Round Up on The Blackfoot means it won’t be the same tomorrow. The point is, you really can’t rely on any information you just have to take a shot at a river and go try it out. Maybe the fishing is lights out, maybe its really slow.
At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter. Half the fun is the chase of the hatch and the anticipation that when you get on the water it might just be the best day of fishing you will ever have.