Set, set! There it is! Fish on! Bam! Oh yeah! Fish off! Son of a #&*$@!
These are the echoes that fill the air through the canyons of Rock Creek as the annual emergence of the famous Salmonflies cause both trout and anglers alike to go into a frenzy.
The trout have endured the long winter and the spring run-off, and they are now feeding on the buffet of stoneflies that have just started to hatch. Just imagine someone tempting you with a t-bone steak or large pizza after you have gone hungry for weeks. It is really hard for trout to resist the well placed dry fly during this hatch.
For anglers, this mythical hatch is really the first time all season when you can fish big dry flies. We have survived months of watching the bobber, or twitching the streamer, and the thought of drifting a fluffy foam bug raises the blood pressure and the adrenaline gets pumping.
This combination of ferocious takes and excited anglers can make for some of the most memorable and thrilling fishing of the summer. You can have the opportunity to land dozens of fish, but in my experience, you typically miss more than you get to the net. I have the bad habit of seeing the fish coming for the fly, getting anxious, setting the hook early, and pulling the fly out of their mouth before they eat. Sometimes the fish aren’t really eating your bug. Either they are slapping at it, rolling over it, or just trying to stun the bug as it floats by. Other fish you set the hook and connect with, but because of the timing of the hook set, it comes un-buttoned. Regardless of getting the fish to the net or not, it is hard to beat being able to see hungry Brown and Cutthroat Trout chasing down a big dry fly.
Even though this hatch can be epic, you still need to be aware of some other factors that can effect your success in a stonefly hatch.
Receding river flows and water temperatures increasing trigger these big bugs into hatching. The water levels may be dropping, but the flows are still very high and fast. The high water makes wade fishing very difficult and non-advisable in some areas. Fish are typically held really close to the banks hanging out under bushes and trees and these spots can sometimes be impossible to fish by foot. Even if you are floating, you still need to be cautious of the swift flows and downed trees that have accumulated through the run-off. Either way, being safe on the river is more important than catching fish.
Rumors of salmonflies travel very quickly. Especially, in this day of social media the word of stoneflies crawling around can attract anglers from hundreds of miles away. For some, this can detract from the serenity and peace of the outdoors, but there is plenty of river for everyone to enjoy. We are all out there to have fun and it can be enjoyable as long as we are all courteous. Share the river, share the road, and share the boat ramps.
Finally, the window for this hatch can be very limited. Depending on the season, the salmonfly hatch can last anywhere from a couple of days up to a week or two. This is when the phrase “should have been here yesterday,” can definitely ring true.
This is the time, get to the creek now before the salmonfly frenzy is over!