Salmon Flies, Be Ready for the Hatch

This post was last updated on June 22nd, 2017 at 07:19 pm

SalmonflyFishing the Salmon Fly Hatch can be Pretty Exciting..A Salmon Fly picture

Salmon flies floating on the river.

(Pteronarcys californica) The Infamous Salmon Fly

Each spring, most western fly fishing anglers dream of getting to the river and seeing on the bank covered in these huge flies. They are close to three inches long and provide a healthy, no doubt very gratifying meal for trout.  this is one of those hatches that you don’t want to miss if possible. Every year there are thousands of anglers who flock to the western states to go after fish during this great hatch. The problem with that is it’s very hard to predict. The timing from one year to the next could vary by almost a month. Many rivers will get the hatch in May or June, while others get it even into July. The people who come always try to time it right, but are rarely successful in doing so.

In the video above I managed to film the emergence of several salmonflies. They crawl from out of the rocks onto land and emerge from the nymph casing. Once they free themselves from the nymph shuck, they fly away to breed. Check out this page for more info: (

Various Salmonfly trout fly patterns
Shown here is a variety of salmonfly patterns that work well during the hatch.

The Hatch

You will know when the adults are about to hatch in mass by the amount of nymphs visible on the waters edge. The Salmon fly nymphs

The Hedgehog Salmon Fly Pattern Tied By Brain Berry
The Hedgehog Salmon Fly Pattern Tied By Brain Berry The Owner of Teton Valley Lodge

will crawl onto logs and rocks to dry out, before they emerge from their shuck as the adults. They Will usually sit there for some time in the trees and brush before attempting to fly. This is a great time to be on the river, because there aren’t a lot of flies laying on the surface of the water yet. The Salmon flies are so huge, that fish will become full very quickly eating these huge insects. Its beneficial for you as a fly fisherman to fish at times where there aren’t a ton of bugs around. You want just enough bugs, too many flies and the fish will have too many choices of real salmon flies to eat. If there are not enough around, then the fish won’t be looking to the waters surface to eat them. You need it to be “just right”. During this whole hatch a really effective way to hook large numbers of fish is using the nymphs. There are a lot of good nymph representations available that work very well, such as the standard girdle bug. If you can see the nymphs crawling on the bank, but cannot get the fish to come up for your adult floating salmon flies, you should be nymph fishing. Sometimes its hard to convince yourself to do this, because you want to catch them on dry flies.

Fishing the Salmonfly hatch

Lets say you timed your trip perfectly and there are fish crushing salmon flies all around you on the surface. Well you are in for a treat! The best thing about the salmon fly hatch, is its ability to bring the biggest fish in the river up to the surface to feed. In a perfect storm these fish will rarely turn down any decent looking and well drifted salmon fly pattern.

The Technique

There are plenty of different ways to hook fish during the salmon fly frenzy, but one particular way seems to be effective. Imagine a cockroach skittering across a floor startled. That is what a struggling salmon fly looks like on the water. This is one of those times a year, where the perfect drift might not be the ticket to provoking a strike from big Bertha brown trout. These fish become accustomed to the flies not just sitting there drifting with the current like most mayflies will.  So on the days where there are fish feeding, but they aren’t eating yours, it might be advisable to

Girdle bug, or golden stone fly
The Girdle bug or some call it “the Turd” is a popular stone fly nymph pattern.

give your fly a little “action”.  Just some short strips to attract the attention of the trout is all it takes sometimes to entice a hit. you will rarely ever see such an aggressive take from a trout, as you will with a stripped salmon fly pattern. Of course there are a lot of days where they want it dead drifted like normal. This seems to be the case sometimes in a lot of heavily pressure fly fishing areas, where the fish see bad drifts from fisherman often. Rest assured, fly fishing the salmon fly hatch can easily lead to your best day ever.