Here’s a graphic showing predicted flows for the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs.
That graph on the right side of the screen is crucial. That’s flow in thousands of cubic feet per second (cfs). 8000-9000cfs is the level at which the river typically becomes marginally fishable, with the Salmonfly hatch hot on the heels of this flow. According to this prediction, we’ll be looking at this flow in about ten days. Get your 6-7 weight rods and 1X-2X leaders ready.
We still have guides available most days from July 2-10 (not so much thereafter). You might want to think about booking your Salmonfly trip for July 5-10 now…
Yesterday, I made my first trek into the Black Canyon for the 2017 season. Starting outside the park and fishing into the canyon on river right was challenging… actually downright treacherous in places. But this peculiar big bug was enticing me to trek on.
I started out with a “Carnage salmonfly” and a “twenty incher” 3 feet below tied off the hook bend with 3X monofilament tippet. I was fishing with a 7.5 foot 2X leader to my lead fly. After my 50 foot descent to the water and the countless obstructions that I had to navigate this was my first eat.
After 3 more “whities” and a small brown, I switched my dropper to small bugger and used it on the dead drift as a stonefly and twitched my rig periodically to get some streamer action.
My next combo after the weather front passed was with double dries using a salmonfly in the lead and a golden 12 inches off the hook bend of my lead fly–I switched between these two golden stoneflies: “Carnage Golden” and “Golden Chubby Chernobyl.” All my combos produced fish including the hour with a double nymph rig under an orange strike indicator with various girdle bugs, a Montana prince, and a twenty incher.
So, as is the usual case something has to happen… it did. I lose my favorite water bottle, my Netstaff (no, I do not get endorsements), and I fall on my elbow due to the rain that made my rock hopping more enjoyable.
So, I had a word with the original park designer, and this is my next scene.
Well, I’m happy to say I found my Netstaff and the big bugs commenced to “popping.” No, my elbow did not miraculously heal nor did I find my water bottle… its not like playing a country music song backwards–that may be funnier to the southerners who have heard that joke a hundred times. My thirty plus fish outing concluded with me going back to two adult stone fly patterns.
Before I could finish this report I pre-fished the canyon from river left, and I ran into a shop customer who is in Gardiner for the summer. Convincing her to allow me to show her some pointers since I was fishing literally in front of her we fished upstream using salmonflies. I will spare you some details, but we faced some physical challenges that were promptly addressed. I offered to walk out with her, but like a good Texan she “cow-girled up” and pressed on to be rewarded with her first cutthroat and several more fish.
I landed a respectable brown before I put my rod up to concentrate on my impromptu “guiding.” Since I am a man of my word I told Jennifer Reeves she would get photo cred for snapping this pic (if you have noticed most of my fish are without my mugshot).
Well now I am on day three. This morning my client Dr. James Suleski and I met at the shop at 7:30 AM and drove to the Rescue Creek Trail parking lot to begin our trek across Rattlesnake Butte to access the Yellowstone River in the Black Canyon. Two flies: Carnage Salmonfly, and a Twenty Incher dropped deeeeep–4-5 feet since the color of the river went from a stained green with two foot of visibility to brownish and 18 inches of clarity. James completed the “slam” (whitefish, cutt, cuttbow, rainbow, brown–both German and Loch Leven, and we let the sucker fill in for the brook trout since we only see one a year on average in the canyon). The fishing was solid (40 landed with some oh @#$% fish and several more mystery eats). The water continued to clear though 60% of our takes were on the nymph. We had runs of dry fly action and ended the day with double dries (salmonfly and a golden stone). The following pics are highlights including the 20″ sucker fish. Don’t judge! You didn’t see the fight nor the bend in the rod.
Everyone has heard various stories of the famed salmonfly hatch. The giant bugs the size of small birds and incredulous top water takes… well, I hate to tell you, but it’s true! From the time the hatch started in earnest in the Paradise Valley I have had an opportunity to fish this special time of the year. I consider the salmonflies to be intense when they are literally crawling on you and your gear.
The spectacle on the water is not just about the salmonfly hatch. Along with these truly big bugs are golden stone flies, yellow sallies, tan caddis, black caddis, chocolate caddis, and not just limited to those. So the fish are excited, the anglers are excited, and the salmonflies are excited as they wait for their mating swarm–which I also witnessed above Rattlesnake Butte.
My approach is to start with a dry/dropper setup, then see if I need to change to say a double nymph rig where the bottom fly should be a brown bully bugger, a 20 incher, or a black wooly bugger (flashy). Those same flies can also be dropped off your salmonfly pattern of choice which vary as much as people. Pick one you believe in and fish it correctly. Natural hair patterns look more natural and ride low and need more re-treatments of floatant. The foam body imitations with synthetic wings ride higher and are more visible to me. It’s more about the profile the fly presents on the water so the colors can vary from various shades of orange. I have even fished double dries with my lead fly a salmonfly then a golden stonefly or a stimulator trailing behind. My big dries are size 4 and 6 while my droppers/nymphs are from 8-12.
When do I fish double bigs? Answer: when these guys are rolling up consistently on your salmonfly pattern.
My experience is the fishing can be A+ if you are willing to change things throughout the day. A dry/dropper or a straight dry will continue to produce fish, but the hatch is at varying phases and the adults are not all in the air or water. Remember where these stoneflies crawled from (interpreted: use nymphs) and hit the target–the close structure not the middle of the river. Hundred fish days are possible as I experienced first hand; and, an average fish might be someone’s really good fish.
But like the song even the fish “like big…BUGS!”
The magic of this hatch is timing and the thrill of big fish on big dries. Yes, the Yellowstone River salmonfly hatch garners fame as the hatch moves into Gardiner and leaves the valley pushing into the black canyon. But it has also been with us inside YNP at Tower junction for days and has emerged in areas of the Gardner River and the Lamar River based on warming of the water. So if you want to have an opportunity to throw a big fly at fish this size
then head to the Yellowstone area and stop by and see us at Parks Fly Shop for more timely angler news. Thanks to my friend and accomplished fly rodder Jack who fished with me Sunday and provided the big fish photo ops. But be aware of who’s really trying to photobomb. Tight lines!