I’ve only ever hit the salmon fly hatch right on the money once. Or I should say twice as of a couple of weeks ago. And by saying “hit the hatch right on the money” I mean all that I needed was a dry fly imitation.
I know several rivers in southern Colorado where the giant Pteronarcys californica is abundant, but the trick if you want to fish dry flies is to hold out for a low water year. And that’s not easy to do because as a rule southwestern Colorado receives more snow than any other part of the state. But that wasn’t true this year, so I knew this might be my chance.
Naturally, the question is why do you need a low water year? Well you don’t really, unless you want to fish dries. It’s just that in more typical runoff years the high, off-color water limits the number of trout you can pound up on a dry fly. The trout are still there and still engaged in gobbling down salmon flies, but they’re usually hanging close to the banks nailing the nymphs as they migrate toward the shore and climb out of the water where they emerge as adults. The trout may eat the occasional drowned adult or even an adult that ends up on the water’s surface, but it just seems like there is less surface activity.
Most of the low water dry fly action I see, at least where I fish, occurs during the egg laying phase when the adults head back out over the river. Once the trout tune into the event you don’t even have to see the naturals to get strikes. Just fish the dry fly in the softer water up against the willows along the banks. Or drift it through the more gentle riffles or along the soft side of the creases. Believe me; the trout will attack the dry fly with reckless abandon.
All I can say is those are the tactics that worked for me, but then again I’m a newbie at hitting things right when it comes the salmon fly hatch. I should also say that I carried all kinds of fancy salmon fly patterns, but the trout simply wanted an Orange Stimulator and that was it.
Finally, I must add that it wasn’t just the salmon fly hatch this last time. I saw Green drakes, golden stoneflies, little yellow stoneflies, yellow sallies, small blue quills……
I even caught a few trout here and there on a size 12 Adams that probably passed for a drake and might have caught more, but the larger trout were there for the salmon flies. And so was I.