Salmonflies, that word will grab the attention of fly-fishers from coast to coast. What comes to mind? Western rivers and big skies. Large prehistoric looking insects, clumsy fliers, hitting the water and fluttering on the surface. They don’t last long. Large spotted noses suck them down to their demise. The air is filled with Franklin Gulls snatching up everything that flies. These birds have made the trip from the coast just to eat these large protein filled insects. In our area grizzly bears can be found on the banks of the river flipping rocks and eating every stonefly they can find. Raccoon’s and ravens follow suit.
I think of a Norman Rockwell painting. The painting is of a man in the river and everywhere you look in the painting you can spot Mr. Rockwell’s version of what a Salmonfly looks like. The man is standing in the water with his hip boots on, smoking a pipe and is hooked into a very large trout. He is the only one on the water and the rise rings are everywhere. Of course times have changed and this is most likely not ever going to happen for any of us. The truth is people will come from all over the country hoping to have just an hour of a trout pounding stone flies on the surface. Give Mike Lawson’s latest blog a read for more information on these amazing insects. I want to talk about a few patterns that may help you along the way to having an amazing day on the water.
What makes a “good” Salmonfly pattern? That’s a loaded question. How many times have you been on the river amongst 100 other of your closest fly fishing friends and noticed only a few bent rods? In my opinion the best patterns are the ones that are cast where the trout are and are fished with a drag free drift. When conditions are right inches matter. So what else matters in a good Salmonfly pattern? There are after all a million plus patterns to choose from and I can promise you that the trout of the Henry’s Fork and surrounding waters have seen them all!
When selecting a good pattern here are a few things to consider: Visibility, Durability, Color, and Floatability.
Visibility comes to mind. Often times very large trout will just sip, barley exposing themselves. If you can’t see your fly it’s very easy to miss the take.
Durability, if you’re fishing your fly correctly, it will be in the trees and bushes that grow along the banks of the river. Trout teeth are sharp and it won’t take long before a poorly tied pattern is shredded.
Color is important. There are plenty of patterns that seem to be geared more towards catching the eye of fisherman than trout. Steer clear of the bright colored patterns.
Floatability, you want a fly that will float well in many different situations. The Henry’s Fork, for example, is extremely diverse, from flat water and riffles to heavy banks. A fly that looks natural in all these different situations is very important.
That is a lot of information to digest. Is there one pattern that can do it all? The good news is that we have a pattern that has it covered, Mike Lawson’s Henry’s Fork Foam Stone. Mike put some thought into this pattern. It has all the important features I have listed above. It has a low profile but still rides high in bigger water. Drab colors are close to the naturals and this pattern will take a beating. The wing material is easy to see and can be manipulated to make this pattern look like a fluttering stone. The Henry’s Fork Foam Stone is my go to pattern. I have had great success on the Henry’s Fork, Madison, South Fork, Teton and the Yellowstone with Mikes Pattern.
We are looking forward to a fantastic Salmonfly hatch on all of our local waters this year. Plan on a week if you can. Come see us at the shop and pick up a few flies. In the case of Salmonflies you better get more than a few. If you’re fishing them correctly plan on leaving some on the banks! We have our Stone Fly Selection available for purchase. Take a look in the online store.