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The Salmon Fly Hatch: 6 Tips for Hitting it Right

In the 2019 season we invited the boys from Flylords paid us a visit at Teton Valley Lodge. The guys wanted to capture some epic Idaho Fly Fishing. They came to the right place.

We spent some time on the river with them during the legendary salmon fly hatch. Read the full details of their trip over on their website.

Nymphs and fully grown salmon flies.

Below are their 6 tips they picked up on the trip:

#1: Timing is key (When do salmon flies hatch?)

The Salmonfly hatch happens across several states in the western US, and understanding when they will pop is crucial for planning a fishing trip (It’s almost impossible to time perfectly). On the Henry’s Fork, a good time frame to shoot for is Memorial Day weekend. It may be a week early, or a week late, so if you can be flexible with your schedule you have a better chance of hitting it. In Montana, a good time frame is from June 20th to July 4th. Fishing the Salmonfly Hatch on the Madison will give you the best chance at catching a true trophy fish on a topwater fly all year.

#2: Understanding the Hatch Progression

As bugs begin to hatch they will generally hatch in the lower sections of the river and move upriver accordingly. In years with warm weather and low water, the hatch can be over in as little as a week. That being said the best opportunities occur in high water and when the weather is not too warm. This allows the hatch to move upriver a few miles each day and therefore gives the angler more opportunities to fish the hatch. Avoiding the heaviest part of the hatch will also be helpful… Let’s be honest there are only so many bugs these fish can fit in their stomachs. We also want to note that before the hatch there will be tons of nymphs up along the banks of the river, so take advantage of nymphing these areas.

#3: Throw different patterns

One of the most successful patterns we threw on our trip with a big Chernobyl Ant. We also had several Salmonfly patterns in different sizes. We threw single flies, tandem rigs, dry droppers. There is never going to be one perfect fly for the entirety of a hatch so don’t be afraid to change things up. There are also plenty of other bugs hatching in June.

#4: Cover Water

Most anglers will spend the majority of their time fishing the river banks for that quintessential dry fly eat. Although this is probably the most fun don’t be afraid to fish other sections of the river you normally wouldn’t focus on. Sometimes short casts in front of the drift boat with a little patience can produce some great fish.

#5: Have the right gear

We were throwing 5 and 6 weight rods on floating lines with 3 X tippet. Luckily with the size of these bugs, you can get away with a heavier leader, no need for 5 and 6 x here. When it comes down to choosing the right rod to fish the hatch I would recommend a good 6 weight rod with a 6 or 7 weight line. It helps when throwing big bugs and if you hook into a proper trout you want to be able to land it as quick as possible. Read our guide on choosing the right tippet.

#6: Get Lucky

There is always a bit of luck when it comes down to hitting the Salmonfly hatch right. Move around, talk to people, and yes you will need a little bit of luck. Some local guides also say if you eat a Salmonfly your chances of catching a 20 + inch fish will only increase… So keep that in mind.

Thinking about planning a trip out west, we highly recommend the folks at Teton Valley Lodge – we had an incredible stay! Great food, accommodations, guides, fishing, you name it. Feel free to shoot us an email [email protected] if you have any questions about planning a trip like this!

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