- Family: Stonefly
- Size: 54mm. (size 4-8)
- Emergence: Mid June through early July
- Emergence Time: Afternoon
The Salmonfly hatch is arguably Missoula’s best hatch, maybe even across Montana. We know it’s the largest! The Salmonfly, or Pteranarcys Californicus, comes in at a whopping 54 mm long! That means the angler can see it, and so can every fish in Rock Creek, the Blackfoot River, Clark Fork River and Bitterroot River! Big, clumsy and plentiful, the Salmonfly hatch in Montana offers some of the wildest, most exciting dry fly fishing in the world! How do we back that up? In the month of June, The Missoulian Angler Fly Shop will see multiple customers with various accents, all asking for one thing, Salmon Flies.
Nymphing Salmon Flies
With the off-the-hook dry fly fishing, it’s easy to ignore the sub-surface activity, but that would be a mistake. As the nymphs stage in the shallows, waiting to crawl out of the river, the trout are gorging on these huge nymphs. It’s difficult to pass up the dries, but if you want to move more fish, go deep.
Nymphing is especially effective for the wading angler. Quite often, the Salmonfly comes off in relatively high water, which limits where a wader can access. Often, by the end of June, run-off is over, but that doesn’t mean the water is low! Waders can be much more effective if they’re willing to forego the dry and run the nymph. There are always more fish willing to eat on the bottom than the top.
As the Salmonfly hatch progresses, two things happen. One, the Salmonfly tends to start lower on a river, and work it’s way upstream. This is especially noticeable on Rock Creek, where the hatch move upstream at about a mile a day. The other noticeable trait of the Salmon Fly is as the adults age, they darken. A brand new adult is almost an iridescent orange, but right before they die, Salmon Flies are almost black. So near the end of the hatch, have some darker, smaller imitations with you to more closely match the natural.
Missoula Salmonfly Fishing
Rock Creek is world famous for it’s Salmon Flies, and rightfully so. That means it’s an angler magnet. What is not as well known is how stellar the Salmon Fly fishing is on the Blackfoot River and Bitterroot River. It’s true, there are fewer bugs on those rivers, but more than enough to move fish from late morning on. And because it’s less well known, the Blackfoot River and Bitterroot River are much less crowded. The super sneaky guides will take you to the Clark Fork, where the Salmon Flies might not be as prevalent, but the river is empty and the flies are there.
If you’ve never done it, you need to try fishing the Salmonfly. It’s amazing to see the fish come up to eat that huge fly!