Late each spring salmonfly nymphs begin their migration towards banks, rock walls, logs, boulders and any other good structure where they can hatch. The largest of stonefly here in Montana mean big food for all the fish in the river. The hatch exists across the Western part of our state and in many areas across the Western half of the US. It’s something anglers wait for and anticipate. My first good taste of this hatch was in 2013 when good friend Dan “Rooster” Leavens, owner of the The Stonefly Inn, called me and said it was on. I grabbed my camera and showed up for two great days of fishing. Those days proved to be enough for a short film and Bareback Rider was created (watch below).
Since then we’ve fished the hatch in many places and had many memorable days. This year we wanted to return to some of the areas that were quite renowned for their salmonfly fishing and take the camera out for a few days. Fishing a massive dry fly is something I enjoy and love to capture. This year we were able to get out ahead of the hatch and try to watch it progress and learn more of the intricacies of this impressive bug.
Early on the fish didn’t key in on the dry. As a few adults would begin to hatch you’d think it would be popping off at any second. An hour later and you hadn’t had one fish rise to the big bug. Nymphing, streamers and other small dries were the ticket to getting fish in the boat those first few days out. As to be expected when the fish started looking up for the salmonfly the word got out. It wasn’t unusual to see 10-20 trailers at all the main fishing access sites along the river. Fish were to be had but catch a few and pull over for a quick photo and you just might get passed by a handful of boats.
Some days I didn’t know which was better, be out in front and be the first bug the fish see or sit back and let the other boats create the hatch. We had big fish eat both ways and regardless of pressure you’ll always have those fish sitting in the spot that only 10% of anglers can either cast to or get a good drift through.
At the end of the year we’d gotten enough shots to piece together a short film. Monday the 9th we’ll release our latest fishing film, BIG GULPS, here on the website!