It’s early January of 2019 when we first start chatting with Brian of Teton Valley Lodge, we are planning a trip around the legendary Salmonfly Hatch on the Henry’s Fork for the end of May ’19. Every avid angler has heard of the Salmonfly Hatch, they are pretty much at the top of the list when fly anglers talk about prolific dry fly hatches. Not only are the bugs absolutely massive, but when they are in full form you can barely see the other side of the river they are so thick. Did I mention trout absolutely love them?
Where it began…
It’s May 28th when we pull the trigger and we have a connecting flight through Denver CO to get out to Idaho Falls. Of course, our flight get’s canceled due to inclement weather in Denver and we show up a day late. The guide who picked us up at the airport takes us straight to the river and the conversation quickly shifts to seeing some big bugs starting to show up – (queue the goosebumps thinking about throwing huge dries for monster trout.)
Our first float is on a lower section of the Henry’s Fork, and three casts into the day a 20-inch brown trout destroys the largest foam hopper I have ever tied on. Day one was epic, we had some great fishing, and spent the day with some incredibly knowledgable guides. Back at the lodge, we meet with Brian and the other guests staying at Teton Valley. We spent the next three days learning from some of the best guides in the world, and fishing one of the most insane dry fly hatches in existence. We fished a few different sections of the Henry’s Fork and each section of the river had its own unique characteristics, we felt like we were in a different state with each day (I guess that’s Idaho).
Here are a few tips we 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.
Here are a few cool films around the Salmon Fly Hatch (Ours will be dropping soon also)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about planning a trip like this!