In the eyes of a fly fisherman, there is nothing that compares to the salmonfly hatch.

Once the fisherperson hears that first, faint whisper “the big bugs are out”, nothing else in life matters. Little things like relationships, and jobs kind of… get forgotten for a week or so. All that matters are salmonflies.

Random Hitchhiker- photo from Stonefly Fly Shop- Butte
Random Hitchhiker- photo from Stonefly Fly Shop- Butte
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Fish consume a lot of bugs and worms. Most are small. Caddis and Mayflies, are relatively small, fitting a couple on your fingernail. Stoneflies, like Skwala and Goldens, are a bit bigger in size, ranging from the tip of your finger to the last 2 knuckles in length (for a monster), a pretty good size bug.

Then you get to the salmonfly, a ‘small’ salmonfly is a LARGE stonefly. Because I am a fat man, I’ll relate this to food. A midge, or caddis would be those tiny chicken poppers, it is going to take a metric ton of them to fill you up. Skwalas are the burger slider of the bug world, tasty, but still going to take a few. Goldens are a solid combo meal (not biggie sized). Salmonflies are the king-cut prime rib from the old Lamplighter, twice-baked potato, and dessert. And much like me and Prime rib, fish gorge themselves on salmonflies.

I probably just ruined your appetite, I’m not sorry.

If you have never seen a salmonfly hatch on a river, check it out, it’s amazing. I will say this, if you don’t like the feeling of bugs climbing all over you, stay away. They are harmless, but huge.

Salmonfly- photo from Stonefly Fly Shop- Butte
Salmonfly- photo from Stonefly Fly Shop- Butte
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For those that don’t fish in the Park, the first real salmonfly hatch happens on Rock Creek in Southwest Montana. The Rock Creek hatch usually gets rolling the first week of June and runs upriver for 7-10 days. My understanding is that the ‘Big Bugs’ are out on Rock Creek right now.

The salmonflies hit the Big Hole River next. I know old boys who swear that June 10th is the day, and they are usually correct. Once they show up on the lower Big Hole, they move upstream over a span of about 10 days. There isn’t anything like the salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole.

The salmonflies start on the Madison the last week or so of June and rumble upstream for two weeks.

The longest salmonfly hatch in Montana is also the last to get started. The Yellowstone River’s hatch gets rolling right around July 1st, and takes its time moving upstream through the Paradise Valley and beyond. The hatch will linger for over a month on ye olde Yellowstone.

Get your excuses in order, tell your loved ones you will be absent for awhile, the salmonflies are here.

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