Colorado Fly Fishing: The Salmonfly Hatch June 11 2015

If you time the Salmonfly Hatch on the Upper Colorado River correctly, you’re in for a treat. The hatch only happens once a year, typically late May into early June. Bugs start emerging in the ‘Pumphouse’ area, where you’ll need a drift boat to access the deep water. Over the course of a few weeks, the hatch will work it’s way upstream, and the area around Parshall and Hot Sulfer Springs is full of scenic public land access, where wade fishing is possible (though beware the high water this time of year!) If you can time this hatch right you won’t be disappointed, as there’s nothing quite like experiencing big Brown and Rainbow Trout attack flies with such fury and vengeance!

If you’ve never seen a Salmonfly (aka Golden Stonefly) before, it sort of resembles a small bird
in flight. I’m not kidding. They’re about the size of a hummingbird, and due to the size, bright orange color, and stick-like legs and antennae these creatures can look downright prehistoric. When the fish are rising, a #4-#6 Sofa Pillow, or Orange Stimulator will typically do the trick. Even better, stop by a local shop and you’ll find any number of Salmonfly imitations in large hook sizes, often with foam bodies and rubber legs that do a great job of simulating the real thing. When the fish aren’t making their way to the surface, they’re likely still gorging on big stonefly nymphs, and Pat’s Rubber Legs or Kaufmann’s Stonefly Nymphs should do the trick, again in large sizes #4-#8.

I love to fish this hatch with a 9 foot 5 weight fly rod, with moderate action. Typically this time of year the water is high – this year it’s REALLY HIGH. The length and extra power of the five weight come in handy for line control and battling occasional wind. Plus, you’ll need a little extra fighting advantage with the fast currents and potentially large fish. Choosing a fly rod with moderate action will ensure excellent fly rod feel when your line is in the air, or a fish on the hook. With the off color water (this year 12”-24” visibility), don’t be afraid to go down to a 2x or 3x tippet. The fish won’t mind, and you’ll save yourself a lot of agony over lost flies.

Ultimately, the highlight of this hatch is the big bugs. How often do you get to tie a #6 hook onto your line, or fish with a 3x tippet here in Colorado? Sees like only weeks ago we were fishing with #20 Baetis and Midges. The Salmonfly Hatch can be a ton of fun, and only happens for a few weeks each year.  Don’t miss out!