Between Salmon Flies and Golden Stones, it’s safe to say Stonefly season is well under way. Here are a few tips to help you take your Stonefly game to the next level.
1. Skate it
In the infamous words of Mr. Hank Patterson,”You’re gonna wanna skate that fly!” In all seriousness, skating your fly effectively can be the difference between a five-fish day and a twenty-fish day. This is especially true when you are floating a stretch of river with heavy guide traffic and clients that are just learning to fish. True, sometimes stoneflies will just sit on the water and float down, but most of the time they will be moving. The most effective method I have found to skate my flies is to lift my rod tip, and slowly wiggle it back and forth while stripping it in. It also helps if you only fish dry (Go ahead, be a man and cut that rubber legs off). It takes a little getting used to, but that can be said with most things pertaining to fly fishing. If you haven’t tried this method before, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
2. Don’t just focus on the Banks
When most people think of Salmon Fly fishing, they usually think of floating down a river from a drift boat and hitting the banks. Although bank fishing can be extremely effective, once again it is what most anglers are going to be doing. Most rivers that have a healthy supply of stoneflies also have a large number of mid river drop offs, riffles, and boulders. Stoneflies are not weak fliers and can easily cross a couple hundred feet of river. Eastern Idaho is notoriously windy, so bugs get blown into the middle of the river frequently. The mid river fish are aware of this. Just throw a nymph rig for a few minutes and count how many times your bobber gets hit.
3. Pack a Sharpie
Most Stonefly patterns are a single toned color on the bottom, typically orange or gold. If you pick up a Salmon Fly or Golden and exam its belly, you’ll notice they have black striations all the way up to their thorax. Take a minute and draw these on with a sharpie. Big fish that have seen 100 chubby chernobyl’s pass by them during the peak of the hatch will notice this minute difference in your fly. Take advantage of this simple fix and you will reap the rewards.
4. Fish Late in the Hatch
Most people that make an annual pilgrimage to fish the salmon fly hatch plan their trip around the period of time the bugs just start hatching. This can be problematic and ineffective for a variety of different reasons. First and foremost, trout love eating stonefly nymphs. Before the nymphs hatch, they must leave their protective lairs and migrate to the banks. The fish know this, and they eat until they’re about to pop. There are few things more frustrating than fishing the salmon fly hatch when there are hordes of adults flying around, but not a single fish eating. Second, the river is most crowded when the hatch first starts. Simply put, too many people throwing at the same spots all day long puts the fish down. Third, fish will still eat big bugs even when none are around. If you wait a few days after the hatch is over, you will find the fish much more willing to eat. Pressure is typically down, the fish are no longer gorged, and they are still excited to get a big meal. I recently fished a stretch of river that the majority of the hatch had already gone through. The water was high and dirty, wading was tough, and there weren’t a ton of adult Salmon Flies around. With that said, I had one of the most extraordinary few hours of dry fly action I’ve ever experienced. Don’t be afraid to throw those big bugs even if you don’t see any around.
5. Wait to set that hook
Last but not least, don’t jump the gun on the hook set. Sight fishing is exhilarating, and it can be very easy to set the hook too early. Let the fish come up, eat your fly, begin to drop back down, and then you set the hook. This process can take less than a second, so learning to time it correctly is key. Learn to do so, and you will increase your catch rate significantly. Along with waiting on the hook set is another important factor. If you see a large trout rise to your fly, only to refuse, DO NOT PULL YOUR FLY AWAY. Often times, these fishing are testing your presentation. Most anglers will get over excited and rip the fly away. While fishing the Henry’s Fork earlier this year, I had a large brown rise to my fly, only to coldly refuse my offering and disappear back into the depths. I patiently let my fly continue to drift and proceeded to watch the fish turn around 180 degrees, run downriver a couple feet, and inhale my fly. It was worth the agonizing wait.
Hopefully one of these tips will help you up your game and catch that big trout you’ve been after! If you have any tips or tricks you’d like to ad, please feel free to share them in the comments below!