The Salmon Fly hatch on famous Montana Rivers like the Madison or the Big Hole are almost a state sponsored event and reach near religious devotions. If your new to fly fishing, Montana or just want to sound cool when sitting at the local bar you need to know a few things about the culture, mystery and fishing of Montana's Hatch.
1: Big Flies and Big Fish Yes this is probably the best time of the year to catch a really large fish on a dry fly. Imagine a all you can eat buffet with rib eye steaks and twinkies. The professional eaters of the world as well as the large brown trout can pack away a bunch of food and both are ready and hungry when the doors open.
2: Fish Get Full. Your best bet to catch that fish of a lifetime is to stay ahead of the hatch. There is only so many rib eyes and twinkies a guy can eat before he needs to sleep for a while. Same with the fish. Try and stay ahead of the hatch as it moves up the river.
3: Pattern Hangover. After a few days of digesting the big meals the fish want more. They will keep looking for the big orange morsels from heaven for several weeks after the hatch is gone. If you find lots of bugs and no fish eating come back in two days and it will be game on.
4: Smaller is Better. The natural insects are a good 2-3 inches long and most folks throw a big size 6 as an imitation. If you want to catch more fish throw a smaller size 10 salmon fly. I do not know if they can get it in their mouth better or if they just have less fear or they really like eating the smaller weak members of the species but it works. In fact trail your salmon fly with a caddis and watch your numbers explode.
5: Below the Surface. Most of the really large fish eat and get full on salmon fly nymphs. The nymphs crawl from mid river up on to the rocks along the bank to emerge. This makes them really vulnerable to trout. Like lazy diners the fish prefer if the food is brought to them and they do not need to work for it. Why rise for a few if you can eat all you want and not move much. Trail your salmon fly dry with a small dark bodied rubber leg stonefly as a dropper. Now your ready for the lazy fish as well as the over achievers.
The salmon fly hatch is almost myth like here in Montana and if you catch it right your life will never be the same again. Weather your a visiting fisherman, an armchair angler or a dedicated trout bum knowledge of and participation in this hatch is almost a rite of passage on the Madison River. Get out and float a few flies and catch more than just fish.