Last Salmonfly Hurrah

Last Salmonfly Hurrah

We are rounding the corner into the home stretch of the salmonfly hatch in the
Maupin area. Yesterday’s relentless and vicious winds certainly made fishing
challenging, but the violent shaking of the tree branches and the grasses along the river’s edge knocked quite a few stoneflies into the water and into the waiting jaws of the trout. Those who braved the rather horrible conditions were rewarded with decent dry fly fishing. That was the windiest day in the forecast – but it does look as though most of the days ahead are going to be fairly breezy. Such is life on the Deschutes. You learn to live with the wind and cherish the rare windless days.

Things are heating up this weekend and that should be the very last hurrah for the really big bugs. Salmonflies and golden stones will be wrapping things up after a full month of haunting the Deschutes. The good news is that their smaller and faster cousins, the yellow sally stoneflies, will be hanging around for at least another 3-4 weeks. The imitations are a bit smaller but they elicit every bit as much excitement from the trout.

Once the salmonflies and golden stones are gone, so too will the majority of the
anglers. It has always completely baffled me that this one window during the hatch is the only time that most anglers visit the Deschutes. After the end of May the Deschutes is a ghost town and the best hatches are just kicking off. Mayflies, Caddis, Sallys, Aquatic Moths and Craneflies will feed the trout all summer long.

John has been in Baja, Mexico all week with his buddy, Todd, chasing roosterfish. While he was gone, our friend and industry rep/fly tier extraordinaire, Bruce Berry, was kind enough to come to Maupin to give me a hand in the fly shop. He has been great working with customers and helping them get outfitted for the river. I am so incredibly grateful for the huge effort he has put forth in the shop this week – I couldn’t have managed without him. Check out all of his great fly tying videos online.

Bruce and I rarely got out of the shop before 6:00 PM and stayed way later than that a couple of nights trying to get the new products checked in. However, on Monday we put the boat on the water at 7:00 PM and fished until dark. We only fished dry flies that evening, not because it was the #1 most effective way to hook trout but because that was the method we preferred to use to hook our trout.

There was, as we expected, a potpourri of insects on the water and each spot
required several fly changes to decipher what each trout was keying into. We
changed flies and changed flies until we fooled each big trout – some took the Clark’s stone, others preferred the chubby sally, others ate a small purple chubby Chernobyl, and others jumped on the green drake pattern. Near the end of the night we stopped on a churning rock wall where we saw several trout rising. With only 10 minutes before pitch dark, we tossed everything we had at these bank feeders only to be completely rejected. Maybe we were getting drag on the flies due to the extreme currents and upwellings in the river. We tried a few stones, a mayfly pattern, and some smallish caddis. No dice. My guess is that we got a little drag and that clued these trout into the fact that we were fishing for them. We just couldn’t solve that final puzzle of the evening. No matter, we hooked plenty of nice trout in that 2 hour window. If you could solve the puzzle easily, it wouldn’t be the Deschutes.

There is such a wide variety of insect life at play right now, the best plan of attack is to have a broad selection in your fly box and be willing to change flies often. Fish small tippet – 4X for the bigger stoneflies and 5X for the size 14, 16, and 18 flies. If the fly you are fishing with is not hooking fish, make a change. If you are only fishing dry flies, consider covering two strata of the water column by fishing a dry with a dropper trailing below it. Euro-nymphs have proven themselves to be excellent as droppers. The tungsten bead of the Euro-nymph helps it drop quickly into the lower water column while the bushy dry fly from which it is suspended bobs on the surface. If trout are not looking to the surface, they will still be eating subsurface lies with confidence.

This time of the year is an interesting time for trout and for the anglers that are
targeting them. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the trout in the
Deschutes have been universally POUNDED ON by the end of May. They have seen nearly every color and size stonefly pattern and they have learned to be wary of these foamy high-floating imitations. This is the time to fish the patterns that are not high-floating and that can easy get sucked under by a strong current. The golden stones have been landing on the water for weeks laying their eggs – many of these flies die on the water and get sucked under by the strong currents in the Deschutes. The biggest and smartest trout are waiting 2-3 feet below the surface for drowned stoneflies. When that non-foamy dry on the end of your leader gets sucked under by the current the best thing you can do is allow it to follow the path of the whirlpool swirl. Simply keep an eye on the end of your fly line and wait for it to hesitate or move in an unnatural manner and, WHAM, set the hook.

Frequently the trout will rise to a stonefly imitation only to bump it or slash at it. If
this happens to you it is a signal that the trout wants to eat a surface fly but they are freaked out because they have been hooked recently. Switching to a small caddis or mayfly pattern is often the answer to the question of, “How do I fool this big fish?”

Things will probably be pretty busy over the weekend, given that it is a holiday
weekend. The weather is going to get nicer and nicer as the weekend goes on. With the rainy weather behind us, the green drakes are long gone. We can only hope in the future to have a hatch half as strong as the ones we had last week.

We are still very well stocked on all fly patterns (except green drakes) and are here for you all weekend. Tight lines!!

1 comment

  • Thanks to Bruce for his expert advice last week on flies and dry + dropper methods. The droppers were the main course for many hookups on some beautiful redsides.

    Bob Butler

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