The BIG hatch is coming soon!

The BIG hatch is coming soon!

The BIG hatch is coming and coming soon. Known to many as the Salmonfly hatch, the big hatch is actually made up of three types of stoneflies - salmonflies, golden stones, and little yellow sallies.

In lower water years when temperatures are warmer, we would be seeing quite a few bugs in the bushes in the Maupin area by now. This year is a bit different due to heavy snow pack and quite a bit of cold rain in the month of April. The managers at the Pelton Round Butte dam complex are releasing large volumes of water daily in order to prepare for water coming in from tributaries to the reservoir. So, it looks at this point, as if we are going to see the first of the big bugs in the next couple of days or maybe as far off as a week from now. 

Water as measured on the Madras gauge can be very fishable even at 7000 cfs, but you will be limited at that flow to stick tight to the banks. Here is what the flow has been doing this week: 

A few other tributaries will add to the overall flow in the Deschutes, so keep an eye on all gauges - particularly the White River gauge if you are planning to fish on the lower access road north of Maupin. High water during the salmonfly hatch is not the worst thing in the world - that high water pushes all the trout to the edges of the river - which is where they are most likely to encounter stoneflies in the first half of the hatch. 

Simply referred to as THE HATCH (emphasis on “hatch”), the salmon fly hatch is, by far, the most popular time for trout anglers to flock to the Deschutes. Every year, like clockwork, the grasses trees, and bushes along the river will start crawling with millions of 3-4” long stoneflies. Monster trout hide beneath tree branches along the banks, waiting for the tasty winged treats to drop onto the water. Anglers with the best imitations who know where to find the fish will have a blast hooking slabs on huge fluffy dries.

Hatch Timing - What is the best week to be on the Deschutes to catch this fabled hatch? Timing timing shifts from year to year because the bugs will only start to emerge when water temps reach the mid 50s. When we have a warm spring with low flows, the water temps can reach the mid 50s by the end of April. The hatch has been starting much earlier since PGE started pouring water off the top of the reservoir rather than flushing cooler cleaner water from the bottom of the reservoir.

This year the water temps are cooler in the first week of May. The temps warm as the river flows through the canyon, which is why the hatch will often start up in the stretches of river downstream of Maupin and will work its way up river according to water temperatures. Here are temps coming out of the Madras station: 


The Hatch used to start in mid-May and continue through June, with the most robust populations of bugs starting in the lower reaches of the river and working their way upstream over 6 weeks. When the managers of the dam changed the temperature regime of the water releases overnight, our famous hatch changed in many ways. We began to see the first stoneflies in the bushes three weeks earlier than in we had seen in three decades of keeping records. This year it looks like we are going to see the big bugs in the Maupin area between now and the tenth of May.

The Giant Salmonfly (pteronarsis californica) gets the top billing in this hatch, but it is the salmonfly’s slightly smaller cousin, the Golden Stonefly (hesperoperla Pacifica) that should get all the glory. They are both out there early on in fairly evenly distributed numbers, but the big difference between the two bugs comes later in the hatch when the golden stonefly will land on the water to lay its eggs. the salmonfly drops its eggs from the air, thus they are not as readily available to trout throughout the hatch. When stocking up on bugs for fishing this hatch, be sure that you have a mixture of the golden stones and the salmonflies. 

For those of you new to this hatch, there will be awe and amazement when you see the sheer number of bugs in the bushes. You will think to yourself, "Hot diggity! I should be able to catch a trout on every cast!" It may be disappointing when you step into the first ankle deep wide-open riffle and start throwing your dry flies around with no reaction from any trout. You will be sitting in camp on the riverside and you will see the trees and bushes on the river's edge crawling with big bugs. The scientist in you will pluck a few from the branches and toss them into the river expecting an immediate explosion - and you are likely to watch them float on downstream unmolested. 

Here are two of the most important things to know about fishing the stonefly hatch:

1. If you don't have hot weather, you will not have active stoneflies crawling, mating, falling into the river, and flying clumsily until they crash onto the water.  Hot weather, in this case, is to have air temperatures in the mid 80s or low 90s. That is ideal. If we have cold snaps where temps dip into the 50s and 60s, there may be lots of bugs on the bushes or hiding down in the grasses, but they won't be moving and active.

2. Just because the stoneflies are out and about doesn't mean that the trout are looking for them in every habitat - particularly early on in the hatch. As we get to the end of the month when goldens are laying eggs by landing on the water, you are more likely to get fish on any random hatch out into the center of the river. However, for the majority of the hatch you must fish in places where trout are holding and waiting for bugs to drop off branches. You have to fish what I call, JUNGLE WATER. The jungle water is the deepest, gnarliest, steepest, tree and bush-laden water on the river. If you have no room to back cast, you are up to your chest with the first step off the bank, there are trees hanging over the river in front of you, tree branches over you, and trees behind you - congratulations, you are in the jungle water. This is the water, particularly in the first half of the hatch, where big trout will be holding, looking up, and waiting for a big bug to splat onto the water. Look for that water type and move from spot to spot like that throughout the day.

You are not going to see fish rising. This is not a hatch that has consistently emerging bugs coming off the bottom and floating on the surface until their wings dry. Any rising trout that you see during the hatch will be random - you will not see one trout sitting in one spot eating stoneflies one after the other, simply because stoneflies are not that regularly on the water. Stoneflies actually crawl as nymphs from the bottom of the river to the rocks and grasses on the river's edge - they do not “emerge” from the bottom of the river. Once the giant nymphs get to the grasses and trees and rocks, they burst out of their nymphal shuck and crawl out as fully developed adults. Once they are on the grasses and the trees and bushes, they will find each other and begin to mate. Only when the temps are in the mid 80s will they start to get super active and take to the wing. Until that happens, your job as an angler os to find places where the clumsy matin bugs will knock each other into the water. Grass lines along deep banks, tree lines, and bushy areas and usually your best bet. 

Windy hot days are GREAT because the bugs get active and then get blown into the water. Overcast hot days are also great for this hatch - but may trigger other hatches that will cause the trout to completely ignore stoneflies. If you have a warm overcast day, be prepared with mayfly patterns such as Pale Evening Duns, Pale morning duns, and Green Drakes. Trout will drop a stonefly like a hot potato if a mayfly is an option on the menu.

Please treat other anglers on the river as you would like to be treated. It is not okay to jump into the water that another angler is working (people are most likely to be working their way upstream) - give others their space just as you would like others to give you your space. This is a very busy time of year on the Deschutes. Everyone and their brother will be out here prowling the banks. Remember, it’s just fishing and we all want to have fun out there. 

If you are looking for a guided trip during the hatch, you are probably too late to secure one for this year. Many of the Deschutes guides make their entire season on this one big hatch, and they are typically booked in advance by clients who make this their annual pilgrimage to the Deschutes. 

If you want to see the most incredible selection of stoneflies of any shop in the northwest, stop on by our shop and we will get you dialed in. 

We look forward to seeing all the regulars returning to the river for the most exciting time of the year!


  • Great report Amy, The overview and details are right on point. So many times the may fly hatch is what I have been thinking about.
    Thanks for your excellent work!

    Bob Beswick
  • The best fishing report in the world bar none. Thanks Amy

    Bill Nichols
  • Thanks Amy! absolutely the best, most detailed, informative fishing reports ever, anywhere. Looking forward to this years hatch. All my Portland compadres are abuzz!

    Mike McGrath
  • Thanks, Amy. Even after my many years on the water, I always seem to learn something.

  • EXCITING!!! Can’t wait for my first hatch! Nothing as of yesterday but sounds like the action is coming very soon!


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