We are on the CUSP....

We are on the CUSP....




SUNDAY: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

We are on the cusp of the best time of the year for trout you read this blog post, there are millions of aquatic insects blanketing the rocks deep in the darkness of the Deschutes River. They are staging up, making their move, plotting the next big act of their lives. Some of these characters have been crawling the rocky bottom for nearly three years, eating vegetation or insects smaller than themselves, and growing larger by the day. The stonefly nymphs, at three years old, are nearly three inches long and are ready to begin their march towards the bank and the glory of becoming winged adults. In their brief time as flying adult insects, they will find a mate, or several mates (if they have the looks and the charm) and will do their part to further the species. 

May is a magical time on the Deschutes - the richness of the aquatic soup will be on full display. The hatches during the month of May are many, but only one hatch gets top billing, the SALMONFLY hatch. 

By about May 3-4 we should have adult salmonflies crawling around in the grasses in the sections of river downstream from Maupin. The longer the river winds its way through the high desert, the warmer it gets. As waters warm, the insects take that as their signal to transform into their adult stage. 

For those of you who are new to this hatch, there are some basic things to understand about this time of year and the bugs that we are all celebrating. The name "salmonfly" is a nickname given to the largest of the 3 main varieties of STONEFLY that hatch out on the Deschutes in the month of May.

The Giant Stonefly, aka Pteronarcys californica, aka Salmonfly, is a vegetarian which lives as a nymph for 3 years and grows to nearly 3 inches in length. As an adult the salmonfly has a grey-orange body and flat dark wings that lay flat on the back of the fly when it is resting. 

The Golden Stonefly, aka Hesperoperla pacifica, is an omnivore which lives as a nymph for 2-3 years and grows to over 2.5 inches in length. The nymph can be distinguished from those of its larger cousin by the pale hourglass shape on its head. The adult has a golden-yellow body and a golden head. 

The Little Yellow Sally, aka Isoperla, is a blanket name given to generally cover the handful of small, bright-yellow stoneflies that appear on the Deschutes near the tail end of the larger stonefly hatch cycle. You are likely to see the Sallys all the way through the month of June, long after the other big bugs are gone.

Females of all stonefly species are significantly larger than the males. Near the backside of the hatch the female salmonflies and golden stones will be carrying a large satchel of black eggs just under their tails. The female yellow sallies will have bright red eggs in their clusters. All of the stonefly eggs are bound for the river - but they don't all get there in the same way. The golden stones and yellow sallies will land on the water to lay their eggs - making them MUCH more available to trout laying in wait. The salmonflies, on the other hand, will simply drop their eggs from the air like a B52 bomber, therefore, the trout are far less likely to see the adult salmonflies on the water near the end of the hatch. 

Now, to call the emergence of the stoneflies a "Hatch" is a bit of a stretch. Unlike other famous hatches, for example, mayflies and caddis, the stoneflies are not rising from the bottom of the river to "hatch out" in the surface film. There is no daily feeding frenzy on the river, because stoneflies actually walk themselves out of the river in the middle of the night. When water temperatures are just right, they make their way to the river's edge where they grab tightly onto a root, a tree trunk, a textured rock, a clump of grass, or a tree branch. Once the nymph is out of the water, the exoskeleton begins to dry out and the fully-developed adult stonefly inside the hard casing begins to push its way to freedom. You will see thousands of empty nymph husks clinging to the grass or floating along the water's edge. You will also see hundreds of stonefly adults piling on top of one another in the grasses and riverside trees. They will be around for weeks - mating and crawling clumsily about. They will fall into the river from sheer incoordination and bad decision making, they will be knocked into the water as they lose their balance on the love piles, and the strong winds of the river corridor will finish off hundreds with each gust. The hotter the weather, the more active these critters get, culminating near the end of May with clouds of stoneflies on the wing practically blocking out the sun. If we get cold and rainy weather, the bugs will still be here, but they will hunker way down in the base of the grass clumps and you won't see any activity at all. The ideal May will have a mix of weather patterns - hot/cold/hot/humid/windy/calm/warm - and this will keep the bug activity coming and going. 

During the early stages of the hatch, the trout will be found hunting tight to the banks of the river. They may be feeding on nymphs as waves of them crawl towards shore, or (more likely) they may just be hovering tight to shore along the grassy banks and under the overhanging tree branches waiting for an adult to make a bad decision or hoping for a strong gust of wind.  Working your way up river, try to stay in water that is deep right off the bank and be sure to smack your big dries down on the water with some drama. The trout will not be shy about smashing a dry fly - UNLESS - the trout have already seen angling pressure that day. 

Pressure during the salmonfly hatch is just a necessary evil. With a bug-event this well-known and this massive, we are bound to have a lot of anglers who want to experience the craziness. Try to remember that we are all here to have fun and that your fun should not come at the expense of another angler's enjoyment of the river. If you see an angler fishing in a piece of water, give them some space. Don't drop into the river within a few hundred yards of the person. If you arrive at your favorite spot only to find another angler there, go on and find a different spot to fish - the spots along the river are infinite and you may just find 4-5 new favorite spots by employing this strategy.  

Sometimes, by the middle of the hatch, the trout seem to be feeding very little. It doesn't take many meals of giant salmonflies to fill up a 2-3 pound fish. If they have slowed down on the salmonflies, be prepared to change your tactics to use mayflies or caddis or something from the other side of the menu. You sometimes feel like a few starters before the main meal comes along. 


Water conditions are good right now. The flows are a bit lower than normal, and the water is clear all around. Even the White River is behaving itself and running clear. We will keep you posted on the first salmonfly sightlings. 

The posts from here on through the summer will be far more consistent. I took the better part of spring to travel - spent a few weeks in some exotic fishing destinations, but I am back now and ready to write!




  • Thank you Amy. CU soon.

    Larry Wallace
  • Thank you, Amy! I loved that read!

    Ryan Hamilton
  • I cant wait!!! Hopefully we don’t get a big rain to raise the flow like last year. Man was it fun at first then slowed with the rising water. It did slowly came back on. REGARDLESS, I will be in the water! See you at the shop Amy!


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