Tossing the Orange and Black

Memorial day weekend is come and gone, and with it came lots of anglers ready to toss the big stuff on stout tippet to hungry trout. From the Bitterroot to the lower reaches of Rock Creek, it is salmonfly time. Pteronarcys California, or Terro Gnar Gnar, or whatever you love to call it, they’re here. Giant stoneflies. Big and clumsy, these bugs fall in the drink more often than your drunk fishing partner and they look about the same as they flail their way toward shore. The big bugs make for some dramatic takes as trout that have been waiting for a big meal start putting on weight in a hurry. It’s not uncommon to catch a foot long trout whose belly is so full of these bugs that you can actually feel the nymphs wriggling about in their belly. Gross and awesome all at once. The nymphs move en masse toward shore and return in similar numbers as they mate and deposit eggs, so there are lots of opportunities to get fish to eat. Though practically anything big and bulky will get some eats, every season the search for the hot pattern leaves empty bins at fly shops in the wake of frenzied fly fishermen. What will it be this year? Who knows. Which is why I still end up tying a good variety. Plus they are just fun to tie.

The Cousin It salmonfly pattern will see a lot of time on the water this season. Segmented, low floating with a hook that gets ’em even when they short take. Simple fly to tie and a lot of fun to fish.

While it’s easy to say when you’re sitting behind a vise and not streamside, my advice is to not get too caught up in the elusive hunt for the prefect pattern. Good fishing with any big fly will get better results than wild bug tossing with the perfect fly on the end. Set yourself up for success by sizing down the tippet to 3x, and even 2x in some cases, and get the bug where it needs to be. Tight to structure, under those willows, and into fish mouths. Everyone wants to fish the dry fly, but the nymphs are a sure bet for early success, and often out fish the dry for entire days as these bugs move to shore in clumps of bugs, and often don’t leave the water until the temp is just right. Stout tippet and a good fly will make for better days than trying to get sneaky with light tippet and that perfect bug. The salmonfly hatch moves fast on most rivers in our area, and sun makes all the difference when it comes to the adults coming out to play. With great weather for these bugs on the menu this week, don’t forget to stock that box and find some time to sneak away to the river.

Carry a few bugs, but enough that losing one isn’t going to break your day. Because great days are made close to the bushes when salmonflies are out,
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