Weekend Warrior: Chase the Bugs

June is in full swing and the rivers are doing their thing – spitting out all manner of insect life and keeping fish happy. The salmonflies have made their way up Rock Creek, the forks of the Bitterroot and places in between. The big bugs are hanging around on the Blackfoot like they always do, and everywhere around rivers are puking out green drakes, golden stones, yellow sallies and all the yummy stuff fish eat when the salmonflies have moved on. Should you chase the bugs this weekend? Definitely. But that doesn’t limit your options, because June is shaping up nicely around Missoula and flies of all shapes and sizes are coming into play.

These guys are happiest when you feed them.

June is a hot month this year, and all this bright sun and heat makes it necessary to bring your A game when you’re dry fly fishing. Looking for those most likely spots is the key to finding bigger fish, and with the water still cooler and high riffles are still giving up bigger fish than they should. Seams and shadows, close to the willows and grassy banks will find those salmonfly eaters, while posting up at a spot for some buggy observation is always a better plan than tying on a fly and tossing it with blind faith all day long. If it ain’t working, it ain’t working. We all love the big stuff, but a golden stone of a green drake can be money when the fish have seen every salmonfly pattern in the shops over their heads this week.

Rigging for dry fly fishing on the freestones in June? Nine foot leader and at least three feet of tippet. Yep, its a reach with the big flies, but it will also be a lot more effective on a bright sunny day than a short leader. Leave the short leaders for streamer fishing, or your subsurface rig. Go long and give yourself an advantage. And keep that tippet stout! No need to go micro 7X early in the season. What’s been working? Big dries with stonefly droppers. Golden stones with yellow sally droppers. Clip it back when the fish start whacking the top fly.
Nymphing? Yep. Do that, and you’ll find a lot of fish. Mess with your depths and rigs. Lets all try something other than the rubberlegs and worm, ok? Try a sally and a caddis nymph. Or a golden and a drake. Or a flashy attractor and a dull one. Lets Make Nymphing Great Again. (boom, that’s one edgy political reference.)
Streamers? Yep. Still a great option for moving the big fish. Put it in the weeds.
In true Weekend Warrior fashion, if I had only a few hours to fish this weekend I’d hit Rock Creek where the fish are well aware of the big bugs and are focusing on the sub-hatches as well. A good wade fishing spot on Rock Creek should get your quick fix on. If I only had one day to float, I’d head as high up on the Blackfoot as I could, remembering that this river can be pretty swift this time of year and danger levels are high, to chase the big bugs into the canyon. But a safer option rowing-wise could be the Clark Fork, which is right at the tipping point for excellent fishing. Is it there yet? Maybe. Could be the gamble that pays big this weekend, or the one that sends you home grumbling. Wherever you go, have fun, don’t forget the sunscreen or the rain gear, and keep on smiling. Nothing catches more fish than a positive attitude.
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