7 Great Salmonfly Patterns and How to Fish Them: Fly Fishing Guide (2024)

The Salmonfly hatch is the most anticipated hatch of the entire year. These massive flies guarantee a chance at trophy fish. Passionate fly anglers need to fish the Salmonfly hatch …

The Salmonfly hatch is the most anticipated hatch of the entire year. These massive flies guarantee a chance at trophy fish. Passionate fly anglers need to fish the Salmonfly hatch before their career ends. There’s nothing like throwing a massive dry fly and watching the water explode with a ravenous trout on the hunt for your fly.

Our Best Salmon Fly Patterns

1. Rogue River Foam Salmon Fly

Rogue River Foam Salmon Fly

2. Chubby Chernobyl

Chubby Chernobyl Hopper Pattern

3. Fluttering Stone

Fluttering Stone Fly Pattern

4. Henry’s Fork Salmon Fly

Henry's Fork Stone Fly Pattern (1)

5. Morris Foam Salmonfly

Morris Foam Stone Fly Pattern

6. Pat’s Rubber Legs

Pat's RUbber Legs Fly Pattern

7. Water Walker Stonefly

Water Walker Stone Fly Pattern

All About the Salmonfly Hatch

What Time of Day Is Best

Salmonflies are going to hatch both in the mornings and the evenings. An hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset are good times to follow if you want a peak Salmonfly hatch. If you had to choose between morning and evening, Salmonflies generally seem to be the most effective during the evening.

In the evening, the larger trout in the river or stream are getting ready to feed as it gets dark. They’re more willing to cruise into the shallows and feast on some larger salmon flies they can find.

If you see salmon flies in the air, you can feel free to tie on a pattern and see what happens. These hatches don’t last forever, so trout understand that they need to eat as many as possible while still around.

When in the Season Does It Occur

Depending on where in the Western United States you’re fishing, you’ll find that the hatches occur at different times in the spring and summer. The main factor in when the hatch occurs is the water temperature, and the Salmonfly hatch will fully begin when water temperatures are consistently around the mid-50s.

The first week of June in Montana is usually when the hatches start, and the hatch will last for several weeks before it concludes.

In other Western States, the hatches occur as early as April, but most fall in the late May and June timeframe. Whatever you do, you don’t want to miss a chance at this experience. It’s one of the most exciting times of year to catch fish.

Check with a local fly shop to get the best intel on when the hatches will occur.

Duration of the Hatch

The Salmonfly hatch will last around 4-6 weeks in most states. Most guides advise fly anglers to time their fishing trips for about a week or so after the peak of the hatch. This way, the fish will be more eager to eat Salmon Flies because they aren’t as readily available.

Plus, they’ll have had time to digest all the insects eaten. Trout usually need around four days to digest, so the peak of the hatch is an excellent time to avoid because the trout have been filling up on the nymphs and dries since they started moving and hatching.

The beginning of the hatch is also another good time to fish with Salmonflies. The fish are eager to feed on them, so you’ll have plenty of success if you can get there right at the beginning.

Regardless, stay away from the peak. It will usually be the most frustrating time to fish with the big dry patterns.

Best Rivers for Salmonfly Hatches

A few rivers in the Western United States are well-known to be the best options. Most anglers would choose Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho because it is usually one of the first Western United States rivers to get the Salmonfly Hatch. Around Memorial Day, you won’t find a fly box without Salmonfly patterns in Idaho.

Next on the list would be the Big Hole or Madison Rivers in Montana. Both of these rivers have massive hatches that last around 6-weeks. The Madison River has a consistent hatch that usually starts in the Beartrap Canyon and works from West Fork to Ennis, and the Big Hole has sporadic hatches.

One of the last rivers you should consider is the Yellowstone River in Wyoming and Montana. Over 100 miles of the river, experience a Salmon fly hatch. The stretch below Livingston, MT, into Black’s Canyon within Yellowstone National Park, sees hatches.

How to Fish the Salmonfly Hatch

One of the best things to do when fishing the Salmonfly hatch is to fish early. As soon as the sun starts rising, hit the water. Fish will have digested their food and be ready for more.

Give the trout a half-second to ingest your fly fully. Yes, they smash your fly, but the larger pattern takes longer for them to eat.

Don’t be afraid to fish a fly sitting a little lower in the water column. Yes, the large patterns that sit high on the surface are a blast to throw, but fish often want a fly with a bit of its body submerged.

If you don’t see rises, that doesn’t mean fish won’t eat your fly. Fly fishing with salmon flies isn’t guaranteed, so feel free to throw a nymph when they’re rising and a dry fly when they aren’t. The variation can work in your favor.

Finally, remember the fish are eager to eat, but that doesn’t mean they’re always hungry. Wait a few days until the peak of the hatch has subsided to give yourself the best chance at a trophy.

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Danny Mooers is a passionate fly fishing and angling writer from Arizona. Danny loves sharing his passion for fly fishing for trout and other species through his work for Tackle Village.
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