Western anglers have a special affinity for the Salmonfly, and it’s easy to understand why. These nymphs, also known as immature flies, are surprisingly large. In fact, besides fish, they can sometimes be the largest creatures in the water. This makes them irresistible to trout anglers, and every spring, when the salmonfly hatch occurs, both fishermen and fish rejoice.
Salmonflies are Particular about Their Habitat
Salmonflies are not found in every river in the West. In fact, the Deschutes River System in Oregon is the exclusive home of these unique insects. Why? Well, they are quite picky about water temperature. Salmonflies prefer rivers with a moderate temperature, not too hot and not too cold. The Deschutes River provides a constant water temperature that falls within their comfort zone. This is crucial because the salmonfly spends several years living in the river.
A Closer Look at the Salmonfly
Scientifically known as Pteronarcys Californica, these nymphs can grow up to a whopping 50 mm before molting and transforming into adult flies. They thrive in rivers with moderate to fast currents, where they can cling onto boulders. However, as they grow, they can lose their grip and become a delectable treat for waiting trout or a tempting bait for fishermen.
These nymphs spend a lengthy three years in the water. Once they reach maturity, they embark on a journey to the shore, known as their migration. It is during this time that they often become dislodged by the current. Most of the flies migrate at dawn or dusk, searching for tree trunks, reeds, or exposed rocks—anything that offers a bit of elevated ground. At a length of 2 and a half inches, the flies spread their two pairs of wings and take flight, showing off their orange and black bodies.
Using the Salmonfly to Hook Fish
Once the nymphs gain the ability to navigate out of the water, they begin the quest to find a mate. Females develop egg sacs that attach to the rear of their abdomen. They then fly over the river, land on the surface, and deposit their eggs. This makes them easy targets for trout. It is during this time of the year that you can expect to see larger trout, measuring 15-18 inches, rising to the surface from the depths of the river. These fish are well aware that there are large and easily obtainable insects on the water’s surface, and they won’t miss out on such a convenient meal.
Many anglers employ one of two tactics for catching trout. “Nymph fishing” involves imitating a nymph and fishing just below the water’s surface, near rocks and boulders where the trout are feeding. On the other hand, “dry fly fishing” entails imitating the current insect hatch with a fly that floats on the water’s surface. During the salmonfly hatch, dry fly fishing is somewhat easier compared to other times of the year. You can use a real salmonfly as bait instead of an imitation fly, and those large trout will be eagerly awaiting an effortless feast. In the world of trout fishing, it’s truly the most rewarding approach!
Salmonflies may not possess beauty or grace during their lifecycle, but they play a vital role in maintaining the robust fish population in the Deschutes River. Anglers in the Maupin area consider them a favorite bait, particularly during the months of April and May, when the insects hatch and trout fishing season is in full swing.