I grew up in the history rich may fly mecca of Pennsylvania. I spent many years chasing hatches with my brothers and dad, usually heading up to the limestone spring creek of central PA. I have countless memories of us gathered on the banks waiting for the various species to return to the water for their mating ritual. Our heads would wonder into the sky hoping to see the first round of bugs around 7:30pm, and when they did it would typically start a feeding frenzy and result in many fish caught, and many more lost throughout the night. Only fly-fisherman understand why boys and men can get so excited to see the bugs life cycle play out in front of their eyes.
I picked up the whole Euro Nymphing thing shortly after I graduated college and my obsession with it drove me to fishing first light and missing out on these magnificent hatches. It wasn't until I fished my first Salmon Fly hatch on the Madison River in Montana when I got that big urge to just throw dry flies again. This BIG BUG hatch is something we didn't get to experience in PA, so I was taken back by the size of these bugs and their alien look. After a few incredible outings I have made it a point to fish the Salmon Fly Madness whenever I get the chance, never thinking twice about the nymph rod in my closet.
A few buddies of mine planned to head south for the Memorial Day Weekend trying to time the Big Bug right, which can be a challenging thing to do. The recent cold snap in Montana delivered incredible flows for this time of year and the start of The Hatch coincided with our arrival. Our crew rigged up and did a little bull shitting in the parking lot before we ventured down in the river chucking our #4 Dry Flies at first light. The action wasn't lights out for the first 2 miles and we didn't see the Salmon Fly in high numbers to get us excited. That all changed as we approached the 2 mile mark of the float. The bugs started showing their faces and the fish started to eat our offerings. These takes are not delicate, they are not a may fly sipping take. They are ferocious eats that leave a lasting memory in your head when it happens. Sloop John B was a virgin Salmon Fly Fisherman on this trip and it only took 1 take to get him hooked for years to come.
We spent the next 4 days and 3 nights floating down the river every hour of daylight. Mornings were spent eating shitty gas station burritos and nights we stopped at the same gas station and devoured shitty bratwursts. The weather was cold and rainy and we went to bed exhausted from casting all day. All the ingredients of a perfect fishing trip that was reminiscent of ones I took in PA with my family growing up.
The fishing for big fish was downright silly. If anyone has any doubts that the biggest fish in the river will eat a dry fly, the pictures below will assure you they do. The Salmon Fly brings out the biggest, baddest trout in the river. If you spend the time, and are willing to cast your arm off.....eventually you should get rewarded with a fish you can brag to your buddies about.
As you can see by these pictures.....THE HATCH delivered and now has consumed 3 fly fisherman for a lifetime. My dry fly addiction is renewed and in a few short weeks my brothers and I will be chasing these bugs on the Madison River, dad will be in our thoughts and we will be boys again reliving memories of years spent waiting on the banks of Penn's Creek for the bugs to fall, and creating new ones in the backdrop of the Madison Range.