By Patrick Straub EBS Fishing Columnist
A longtime Yellowstone River guide once admitted to me his disdain for the salmonfly hatch. “It’s so anticlimactic, overblown, and over-hyped,” he said.
“It’s after the salmonflies hatch that I love,” my friend continued. “[It’s] golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, caddis, and spruce moths that get my blood pumping.” He’s got a good point.
The salmonflies are done on our local waters and the golden stoneflies are waning, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the fly floatant and go back to the “chuck and duck” indicator rigs. The coming weeks are perhaps the best of the year for catching trout on dry flies, so be sure to have some of the following patterns in your vest or pack, or stuck in your ball cap.
Chubby Chernobyl, or variations such as the Super Chubby or Fat Frank. Created to imitate a large stonefly or grasshopper, this foam-bodied fly floats high and is easy to see. It can imitate a golden stonefly, a yellow sally stonefly, or a large caddis. Many anglers will use this fly as an attractor dry fly – in other words, one that can be seen – and tie a smaller dry fly behind it as a floating dropper.
Blooms HiVis Parachute Caddis. This fly has eclipsed the Goddard in popularity for a fast-water caddis. But the fly’s creator, Dave Bloom, honed this pattern on the technical waters of the Missouri River. Because its roots lie with picky tailwater trout, this fly takes the bacon for the must-have caddis pattern on the Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone rivers. It floats well and its parachute post is tied in a variety of colors, which makes it easy to see in low-light conditions.
RS2 emerger in PMD or yellow. The RS2 was created more than 30 years ago by Colorado angler and fly-tier Rim Chung. The name is short for “Rim’s Semblance No. 2,” since it was the second in a series of flies he designed. As our rivers drop and clear, Pale Morning Duns will hatch and this summer-season the mayfly will inhabit shallow, riffle-run water. A first impression suggests this fly is meant to be fished subsurface or in the surface film, which can be effective. However, if your eyesight allows you to see a size 16 or 18 RS2 surface, you stand a very good chance of more hookups when PMDs are hatching. If you have subpar eyesight, tie an RS2 as a dropper off a Bloom’s HiVis Parachute Caddis.
Rubberleg Stimulator or Stimi-Chew Toy. These two patterns’ roots lie in Randall Kaufmann’s original Stimulator. As a kid, I rarely fished anything other than a yellow Stimulator. Today, a Stimulator will catch fish in some situations, but with the addition of rubber legs and an underwing on the Chew Toy, these two patterns are the 4G to my old analog. Tied to mostly imitate golden stoneflies and yellow sally stoneflies, the Stimi-Chew Toy in size 14 and 16 is ideal for mimicking a spruce moth.
Parachute Adams. Perhaps the most time-tested dry fly ever tied – imitating a mayfly dun – the Parachute Adams is a must-have. The white post is easy to see, it can be tied in a variety of colors, it floats well, and it catches fish. Get some.
Spruce moth patterns. On many of our local rivers, especially the Gallatin and Upper Madison between Windy Point and Pine Butte, anglers are noting an increase in spruce moths. Be sure your dry-fly box has plenty of spruce moths. A caddis at its core, once a spruce moth lands on the water’s surface, a nearby trout doesn’t take long to notice. Some favorite patterns are the Snowshoe Spruce and the Elk Hair Spruce Moth; focus on sizes 14 and 16.
LaFontaine’s Emergent Sparkle Pupa. A list without a Gary LaFontaine pattern? What do you think I am, a nymph fisherman? LaFontaine was passionate about flies and trout food, and he spent countless hours studying insects and creating their imitations. Similar to the RS2, this fly can serve double duty. When fished as a dry fly, only put floatant on the elk hair, allowing the fly to float on the surface while the dubbed body – or mix of hairs attached to the hook shank – helps to hold air by creating a bubble. LaFontaine surmised that as caddis hatch from a pupa to an adult they create a small air bubble. Good thing he enjoyed looking at caddis butts, because without this pattern a lot fewer fish would be caught.
In Norman Maclean’s masterpiece “A River Runs Through It,” a father tells his two sons – one of which is Norman – that Christ’s disciples were fishermen, and that John was Christ’s favorite. Why? Because John was a dry-fly fisherman.
Pat Straub is the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisher,” “Montana On The Fly,” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and he co-owns a guide service on the Missouri River.