Saturday, June 2, 2012

Funny river, funny hatch

The Lower Madison is a funny river. It has big fish and varied hatches, but it has a hard time bringing it all together. For example, when I first moved to Montana, I caught one of my nicest trout there on a dry fly (kind of - a sunken Sunken Stone) during the salmonfly hatch. Then in subsequent years the hatch became sparse and fickle - not really fishable. I stopped fishing Girdle Bugs there entirely. Caddis one year, virtually none the next. Then came the period when the trout would simply not rise, and don't forget the potato hatch.

Salmonflies are a funny bug. Hatches occur on most western freestones, but if conditions get too harsh (pollution, water temps, miscellaneous), they'll discontinue for a stint. There's never a guarantee. Timing is a huge part of hitting a hatch right - staying ahead, but not too far ahead of the main emergence, finding keyed-but-not-gorged's not easy. To hit it right, however, is an incredible occurrence.
Even funnier after a couple.
Last night, I got a text message. "Salmon flies on the lower, and it fished very well..." I cancelled my plans, tied some flies and was on the road by 8 this morning. Well, I saw 10 to 15 salmonfly adults (many more shucks), four to six of them on the water. But I couldn't even get a tug on a nymph. I tried three different patterns, then a dry with a nymph trailer off the bank. I was able to avoid the skunk, but via the Lower Madison crutch (a crayfish).

Ha ha.

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