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Chasing Salmon Flies

Published: 16th August 2022 | Author: Joe Klementovich

Every fly fishing trip starts with some kind of high expectation. And for the Salmon Fly hatch on the Henry’s Fork, they are exceptionally high. Epic, huge dry fly eats. Voracious big Brown trout lurking tight to the banks. Clouds of salmon flies, and thousands of pre-historic bugs crawling all over the riverside bushes. People travel from around the world to be a part of this wild, natural event so they can chuck big foam flies and connect with a big brown trout.

Expectations were high coming into this trip.

We were some of those people, flying from New Hampshire to Idaho during a week when the salmon fly hatch was supposed to be in high gear. However, sometimes things just don’t work out according to plan.


It snowed the day we arrived. It rained the next day. Then, the rivers blew out. To make matters worse, the temps were too cold for the salmon fly nymphs to even think about crawling out of the water. Some of them were brave enough to make the move and sprout wings, but not enough to make the trout key in on them for a meal. Suddenly, those enormous expectations we arrived with seem like a fantasy. Now what?

Snow? Not exactly what you want to see.

A New Plan

A new plan has to be hatched and decisions have to be made on the fly, which is easier said than done. The truth is, one of the hardest things to deal with on a fishing trip is making decisions–especially when you have a big group. Should we head upstream to see if the hatch is up there? Do we float a lower section? Fish a tailwater or risk blowout on a freestone? What do you want for lunch? Do we give up on this hatch and start fishing nymphs or streamers? Do we leave that fly box full of Bearback Riders, Chubbies, Furry Foam Mutant Salmons, and Elden’s Pteronarcys Orange back in the rental car, or keep trying despite everything?

Big foam dries.

Let’s be honest, none of us are going to show up on a trip of a lifetime with just a dry fly rig and nothing else. Well, not a sane person at least. So, we ditched the dries to start and decided to throw some tungsten on a tailwater. With 5 anglers in our group, we euro nymphed, bobbered, and dry droppered our way to victory. Even though a Salmon fly is a massive one-time meal, trout tend to love the small snacks—especially if it’s served up to their open mouth, keeping effort to a minimum.

Sometimes you have to be willing to change tactics.

Dry Fly Eaters

Eventually though, the allure of trout eating salmon flies eaters got the better of us. So, we trailered the drift boats and met up with some of the fishiest folks around.

We were really set on getting that big dry fly eat, so we set-up a dry dropper. A big foam Salmon fly up top, and a salmon fly nymph under it. We ran it along the bank and under overhanging bushes. In this case, there was no such thing as too close to structure. It was slow going, but we were committed. Our persistence resulted in a few fish, but they just didn’t want to play ball. So, we parked our boats in slow water, grabbed a beer, and sat waiting for heads. Eventually, those big fish started to feed—just not on big foam flies. Again, sometimes you have to adapt to make it happen.

Dry Dropper Eater. Daniel’s Chewy Caddis got it done!

We scoured the water. What were they after? Ah yes, blue winged olive spinners were on the menu. As we sat on the bank we saw sipping trout enjoying spinners pretty far off the bank. It wasn’t long before we were tight on some big healthy browns that were fooled by a slow drift and properly matched spinner. Nothing like a dry fly eat, even if it’s not exactly the same as what you expected.

Keep It In Check

No one can predict any hatch with perfect accuracy. It’s fishing, after all. Yeah, you can get close but there are just too many variables that go into a proper hatch. Snow, anyone? And even if the hatch lines up, has anyone tried to make a connecting flight these days? Yeah, good luck. Keep those expectations in check, optimism high, and always be ready to change things in a pinch. If you have that covered, you’ll never be disappointed.

Oh yeah, and don’t ever leave home without your euro nymph box!

Never leave home without the euro box, even when you’re planning to fish salmon flies!

To read more about some of our new salmon fly patterns, check out this blog by Ken Burkholder, and this blog by Elden Berrett.

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