Once runoff subsides, it’s game on for anglers in the Western U.S. as they flock to their favorite trout waters.
With flows receding and water warming, bugs start popping across the Rockies and trout feed hungrily to take advantage of this brief feeding frenzy. The dry fly action is not to be missed, and being armed with the right patterns is key because even though the fish are opportunistic, they still know what naturals are coming off. Fishing high mountain freestones might not be quite as technical as spring creeks, but matching the hatch will go a long way in turning good days into great ones!
A member of the stonefly family, yellow sallies are one of the most reliable hatches in the Rockies. They should be carried in a variety of sizes from #12 to #16 and usually inhabit rocky bottom streams, making them prevalent bugs in high mountain streams. This is also a great hatch to hit for those who sometimes have a hard time finding the dry fly as it’s drifting along. Brightly colored flies tied on large hooks make it easy to pick up in even the roughest water where trout are going to be looking up for their next meal.
The red quill is one of the most storied hatches across America, and even though this isn’t the old school bug from the Catskills, it certainly holds a place of prominence in the Western states. It’s another extremely reliable hatch for the high mountain freestones, and as such, it should be carried in a few different sizes and colors. Local waters might hold red quills in shades of rust to light red, and because of that unique coloration, they can be easy to spot and identify. This is helpful for beginner anglers who could confuse lightly colored mayflies with yellow sallies or caddis. A parachute post on the red quill really helps visibility and its ability to float since it’s a fairly thin-bodied fly.
If you’re lucky enough to fish a waterway that has these gigantic bugs, then they need little introduction! The chance to throw gigantic dry flies for large trout isn’t something to be taken lightly, and it isn’t something that happens everywhere. The sheer size of these bugs makes it possible to throw dry dropper rigs with a stonefly trailing underneath so that every phase of the hatch can be imitated, which is always an added bonus. In terms of timing, this hatch is shorter than the other two, but if you can hit it just right the action can be unbelievable. If throwing dry flies the size of small birds sounds appealing, then this is the hatch for you!
Enjoying the warm summer sun beneath snow-capped peaks while flipping dries to hungry trout is the stuff of daydreams. Both the bugs and trout take advantage of this short growing season, so it only makes sense that anglers should, too! This isn’t the classic ‘match the hatch” that comes with Eastern limestoners or Montana spring creeks, but getting the right imitations can transform your fishing experience. Few bugs are as reliable and widespread as the yellow sallies, red quills, and salmonflies, which makes them must-haves for those venturing into the Rockies this season!