Every year at about this time in the Rockies the big bugs come out. This usually means Green Drakes, Stoneflies, Salmon Flies, and occasionally some other big bugs like Brown Drakes. These flies obviously get the attention of the trout in my local rivers, however, they can also present some challenges. Here are a few ideas about how to have a great fishing day when the big bugs come out to play.
Be prepared with several types of patterns. I’ve seen fish that have seen a lot of Green Drakes start to key in only on the nymphs and emergers. With a lot of food drifting in the current during these hatches they don’t have to expend the energy to take the adults. Be ready to trail a Green Drake nymph imitation or a Green Drake Emerger pattern as a dropper behind the dry fly. At other times they may only take crippled adult flies so have some cripple patterns on hand.
In Salmon Fly and Stonefly hatches sometimes the fish will only take drowned adult flies so be ready to sink those babies with spit or Xink.
3. Be sure to hit the start of the hatch and not the tail end. In the first 1 to 3 days that the big bugs are hatching the fish will be ravenous. By day 4 to 7 the fish may simply be full and even though you’ll see big old bugs drifting, you might have trouble catching fish. If you find yourself in this situation you can always try to go way upstream to get ahead of the hatch. Hatches will often start in the lower reaches of rivers and then day by day progress upstream as water temperatures go up.
Be sure to fish at the right time. Most of the big bugs around my area hatch in the middle of the day. Fishing late in the day after the hatches can be a waste of time. Sometimes you can fish nymphs all day but often the fish get full after a big hatch and they simply wait for the next day’s hatch to eat again.
As I write this I know that big Green Drakes and Stoneflies are hatching on some of my favorite rivers so I’m taking a little time off from guiding and following my own advice as I fish this week. Following these few pointers should help you too to catch more fish when the big old bugs are out and about in your area but remember that nothing works if you don’t get out on the water. Hopefully you can because the good thing about big bugs is that they certainly interest every fish in the river, including the big boys.
Good luck and tight lines! Hope to see you on the water.
Fly Fishing Professional, Guide, and Author
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Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish.
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