Salmon fly time

July 4, 2010

Nine days ago I fished Montana's Gallatin River when it was a foot higher and a lot browner than this (I didn't get a photo that day). Yesterday the water was a bit lower and yet--as you can see--still raging and off color. While I was putting my waders on I talked to one guy who wished me good luck because he thought the river was still "blown out." He drove away without even trying.

Hah. It was higher and dirtier a week ago, and I wacked'em silly then. Last week the Salmon Flies were just about to pop. And the fish were stacked like cord wood, tight to the bank. It was pretty much the same today. But the flies had already come and gone. The fishing was still good. I fished for four hours and caught a dozen good fish, on a day when most everybody else stayed home. I thrashed hiked waded and fished four miles upstream and then back down again. And I had the whole place to myself.

I don't know where this assumption comes from, that dirty water is not a good time for fly fishing. I always do well when the water is off color. The fish aren't spooky. You can often get 2-3 hits without taking a step. I caught four good fish in the first fifteen minutes. And then it slowed down a tad. A dozen fish in a morning's fishing doesn't break any world records. But that's still good fishing--especially for a day when everybody else gives up and goes home.

I fished a magnum-sized foam Salmon Fly adult (primarily as a 'strike indicator') followed by a huge open-cell foam Marshmallow Nymph, which was trailing a #14 blue-bodied bead head soft hackle (a fly I call the Bluedoo). I missed one strike all day long on the big dry fly. I didn't count but I landed at least a dozen good fish in a morning's fishing (was home by 1:00). Caught 4 or 5 on the Bluedoo. Browns and rainbows both. The rest all took the Marshmallow Nymph. I didn't catch a single fish more than 12"
off the bank.

Salmon fly time
Marshmallow Nymph

The fishing report on the Blue Ribbon Flies website reports the Gallatin is "still blown out." I'll have to try drifting the Yellowstone soon. George Anderson's Yellowstone Angler (where I used to work) reports the Yellowstone won't be "game on" before the flow drops to 8000cfs. And it's still hovering around 12,000cfs. I think I could pull good fish off the banks with huge streamers right now. Or on extra big Marshmallows.