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4/23/2014
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Email a Friend Stonefly/Salmonfly Mania!
By Amy Hazel

Click photos to enlarge Stonefly, Salmonfly, Deschutes, Salmonfly Hatch, StoneflyHatch
They are here already!
Stonefly, Salmonfly, Deschutes, Salmonfly Hatch, StoneflyHatch
The Empty Shucks Line the Banks
Stonefly, Salmonfly, Deschutes, Salmonfly Hatch, StoneflyHatch
A Male Golden Stonefly
Stonefly, Salmonfly, Deschutes, Salmonfly Hatch, StoneflyHatch
The Underside of a Salmonfly
Stonefly, Salmonfly, Deschutes, Salmonfly Hatch, StoneflyHatch
Actual Size - Photo Taken Upstream of Maupin on 05-16-2006
Recommended Gear:
Stimulator Golden Stone
Norm Woods Special
Clark's Stonefly
Even though the Deschutes in the area of Maupin is open year-round, May is the month that really kicks off the dry fly bonanza on the Deschutes. This is the month that the dry fly window goes from a sporadic mid-day frenzy of dry fly action to a full-fledged all-day nothin’ but dry fly mania. If you have ever fished the Deschutes or read anything about it, you have likely heard of the mega salmonfly hatch. Whether you are a budding enthusiast fly angler or a jaded, been-there-done-that angler – if you are on the Deschutes during the height of the hatch it will be forever burned in your memory.

The Deschutes River salmonfly hatch is an event that lasts from two to five weeks depending on the weather. If the weather is cool for the last two weeks of May, the bugs will stay in the foliage along the river’s edge and will not fly until it warms up. If the sun beats down and warms the canyon from May 15-30 and air temperatures stay in the high eighties to low nineties for several days in a row, the bugs will be on the wing early and will mate and lay their eggs on the water in rapid succession. This year it looks as if the hot weather is going to get those stoneflies on the wing early, so anglers need to get their gear together and get to the river as soon as possible or risk letting another year pass without experiencing the “hatch.”

The “hatch” is generally referred to as the salmonfly hatch, but that nomenclature is a bit misleading because the mass of huge bugs in the air and on the banks does not solely consist of the large orange stoneflies that are commonly called salmonflies. There is much more to this hatch than the big Pteronarcys californica, or salmonfly, so anglers on the Deschutes are wise to carry a variety of dries representing the full spectrum of stoneflies available to the trout during this time. In addition to the salmonfly, the skies are filled with golden stoneflies and little yellow sallies. The golden stonefly, Hesperoperla pacifica, is nearly as large as the salmonfly and, where the populations are equally as dense, the golden stones are far more available to the trout and are therefore the preferred morsel. The reason that the golden stones are more likely to become trout chow is that they actually land on the water to lay their eggs and in doing so often get sucked into the surface film of the water right into the feeding lanes of the hungry trout. Pteronarcys californica, or salmonflies, do not bother landing on the water to oviposit – they instead use the B-52 bomber method to drop the black pouches of eggs into the river. Little Yellow Sallies are the third stonefly species that we find in good numbers on the Deschutes, though they tend to hatch off a little later and stick around long into June and even into July. This stonefly, ssp. Isoperla, is a bright yellow bodied miniature version of the other stones, easily recognizable by that stonefly trademark flight pattern - four wings clumsy beating as fast as possible, swerving and lurching like a staggering drunken sailor.

Stoneflies have an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that they go right from the nymph stage to the full adult stage without pupation. They drift migrate towards the river’s edge all through the month of May, mainly emerging from the river in the evening and night time. As they crawl from the depths of the river, they look for the nearest rock or tall grass to crawl into and dry their outer shuck. As the shuck is drying, they go to work breaking their way out of the shell of the nymphal shuck. After they have freed themselves from the casing, they usually hang around in the bushes and the trees mating and waiting for the weather to get warm enough to fly. During the mating, the exuberant males often pile themselves atop one female in hopes of getting lucky. The result of the pile up is often that the entire cluster loses its grasp on the vegetation and falls into the water to the waiting trout below. This is why, during the early part of the hatch, anglers will be successful with both male and female stonefly imitations (males are considerably smaller than females) cast tight to the bank under the trees that overhang the water or along the tall grass lines where the banks are steep and the water is deep. This is truly “jungle fishing” because you cannot cast flies from any floating device on the Deschutes River – in order to reach the deep water, overhanging tree spots you will have to hang like an orangutan from one tree limb in order to cast parallel to the bank under the upstream tree limbs.

As the hatch progresses and you start to see lots and lots of bugs in the air (along with the many gulls, woodpeckers, and fly catchers that delight in the airborne smorgasbord) and this is the time to really concentrate on the larger adult golden stone patterns. We like to take the large patterns and color the butt end black with a Sharpie marker – this will represent the egg pooch that the golden stoneflies lay on the water. The egg laying comes in the latter half of the hatch, which will be the only time that anglers will see good results by casting the dries into the wide open spaces on the river or out into the middle of the river.

The warmer it gets, the more crazy the hatch will become and the more stuffed the trout will become. They are much more eager to grab big dries early on in the hatch than they are once the bugs have been on the water for a while. One key to success on the dry flies is to use a fly (like the Norm Woods Special) that sits low in the water and doesn’t float very well. Save your big foam Chernobyl thong-type flies for less selective fish elsewhere – Deschutes fish can be picky when it comes to adult stonefly imitations. If your stonefly isn’t floating well, if it gets sucked under by the currents, let it go. Millions of stoneflies also get naturally sucked under by the turbulent currents on the Deschutes and who do you think is waiting for them a few feet below the surface wherever the water is wild? That’s right, Mr. Redside. Get creative, try fishing the dry fly with a bit of split shot down deep in a swirling backeddy… hang on tight because that stonefly is going to be eaten!

The best patterns for imitating the stoneflies on the Deschutes are the Norm Woods Special, the Clark’s Stone, the Cutter’s Little Yellow Stone, the Rogue Parastone, T-bone stone, Killer Stone, Glasstail Little Yellow Sally, and the Stimulator Golden Stone. These are best fished on 4X or 5X tippet, sometimes with a little bead head dropper trailing 18” behind the dry, but more often than not….just go dry. This hatch is difficult to hit just right, you can’t wait around for a good fishing report because the heyday will be over by the time a report is written. To fully experience the magic of this hatch you have to be on the river and make the news rather than read other angler’s stories of glory. Put down the mouse, pick up a fly rod, and get yourself to the river soon!

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Deschutes River Guided Fly Fishing, Spey Casting, Spey Rods, Spey Reels, Spey Lines, DESCHUTES ANGLER - INFO & ARTICLES, Fly Fishing Classes and Clinics, Spey Fishing, Steelhead, Trout, Beulah Rods and Lines, Spey Rods, Spey Reels, Spey Lines, Spey Casting, Spey Video, Switch Rods, Spey Rods, Spey Reels, Spey Lines, Spey Casting, Spey Video, Spey Rods, Spey Reels, Spey Lines, Spey Casting, Spey Video, Switch Lines, Spey Sink-Tips, Deschutes angler carries Winston Fly Rods, Sage Fly Rods, Beulah Fly Rods all year round, Fly Fishing Reels, Fly Reels, Nautilus, Ross, Galvan, Sage, Tibor, Hatch, Running/Shooting Lines, Shooting Head Wallets and Bags, Fly Lines, Fly Leaders & Tippet, Waders & Boots, Fly Chest/Waist/Back Packs, Fly Boxes, Fly Fishing-Accessories, Fly Fishing Handy Gadgets and Tools, Gear Bags & Luggage, Rod Tubes, Fly Float Tubes & Pontoon Boats, Fly Fishing Books and DVD's, Gift Certificates, Rental Equipment, Rental Cabins on the Deschutes, Fly Fishing Closeouts
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