Blame it on my Roots

The sheer mention of the approaching salmon fly hatch in Greg Tolelfson’s outdoor column Thursday morning started a Pavlov reaction deep inside my bones.  I literally started to salivate at the thought of the giant red bellied bugs.  Bugs so coveted by fish that even the most wiley trout turns into a crazed eating machine.  I had to take a three day rest period just to write my thoughts down in some coherent platform.  I’ve got the fever bad.  My affliction started at a young age.  Every summer we made the pilgrimage to the the Big Hole River in southwest Montana for a week of tossing flies to hungry trout.  It wasn’t just the river and fishing, I looked forward all year to a week of being outside and getting dirty, eating around the fire, s’mores, ghost stories, and not baths.  Every morning my father and the other dads would sneak out early for a morning float.  I never really knew why until I had kids.  I can’t ask him now, but I’m guessing the quiet mornings on the river were a much needed respite from the mayhem back at camp and a chance to catch fish.  .  Don’t get me wrong, my dad loved us (the picture attached  to this blog speaks more than a thousand words to this end) and I love my kids, but focused fishing time is just that and it should be respected, this is THE salmon fly hatch for god’s sake.  My favorite memory as a kid from my week on the Big Hole was when a big ol bug would land on the boat.  My father would snatch it up, dangle for all to see, and then plop the substantial amount of protein into his gaping mouth, just like a big ol brown trout, sans the hands.  He then would declare in a booming voice, “Fish eat em, I eat em!”  Those seeing the awkward display of caveman spirit for the first time, were shocked, even appalled, but they never ever forgot.

No other hatch has more fan fare, the hopper hatch in August comes close but the salmon fly hatch is revered.  I’ve got a good friend who meticulously records the timing of the first bug on Rock Creek, the peak of the hatch, and the end.  Recording not only the number of bugs and fish caught, but water temperature, flow level, air temperature, and who was in the boat.   The latter just so he knows who the skunk in the boat is, everyone has this friend.  It’s a science really, borderline obsession.

Bugs the size of your pinky finger typically cloud the skies of Montana rivers in the month of June.  I’ve literally been on Rock Creek when the sky turns black. The fishing is fast and furious, even for a water slapper like me; fish are landed in high numbers.  Nothing can describe the joy I get from watching trout, big and small, hit these big bugs on top water. 

So whether you’re headed to the Blackfoot, Rock Creek, Big Hole or the famed Smith River for your souljourn, start planning now and get plenty of bugs as you need to fish in the bushes, that’s where hungry salmonids lay in wait.  When that big ol salmon fly lands on your shoulder, think about trying a taste, “Fish eat em, I EAT EM!” 

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