Brown trout love salmonflies!

Hit the Jackpot: 17 Best Salmonfly Patterns That Drive Trout Wild

Imagine stepping into a river during the salmonfly hatch, a time when trout, emerging from winter’s grip, turn into voracious predators. This isn’t just fishing; it’s witnessing an aquatic frenzy. The usually cautious trout, driven by an insatiable hunger, aggressively feed to regain their strength, often losing their usual wariness.

Brown Trout
Brown Trout

The salmonfly hatch is nature’s lottery. Timing is crucial – get it right, and it’s like hitting the jackpot. The hatches can be so abundant that they transform the river, drawing even the wiliest trout into a feeding spree. It’s an unpredictable, exhilarating event, offering the chance for the catch of a lifetime with every cast.

In this article, we’ll explore the some of the “Best Salmonfly Patterns” that are irresistible to these eager trout. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a beginner, these patterns are your key to success during this thrilling hatch. Let’s dig into my fly box and discuss why trout can’t resist these flies and how you can capitalize on this annual feast.

Salmonflies a big easy meal for trout
Salmonflies a big easy meal for trout

Must-Have Patterns:

Rogue Foam Salmonfly

Rogue Foam Salmonfly in size 6
Rogue Foam Salmonfly in size 6

A top choice for imitating adult salmonflies, known for its excellent floatation.

My go-to size for the Rogue Foam Salmon Fly is a #6, striking a perfect balance between visibility and practicality. The classic black and orange color scheme is my favorite, as it closely mimics the natural appearance of the salmonflies in most rivers.

When fishing with the Rogue Foam Salmon Fly, I like to cast near overhanging branches or close to riverbanks. Trout often wait in these areas for natural salmonflies to fall into the water, making them prime spots for a successful catch

2. Chubby Chernobyl

Chubby Chernobyl as a dry stonefly
Chubby Chernobyl as a big salmonfly

Highly popular for its buoyant design, making it ideal for supporting dropper nymphs.

I prefer the Chubby Chernobyl in a size #8, which I find ideal for most trout streams. The combination of a tan body with a bright orange underbelly is a personal favorite, as it provides great visibility and a realistic imitation.

A great tip for the Chubby Chernobyl is to use it as an indicator fly in a dry-dropper setup. Its buoyancy can support a nymph underneath, allowing you to cover both surface and sub-surface feeding zones effectively.

3. Gridle Bug – Versatile Stonefly

Gridle Bug for Fly Fishing
Gridle Bug for Fly Fishing

A versatile and simple pattern, effective in a variety of water conditions.

Size #6 in Pat’s Rubber Legs (also call Gridle Bug) is my standard choice, especially in a black and brown color pattern. This size and color combination works wonders in a variety of water conditions and is particularly effective in imitating the natural nymphs.

For fishing with Gridle Bugs, I recommend a dead drift technique, keeping the line tight enough to feel the subtle takes. It’s often the go-to pattern in deeper pools and runs where trout are lurking for nymphs.

4. Kaufmann’s Stimulator with Rubber Legs

Stimulator with rubber legs in size 8
Stimulator with rubber legs in size 8, this is a perfect all around salmonfly

A variation of the classic Stimulator, enhanced for added movement and effectiveness.

I lean towards a size #10 for Kaufmann’s Stimulator with Rubber Legs. The orange and yellow coloration is my preference, as it stands out well in different lighting conditions and water types.

This fly excels when skittered across the surface, mimicking a struggling insect. Short, quick strips can entice aggressive strikes from trout, especially in faster-moving water sections.

5. Morris Fluttering Stone

Fluttering Stonefly in Gold
Fluttering Stonefly in Gold – image Umpqua

Renowned for its effectiveness, especially during the Montana salmonfly hatch.

The Morris Fluttering Stone in size #8 is a staple in my fly box. I find the natural brown color to be incredibly effective, as it closely resembles the real salmonflies found in many rivers.

When using Fluttering Stonefly, I focus on areas with turbulent water. The natural turbulence helps disguise your presentation, and the fluttering action of this fly in such water can be irresistible to trout.

6. Dancin Ricky

Dancin Ricky Stonefly in black
Dancin Ricky Stonefly in black – image Fulling Mill

Unique bent shank hook design for a realistic submerged abdomen.

For the Dancin Ricky, size #10 works best for me, particularly in a dark brown or black hue. This size is large enough to attract attention, yet subtle enough for more discerning trout.

A key technique with the Dancin Ricky is to target the slower, deeper stretches of the river where trout may be holding. Its unique design makes it look like a stonefly struggling to emerge, which can be a trigger for trout in these calmer waters.

Additional Recommended Patterns:

7. Fluttering Stone

Ideal for rivers with a strong current, like those in the Pacific Northwest, where its lifelike fluttering action closely mimics the natural salmonfly.

8. Henry’s Fork Salmonfly

Specifically tailored for the Henry’s Fork river in Idaho, this pattern is a solid choice for imitating the adult salmonflies found in this renowned fly fishing destination.

9. Morris Foam Salmonfly

Perfect for clear, fast-moving waters such as those in the Rocky Mountains. Its high buoyancy and visibility make it a standout choice in these regions.

10. Water Walker Stonefly

Water Walker Stonefly
Water Walker Stonefly – image Fulling Mill

A versatile pattern that excels in diverse environments, from the freestone rivers of Montana to the spring creeks of Pennsylvania, thanks to its ability to suspend a salmonfly nymph.

11. Grizzly Hackle Water Walker

Custom-tied for the varied conditions of the Missoula area in Montana, this pattern is adept at representing various stoneflies and grasshoppers common to the region.

12. Libby’s Salmonfly

Libby's Salmonfly
Libby’s Salmonfly – image Fulling Mill

Libby’s Salmonfly, in a size 6, is a stellar choice for those magical days when the rivers come alive with the salmonfly hatch. This pattern, with its realistic design and optimal size, is crafted to mimic the natural salmonflies that trout find irresistible.

When fishing with Libby’s Salmonfly, I’ve found it particularly effective in areas with slightly rougher water. The turbulence helps the fly’s naturalistic presentation, making it an irresistible morsel for trout.

13. Rainy’s Cat Puke

Best used in the early stages of the salmonfly hatch in rivers like the South Fork of the Snake River, where its natural materials offer a realistic imitation.

14. Winged True Salmonfly

This complex pattern is highly effective in large, western rivers such as the Colorado, where its high-floating design stands out in turbulent waters.

15. Super Gee Salmonfly

Ideal for the dynamic waters of the Green River in Utah, where its low-riding profile and active movement on the water mimic the local salmonfly behavior.

16. 64 Impala Salmonfly

Excelling in the later stages of the hatch, this pattern is particularly effective in the darker waters of the Deschutes River in Oregon as the salmonflies begin to darken.

17. Knuckle Dragging Salmonfly

Knuckle Dragging Salmonfly
Knuckle Dragging Salmonfly – image Fulling Mill

Knuckle Dragging Salmonfly, sized at 10, is meticulously crafted to replicate the natural appearance and movement of salmonflies.

This fly shines in slower, deeper pools where its realistic presentation can be fully appreciated by trout. The key is to let it drift naturally, mimicking a salmonfly struggling in the current.

The Ideal Salmonfly Size for Your Fly Box

When it comes to stocking salmonflies in my fly box, I’ve found that hook sizes between #12 and #6 are the sweet spot. This range, however, can shift a bit depending on the river you’re fishing in and the size of the native salmonflies there.

I personally lean towards a size #6 and #8. It’s a great compromise, being large enough to mimic the impressive size of adult salmonflies – some of the biggest snacks for trout – while still being manageable for casting and for trout to strike at.

My Go-To Salmonfly Colors

Fly box full of salmonflies
Fly box full of salmonflies

Black and Orange: This classic duo is my top pick for adult salmonfly imitations. The combination of a dark (black) body with a striking (orange) underbelly mirrors the natural look of many salmonfly species perfectly.

Brown and Orange: This is another favorite of mine, especially for mimicking both nymphs and adult salmonflies. The brown body with orange highlights has proven to be incredibly effective in my experience.

Tan and Yellow: In areas where salmonflies sport a lighter hue, I opt for tan and yellow. This pairing works wonders in clear waters or during the early stages of the hatch.

Guide Pro Tip: I’ve got a entire article discussing the best colors for trout. Check it out 👉 Fly Colors for Trout

Strategizing for the Salmonfly Hatch

Mastering the salmonfly hatch is an art that requires thorough planning and an intimate knowledge of the river’s ecosystem. This annual phenomenon isn’t just a display of nature’s cycles; it’s the best time to see trout in their element, feeding frenziedly.

To make the most of the hatch, I keep a close eye on local water temperatures and conditions, as the timing can shift annually. I gather intel from local fly shops and fishing reports to ensure I’m on the river when the action is hottest.

Hatch Timing Research: I always start by researching the typical timing of the salmonfly hatch in the area I plan to fish. This varies based on location and year-to-year conditions.

Local Insights: I make it a point to regularly check fishing reports and touch base with local fly shops. Their insights on the current state of the hatch are invaluable for timing my trips perfectly.

By following these strategies, I’ve had some of my most memorable fishing experiences during the salmonfly hatch, and I’m always eager to share these tips with fellow anglers looking to make the most of this exciting time.

Gearing Up for the Salmonfly Season

When prepping for the salmonfly hatch season, there are a few key things I always make sure to have ready:

Fly Selection: My fly box is never without a variety of salmonfly patterns. My go-to choices include the Rogue River Foam Salmon Fly, Chubby Chernobyl, and Pat’s Rubber Legs. Each has its day on the water, and I like to be prepared for any situation.

Rod and Line: Casting larger flies requires the right gear. I typically opt for a 5 or 6 weight rod, which offers a good balance of power and finesse for these bigger patterns.

Dry Fly Fishing Setup
Dry Fly Fishing Setup

Strategies for a Successful Salmonfly Hatch

  • Early Arrival: I’ve learned that getting to the river early is key during the salmonfly hatch. It’s a popular time, and securing a prime spot can make all the difference.
  • Stealth is Key: Despite their size, trout are surprisingly skittish. I always approach the river with care, minimizing noise and movement to avoid spooking the fish.

Understanding the Salmonfly Hatch Timeline

The salmonfly hatch is a highlight of the fly fishing calendar, but its timing can vary. Here’s what I’ve observed over the years:

Montana’s Hatch Schedule: In Montana, the Madison River sees the hatch from around June 20th to July 4th – a prime time for trophy fishing. The Henry’s Fork hatch tends to be earlier, from May 20th to June 10th, while the South Fork also experiences it from June 20th through July 5th.

General Timing: Generally, the hatch occurs when water temperatures hover between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This can shift year to year based on weather and water conditions, so I always keep an eye on local fishing reports and consult with fly shops for the latest updates.

Why Trout Go Crazy for Salmonflies

Fly Fishing with Salmonflies
Fly Fishing with Salmonflies

Size and Nutritional Value: Salmonflies are a trout’s buffet – they’re one of the largest aquatic insects in their habitat and pack a nutritional punch. One salmonfly can offer more energy and nutrients than several smaller insects, making them an efficient meal for trout.

Abundance During the Hatch: When salmonflies hatch, they do so in droves. This abundance triggers a feeding frenzy among trout, who take full advantage of the plentiful food source.

Vulnerability of Salmonflies: As salmonflies make their way from the riverbed to the surface and then to the banks, they become easy targets for trout. Their emergence and struggle to shed their nymphal casing make them particularly susceptible to being picked off by hungry fish.

Rivers Kown for Salmonfly Hatches

If you see the text in red, I’ve got a guide with instruction on where to cast a fly.

One Last Cast with the Salmonfly

As the sun dips low and your line dances one last time across the water, remember, the right salmonfly pattern can turn a good day into an unforgettable one.

Whether it’s the buoyant dance of a Chubby Chernobyl or the subtle allure of a Dancin Ricky, each fly has its moment to shine. So, choose wisely, cast with purpose, and let the river’s rhythm guide you. Here’s to tight lines and the thrill of the hatch – until the next cast.

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish

More Reading and Credits

Umpqua Feather Merchants: A special thanks to Umpqua Feather Merchants for providing images that bring our discussions to life. Their dedication to quality fly design is unmatched. Explore their extensive collection here.

Fulling Mill: Gratitude to Fulling Mill for their generous contribution of vivid fly images. Their craftsmanship in fly tying is evident in every pattern. Discover their range of flies here.

Guide Recommended: A must read on this very website is 👉 Best Stoneflies for Trout (Nymphs, Dries and a Fast Tie)

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