The Salmon Fly hatch on the Big Hole River creates an annual boat hatch nearly as thick as the bugs. Luckily, I had the chance to sneak out last week just as the bugs were starting to hatch and before the guides and anglers descended upon the Big Hole Valley.
The salmon flies, the largest of the three stone flies, lives underwater in its nymph form for three years, doing push-ups on the rocks in the riffles to circulate oxygen through its gills. At the end of the spring of their third year, the bugs crawl en-masse to the banks where they await the proper conditions. When the ring-leader yells “charge!”, they scuttle onto the bank and into the willows where they will shuck their exoskeleton. The next couple of days make the Summer of ’67 seem tame as these bugs fly high in the sky, coming down only to make love in the bushes. After the thrill is gone, the males fly away and are picked off in mid-air by western tanagers and robins, and the females must drop their eggs into the river before being devoured by eager trout.
One of the many joys in an angler’s life is to mimic the egg laying procedure with carefully crafted dry-fly patterns. Scott Murray, renowned New Zealand trout hunter and owner of River Haven Lodge, and his lovely wife, Leya, ventured up from the southern hemisphere after a busy and fulfilling season on the South Island to do just that.
The high water didn’t bother him one bit, and as soon as I pulled the boat over he jumped into a back eddie and landed seven trout. We rolled on, toward the raging Dewey Canyon, without much luck fishing from the boat. However, each time I pulled over “The Trout” was out of the boat and into a fish.
I thoroughly enjoyed hearing tales from Down Under and sharing laughs with such good-hearted people. If you find yourself dreaming of lush forests and monstrous browns this winter, and you undoubtedly will, give them a ring at The River Haven Lodge, South Island New Zealand.