Salmonfly Hatch at the Colorado River: A Quick Fishing Report in Fraser, CO

May 4, 2018

One of the most famous insect hatches happens every year in early June on the Colorado River. The salmonfly is one of the bugs most commonly used in fly fishing. Also referred to as giant stoneflies and willow flies, these flies emerge every year in June in a massive fishing event simply known as “the hatch.”

During this time, fishers will travel from all over the world to start fly fishing during this salmonfly hatch on the Colorado, Madison and Gunnison rivers.

Trout, especially young trout, love these bugs, which makes them outstanding fly fishing bait. This makes it a great opportunity for fishers to come in, catch these flies and use them for fishing. Even after the hatch is complete, the salmonflies remain an important food source all year long for fish and other animals along local rivers.

What do they look like?

Salmonflies are large and often found in clean, cool rivers in the western United States. The nymphs will take a full three years to mature before they become flying adults. Even in their nymph form they can be a good food source for trout in these rivers, but especially so right before they emerge as full-on adult flies in May and June.

The nymphs can be anywhere from one to three inches long and are dark in color, with some noticeable purple, black and brown tones. They generally prefer rocky areas where the river flows at moderate speed with a medium depth. The nymphs migrate in large numbers out of the water onto these rocks and into willow bushes along the river banks. At this time, their nymphal case splits open and the winged adult bursts forth. This process differs from many other insect hatches, which occur on the surface of the water before the flies come out.

This is why the trout prefer larger, dark-colored nymphs that drift around near the banks before the bugs actually start to fly around. And big they most certainly are—the adults are generally two to three inches in length and have orange or salmon-colored abdomens with darker heads, thoraxes and legs. The wings are large and prominent but mostly stay on the back rather than standing upright. The adults are so big that they can struggle to stay airborne, especially if it is particularly windy or cool outside. If they fall into the water, they are extremely susceptible to becoming prey, because they create a big disturbance in the water and have a hard time getting airborne again.

Fishing tips

Before the hatch occurs, there will be lots of fish looking for nymphs near the river banks. This makes it a great time for wading fishers near the banks.

Once the hatch begins, the nymphs will still cluster near the banks, but as the warmer temperatures set in you’ll want to make a switch to a dry fly near the bank, because the trout will be especially excited about the adult flies.

The prime fishing period during the hatch is only about 10 days, but you can expect to get in some great fishing during this time.

For more information about fishing with a salmon fly in Fraser, CO, contact Winter Park Flyfisher today.

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