It’s stonefly time in southwest Montana and judging by the number of salmonfly and golden stonefly nymphs along the banks of the Madison River, those bugs are going to pop in the next couple days. And the river is in great shape, with at least three feet of visibility and a nice green tint.
I was on the water yesterday with Jim Klug, director of operations for Yellowdog Flyfishing Adventures and the newly elected chairman of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. We floated from McAtee Bridge to Varney Bridge and took a few decent fish on stonefly nymphs, but I wouldn’t call the action steady. We wondered, have the fish gorged on nymphs? Was there a front pushing in and did a pressure change turn them off? Had they seen too many flies earlier in the day (we didn’t put on the river until 1 p.m.)? For whatever reason, the fish weren’t on and we couldn’t figure them out.
Still, I’m excited about prospects for the next couple days because anglers have reported seeing some adult salmonflies in the section from Varney to Ennis. That hatch should move upstream steadily with the predicted warm weather over the next couple days—seventy-four today, seventy-seven tomorrow, eighty-one on Sunday, and eighty-eight on Monday.
During our float, Klug and I took time to turn over rocks along the Madison’s shoreline and we found scads of stonefly nymphs, not the massive numbers you see when the hatch is in full-on progress, but enough to know that a major event could happen at any hour during the next few days.
Let’s say you make it to the Madison during the next week to two weeks. What should you throw? Dan Delekta, who owns Beartooth Fly Fishing, knows the answer to that. In fact, he’s been perfecting his stonefly setups over the past 30 years and he assures you’ll catch more fish by following a few simple terminal tackle rules that aren’t the norm.
First, you’ll want a stout stick, at least a nine-foot five-weight rod, maybe even better with a six-weight. Then you’ll want to attach a Perma-Float Braided Butt Hand-Tied Fluorocarbon Leader to the butt section coming off your fly line. Place an adjustable indicator to the leader. At the end of your leader attach a size-10 barrel swivel. To that, attach a section of tippet material. Tie a couple of your favorite stonefly patterns to that or run what Delekta does—tie on a couple Delektable stonefly nymphs including, perhaps, a Delektable size-6 Brown Stoner or any other from the Stoner series. And Delekta will tell you: put a bend in your stonefly before you tie it on because natural stoneflies, washed from the rocks, curl into a ball for safety and sinking ability. Basically, the naturals want to get back to the bottom rocks as fast as they can. You can get all those materials and the right flies at Beartooth Fly Fishing or from their Web site. The barrel swivel, by the way, keeps the double nymph rig from severely twisting your leader and tippet and allows those nymphs to float in a lifelike fashion.
If you’re fortunate enough to hit the hatch when adults are flying around and hitting the water and the trout are after them, make sure to throw some Rainy’s Cat Pukes on the surface. They crush.
That’s the story on the Madison right now, tons of anticipation and probably a bunch of guys out there on the river today seeing salmonflies pop. I’ll be out there later, and tomorrow with Tate and Myka trying to make amends for yesterday’s humiliation. See you on the water.