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Montana Salmon Fly Hatch Part I

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Location: Big Hole River, Melrose Montana USA

Event: Salmon Fly Hatch

Date: June 15 2019

Bill Matthews Outdoors
Michael, Jed and a Salmon Fly on the Big Hole River

It is Salmon Fly season in the Northwest, and that means you have to be willing to move fast when you hear bugs are on the water. We heard that the Salmon Fly Hatch was happening in Western Montana, so I headed over to Missoula on Friday. I met up with Michael around 9:00pm and delivered his new Tacoma Truck. We headed out to dinner at Double Front Chicken ( Best darn fried chicken around) to go over our fishing plan. Although there was a salmon fly hatch happening on the Blackfoot River, we had heard it was also happening on the Big Hole River. Since we had a full day to fish on Saturday and shorter day on Sunday, we decided to fish the Big Hole on Saturday and fish the Blackfoot on Sunday. With our plans set, Michael dropped me of at my hotel and we agreed to meet at 6:00 Am.

Michael picked me up Saturday morning in his Tacoma Truck with his 14 foot NRS Raft hitched to the back . We loaded up my gear and headed to the Big Hole River. Michael's friend and fishing buddy Jed was also joining us on the trip.

We fished the section that runs from Divide to Melrose - which none of us had ever fished. Michael would be our guide today. The section is about 14 miles long. We used Sunrise Fly Shop to run our shuttle.

Getting ready to launch Michaels 14' NRS Outlaw

We put in around 9:00 am. Right at the launch we turned over some rocks and saw some big salmon fly nymphs crawling around. Upon further inspection we saw live ones on the bushes as well. This was a very good sign. There was a lot of other boats at the put in, but we never felt pressured or crowded on the river.

We fished nymphs to start the day because we did not see any bugs flying or fish rising. We caught a few rainbows, cutthroats and whitefish on nymphs and they were all fat from eating salmon flies.

Around 1:00pm we saw lots of bugs flying so we switched to fishing salmon fly patterns. We did get fish to rise to our flies, but it was few and far between. Jed caught two beautiful Browns on his own Salmon Fly Pattern ( there is a whole story to be told on how he landed those - but suffice to say we lost a net and Jed ended up in the river) I caught a nice Cutthroat on Michael’s Salmon Fly Pattern, and Michael caught a Brook Trout on another one of his creations.

It is a beautiful stretch of river, and all the fish we caught were fat from eating Salmon Flies. Since we did not see a ton of bugs on the water today, I think we missed the main feeding frenzy by a couple of days. Typical when you are chasing the elusive Salmon Fly Hatch.

Bill Matthews Outdoors
What a great way to start off Fathers Day Weekend!

At the take out we talked to several other boats and it sounded like it was tough fishing for everyone.


Although we did not hit the magical feeding frenzy, we still caught fish on big bugs on the top, and that's what we came to do, so I would call it a huge success

Best Fish:

Two BIG Brown Trout

One beautiful Brook Trout

Hatch: Definitely a Salmon Fly hatch, but I think we were a day or two late

Best Flies: Michael and Jeds Hand Tied patterns

© 2019 Bill Matthews Outdoors, LLC


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