Summer on the Yellowstone River offers the best dry fly fishing of the year. Although the trout key on dozens of different insects, the Salmon Fly, Grasshopper, and Evening Caddis are three of my favorite.
This spring, the Yellowstone River drainage only had a snow pack around 75% of average. For the surroundings as a whole, this meant increased fire danger. However, for those of us craving a great Salmon Fly hatch on the Yellowstone, we may be in luck.
The Salmon Fly is the largest of the stoneflies that hatch on the Yellowstone. With its two-inch length, orange body, and distinct flight pattern, it’s hard to miss. When the fish key in on Salmon Flies, their strikes are aggressive; this makes for explosive surface action with hungry trout that have just survived six weeks of Yellowstone runoff. Some of my favorite Salmon Fly dries are the Designated Hitter, the South Fork Secret, the Knobbler, and the Cat Puke. Subsurface imitations, such as black Woolly Buggers, Yuk Bugs, Rubberlegs, and Bitch Buggers are also very effective. Experience this exciting fishing around the last week of June and the first week of July.
The Yellowstone also provides incredible hopper fishing in summer. The Montana Grain Growers Association is expecting the grasshopper population to be close to epidemic this year; in fact, one report indicates that some areas might have as many as seven to fourteen grasshoppers per square foot! This is bad news for the wheat farmer, but it's good news for the dry-fly enthusiast. Simply put, get your Morrish Hoppers, Foam Hoppers, Chubby Chernobyls, or Pink Pookies and hit the Yellowstone this August. If you like the traditional patterns, your Dave's Hoppers still work too.
One of the overlooked summer hatches on the Yellowstone is the evening Caddis hatch. Or as I like to call it, the Barbecue and Wait Hatch. Yes, while all the other boats are parked in front of the Murray, you can still be on the river grilling some dogs and waiting for that last piece of fishing the river has to offer each day. The frenzy can last as little as 20 minutes, but the dry fly fishing in solitude can be well worth the wait. My favorite patterns are the Everything Emerger, Irresistible Caddis, Sweetwater McDougall, and Elk-Hair caddis.
Charlie Conn is a guide at the Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston.