Salomone: Looking ahead, prepping now

Use the winter to plan for special fly fishing events happening the rest of the year

Michael Salomone
Vail Valley Anglers
Careful planning in the winter leads to results in the summer, like catching a brown trout during peak fly season.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

One of the things that occupies my mind during the winter months is the anticipation for special fly fishing events or hatches that happen throughout the year. Some are well known events that attract traveling anglers. Others are side attractions but equally worthy of note. Whatever the bug, hatch or event that you look forward to participating in, the time to start planning for those special events is now.

Fly shops are well stocked with flies this time of year. The masses have not yet descended upon the valley, emptying fly cups and hoarding the prime flies. Filling gaps or necessities in your fly box is easily achieved now. Online orders have time to clear and ship. Backordered items have plenty of time to arrive before the season begins. Vail Valley Anglers is one of the shops where fly anglers can replace those missing flies and pick up the tying supplies to create your own.

For me there are a few events that I will not miss. My calendar is a progression of places, events and hatches that are too good to pass. From early spring action through the heart of the summer and on into autumn, each season brings about some type of fly fishing I adore.

The author releases a trout during a recent outing.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Early in the springtime when the ice melts from the reservoirs there is a magic window to take advantage of some stellar ice-off pike fly fishing. Nearby reservoirs such as Stagecoach, Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap are a few of the larger stillwaters with a haunting population of northern pike willing to eat a fly. Anglers sneaking along the bank can cast to enticing drop offs, weed lines and shallow bays where prespawning pike stage. Large streamers with an undulating swimming action create the opportunity for sight fishing at it’s best.

Pike are ambush feeders. When the water warms in the shallow bays, pike quickly adjust to the increase in temperature and feed uninhibited. The warmth spurs along the spawning season so the prespawn window could close quickly. Anglers anticipating the feeding gluttony will be better positioned for success.

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Mother’s Day is a special time and not just for Mom. Caddis nymphs have saturated the Eagle River and are ready to pop. When the caddis start to hatch the emergence can be astounding. Snow squall in appearance, the Mother’s Day caddis hatch is an epic opportunity to connect on some of the largest trout in the river and on a dry fly.

Anglers will want a pile of elk hair caddis dry flies in their box for the Mother’s Day caddis hatch. Once the emergence begins locating an elk hair caddis fly in any local fly shop will be a futile attempt at best. Stock up now on the things you know you will need. A black bodied elk hair caddis fly can be the ultimate ticket for early season caddis success.

The next hatch that lingers in my mind centers around the biggest bug in the river, the salmonfly. Spending up to three years in the river developing and maturing, salmonfly nymphs begin to get active with the increase in water temperature and flow. The nymphs will gravitate to the sides of the river, crawl up onto riverside boulders, willow bushes and cottonwood trees.

The salmonfly nymphs do not hatch in the water like caddis flies or mayflies. The nymphs must emerge from the river before transforming into an adult with wings. The emergence can be so heavy at times, trout distended from gorging continue to feed with smashing strikes on bushy dry flies.

Must do angling events for the author include Ice-off pike on the fly, the Mother’s Day caddis hatch and the giant salmonfly hatch
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Fly shops have their own pet patterns for the salmonfly hatch. The chance that any of them will still be in the fly bins is highly unlikely the closer to June we get. Not many anglers are buying up the salmonflies in January. Anglers have the selections all to themselves.

There is always one hot dry fly for the salmonfly hatch that will outproduce all of the others. Determining which salmonfly dry it will be for this year is always a trial and error process. Having a variety of salmonfly patterns in your fly box will up the odds for success.

A few of the must do angling events I participate in every season: Ice-off pike on the fly, the Mother’s Day caddis hatch and the giant salmonfly hatch. Those are three guaranteed fly fishing events I’m not going to miss.


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