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Salomone: Special Bugs

Special flies equate to special fish

Special flies equate to special fish — simple as that.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Seasonal opportunities create small windows for anglers to connect. Fleeting chances result in a “seize the day,” carpe diem approach to special hatches. Sometimes, it’s a location-oriented system. But often, it is the occasional opportunity that passes quickly, which fly-fishers need to be prepared for with special flies, correct gear and a tactful approach.

In response to these freak hatches, anglers have developed specific flies to take advantage of the gluttony a tremendous amount of food entices. It’s a weakness, being addicted to flies. I’m a sucker in a fly shop for an unforeseen pattern, but there’s a reason for the addiction, I tell myself. Special flies equate to special fish — simple as that.

While it seems foolish to devote so much time and money to flies, I can only use a few weeks out of the year, that is part of the magic and attraction. Mysis shrimp are only found in a few watersheds in Colorado, and yet, I find myself purchasing any new mysis pattern I encounter.



Yellow sallies are another niche bug that I thoroughly enjoy fishing. Whenever I see a new yellow sally dry fly, you can be guaranteed I’m buying a few. The bugs are not on the Eagle River for a long amount of time, but while they are here, I experience some of my best dry fly-fishing of the year.

The fact that their emergence coincides with massive caddisflies and pale morning duns creates a crossover attraction that produces tremendous dry fly action. A yellow-bodied Puterbaugh’s caddis floats high on the water surface. This fly has a great silhouette, making it easily visible to fish and angler. It can hold up a dropper if needed, and the yellow covers the sallies, caddis and PMDs.



But it is the upcoming salmonfly emergence on the Colorado River that I do not miss. I buy any salmonfly pattern I find in discarded bins, sale drawers or top shelf flies. If it’s a salmonfly pattern not already in my box, I’ll take a few.

Every year, the attraction seems to change and the fish are looking for something unseen. It could be a pattern that did well years ago and finally rises up as the fly of choice again, or something picked up on a road trip to Montana or Wyoming — anything the fish haven’t seen before.

Just because there are a lot of flies in my box doesn’t guarantee that I hit the correct pattern every time. “What will hit?” is the question every salmonfly hatch carries with it. Weeding through the choices from high floating dries and flush floating flies to drowned, wet-wing patterns, the process can take a bit of deciphering.

Why the attraction to such a short window of opportunity? The results are the reason. Big fish lose some of their guarded protection when the gluttony occurs. Large fish need to feed heavily to make up for the lean winter months and weight loss. Salmonflies breath new life into the giants in the river.

Stocking up on special salmonfly patterns can lead to special results during this small window of opportunity.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

I’ve got my favorites — stand-outs from seasons past — but every fly shop in the valley has a drawer dedicated to these bugs. Buying a variety of styles is the productive approach to angling success. And, don’t forget the nymphs.

Cold, off-colored water will hold fish in protected locations and they will still eat. Nymphing large Pat’s rubber legs patterns near the bank catches fish looking for the active bugs crawling towards the river’s edge. Flipping over a few riverside rocks on the Colorado River will show you exactly what I mean. The numbers of insects can be enormous.

The chance is rapidly approaching. Fly shops are prepared for the massive emergence and the resulting anglers who follow. Stock up on a few different salmonfly patterns for the upcoming event. Special flies will lead you to special fish. And the Salmonflies will definitely bring out the special fish.


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