Hatches

Green Drake Drying It's Wings in the Evening Sun

Green Drake Drying It’s Wings in the Evening Sun

One of the most intriguing aspects of fly angling is its close association to the world of entomology. Any keen fly fisherman has spent countless hours studying the various aquatic invertebrates that trout feed on. Flies all of a sudden are no longer just “flies” to be carelessly swatted as they buzz around our bodies; they are carefully cupped in hand and scrutinized for proper identification. Names like Green Drakes and Goddard Caddis become ear candy to the hatch hungry fly angler and a deeper appreciation of this little known world grows. While studying this world a certain amount of compassion arises towards these insects as we learn of there aquatic life cycles and their almost magical emergence into adulthood. As we deepen our understanding of nature we see the miracles that exist within it and a certain appreciation evolves as we become more attuned to the balance and flow of our natural world.

Nothing is more satisfying to a fly fisherman than watching a hatch unfold in front of their eyes. Adrenaline feeds the body and a certain rush takes over the angler as snouts begin to pop through the surface film during insect emergence. Fishing a hatch is the pinnacle of the trout fisherman’s experience and the waters of our guiding area are blessed with an array of insects that hatch throughout our guiding season.

Golden Stoneflies and Salmonflies are to trout what a steak is to a cowboy. These large and clumsy flyers kickoff the angling season in the East Kootenay and Crowsnest region. This bug is what dreams are made of; long, leggy bodies with bright gold and orange underbellies capped by a dark, veiny wing pad. Goldens and Salmonflies embrace  the air of early summer by crawling onto dry rocks etc. and breaking out of their nymphal shucks to become adults. It is the adult stage that is most significant to the trout’s diet at this time of year. The river is often higher and somewhat coloured at this time but the large size of the bugs (6-10) and its bright colours are enough to bring fish willingly to the surface. This is often the first hatch trout will respond to after the spring freshet and casting large flies tight to the bank and ‘twitching’ the fly can trigger some violent responses from the hungry fish. Anyone who enjoys casting large leggy dry patterns should consider booking early in the season to catch this truly amazing hatch.

Wigwam River Green Drake

Wigwam River Green Drake

Green Drakes are a large bodied mayfly that inhabits a variety of streams in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. The nymph is a clinger/crawler type nymph that prefers fast water environments. It is not a great swimmer and often makes several attempts to reach the surface at the time of emergence. Once it reaches the surface its large wings are often slow to unfold or dry and these plump little delicacies become an easy meal for rising trout. This hatch generally follows the Golden Stonefly Hatch on the Elk River but occurs later further up the drainage. You can follow this hatch through most of the summer by accessing the smaller headwaters as summer progresses and warms up these cold water tribs. The Fording River on the Upper Elk has an amazing Drake hatch that continues well into the summer as the waters remain cold throughout the year. This hatch produces some incredibly ambitious surface feeds and is a favourite hatch of many fly anglers.

Salmon Fly Scaling Horsetails

Salmon Fly Scaling Horsetails

PMD’s or Pale Morning Duns are another mayfly that inhabits fast flowing streams. This mayfly will begin to emerge in the morning and continue to do so sporadically throughout the day. This is enough to keep some trout looking up by daytime but the real ‘juice’ of this hatch occurs at the insects final molting stage when it sheds it’s adult skin one last time to became a mating spinner. The males and females will congregate in large groups and begin a mating dance that can last several hours into the evening. The rusty spinners complete their mating ritual and fall, flat-winged to the surface and become almost effortless targets for trout. The Elk River has an epic PMD hatch that usually begins in late July and lasts for a month or so. The neighbouring Crowsnest River also hosts a good PMD hatch that begins in early July; this is probably ‘THE TIME’ to hit the Crow. The small river hosts some brutish rainbows that can’t seem to stay down in the evening during the PMD spinner fall. The Oldman River above and below the dam also receives an excellent PMD hatch but is especially prolific below the dam.

Columbia River Caddis Hatch

Caddis are plentiful in all are rivers but seem to be most abundant in our tailwaters, particularly the Columbia River. The Columbia River caddis hatch cannot be described in words; it really has to been seen to be understood. Later in the day as the wind dies down the tops of pine trees lining the bank begin to buzz with massive swarms of caddis. The caddis begin to rain down on the river as evening progress and trout begin to rise throughout the river. Just when you may think the hatch couldn’t get any more intense, you look up river and spot a thick brown cloud moving quickly downstream. As it gets closer the beating of caddis against your body becomes more heavier and when the cloud arrives you have to close your mouth and face downstream to avoid choking. Millions of bugs swarm through the air and the water becomes littered with these insects which appease the eager rainbows of the Columbia. The two main caddis speices here are the thin bodied spotted caddis and the plumper and brighter coloured goddard caddis. To catch this hatch book anywhere from June to late July, this is the best time to hook a trophy rainbow on a dry as 25” + rainbows are common….landing them is a whole different story.

BWO’s (blue winged olives) are a small mayfly that co-habitate the waters of their PMD and Drake cousins. They are a small (16-20) but numerous mayfly that hatches as the water begins to cool and drop. This is one of the best hatches for a fly angler to fish through. Due to the size of the insect, trout need to consume a lot more of this mayfly than say a drake. Patterned rises are common as a result of this and during these hatches patience and focus will reward the angler with a lot of quality hook ups. The water tends to be slower during this hatch and fish move to the deeper runs. Combine this with the clarity of the water and it is easy to understand why this time of year is a favourite of our repeat clients. You can watch trout move slowly towards the surface as your fly tracks its way through the seam towards the fishes lie and watching the continuance of the trout’s rise to strike is perhaps the most exciting event to watch in the sport of fly fishing. This time of year (September to mid-October) is a must for any dry fly purist.

Elk River Flying Ant

Elk River Flying Ant

There are also an abundance of terrestrials on the rivers throughout BC and Alberta. Hoppers are a standard through the later summer months as are flying ants. Hopper fishing can be a lot of fun as you return to the large, leggy patterns you started the season with and ant hatches are the single best hatch of the year. Anyone lucky enough to be on the Elk River when the ants take flight in August or early September will have the best day of dry fly fishing for cutthroat you could ask for. Every trout in the river comes off the bottom for this hatch and the numbers of hook fished within a day can be staggering. Beetles of various sizes are wind blown to the river throughout the year and are go to patterns for many guides on the Elk River.

Other hatches significant to our waters are Yellow and Lime Sallies, Paraleps, Flavs, Slate Winged Olives and October Caddis.