June Dry Dry Action!

In June, the river is swollen, yet receding after a heavy snowmelt. However, the fishing is heating up. A western angler’s favorite hatch, the salmonfly hatch, begins on the Big Hole River.

Big Bugs, Big Fish

These are big bugs so it’s no wonder the river’s larger fish rise to the surface to feed on these big meals. The large stoneflies are clumsy fliers and crash into the water’s surface. Big trout know this and strike shortly after the orange-bellied bugs hit the surface.


Timing is tough with this hatch. Generally, it is mid-June on the Big Hole River. Beginning near the lower river, the hatch moves upstream over the course of 10-18 days. The salmonfly nymph crawls from the river onto nearby willows to hatch leaving behind large, empty shucks. Keeping up with the hatch, if possible, is the best tactic for catching trout on a dry fly. After the hatch has passed, trout are often gorged and not feeding.

Salmonfly Shucks on the Big Hole River

Salmonfly Shucks on the Big Hole River

Crawling Salmonfly on the Big Hole River

Crawling Salmonfly on the Big Hole River


These are several patterns that are favorites for fishing the salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole and the rivers of Southwest Montana. All have rather interesting names. For the adult salmonfly pattern, there is the Fat Freddie, Madam X, the Water Walker, Kaufman’s Stimulator, the Thing From Uranus, and the Fluttering Stone.

With all the crazy names, these flies have a couple of things in common. The first is color. The underbody of the flies is orange. Fish are looking up and waiting to see one of the poor flying salmonflies crash onto the water. The orange underbelly brings strikes from awaiting trout. Next is the size. Stoneflies are huge! Depending on the fly, fish a size 2-8. Flies are made with foam or deer hair, or both.

The local favorite is the Cat Puke or Cat Vomit. Who comes up with these names? Unless you are from the Northwest, you probably won’t find the flies in your local shop. No worries, you can find them here locally at Great Divide Outfitters, the Sunrise Fly Shop, or Anderson and Platt. These flies look like a hot mess but the trout love ’em.

Salmonfly underbelly

Underbelly of an Adult Salmonfly

Cat Vomit or Cat Puke Flies imitate the salmonfly

Cat Vomit aka Cat Puke Flies