Which do you want first?
The good news is the salmonfly hatch this year on the Blacksmith Fork River is vigorous, especially relative to last year’s hatch, which was almost nonexistent. Last year, a 1,000-year water event and the subsequent and spectacular runoff levels blew out the river well into late summer. The salmonflies emerged, but they didn’t make a big deal about it and fishing it meant taking a chance at ending up drown and bloated in Bear River Bay on the Great Salt Lake.
This year’s run-off hasn’t even started. The river has been flowing at no more than 120 cfs, the water is fairly clear and eminently fishable, and the fish are surface-oriented. The salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) are apparently having an easy time emerging and they have been seen in great numbers this month.
I went with Brad and Russ to fish a lower section of the river on May 8, and we caught a few browns on salmonfly nymphs. Nymphing is almost always productive in the sections we fished, so we couldn’t make any fair judgements about salmonfly mobilization, but we did have a couple isolated salmonfly sightings. This past week, I went out on Tuesday (May 15) and saw massive clouds of salmonflies hovering over the canyon a few hours before sundown. I fished three separate sections of the river that day and caught decent numbers, though not as many as I would have thought given the tremendous hatch. Brad and Russ went the following night, saw fewer salmonflies, and caught fewer fish on salmonfly patterns.
This is where we get into the bad news–the fly anglers are hatching in numbers almost as great as the salmonflies. Word has gotten out that this year’s hatch holds lots of promise, and the river is getting hammered.
When I fish the Blacksmith Fork, if I see ten other anglers on the way to my favorite spot, I think, “Holy crap, lots of rods on the river today.” When I went on Tuesday, I counted about thirty anglers, and those were just the guys I could see from my truck. There were SUVs and trucks and cars plugged into just about every public-access, turn-out, and shoulder. I got cut off by a claim-jumper in one section (thanks, knucklehead) and aced out of fishing another spot because someone was already there. I saw anglers fishing in groups of two and three and more. When Brad and Russ went out, they said they counted ten rods on their way up and ten different rods on the way down. We have reason to believe that some of the popular sections are getting worked over two or three times in one day.
When I was in the canyon on Tuesday, the main hatch cloud was centered over what I would call the middle part of the river, around the Hyrum City Park and upstream from there. I’m no entomologist, but I think it’s safe to say the hatch is peaking now and may progress into the upper reaches this weekend. Personally, I don’t plan to fish the Blacksmith Fork at all this weekend. I think I’ll head someplace where there’s fewer people and less traffic–you know, like the bus station or Walmart.
The good news: the salmonflies are hatching in strength and the fish are responding. The bad news: you will have trouble finding decent place to fish this hatch, and if you do find a good spot, it will probably have been fished at least once in the past twelve hours.
Were you among the hoard of anglers who invaded Blacksmith Fork Canyon this past week? Leave a comment and let us know how it’s going out there.