The opening of the season in mid-June brings the Golden Stonefly, one of the most exciting hatches for fly-fishing. There is about a two week period where the Golden Stonefly is prolific and the West Slope Cutthroat Trout feed voraciously with blind abandonment on these large insects. Their nymph shucks can be found everywhere on the rocks.
The Golden Stonefly is a large fly, 20-40 mm in length, that prefer fast flowing, well oxygenated waters such as the Elk River. The best time to fish this hatch is when the female flutters down smashing the water repeatedly until the eggs are deposited from her abdomen and the trout are lying just below the surface looking for any movement.
Western Green Drake Mayfly
The Western Green Drake Mayfly when the hatches start in the early afternoon and will carry on into the evening. These are a large mayfly, 15-25 mm in length mainly green in colour with a bit of yellow on the thorax section.
Western Green Drakes are the first of the “big three” mayflies of summer, and are eagerly anticipated by both trout and fly fishers.
Pale Morning Dun Mayfly & Light Cahills
The Pale Morning Dun Mayfly and Light Cahills start to appear early into the fishing season. At this time of the season Light Cahills mayflies are hatching and Cutthroats slurping everywhere makes evening fishing an exceptional time.
The Pale Morning Dun Mayfly hatch in the late afternoon and some times continue into the dark. July and August are the peak months. Look for these insects to hatch from slower margins along the edge of the river.
Early Winter Stonefly
Winter on the Elk River can also be a good time to fly-fish dry flies. There are midge hatches from January to March and from mid-February to late March brings the Early Winter Stonefly, very small in size about 7-15 mm in length with pencil lead bodies.
Trout will gorge on the nymphs and they will rise on sunny afternoons to the adults as they drift down the river. Choose these during the early winter months.
Blue Wing Olives, Flavolinas, Fall Caddis, October Caddis
As summer green turns to fall colours, the rivers are at their best for fly-fishing. This is truly the time of the year for anglers to experience this area. Blue Wing Olives can be found blanketing the water and usually foul weather days bring the best hatches.
The fish start to pod up into small schools and with the waters cooling it is time to strap on the feedbag. Flavolinas or Flavs are present at this time also. These are dark mayflies which are quite stocky in size and these hatches can last for two to four weeks.
Fall Caddis or October Caddis appear anytime in mid-September to mid to the end of October. These are hard to miss as they are very large and similar in size to a Golden Stonefly. Often you will find the Caddis in open water. Both emerging Caddis, as well as egg laying Caddis, will occur at the same time. Fishing from mid-afternoon until dark can be very rewarding for the angler, not so much for the approaching trout!
Caddis & Yellow Sally
Moving into July brings the Caddis as well as the Yellow Sally, which is a small stonefly approximately 7-15 mm in length and brilliant yellow or sometimes a neon lime in colour. During late afternoon or early evening, they crawl out onto the rocks where the adults will emerge. It is during this emergence migration when large numbers of these nymphs is on the move with many being found drifting on the currents and trout feed heavily on these. The females return in the early afternoon to deposit their eggs into the river and during this time many of the females will end up on the water where they are available to the trout.
There is a variety of Caddis that hatch from mid-June through to the end of October. Emerging Caddis race to the surface and waste little time drying their wings before lift off. Mating occurs within a day and the females will return to the river to deposit their eggs with many swimming under water leaving their eggs on objects which can get swept away with the current. The Caddis hatches can be intense lasting one to two weeks.
Beetles, Ants & Grasshoppers
As August rolls around, the Elk River and tributaries are starting to drop and clear providing excellent terrestrial fishing. An abundant food source are beetles and ants of all sizes as well as grasshoppers. Fly-fishing on a breezy afternoon can be quite exhilarating as you cast your fly close to a river bank only to watch it get smashed by a hungry trout. Large trout in particular will feed on top during this time of the season.