Painful reality sets in – I don’t have a single salmonfly pattern in my box, and suddenly my meager caddis feels like trying to pawn off a puny cocktail weiner at an all-you-can-eat bratwurst fest...

It was the way my timing usually seems to go with these sought-after hatches - purely by accident and entirely unprepared. A few days prior, small, dark caddis had been the ticket, and I return well-stocked this time, with expectations of pulling off that rare occurence (for me anyway) of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right flies. The caddis are still there, fluttering in dense clouds streamside. Taking this as a sure sign of the obvious, I tie one on and wade in.  An hour later, I have a foul-hooked six-incher to show for it. Not exactly how I had imagined all my preparation paying off. And then, looking around, I see what appears to be an injured hummingbird trying to make its way across the river, and almost drop my rod into the water – the first salmonfly sighting of the season. Panning the horizon I pick out a few more. Not quite enough to call it a full-on hatch yet, but still…salmonflies. Duly noted.

I faithfully keep fishing my tiny Goddard caddis till it can no longer fairly be called a dry fly, with little interest on either end of the line.

Bored, I make my way back to shore, and there they are, teeming all over every rock and

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tree – huge, dark nymphs crawling out of the water, and the black and orange adults emerging.

There’s something creepy, downright preternatural, about a salmonfly hatch that brings to mind all the 1950’s alien invasion movies I watched religiously as a kid. Images of huge salmonflies terrorizing the good people of Des Moines, a salmonfly with the head of Vincent Price emerging from the laboratory, laughing maniaclly as a Tesla coil arcs and crackles in the background…

NIGHT OF THE LIVING SALMONFLIES.

When I finally get off my knees and look around at the big picture, they are in the air everywhere, and trout - BIG trout, are slamming them on the surface. Painful reality sets in – I don’t have a single salmonfly pattern in my box, and suddenly my meager caddis feels like trying to pawn off a puny cocktail weiner at an all-you-can-eat bratwurst fest. Desperation would be an understatement. I switch to the biggest rubber-leg golden stone pattern I have with me and manage to get a few interested rises, but no takes. Meanwhile, the feast explodes all around, and I’m on the verge of tearing my hair out. It’s a weekday, I have the place to myself, the early stages of THE SALMONFLY HATCH, DAMMIT, and I don’t have a single plausible imitation… and from that sad state of mind the idea hits; something I’ve done a thousand times before, though never intentionally. I shove the hook deep into my thumb and apply pressure till a few drops of the needed dye begins to drip. Smearing the blood into the yellow floss provides the perfect orange hue. I cast again, and it works.

Note to self – update tetanus shot.

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