Written By: Austin Boswell, Eastern Oregon River Outfitters
The next three months–from April through the end of June–can offer some of the most exciting trout fishing in Eastern Oregon. Many of our rivers have excellent hatches of golden stoneflies, salmon flies, and Skwala stoneflies, making for explosive dry-fly fishing. On cloudy, rainy days in particular, you can generally count on a prolific mayfly hatch that will have the trout’s full attention for hours at a time. Below are our top 5 flies to stock up on for the early season.
1. Chubby Chernobyl Ant (sizes 4-12)
Whether they eat it as a stonefly, a hopper, or just something big and yummy, trout love this fly, and so do anglers. It fishes well in a variety of water conditions, and makes a great top fly for dry/dropper fishing, as it is extremely buoyant. Adjust size and colors to replicate the adult salmon flies, golden stones, and Skwala stoneflies you see on the river.
2. Purple Haze (sizes 10-18)
Any time fish are eating adult mayflies–but particularly during spring rains when hatches are at their most prolific–this is almost always the first fly I tie on. The Purple Haze covers a wide range of mayflies, from BWOs to PMDs to my personal favorite, the green drake.
3. Norm Woods Special (sizes 6-8)
This classic golden-stonefly dry is one of my absolute favorites. It floats well, has a realistic profile in the water, and is highly visible with the pink calf tail wing. This fly is great to fish as a single dry behind trees, in riffles, and up along grassy banks during the golden stonefly hatch.
4. Clarks Stonefly (sizes 6-10)
When fish have been heavily pressured, but are still eating stoneflies, this is my go-to pattern. If you are getting looks and refusals but the trout are not committing, try this fly. It has a slim profile and sits low in the water, distinguishing it from a lot of the other artificial flies trout see. For the same reason, this is a great fly after the hatch, as it resembles a dead stonefly.
5. Pat’s Rubber Legs (sizes 4-10)
I don’t know if there is a species of fish in our rivers that I have not caught on this fly. During spring, as stonefly nymphs begin to move toward the banks, many of them become preferred prey items for trout. Fish this pattern in fast riffles and other highly-oxygenated water where most of the natural nymphs reside.
Austin Boswell is co-owner/operator of Eastern Oregon River Outfitters near Bend, OR.