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Artistic view of a Male Pteronarcys californica (Pteronarcyidae) (Giant Salmonfly) Stonefly Adult from the Gallatin River in Montana
Salmonflies
Pteronarcys californica

The giant Salmonflies of the Western mountains are legendary for their proclivity to elicit consistent dry-fly action and ferocious strikes.

Dorsal view of a Setvena wahkeena (Perlodidae) (Wahkeena Springfly) Stonefly Nymph from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
As far as I can tell, this species has only previously been reported from one site in Oregon along the Columbia gorge. However, the key characteristics are fairly unmistakable in all except for one minor detail:
— 4 small yellow spots on frons visible in photos
— Narrow occipital spinule row curves forward (but doesn’t quite meet on stem of ecdysial suture, as it's supposed to in this species)
— Short spinules on anterior margin of front legs
— Short rposterior row of blunt spinules on abdominal tergae, rather than elongated spinules dorsally
I caught several of these mature nymphs in the fishless, tiny headwaters of a creek high in the Wenatchee Mountains.
27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
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Report at a Glance

General RegionBetween Chatfeild and Stontia Springs :)
Specific Location............nah
Dates Fished9/20/06
Time of Day10a - 5p
Fish CaughtSeveral small browns and rainbows, about a half dozen 12" - 14" brown and rainbows, and an 18"+ Rainbow
Conditions & HatchesThe flows were low at around 25cfs, the water was clear, there was a alot going on. Tricos, Baetis, Midges, Caddis, and there were a few Yellow Sallies.

Details and Discussion

Sundula
Littleton, Colorado

Posts: 35
Sundula on Sep 21, 2006September 21st, 2006, 5:02 pm EDT
Effective flies:
Mercury RS2 #20 - #22, Pheasent tails #18, Mercury Black Beauty #24, Griffith's Gnat #22 - #24, #14 - #16 Yellow Sallies, Barr's Emerger BWO #20, Tan Elk Hair Caddis #18.
With flows that low it fairly easy to figure out where the fish were holding. I focused on the deep tailouts, any small pools, deeper riffles, and any well oxygenated water. The temps were perfect mid 70's and was overcast from the early afternoon on. The flows were low but with the temperature where it was at and the constant insect activity it made for the perfect day. From about 10a - 12p I was only catching smaller fish and began to wonder if the only way I was going to catch a decent fish is if I hooked a "minnow" and then that would attract a decent fish. Finally when the clouds rolled in I started hooking better fish. I really had to watch the indicator and set the hook fast because the takes were very fast and I missed several fish by not setting the hook quick enough. I ended the day with the one who got away, hence no picture of the 18"+ (I really think it was around 20" but I have no proof do I) rainbow I mentioned above. I noticed what I thought was a small rise on the opposite bank behind a rock about the size of a bowling ball. I had it in my head that I was going to tie on a Elk Hair Caddis because they were starting to come into the riffles to lay their eggs. So i tied it on made a cast to the rising fish and missed it about about 8" to it's right. I finished my drift and layed down another cast right over it's head, BLAM!!!! The fish came half way out of the water and took the caddis like it was its last big meal before winter. I started hooting and hollering as it jumped no less than 6 times, one of the jumps was pefectly horizontal with the water about 7' from me it seemed like it was is slow motion. It tried to make a run upstream into a near by pool so I gave it line, I started tugging on the thing it had no intention of coming up for air. I followed it upstream and all of a sudden it shot down stream tword the bank where of course there was no shortage of tree limbs and and to make things more in it's favor there was a concrete pillar in the same area. It found it self a spot under the debris and needless to say wrapped my leader around some of it, then shot under the pillar. I lost sight of it, and my only option was to try and untangle my line just as I freed my line I regained tension as it made another run at freedom...no picture!!! Oh well it was fantastic to play a fish like that and if I had it to do over I would have increased the drag more than I did, but the pure addrenaline was great the way it took the fly, the battle and just having it on the line was great but man I wanted a picture.
Troutnut
Troutnut's profile picture
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2758
Troutnut on Sep 21, 2006September 21st, 2006, 5:14 pm EDT
Congratulations on hooking that beauty! The ones that get away are sometimes more memorable than the ones we catch, especially when we get a good look at them like that.

One of my most memorable trout was nothing more than a thump on the end of my rod. But, man, what a thump.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist

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