Chasing Hatches – Boom or Bust on the Rivers

blackfoot river brown trout
The reward of hitting the hatch right!

Chasing hatches on Montana rivers can be tricky.  Of course, there are the safe reliable hatches like tricos, PMDs, and evening caddis which come off fairly consistently every day during their cycle.  However, the hyped hatches like salmonflies, green drakes, and spruce moths are a lot harder to pin down.  Yesterdays river reports help when chasing hot hatches but they are no guarantee of great fishing.  I have caught fish at will one day and returned the very next day to find extremely tough fishing.  The other challenge is the crowds.  Word spreads quickly these days about awesome fishing and while you may have the river to yourself if you hit the front end of the hatch, you better expect company in the next day or two.  If the hatch remains strong then the traffic will have little effect, but if the bugs don’t show then everyone will have a harder day.

Some guides avoid these hatches completely.  They prefer the more consistent fishing elsewhere without the risk of too much traffic.  It’s an even keel approach that produces results, but they miss out on the jaw-dropping spectacle of a full blown hatch with big trout coming to the surface with reckless abandon.  

Other guides are hatch junkies who will fish the same place day after day or continue to chase the hatch upriver, downriver, whatever it takes.  They don’t care about crowds or weather, they are going to stick with that hatch until it dries up completely and then move on to the next one.  They see a lot of tough days but they also enjoy those precious few epic days.  Those are the ones they live for and chasing hatches is all they know.

Most guides are dabblers.  They take their shots at the hot hatches and will stick with it until they get burned.  Then they retreat to a safer option for a couple days before trying again.  It is a mental grind more than anything.  Guides make a living providing trout for their anglers and it’s worth the risk to try and hit the hatch for a day or two during a trip.  Swing for the fences and you might hit a home run, and you might strike out too.  No one likes to strike out and that’s why chasing hatches is so hard.  Hit it right and it’s all smiles and high fives, hit it wrong and you beat your head against the wall at night.

chasing hatches
All smiles on this day chasing hatches