When it comes to bugs and snakes and many amphibians, I'm a bit of a wimp. Like most people, I find it hard to enjoy what they bring to the table. Because we live on a big body of moving water, bugs are rarely an issue here. Mosquito are few and the only real irritation are the teeny tiny non-biting bugs that come through our window screens in late summer and set off the smoke detectors.
With my bug prejudices but aside, I can appreciate the one big bug that is an anticipated hatch here in this part of Montana. Home to the Robert Redford film, "The River Runs Through It", this part of Montana is flyfishing paradise. Fly Shops are plentiful - from the world famous Bud Lilly's in downtown Livingston, to Sweetwater Fly Shop (they took President Obama on his maiden fishing voyage last summer) to our own second-generation Park's Fly Shop in Gardiner; there are plenty of places to pick up a license, buy some cool gear, and get great local advice about fishing conditions both in the park and along the Yellowstone River.
I leave the flyfishing to my husband, but even I can appreciate the salmonfly hatch. It's a spectacular event - a yearly reminder of the vibrant cycles that characterize the longest free flowing river in the western United States - the Yellowstone River. Usually the hatch coincides with the Fourth of July. This year, it is a little late. We saw the first bugs on our beach on the 7th.
Salmonflys are the largest member of the stonefly family. These aquatic insects move towards the river shores in a larval state called a nymph. When the water temperature and levels are just right, the nymphs crawl out of the water and hold on tight to the river shore willows. When the case that surrounds the developing insect breaks open, and adult emerges - they can be up the three inches in length. Their life cycle is a fairly quick one - they emerge, let their wings dry and prepare for flight, and then fly out over the river to lay eggs for next year's hatch. In just 4-6 days, it is all over.
If you are a trout, the large twitching legs, four wings and clumsy manner make them the perfect prey. Catching a trout for dinner this time of year, usually reveals a stomach stuffed full of the black and orange bugs. It is a veritable trout smörgåsbord!
News of the hatch spreads slowly up the valley. We usually hear when they've hit Livingston and expect them to move upstream at a rate of about 5 miles a day. When they hit, it's the talk of the town.
Here's to bugs! (or at least to this one...)