Colorado Yellow Sally Hatch

Fly Fishing Colorado’s Yellow Sally Hatch

The rivers and creeks around Vail, Colorado are blessed with many prolific insect hatches. One of the most overlooked yet most important summer fly fishing events is the annual Yellow Sally Hatch. There are definitely insects such as Caddis, Green Drakes and Pale Morning Duns that gather more attention from anglers.  But when Yellow Sallies hatch, trout take notice on fisheries like the Eagle River and the Roaring Fork River.

yellow sally nymph
Kyles BH C-N Yellow Sally Nymph

Details and Behavior

Yellow Sallies are a small species of stonefly that generally hatch on freestone rivers beginning in early July. Some of Colorado’s strongest populations are found on the middle and lower Eagle River and throughout the Roaring Fork River. While fly fishing on the upper Colorado River, good hatches of Yellow Sallies are also a strong possibility.

Yellow Sallies are unlike other well-known species of stoneflies like Goldens and Salmonflies. First, they are fairly small, averaging size #14-18. Secondly, unlike their larger cousins, who migrate to the bank and crawl out of the water as nymphs and then hatch into adults, Yellow Sallies hatch much like mayflies or caddis. The nymph swims towards the water’s surface and hatches into a flying adult insect. This is an important behavior for fly fishermen to consider. The nymphs swim slowly and are very vulnerable to trout. Adults often ride the surface for a long time and are a favorite dry fly target for trout that anglers need to understand.

Partidge and Yellow Soft Hackle
Partidge and Yellow Soft Hackle

Yellow Sally Fly Patterns

Yellow Sallies are, of course, a bright yellow color, both as nymphs and adults. The adult winged stoneflies also feature a distinctive pink to red abdomen which is a prominent detail on the most effective Yellow Sally dry fly patterns. Stay away from bulky, hairy nymph and dry fly patterns. Yellow Sallies are slim and the best fly patterns are tied sparsely.

In Colorado, Yellow Sallies typically hatch from late morning through the afternoon. A good tactic is to nymph with a yellow sally pattern in the morning.  Then you would want to suspend a dropper nymph below a dry fly as the first adults begin to appear on the water. Finally, fish a Yellow Sally dry fly pattern as more adults fill the air and trout begin to target them on the surface.  Some of our favorite Yellow Sally fly patterns include Kyle’s BH C-N Yellow Sally Nymph, a yellow and partridge soft-hackle wet fly and Putterbaugh’s Foam Yellow Stone touched up with a red sharpie on the butt.

Putterbaugh's Foam Yellow Stone
Putterbaugh’s Foam Yellow Stone

Expect to see Yellow Sallies hatching on Colorado’s trout streams through the month of July. Don’t neglect the importance of this insect when it comes to fly fishing throughout the West on cold, clear freestone rivers. Often, there are masking hatches of PMDs or caddis occurring while the Sallies are emerging and the trout will focus on these slow, easily captured stoneflies while other insects distract anglers.

Check out our fishing reports for updates on all the hatches occurring around Vail, Colorado. If you need to stock up on some Yellow Sally fly patterns, stop by the fly shop in Edwards. The best way to experience the Yellow Sally hatch or any of the great fishing our area has to offer is to book a guided fly fishing trip with Vail Valley Anglers.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer