Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

November 23rd, 1998

Under the Bridge

Bridges have a little more interest to fishermen than the average person. Usually they indicate access of some sort to the water where fish are! So we tend to remember various bridges. Sometimes they can be very neat old structures with lots of interesting features. Or simple rustic affairs, still noteworthy of course, because of the water!

This is a bridge story - or rather about something under the bridge.

Some years ago, my husband Castwell and another couple traveled from Michigan to Montana to fish. We camped at the KOA campground a few miles south of Livingston. The campground was right next to the Yellowstone River.

We fished the area, and the famous waters in Yellowstone National Park, and returned to our camp each evening. Cooking, dinner, and chores done, we would wander down to the river, either to fish some more, or just to watch the river.

One evening we were witness to the largest caddis hatch any of us had ever seen. Just incredible. Catching a trout in this 'blanket' hatch was an exercise in frustration. There were just too many flies on the water.

Later the same week, Castwell and his friend Trav found shucks from large stoneflies clinging to some streamside bushes. A plan developed.

After dark we would take the camera and sneak quietly to the water. Capture the stoneflies in the process of emerging. We checked along the river, checked the brush and bushes. Searching with the flashlights, nothing.

Until we got under the bridge. There they were! These huge bugs, looking like something out of a Japanese horror film. Very prehistoric.

With a Miranda 35mm camera, a flashlight, and a little patience, Castwell captured the photos that follow.

This is the beginning. Look for the start of the split at the top of the thorax. The insect has crawled out of the water and found a sheltered place to do his transformation.

A real miracle. The wings begin to leave the case, double folded and accordian pleated!

Note the splash of salmon color, it is where the Salmon Fly got it's name. The wings here are still folded.

The unfold is now complete, the stonefly will continue to crawl out of it's former body. The new fresh, lighter color tail section shows to the left.

It really is a miracle. Wings now fully pumped with venial fluid, a breathtaking insect. One, by the way, that big brown trout and rainbows find irresistible.

We all have mental pictures we can pretty much call up at will. When the Yellowstone River, the Pine Creek Bridge or the KOA are mentioned, I can see the miracle of the Salmon Fly!
~ Deanna Birkholm

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