AFF Launches Salmonfly Project on Yellowstone River

June 21, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant


Photo: Yellowstone National Park/Flickr

The AFFTA Fisheries Fund (AFF) – the conservation arm of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association – recently announced the launch of The Salmonfly Project on the Yellowstone River.

The Salmonfly Project is a research initiative that studies the decline of aquatic insects in Western rivers. According to their website, the Salmonfly Project was started by two graduate students in Missoula, Montana. Jackson Birrell and James Frakes started the Project after noticing hatches on their favorite rivers were in decline. It’s not just salmonflies, but caddis, mayflies, and other stonefly species are in peril, as well.

In May, AFF announced a $10,000 grant to the Salmonfly Project to begin a multi-year study on the Yellowstone River. That grant was made possible by an anonymous donor and Simms Fishing, along with support from the Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Fund. The study will involve intense sampling of the Yellowstone River in the fall of 2024 and spring of 2025. Those samplings will allow researchers to replicate a similar study that happened in 1973, to create a baseline for the health and abundance of insect populations within the Yellowstone River.

“With a baseline established a new volunteer-assisted insect and habitat monitoring program on the Yellowstone will annually monitor the population sizes of ten target indicators species that represent the most abundant, ecologically and recreationally important, and sensitive insects across the River, along with changes in water temperature, dewatering, sedimentation, and nutrient pollution,” reads a press release from AFF.

In recent years, anglers and scientists have noticed a decline in aquatic insect populations. This decline was documented in a 2020 story in Big Sky Journal by Tony Bonavist, which I highly recommend reading. Bonavist spoke with numerous anglers, guides, and biologists, who lend plenty of warning voices to an issue that Bonavist sees not only in the West, but also in some of the East’s trout fisheries, as well.