Flies for salmon - Tackle Tips

Home Database About Us Add a Link Advertising Website Design Special Offers Sitemap Login Register
Trout Fisheries
Trout Clubs
Coarse Clubs
Guides & Tutors
Where to Stay
Tackle Shops
Tackle Shops
River Tay
Where to Stay
Guides & Tutors
Tackle Shops
Tackle Tips
Click Here to Visit!
Fishing Tackle UK Click here for more info...

Salmon Fly Basics



Nobody knows why a salmon takes a fly. They don't eat and can't digest in fresh water. It possible that they remember food sources from the sea or even river. It may also just be aggresion.

The best advice is to listen to your ghillie or tackle shop - they will know. If you really want to turn a ghillie off - ignore his advice!


Up until the early 19th century salmon flies had always been drab affairs. Then an Irish fly tyer Pat McKay who lived near to a millinery shop started using materials and feathers used in fancy Victorian hats. The flies caught anglers and the style was soon adopted in Scotland. Today we regard fancy flies as being Scottish!




Size & Colour

Salmon hooks come in a variety of forms. The traditional hook was a large single. Doubles were in favour for a time and today trebles are the rage.

Quite honestly they all work. It has been said that doubles and trebles can be more easily worked lose by a fish, but then there are more points to catch again.

Singles are certainly more kind to the fish, but most singles found today are tied on low water hooks, which are made of thin wire and are often not up to the job.

The hook is the most important bit of tackle you have. A rod worth £500 is worth nothing is you team it with a low quality hook.

Don't skimp. Finding a fly dressed on a decent hook is the best reason for taking up fly tying.

Check your hooks regularly, especially if you touched bottom. Many salmon hooks are more brittle than trout hooks due to the manufacturing process, so it is easy to fish away unaware that a point has gone!

If you want to start an argument with a salmon fisher, try discussing which is most important. The salmon eye has a full set of rods and cones so it is likely that they see colour. Size may be better determined by water conditions. You certainly need big flies 2-3" + in coloured water and it would seem also in cold water. Warm clear summer water and you can drop down to to smaller flies and salmon can be caught on flies as small as 14.

Much discussion revoves around the size of the hook. This is not quite right. Look more at the length and density of the wing dressing.

Chosing a colour is the next problem. One saying is "Bright day bright fly, dull day dull fly", but it doen't always work!
Orange is always a good bet especially in peaty water. At the beginning of the season large flies of black/yellow/orange work well. Very few flies have blue in them. Ghillies have been known to flinch at a fluo pink concoction, but it worked.

The best advice is to fish with what YOU are confident with - your fishing will improve and you will catch more.




Matched Feather wings

This arrangement links a bar which can be dressed to a treble hook at the tail. It is said that it suffers from the fact that a salmon can use the bar to lever the hook free. But its a nice looking arrangement and allow you to change a dammaged hook.

Tying a matched feather wing is not as difficult as it may at first seem. It looks pretty in the box, but after a few casts the feathers soon become mixed together, so if tying for fishing, you don't have to be too particular.




Hair Wings

Similar in concept, but now the bar is replaced by a hollow tube through which the line runs avoiding the leverage problem. Tubes can be made from a different materials. Brass tubes tend to be heavy, and above 2" can be horrible to cast. Tubes are a a great favorite on the Tweed. Teamed with a floating line they can offer an alternative to a sink tip and for early spring fishing they are great way to get down there.

More recently we started using hair in the wings as excotic feathers became more difficult to obtain. The hair is often mixed together to give that blurred effect and is reminniscent of a well used classic fly. Be careful what hair is used, it is often too stiff and lacks mobility.








This is perhaps the most common pattern used on the Tay. After all the "Allys Shrimp" was designed by Ally Gowans who lives on the Tummel and over half the salmon caught in Scotland are now caught on this fly or its varriants.


I own up - I like singles. The dressing sits more naturally and it's kinder to the fish. They are also easier and quicker to dress. I have yet to find a manufacturer which produces flies on heavy traditional singles, but maybe there is one out there?




Modern Inventions


Barbless Hooks

Take a look at the "Yuk Bug" with its elastic band legs - it works as does the mini mudler tied on a light plastic tube for grilse


The jury is still out on this issue, most are tied on thin wire low water hooks which are useless in normal conditions.






Paul's Personal Choice


Spring: Willie Gunn tube, Allys Shrimp, Tosh 2-3"

Summer: Stoats Tail on a single or Ally's Shrimp1"- 1.5". For peaty water a size 10 double Thunder and Lightening.

Autumn: Comet, and Allys (again!)
Hand crafted salmon & sea trout flies from the Scottish Highlands.

Partridge of Redditch
As the name implies, Partridge of Redditch is based in Mount Pleasant, Redditch, in central England. Both the town and the district have been renowned for its specialized metal work throughout many generations, needle making and hook making in particular. They make the best hooks in the world!

Lyall Wilson (Fly Brooches and Fly Crafts)

Lyall Wilson (Fly Brooches and Fly Crafts)
I am able to tie most patterns from reference books but can tie to your pattern if this can be supplied.


Manufacturers and mail order of Fishing Flies, Worldwide

Grays of Kilsyth

Grays of Kilsyth
Framed Scottish salmon, trout and sea trout flies plus fishing stories,photos, knots, new flies, books, links and places to fish in Scotland.
Superb classic flies tied by Wofgang Malottke.


Specialist Mail Order Trout Flies, Framed Flies, Original Landscape Paintings, Fly-Art & Photo-Fly Mounts.

Atalantic Salmon Fly
Salmon flies tied by Jerome F Molloy, the opportunity to see and purchase traditional and classic salmonflies. Featherwing and Hairwing fles made to order for your fishing trip.
This site is designed for novice fly tyers who would like to learn how to tie Salmon and Steelhead Flies and experienced tyers looking for patterns. A great collection of patterns tied by guest tiers and articles.


Copyright © Paul Fishlock 1998 -2011
Webmaster: email:

Page last updated