One of the most common question asked by any salmon angler is “Which fly should I use?” As salmon anglers, we all have our favourites and it is important when fishing for salmon to use a fly that you have confidence in. The old adage often rings true that “the best fly is the one which is in the water the longest”. Of course, when we select a salmon fly we are doing this on the basis that the fish interpret the fly in the same way we do. Whether this is the case is something we will never know and what adds to the wonderful mystery that surrounds salmon fishing.
In terms of flies, it is usually the standard patterns that seem to work well on Scottish salmon rivers. Much depends on the time of year you are fishing, and the size of the fly is usually dictated by water height and temperature. For example during the spring months usually river levels are at a decent height and water temperatures are relatively cold. In such conditions patterns like the Willie Gunn, Cascade, Park Shrimp and Posh Tosh amongst others all seem to work well. Often in cold water tube fly versions of these flies are required especially if you are looking for your fly to get down in the water column. Conversely, if the water is low and a bit warmer for the time of year you may consider using a large dressed fly.
During the summer months usually the water is lower and warmer. Often a more subtle approach pays dividends when it comes to fly selection. If the water is clearer smaller darker flies like Stoats tails can work well. Also, micro tubes or hitch flies can also be effective. On the other end of the scale if the fish are quite active and happy to chase a fly then a Sunray Shadow fished on the surface and stripped back quickly can produce spectacular results. This is such a visual and exciting method of fly fishing.
When it comes to autumn salmon fishing in Scotland much is dependent on the weather. If it has been a warm dry autumn then your summer tactics will work well especially if the water is low. So flies like Stoats tails, Ally’s Shrimps and Cascades should all do the business. However, if the water is higher and cooler then you would go back to using flies that work during the spring months tied in the tube fly style.
So as you can see there is not a secret to the flies that work well on Scottish rivers. Probably most important of all is to choose a fly and fish it with confidence!