In our online guide to selecting salmon flies for various weather and water conditions on rivers, streams and estuary waters, you might have expected to see lots of different patterns. We could do that, but in our experience it really is quite unnecessary. What you do need is a small selection of flies in various sizes and weights that allow you to present a fly large enough to be seen by a salmon but not so big as to spook it. You also need to be able to present your fly at the right depth, and the design of the fly has a big influence of that.
We suggest that for virtually all salmon fishing you need only two fly patterns (and at a push you could probably get away with just one).
Devised by well-known salmon fisher Alistair Gowans, this simple orange fly is described as a 'shrimp' imitation; however, it's unlikely that accurately copying the shape of a real shrimp would make the fly any more effective. This fly, tied on double hooks in sizes 10, 8, 6 and 4 is our first choice when fishing on dull days or in water that is coloured rather than clear.
Ideal in high water or when rivers are in moderate flow, this fly is clearly visible when fished at more-or-less the same depth as the salmon. It does particularly well when fish are fresh in from the sea, but its effectiveness is reduced if the salmon have been a long time in the river and are taking only tentatively. The most likely reason for this is that the salmon may nip the long tail of the fly without engulfing the hook.
Ally's Shrimp can also be tied as a tube fly on either plastic, aluminium or brass tubes, and then we use double hooks in sizes 10 or 8 rather than trebles from which it is very difficult to release fish quickly.
Pictured on the left is another popular variant on the traditional Ally's Shrimp. This tube fly version is tied with a brass conehead, which ensures that it sinks very rapidly. Because this version is intended for fishing in fast water or in very deep parts of rivers, we recommend tube sizes of 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 8cm) in length. The Jungle Cock feathers tied in as cheeks are an optional extra - they look very nice, but we are in no doubt whatsoever that their main attraction is to anglers rather than to salmon. Still, if you tie your own flies and like them to look good (to other anglers, that is) then including Jungle Cock cheeks is certainly a well-proven method of achieving this objective.
For low-water conditions or when fishing in bright sunlight, we find this pattern ideal. For best results then dressing should be tied 'short' as shown here, with no material extending beyond the bend of the hook.
With Stoat's Tails tied on single hooks in sizes 12, 10, 8 and 6 you will be well equipped for low water salmon fishing.