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The Atlantic Salmon


Salar  (the leaper)



The Atlantic Salmon. She comes in off the tide her flanks shimmering as she pushes upstream. Her only thought is to reach the waters of her birth where as a parr she fed on small aquatic life before evolving into the smolt stage & migrating to sea. Two summers later after a diet of krill & shrimp in the cold Greenland waters she returns to the river.  It is here that we the fly fisher hope to delay her journey if all but for a fleeting few minutes. Flies are legion, from the garish creations of Victorian times to the modern hair wing of today. Truly the Queen of fish she wears her mantle well, Salar (the leaper)

The fish shown above is typical of a "fresh" fish from my home water Loch Lomond                                 

Blue Charm (low water version)

Hairy Mary (Variant)

This one is tied on a Partridge Wilson shank, this fly does well in low summer water and is probably the best known recognised of all the Atlantic Salmon flies. A favourite fly of Arthur Wood on the  Dee  who was instrumental in bringing the concept of "greased line" fly fishing to the fore. A fine angler by all accounts but was, like Falkus in many ways limited to one river The Cumbrian Esk & in Woods case one beat Cairnton

Photos by Ed Gallop    

To view others of the same type with dressings from fly tiers around the world, both amateur & professional click on Hyperlink below. Do not know where I got this one from as it is far removed from the original. Still the gentleman that gave me it named it as such & it has accounted for a few Salmon in coloured water so I have included it here. A bit on the over dressed side but shows the colours well.



The Munro Killer

The Assassin





Dressing:  Hook:-10-6 std. Thread: black Tag: fine oval gold Tail: orange hackle tip Body: black floss Rib: medium oval gold  Hackle: orange hen with Blue Jay in front Wing: black Squirrel over yellow head: black 

A summer shrimp pattern good in thin water for fresh fish. Shown here on a Partridge low water iron but more usually tied on a small double, in sizes 10-8 s Fished across & down on a light double handed rod, takes many fish. Not as well known as some but a worthy addition.

Dressing:   Hook:- std Salmon single /double Thread: black  Tail:- G.P topping Tag:- fine oval silver  Body:- medium silver flat tinsel Rib:-fine silver oval  Hackle:- (rear) yellow hen (front) speckled Grouse plumage & blue barred Jay on outside  Wing:- bronze Mallard tied short. no more than 3/4 the length of hook shank. Head:- black varnish


The Munro shown above is one of the more popular hair - wings of recent times. A Scottish pattern that has found some favour in the U.S.A. for Steelhead. The mixtures of black orange & gold are good trigger colours for late running Atlantic Salmon in Autumn. & many fish are taken each year on flies bearing this hue

Why a hair - wing?   There was a time when a Salmon fly could be specified in the finest detail, as to be instantly recognized as a "pattern" The "Greats" will always be remembered.  Miss Megan Boyd of Brora, that doyen of the Scottish North. A world acknowledged expert in traditional fly tying whose inspiration & encouragement to countless others will live on. Why hair - wing? we might ask. In a nutshell simplicity & ease of tying, comes to mind. Take a fully dressed fly & a hair - wing version, hold out at arms length & half close your eyes & you will see what I mean. But more importantly they are better fish catchers due to the combination of lightness, movement & simple colour combinations. For clarity I show them dressed in their Partridge Wilson Single guise. More normally tied on doubles & where allowed on trebles of the Esmond Drury type of which I have a distinct liking due to their good hooking properties.

Stinchar Stoat 

This pattern, is one of my favourite "spate" river patterns. From the famous Ayrshire river of the same name, its fish catching abilities are legion, not just on its home water but throughout my country. My pattern differs slightly from the accepted version but for all that is every bit as good & as such I make no apologies for including it as such on this page.

Dressing :   Hook:-std salmon  Thread:-black  Tag:-fine gold oval  Tail:-G.P.topping  Body:-black floss  Rib:-med gold oval  hackle:- dyed orange hen  Wing:-dyed black Squirrel



Dressing :

Hook:-10-6 s  Tag:- Oval silver  Body:- Rear quarter, red floss; front three-quarters ,black floss   Rib:- Oval silver Throat:- Blue cock   Wing:- Black squirrel

This is a good pattern for fresh fish newly arrived from the sea. This one in conjunction with the std. Stoats Tail with its predominately black & silver combination does well in our northern waters.

The Thunder Stoat, is another in the Stoat family. Like any good pattern it has been subject to many variations & this blue hackled version is no exception. A welcome change from the more popular but drab standard Stoat


By the simple substitution of varying body colour changes a whole new range of Stoat flies are born. I will suggest claret & red & an all tinsel bodied version as being worthy of inclusion. By far the most versatile of Salmon flies to my mind.

A line drawing from yesteryear

Clynelish  Another lesser known pattern but for all that fishes well in a river stained with peat or Autumn rains. Fishing in harmony with your surroundings is very important to me & it's dressing of black, orange & yellow fits in nicely with Autumn stream colours.

   Dressing :

Hook:- 10-6 s single or doubles   Tail:- G.P. topping  Body:- Yellow floss   Rib:-Oval silver Throat Hackle:- Hot orange cock  Wing:- Black Squirrel   Head:- Red varnish

I like to fish this on the tail of a two fly cast with a small shrimp pattern as a dropper. Cast square & across, a quick mend & the cast will swing round nicely

Stoats Tail

Of all the hair- winged patterns few enjoy such a measure of popularity as the simple Stoat. Whether it is tied as a single, double or a sparsely dressed tube it's fish catching prowess, knows no bounds. The original pattern called for a wing, from the Stoat but dyed black Squirrel is more the norm & the Salmon don't seem to mind one little bit.

Dressing :

Hook:-12-6 s   Tag:- fine silver oval  Tail:-G.P..topping  Body:-black floss  Rib:-medium silver oval  Hackle:-black hen  Wing:-black Squirrel

Overall impression on these flies  is sparseness & mobility.  Try to keep a slim  profile where possible.

The Stoats Tail



Shown, above two rods in this case both by Hardy™, a single handed Ultralite ™ & the more common double handed Elite.™ Single handed rods are useful for small spate streams where distance casting is not required. Useful lengths are 10-12ft and whilst slightly longer than most American rods will give good control of the water & more than makes up for any problems with length in these more confined spaces in which we invariably find in this type of fly fishing. Lines of AFTM 7/8 are useful. These married to a 3.3/4" single action reel are more than enough for these small streams. Double handed or as our American friends like to know them ,"Spey" rods range in length from 12ft-16ft AFTM 8-12 lines. The mighty rivers such as the Tay, Spey & Tweed in Scotland & the Scandinavian rivers may require 16ft,coupled with 10-12 lines. More usual, a 12-14ft should suffice for small to medium rivers with say lines in the region of 8 - 9.  Where ever Salmon inhabit reels should be robust & have large capacity with ample backing.
The Ally's Shrimp
If I had to choose one fly that would take fish from any part of the world then this shrimp/prawn pattern from Alastair Gowans of Pitlochry Scotland fits the bill. It bears more than a passing resemblance to a Curry's Red Shrimp & is probably loosely based on that old pattern. 

Reworked with modern materials but keeping the basic colours he has turned a good pattern into an even better one. Tied on hook sizes 10-6 it accounts for many salmon each year.

 On the right this drawing shows the components of a fully dressed Atlantic Salmon fly. These flies of a long gone era are coming back into vogue, not for fishing but for mounting in frames & shadow boxes. Certainly the pinnacle of fly tying they are without doubt the most beautiful of flies. The sample shown is the famous "Durham Ranger, a "whole-wing" traditional fly, a standard Tweed pattern from yester year from the vice of James Wright of Sprouston Kelso Scotland who also tied that most famous of Trout flies The Greenwell's Glory







Hair-wings & simple feather-wings have replaced these ornate creations. The more exotic feathers of the Victorian era are now only to be found on protected birds. Long gone are the days when we could legally get Scarlet Ibis & Florican Bustard and as it should be. With the advent of Hair in all its forms dyed accordingly we have more than covered any loss that any exotic feather could posses, well certainly for practical fishing purposes that is.



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    Selected Bibliography

                R.V  Righyni   Advanced Salmon Fishing, 1973

                J.J. Hardy   Salmon Fishing  1907

                Arthur Oglesby  Fly Fishing for Salmon & Sea Trout  1986

                "Jock Scott"  Greased Line Fishing For Salmon  Andre Deutch  1984



              For any info on this page or indeed if you just want to drop a line & talk, feel free to contact me via E Mail. Just click on Mail link, above .  Tight Lines from Scotland