The 5 best flies for salmon fishing in Scotland

As our clients prepare for their first fishing vacation in Scotland, they often ask us, what are the best flies for salmon fishing in Scotland? In answering this question, it must first be understood that here in Scotland, we are fishing for Atlantic salmon only and the fly patterns that are used for other species are rarely the same as those used in other parts of the world, in pursuit of Pinks, Chum and Sockeye, etc. The flies you will use on Scottish salmon rivers will be different to those used, say in the Pacific north west of North America, Alaska and Canada.

The best flies to use when salmon fishing in Scotland vary somewhat from river to river and depending on the time of year and the water condition. In this article we are discussing fly patterns, but it is worthwhile noting that the size and method of tying also vary significantly depending on conditions. In low water, summer conditions, you should be using small flies tied on traditional double hooks or small plastic tubes. In higher, colder water you need to go with larger heavier flies tied on Waddington shanks or brass tubes.

So here is our recommendation for five essential flies for your Scottish salmon fishing experience.

1. Tosh

There is something about the combination of yellow and black that seems to attract the attentions of particularly spring salmon. Between about the beginning of March to around mid-May, this fly is always an essential part of my armoury. This fly can be very effective when the water is coloured.

This is such a simple, traditional fly. When buying or tying this pattern for yourself, go for the simple and traditional combination of black and silver. I have had success on variants and certainly the Stoat’s Tail itself is a fantastic fly, but in my experience, summer salmon go best for the simple pattern tied quite sparsely on a small double. This fly also presents the added attraction of being the number one, single best fly for sea trout.

2. Silver Stoat

3. Willy Gun

Forever associated with the far north east of Scotland, this is probably the ubiquitous salmon fly used in Scotland today. However, there has been such a huge ploriferation in variants, its not easy to know an original tying when you see it! For me, the genuine article will always comprise a simple, silver ribbed black body and a black, yellow and orange hairwing. I must confess to also being a big fan of tying the Willie Gunn on a gold body and with Jungle Cock cheeks.

The Ally’s Shrimp salmon fly was created by Alastair Gowan and is now recognised as one of the best ever patterns for use on Scottish and Irish salmon rivers. There are many variations of the original, many of which work well. However, for me, it is the original which works best and will take fish all season long.

4. Ally’s Shrimp

5. Sunray Shadow

The aforementioned flies could all be considered “classics” and quite traditional in style and materials. The Sunray Shadow is something different. It is tied on a plastic tube with a very long wing and no body. The combination of black on the top, white on the bottom and peacock hurl down the sides is so simple and yet so effective.

When stripped across the current, this fly looks all the world like a sand eel and it can stimulate the most aggressive takes. When you know that the fish are there, but they are simply ignoring the traditional patterns, tie on a Sunray and strip it through the pool. It doesn’t always work, but it does arouse the fish. Many Scottish salmon have fallen to a small traditional pattern fishing right after the pool has been fished through on a Sunray.

For more information on fishing in Scotland, why not have a look at our main fishing pages.

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