Spring salmon flies for the new season

Something to look forward to at last …

I am not complaining. So many people have had a much worse time through the COVID-19 pandemic than me. But it is encouraging to hear news that a vaccine looks more likely than not to be with us in the spring, and perhaps we can start looking forward to things returning to something like normal next year.

Normal for me includes organising salmon fishing trips to Scotland, hopefully with self-catering lodges open again and all my fishing friends able to travel. Maybe too that trip to Norway might go ahead next year.

That spirit of optimism has been fueling my recent efforts at the fly tying bench. I’ve been thinking about the best flies to stock up the fly box for April and May fishing on the bigger rivers I fish like the Wye and the Aberdeenshire Dee.

Here are four patterns, based on different colour palettes, that I think will cover the bases for any spring salmon fisherman. They are all simple-enough tyings based on a shrimpy style, featuring a long sparse tail of bucktail with a hint of flash added and a prominent collar hackle. They owe a lot to Alistair Gowans’ Ally’s Shrimp and Cascade in terms of profile and movement in the water, in fact I think the lightness of these dressings accentuates that movement.

NessC – This is a bright pattern for a bright day. It was devised by Ian Sinclair as a cascade variant for the River Ness in Inverness. I have had great success with it on the Dee in April. At first glance it looks rather garish for a river where “an inch of black” is the default salmon fly specification. The secret is to tie it as sparsely as possible.

Green Shrimp – This is very similar to the NessC but with green as the dominant colour rather than purple. Overall it shares the colours of the famous old Green Highlander pattern. This fly comes out of my box on the dull, dreich days we sometimes get on Deeside. There is an old saying “When the mist is on the hill, ‘tis the green fly that will kill”. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Willie Gunn Shrimp – The Willie Gunn has always been one of my most productive salmon flies. It is so versatile and can be tied in so many styles. Here I am tying it with a gold body and a long tail, to give the same profile and mobility as the NessC. The colours of the Willie Gunn are universally successful and you can fish this with confidence all through the year. It works well in clear water but also when there is a hint of peat stain in the water.

Black and Yellow Shrimp – The combination of black and yellow, with jungle cock cheeks, is a classic on the Dee but is successful on every river. This, of the four flies, is the first choice for clear water conditions in early season.

At Blue Zulu Fly Fishing, we’re offering a 12-fly selection box containing hand-tied examples of each of these four patterns tied on Partridge Patriot double hooks in sizes 6, 8 and 10 for £60 plus delivery.

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