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Classic Salmon Flies

Salmon Fishing Fly Patterns

Every year, Salmon migrate from the ocean back to their freshwater birthplace in order to spawn, and US waterways can see Salmon runs from late Spring through to Fall. Depending on the season, various styles of fly pattern will be more or less effective. Neither Pacific nor Atlantic Salmon need to eat during migration, but they are predatory fish and old habits die hard. They will still attack the right fly presented in the right way at the right time.

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Pacific vs Atlantic Salmon: the differences

During a run, there are visible differences between Pacific and Atlantic Salmon. Atlantic Salmon are more closely related to trout than to their Pacific cousins, and keep the colors common to the whole Salmonidae family: silvery brown with darker spots.

There are five species of Pacific Salmon in the US – Coho (or Silver), Chinook (or King), Chum (or Dog), Pink (or Humpy), and Sockeye (or Red) – and all undergo noticeable changes in freshwater. Males of all five species grow a more pronounced lower jaw, and female Sockeye do too. Pink Salmon grow large dorsal fins to earn their nickname. Chinook and Coho take on different colors, with more pink or brown evident. Sockeye undergo the most extreme transformation as their bodies turn a vivid red.

What flies should I fish for Salmon?

During Spring, melt water means swollen, cold streams and rivers. Salmon tend to move slowly, stay deep, and conserve energy as they move inland. Try bigger, heavier nymphs and other wet flies, fished right in front of their noses.

As Spring turns to Summer, water levels fall, temperatures start to rise, and visibility improves. Salmon are more active and will come closer to the surface. Smaller dry flies and more representative patterns can be fished, as these tend to work best in warm, clear conditions.

Some species start to spawn during Summer. But it is during Fall, with water levels rising and visibility falling, that most Salmon spawn. Territorial aggression now contributes to many strikes. Murky waters call for bright flashy flies, fished fast to provoke a reaction. Some anglers report bright red being effective, and it could be that the color alone is the key.

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