Salmon Fly Geographical Colour Variations [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Salmon Fly Geographical Colour Variations

Gary W
02-09-2005, 07:31 AM
Since finding this forum I've had my eyes opened to many different styles of fly for both Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon. My quarry is atlantic salmon. One example of the different flies that seemed to be untried in Scotland was the intruder; I've still to try it, but Willie Gunn from this forum found it successful on the North Eastern rivers of Scotland.

Anyway, my topic here is colours of fly. There is no doubt that black, orange and yellow play a significant part in flies that get a swim in Scottish rivers. Of all these, I would say that orange features prominantly. However, when anybody reccomends a fly for Canadian Atlantic Salmon, it is invariably a green something or other. So it would appear that in Scotland orange is the main colour and in Canada green is the main colour.

Is there a reason for this? Would we get similar results if we stuck to green patterns in Scotland and orange patterns in Canada? Is it because of the peat stained waters in Scotland and the fact that Canadian rivers seem to carry a slight green colour?

I am aware the some green patterns are used in Scotland(mainly in spring) and probably orange patterns are often used in Canada, but their would appear to be a preference the other way.

02-09-2005, 08:40 AM
I don`t have the answer to your question, but there is no doubt that there are regional variations as to what flies reap the most success.
For instance, two of the rivers I fish regularly here in Ireland are only seperated by 100 miles approx.
On one (the Weir at Galway), a green fly has renowned success, while an orange fly like the cascade is almost useless.
100 miles north of there, on the famous river Moy, one would never dream of using a green fly, but the cascade is lethal.
However, on both systems a black fly (like the stoats tail, or silver stoat ) has considerable success.
A Willie Gunn, or a Gary Dog also do very well on both, but I can`t think of any place I fish where a green fly, and an orange fly share equal levels of success.
The eight wonder of the world perhaps? :confused:

02-09-2005, 08:59 AM
Yes, I think this is interesting, Gary. I do think that water colour has something to do with it. Flies with green in them seem to be more successful in greenish water, which often means snowmelt. The Green Highlander seems to be more popular in Norway and Russia than here. Where flies with green in them do occur, I think it tends to be on northern rivers (eg the Fast Eddie from the Thurso) or rivers that open quite early (the Eternal Optimist from Tweed, as well as the Ice Maiden which, with its combination of chartreuse and blue hair, has a greenish overall hue). On the subject of the Ice Maiden, another colour you don't see much in Scottish flies is white, though again it seems to feature in Canadian patterns.

Like you, my fly boxes are dominated by yellow, black and orange, and green doesn't really feature. However, I would tend to use yellower flies in spring, and I guess yellow is close to green. Towards the end of the season I'd go for a fly with more orange or even red in it. As I think Willie Gunn has said here, the great thing about the pattern from which he takes his user name is that the proportions of the three colours can be altered. Thus a WG intended for spring use can be more yellow, a sober one with mostly black might do best in summer, and an orangey one would be my choice in autumn.

Scotland seems to favour slightly more sober flies than Ireland. I think the traditional fully dressed flies were said to have originated in Ireland, and drove out the duller traditional Scottish flies like Meg with the Muckle Mouth, Meg in her Braws, Michael Scott and Kinmount Willie, which were typically tied with natural feathers and pig's wool bodies. The same thing seems to be true today; many Irish flies seem to be a bit brighter and flashier than those that are used in Scotland.

Gary W
02-09-2005, 09:07 AM

This is why I ask the question. Often when you visit an unknown river a local angler or gillie will tell you "any fly you like as long as it's black and yellow" or "orange flies do best here" etc. etc.

I often fish rivers/beats where a gillie is not provided. I like it this way as I like to figure things out for myself. I don't like the "here's a rod... this is the line you ought to be using... heres a good fly... now cast over there... oh look you caught a fish..." approach. I get more pleasure from knowing that I've found a fish, teased it in the correct way, and landed it.

If anyone can pitch in with logical answers to this question it may help with fly choice based on geological features, sea habitat, catchment area and water colouring, rather than just "it's got to be a shade of purple to catch a fish in this river".

ps. don't take from this that I do not like gillies, they offer an invaluable service. It's just that I like figuring things out myself. However, if a gillie is provided, I'll often be hunting for him/her in desperation as darkness closes in and I haven't landed a fish.

Gary W
02-09-2005, 01:29 PM

I'm with you on fly choices - more yellow in spring, more black in summer, and more orange/red at the back end. I also found last year that copper tinsel in a fly made a significant change to my catch rate (coincedence?). Actually, the fly was my own adaptation of the Kylie, so it is no surprise that it done well on back end fish.

I've yet to wet a line, but I intend to experiment with more green this spring, especially on bright days. I'll be getting my waders wet for the first time this Saturday on my local river. Then I'll try the Tay over the next couple of weeks.

I'll get tying some green thingymajigs for the Tay, and try them out.

02-09-2005, 10:55 PM
The Gaspe rivers run in some form of two flavors, the clear spring fed and the peaty ones which usually have lake origins. The York is somewhere in between. It seems to be a perfect blend of the dark Dartmouth to the North and clear St. Jean to the south, and very green as a result. The Matapedia and Cascapedia are very dark and peaty.

The green flies, Green Stonefly and Pompier, work wonders but I know the Green Stones are more popular on the Cascapedia. I've seen huge stonefly carcasses on shore so I'm sure the Salmon are well tuned to killing them. Why bright green is anyones guess, light, fluorescence of the nymph, or just don't like green things? What takes me back is that the brighter the green the better. The Pompier with it's bright yellow wing and Highlander green collar does well on both types of water.

Marc LeBlanc ties a wonderful fly called a Picasse with a yellow/fox or badger wing, black nymph lace body, black spey hackle, and Silver Pheasant wound as a collar. If you like black and yellow it's worth a try as it fishes well everywhere it's been. Even the Smallmouth Bass in Pennsylvania and Maryland pound it (don't tell). Steelhead too. I've heard some folks speculate it's a smelt representation but it looks like a stone to me in the water.

I have not fished in the fall in Gaspe when the fish are most aggressive, but I hear orange does very well. When I go early in the season I usually carry a couple Irish style shrimp patterns with an orange hackle and my lucky, lucky, lucky fly is an Orange Heron. Again, when the stones are in the bushes the Orange Heron goes right on.

Whenever I'm there I try and remember what the great Matapedia guide Richard Adams was asked which fly his sport used to catch the most recent fish. His reply was, "the one that's in the water". Classic Richard. So when I'm searching my box it's usually some thing I traded or begged for that has some significance and gives me added confidence regardless of color. Then I'll just lash it on and huck that bug out there and pray.