John Hey looks at some salmon flies
Sports shops have their tackle walls lined with salmon spinners. There are more than enough to confuse the regular, let alone the novice fisho. And while they all catch salmon the poor old Zed spinner is being sprayed with all different colours and soon I’ll have to extend my tackle wall just to keep up.
What does a Zed spinner have to do with salmon flies you might ask. Back in the late 80’s a well known Australian fisherman came over and fished the Rakaia River and while watching fisherman pound away with their Zed spinners he decided that any fish that strikes a lure will take a fly. He designed a salmon fly called the Zedabou tied to get down deep just like its name sake.
The fly is cast upstream keeping in close contact with the line. Every fish took on the swing. Using the same shooting head set up as I do, he added to the leader about 18″ of 27 lb lead core trolling line to help get down deep. In rivers like the Hurunui and the Rangitata I don’t think this addition would be necessary. I have found my Scientific Anglers High Speed Hi D shooting head with 30 yards of floating running line is quite adequate.
The fly was tied on a Mustad 34007 saltwater hook sizes #4 to 1 /0 with a tail of fishair or krystal flash and a body of fluorescent or dark chenille with a wing of flashabou tied in as an over-wing trimmed to slightly short of tail length. With a large hackle feather tied in at the head depending on your overall fly colour, adding lead eyes bound figure eight fashion between the hook eye and the hackle. These lead eyes not only help the fly sink fast but also make the fly swim so that the hook rides point upwards so lessening the snagging problem.
The Zedabou salmon fly can be tied in a wide combination of colours with pink and silver being a good colour on fine clear days with more somber colours on dull overcast days. Because most of our salmon flies/ lures are becoming increasingly boring with little or no imagination I thought I would give you a few different styles to play around with. English salmon flies are works of art; feathers of different colours are married together to form the wing. All tied on upturned special hooks. They have thin bodies in segmented colours. They are a lot smaller than the standard streamer lure tied here. You could take those same English flies and replace the detailed wing with dyed buck tail. You could also use fishair, but don’t use too much as it becomes too bulky. Sparsely dressed patterns work better.
Over the last few seasons we have found that the colours yellow and chartreuse have been the most productive, the yellow lady is well known as a good catcher and I have tied an English style fly using variations of yellow and caught salmon in the Rakaia River so the flies don’t have to be big lure patterns. So much so that last season an angler came down for the Rakaia Salmon Fishing Competition and while here caught a salmon on a nymph, it was no small fish either. I been playing around with the American influence through experimenting with steelhead and silver salmon flies as used in Alaska where they flyfish for salmon far more, and are very successful.
An Alaskan pattern I have varied is the Comet. It is normally tied with a black fur tail with a gold tinsel body tied up two thirds of the shank then an orange chenille throat and finished with a blended yellow and orange hackle. My pattern has a tail of yellow marabou with the gold tinsel body up to the thorax of chartreuse chenille finished with a blend of green and yellow hackle.
An important thing about true flyfishing for salmon is to read the water. You will fish different water to the lure rod; you are after slower tail-end water. Fish that have swum up fast, rapid water will stop and rest in the first quiet water they strike, resting before moving on up through the head of the pool, remember they have never been in the river before and don’t know how long a pool or run is. Don’t be fooled into fishing the wrong water. Key things to look for are the lead in channels. Look for the deeper parts the fish will follow and stand so that you can cover the water.
The last two seasons we have sold salmon glo-bugs and enough of them to think someone is catching salmon on them; often large rainbows up the head waters are taken on these too! They are tied on a 1 /0 sea hook straight eye.
So if you are up for the challenge, and want to try something a bit different, give some of these patterns a try.