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Generally tied to imitate small baitfish, there are more types and styles than any other fly. They can range from the competition angler’s mini-lure, tied on a short shank size 10 hook, to massive tandems on 2/0 hooks for giant brown trout, salmon, pike and saltwater fish.

For lures to work properly, they need to imitate the flash, color and movement of small prey fish. This is achieved by the choice of materials, the way they are tied on to the hook, and how they are fished. Sometimes the lure will need to be ripped back as fast as possible. But on other days, it can be fished as slowly as possible.

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The modern Salmon flies has changed a lot from the complex, fully dressed masterpiece of yesteryear. Hairwing patterns, Waddingtons and tubes, along with shrimp and prawn imitations, are now the standard fare on most famous rivers.

Waddingtons are articulated where the eye of the treble joins the shank of the hook. Tubes are either brass, aluminum or plastic. Salmon flies for low water summer conditions are small and sparsely dressed when compared to the heavy tube patterns used early and late in the season.

Some Famous Salmon Flies

Garry Dog

Famous Scottish pattern, particularly effective on rivers that carry a peat strain.

  • Hook: 6/12 double
  • Thread: Black
  • Body: Black floss
  • Rib: Oval silver
  • Wing: Yellow dyed squirrel hair over red
  • Hackle: Dyed dark-blue guineafowl

Willie Gunn Tube

An early season pattern for heavily peat stained rivers

  • Hook Treble size 4/10
  • Thread: Black
  • Body: Black floss
  • Rib: Gold
  • Wing: Orange and yellow bucktail with spare black


A classic reservoir lure devised by Northampton’s Bob Church for fry feeders. Can be tied small on competition-sized hooks or as a tandem for deep fishing.

  • Hook: Size 8/12
  • Thread: Black
  • Tail: Orange and green hackle fibers
  • Body: White chenille
  • Rib: Flat silver tinsel
  • Wing: Squirrel and marabou
  • Throat hackle: as for tail

Yellow Booby

A buoyant reservoir pattern which works best when fished deep with a short leader on a fast sinking line. But also works as a disturbance pattern when fished on the surface. Banned on many catch and release waters. First devised by Gordon Fraser for Eyebrook, and later developed by Mick Bewick for Queen Mother Reservoir, London.

  • Hook: Size 8/12
  • Thread: White
  • Tail: Yellow marabou
  • Body: Yellow fluoro chenille
  • Eyes: Yellow plastazote

Orange Leadhead

The late Trevor Housby introduced this style of fly onto British waters in the 1970’s with devastating results. First known as the Dog Nobbler, its diving action due to the weight at the head is absolutely deadly.

  • Hook: Size 8/12
  • Thread: Orange
  • Tail: Orange marabou
  • Body: Orange chenille
  • Hackle: Grizzle
  • Head: Non-toxic shot

Goldhead Damsel

Although the Damsel imitations imitate the nymphs of the natural fly, they also work as lyres and will take fish from any water at any time. This version of this ever popular fly is by Kevin Hart.

  • Hook: 8/10
  • Thread Olive
  • Tail: Golden olive marabou
  • Body: Golden olive marabou (dubbed)
  • Body hackle: Golden olive cock
  • Rib: Fine gold wire
  • Hackle: Grey partridge dyed golden olive
  • Head: Gold bead


The importance of using marabou for both the wings and the tails of lures cannot be underestimated. Its undulating action underwater is so alive that it has largely replaced other more traditional winging materials like cock feather, goat hair, squirrel, buck and calf tail.

However, modern man made materials like Crystal Hair, Pearl Mobile, and twinkle are now being added to wings and tails to create more flash.

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