Salmon Fly Fishing: A Thrilling Adventure on the Fly

If you’re up for an exciting and rewarding fishing experience, look no further than salmon fly fishing. While some anglers may argue that spin gear catches more fish, salmon fly fishing offers a unique challenge and a sense of accomplishment that can’t be matched. The thrill of hooking a salmon on the fly is incomparable.

What is Salmon Fishing?

Salmon can be found on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, as well as in the rivers and tributaries that flow out of the Great Lakes. Every summer and fall, they make their way from the oceans and lakes to the rivers to spawn. These territorial fish strike out of aggression rather than hunger, as they strive to protect their eggs from predators.

Fisherman Catches and Holds Salmon on Fly Rod

Best Salmon Flies

When it comes to selecting the best salmon flies, thorough research is essential. Expert anglers have spent countless hours studying and tying flies specifically designed for various regions. Here are a few flies that have proven to be effective for targeting salmon:

Egg Sucking Leech

The Egg Sucking Leech is a legendary fly in the world of salmon angling. It mimics a leech devouring a fish egg. You can purchase it with or without a bead head depending on the depth of water you’re fishing.

Egg Sucking Leech Fly on a fly rod in a river

How to Fish With An Egg Sucking Leech

The versatility of Egg Sucking Leeches allows for various fishing techniques. In slow and deep water, use a smaller split shot and sinking line to achieve a perfect dead drift near the bottom. If you prefer swinging, cast upstream and let the fly drift past you before starting to strip.

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Glo Bug

The simple yet effective Glo Bug represents an egg and has proven successful worldwide. Available in multiple colors, these flies provoke aggressive strikes from salmon.

Pink egg great fly for steelhead fishing

How to Fish With a Glo Bug

For dead drifting, attach a split shot to the leader to lower the fly in the water column. Cast the fly upstream at a 45-degree angle and let it drift naturally along the bottom. Continuous mending is necessary to maintain a lifelike drift.

Bunny Leeches

Bunny Leeches are visually striking flies that entice salmon with their length and feathered appearance. These flies are perfect for dead drifting and swinging.

How To Tie a Bunny Leech Tutorial With Video

How to Fish with a Bunny Leech

These flies absorb water well and stay low in the water column. When swinging, they are ideal for mid-level presentations when salmon are not feeding on the surface. In fast and deep water, use a 3 mm tungsten weight to ensure the fly remains at the right depth.


Intruder flies are attention-grabbing and aggravating to salmon. If you’re struggling to catch fish or can’t decide which fly to use, tie on an intruder. These flies often come in size four or six.

Intruder Salmon Fly on a Rod

How to Fish with an Intruder

If you know salmon are congregating in a pool, cast upstream and let the fly drift into the pool. Stand a bit above the pool, allowing the fly to swing itself naturally. Intruders also work well when swung through a seam. Exercise patience and finesse, as these flies require a delicate touch despite their striking appearance.

Best Gear For Salmon Fly Fishing

Salmon will put your gear to the test, so it’s crucial to come prepared. Here are some recommendations for selecting the right gear:

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Choosing the correct rod for salmon fishing depends on the size of the water you plan to fish. If you’re tackling wide and fast-moving waters, a switch or two-handed rod is ideal. An 8-weight rod is sufficient for smaller salmon rivers and tributaries. If you prefer a single-handed rod, opt for a 9 or 10-weight for versatility and peace of mind.

Fly Rods with Reels on Rack


The choice of fly line depends on the type of water you’ll be fishing. Floating line is suitable for slower-moving and shallow rivers. Sinking line is essential for fast and deep water, as it keeps the fly at the desired depth. Weight forward line offers versatility and allows you to control the depth of your fly based on retrieves and mending.

fly line for salmon fly fishing


For salmon fishing, opt for sturdy leaders, preferably 0 or 1x strength. Salmon can reach impressive sizes, so having a robust leader is essential for landing these powerful fish. Salmon-specific leaders, with their tapered finish and longer length, offer better camouflage and durability.

fly line leader


To ensure a balanced setup, pair your fly reel with the appropriate line and rod. Opt for a larger reel, such as a 9 or 10+ weight, to match the power of your rod.

Salmon Fly Fishing Tips & Tricks

Fly fishing for salmon requires time, patience, and perseverance. Here are a few tips and tricks to enhance your success:

Swing, Swing, Swing

Swinging streamers is a popular method for catching salmon. Cast up and across the stream and let the fly do most of the work. Mend the line as needed to maintain a natural drift. A swinging fly can provoke aggressive strikes, so be ready for an exhilarating fight.

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Strip Away

Stripping streamers is another effective technique for salmon fishing. Target deep pools with riffles at either end. Cast the streamer into the riffles and start stripping. Experiment with different retrieve styles to find what entices the fish. Remember to work the pool in sections to increase your chances of success.

Dead Drift

Dead drifting is a technique that has proven successful for landing salmon. Find slow-moving, deep areas of the river and cast upstream. Mending is crucial to achieve a natural drift as the fly passes downstream. High sticking the rod can also help create lifelike drifts.

Best Destinations for Salmon Fishing

Salmon fishing destinations are often highly sought after and can get crowded. However, some hidden gems are worth exploring. Here are a few notable locations:

British Columbia

British Columbia in Canada is renowned for its salmon fishing. The Kalum and Skeena Rivers are highly recommended. Due to the challenging waters, fishing with a guide or a local expert is advisable to optimize your chances of success.

Fly Fishing On The Campbell River in British Columbia


Michigan offers excellent salmon fishing opportunities near the Great Lakes. Numerous tributaries flow into Lake Michigan, providing ample fishing spots. Public access is available, making it an accessible and rewarding destination. Don’t forget to explore the impressive trout populations in the area as well.

Salmon River, Idaho

The Salmon River in Idaho is unique, as it is home to salmon that travel over 800 miles to spawn. Catching one of these remarkable fish is an unforgettable experience. Give it a try and test your skills against these extraordinary salmon.

Salmon River Idaho


Throughout the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find rivers along the western United States coast teeming with salmon and steelhead. While many of the best waters are private, lodges and guide services can help you navigate and land impressive fish in these areas.


No list of top salmon fishing destinations would be complete without mentioning Alaska. The western coast provides vast opportunities to catch King and Silver salmon. Hiring a guide is essential for maximizing your chances of success in this breathtaking state.

That’s How to Fly Fish For Salmon

Salmon fishing requires dedication, effort, and perseverance. Research and learn about your local waters, and put in the effort to become a skilled angler. Salmon will constantly surprise and challenge you, making every fight memorable and worthwhile.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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