Three must have flies when chasing Scottish spring salmon!

Catching a spring salmon on the fly has to be the ultimate achievement in our wonderful sport. Springers these days are getting few and far between, and so this can be no easy task. When fishing for spring salmon in Scotland it can often be difficult to locate the fish, especially if the water is high. 

Salmon fishing at this time of year can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. It is therefore best to cover as much water as possible. If you have had no success fishing down one pool, it can often pay to move on to another, if of course you are not seeing fish. By nature, fresh spring salmon are usually quite aggressive creatures and therefore good takers. 

If they see a fly, more often than not, they will go on to try and take it. By covering as much ground as possible you stand more chance of covering a fresh fish than if you continued to fish down the same pool repeatedly. It is also important to fish at the right depth and this depends on water temperature and height. If the water is high and cold you would want your fly to get well down in the water column, as the fish are likely to be lying close to the riverbed. Conversely, if the water is low and warm, you may opt to fish closer to the surface.


When it comes to terminal tackle, what are the best flies to use when you are trying to ambush that elusive Scottish spring salmon? In real terms probably, the depth at which your fly is moving through the water is much more important than the fly pattern itself. As already mentioned, fresh springers (fish that have been in the river system for no more than forty eight hours) are usually good takers, so if they see the fly they are likely to have a go at it. You are therefore generally looking to use flies which are quite bold in appearance and show up well in the water. This gives a fresh fish the best chance of seeing your fly. 

As always, when it comes salmon flies each angler has their favourites. However, there are probably three flies which time after time produce the goods during the spring months. In Scotland, when fishing for spring salmon, these are probably the only flies you need in various sizes and weights. 

The Willie Gunn has been, and probably will be for decades to come, one of the most productive salmon flies in Scotland. This fly produces fish all year round but can be particularly good during the spring months. Nowadays, there are many versions of the Willie Gunn, some with green butts, gold bodies etc. they are all good and seem to work well. 

There is just something about the yellow, orange and black mixed bucktail that provokers an aggressive response from the fish. The Willie Gunn seems to be particularly productive when tied on a tube fly. However, in lower water these magnificent flies can also work well when tied on doubles or even singles.

Another must have fly during the early spring months has to be the Posh Tosh. This pattern works well on many rivers across Scotland but seems to do particularly well on the Dee and Tweed. The Posh Tosh is black and yellow in colour and these are both classic early season colours. Like the Willie Gunn, there are many variations on the Posh Tosh, including some tied with jungle cock. These flies are highly visible in clear water, and the black wing tied into the fly shows up well as a silhouette. The Posh Tosh pattern is usually tied on a tube fly and so is ideal when you are looking to get the fly to fish that bit deeper in the water column. 

Probably one of the most popular salmon flies among anglers in recent times has been the Cascade. The Cascade is another fly that seems to work well throughout the course of the season. The fly seems to be just as effective during the early spring months, as it is for grilse and summer salmon. There are many variations on the Cascade but traditionally the primary colours are yellow, orange and black. 

The Cascade is quite a bright pattern and when tied as a dressed fly often has a long tail. This can make the fly more mobile and appear more lifelike in the water. The Cascade seems to work equally well, whether it is tied in the tube fly style or on a double or a single hook. Again, this fly is highly visible, and shows up well if there is a hint of colour in the water. 

When it comes to fishing for spring salmon in Scotland there is no great secret. It is important to cover as much water as possible and make sure that your fly is fishing at the right depth. It is always worth remembering, when considering depth, it is better for the fly to fish that bit higher up in the water column. Salmon are more likely to come up for a fly when they see a silhouette above them, than go down for one. In terms of fly patterns, you want to keep things simple and use flies which are highly visible. 

Salmon flies don’t get much simpler and more visible than the Willie Gunn, Posh Tosh and Cascade. You won’t go far wrong when using any of these flies when chasing Scottish springers!


This article was written by Sandy Datta who together with his wife Samantha are co-founders of  Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland

This company is dedicated to providing bespoke tailor-made  salmon fishing holidays in Scotland. Sandy has also recently written The Ultimate Guide to Salmon Fishing in Scotland

In their spare time, Sandy and Samantha are both very passionate about their salmon fishing. They  are never found too far away from the river bank, and they usually have a rod in their hands! 

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Fly Fishing the North Coast 500


NC500 is Scotland's answer to Route 66 Bringing together a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery, the route path naturally follows the main roads across the coastal edges of the North Highlands taking in the villages and towns of places like Ullapool, Durness, John O'Groats, Dornoch and Inverness.  


Looking for a fly fishing road trip? Here it is

The East Coast

River Beauly
River Conon
River Allt Graad (River Glass)
River Alness
Kyle of Sutherland (Estuary for Rivers Carron, Oykel, Cassley & Shin)
River Brora
River Helmsdale
River Wick

The North Coast

River Thurso
River Strathy
River Naver
River Kinloch
Hope System

The West Coast

Rhiconich System
Laxford System
River Inver
River Kirkaig
River Kanaird
Ullapool River
River Ewe
Badachro System
River Carron 

A guide to salmon fishing the NC500 can be found here 

A guide to trout fishing the NC500 can be found here

iFlies, have curated a North Coast 500 Fly Box, each box has flies which are perfect for the time of year and the waters that you will be fishing. If interested just send a mail to [email protected]