The last of the snow clinging to the hills and mountains has long since melted away leaving rivers at their lowest levels of the year so far, and a selection of low water salmon flies are key to success. Not only that, we salmon anglers have also had to endure one of the warmest and sunniest months on record. Fishing in such bright conditions whilst the river is on its bones isn’t ideal but salmon can still be caught, albeit not in any great numbers.
I’ve been fortunate enough to catch one or two during this period but the salmon don’t half make you work hard for your reward! Fishing in such conditions requires being on the water very early in the morning and then again at last thing at night. Fishing these periods can make all the difference between success and failure as this tends to be when the air temperature and the brightness of the sun are at their lowest. This period is usually when the fish are at their most active given anglers their (sometimes) only chance.
During these conditions, I tend to stick with the same six fly patterns although I will use a Sunray or Hitch when all else has failed. I have the utmost faith in this selection of deadly low water salmon flies.
For the rivers I fish, a black fly is perfectly suited to the crystal clear, streamy runs where the salmon are most likely be taking cover. The dark silhouette created by these flies moving through the current can often prove irresistible to an inquisitive salmon. There are no hard and fast rules on how I fish these flies. I find that by varying the retrieve it can induce an aggressive take at any time. I’ll try a figure of eight or long, slow pulls, an upstream mend, downstream mend or even just let it swing round in the current. All these have worked in the past so it really is just a matter of trying different methods until you find something that they want on the day.
This pattern was created by the former Editor of Trout & Salmon magazine as its name suggests. It has proved to be deadly low water salmon fly and also for sea trout during night. It certainly works to great effect on my local river, the Aberdeenshire Dee where it really has established itself as the “go to” pattern for many anglers at this time of year. The UV body glows like a beacon giving the fish a real target to home in on as it passes them by. Is this what makes the fly so successful? Who knows but it works for me!
- The Executioner
The black, red and silver colour combo of the Executioner is a real eye catcher – not just for anglers, but the fish love them too. Another patter than does well for both salmon and sea trout in low water conditions. I like to fish this with a slow, figure of eight retrieve just to try and make the body flash a bit more as it comes around in the current. Deadly fly when the grilse are running.
- Silver Stoats Tail
Again, this tried and tested pattern is another one that salmon and sea trout find irresistible. I caught my first ever salmon on this fly many years ago and ever since that day I have rarely been without one in my box. The origins of the Stoat’s Tail hail from right here on Royal Deeside and this traditional fly is a proven killer. I must admit that I do prefer the silver version over the original but both versions work equally as well. I also like to have jungle cock cheeks on my silver stoats but this is more to suit my own taste than anything else.
- Arndilly Fancy
I love the colours of this fly. The use of GP tippet in the tail also adds a touch of class to the pattern. The black, blue and yellow colours are perfect for this time of year. The red head and jungle cock cheeks are great additions to an already deadly mix of colours. I like to fish this fly using a figure of eight retrieve just to pull it through the current that little bit quicker.
- Queen’s Killer
Yep, you’ve guessed it – another pattern that works equally well for salmon and sea trout! This is quite a new addition to my fly box but one that will be a main stay for many years. Created by David Fernie, ghillie on the Balmoral beat of the River Dee, this fly has accounted for numerous fish to his own rod and that of his guests. The colourful butt and body mixed with the of the black and blue provides a great alternative to the more subtle patterns commonly used this time of year. Fishing “fine and far off” using long, light leaders is just what’s required on the upper reaches of the Dee. Flicking this deadly wee fly with a short cast into the fast runs and glides can produce the goods when the salmon are playing hard to get.
Last but certainly not least! Another fly which can trace its origins back to the River Dee is the Crathie. Named after the famous beat on the upper reaches of the river, this fly will appear more than most in the catch returns during the summer months. With its familiar black wing and light blue beard coupled and jungle cock cheeks, this fly really is a must have for anyone fishing low water. It works well in all sizes and the fish seem unable to resist its charms on all rivers where salmon swim. Again, like all these patterns, I tend to vary the way I fish it. Several methods of retrieve have worked for me so it really is each to their own as to how it works best for them.