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Best Fishing Flies for Salmon and Steelhead

With more than 10,000 cataloged patterns of fishing flies, finding the best one can be a long task of trial and error. The quest to find the perfect fishing fly has burdened fishermen for ages, but the general rule of thumb is to use dark fishing flies on cloudy days and bright fishing flies on sunny days. Another strategy is to match the color of the riverbed. Additionally, big flies often work best in high water while small files work best in low water. Below you’ll find a list of the 5 best loved fishing flies for salmon and steelhead fishing.

Thunder and Lightning:
As the name insinuates, the deep orange, gold, brown and black colors are perfect for fly fishing on dark days and in dark river bottoms. This classic salmon fishing fly, once called the “Great Storm” fly is probably the most common fly used today for salmon and steelhead fishing.

Green Highlander:
This colorful fly composed of light green, pink, and orange feathers is perfect for bright sunny days. The green highlander is a classic pattern and very popular in all parts of the world.

Green Butt Skunk:
The green butt skunk looks exactly as it sounds, with bright green strand of yarn finishing off an otherwise black fly with a light colored tuft. These flies are the top choice for salmon and steelhead fishing in the Northwest but are incredibly successful around the world. The burst of green and the contrast of the dark and light make this fly a magnet for salmon and steelhead.

Skykomish Sunrise:
These fishing flies are a burst of bright orange and yellow that are perfect for dirty water on a bright day. It was a Skykomish sunrise fly that landed George McCloud, the fly’s originator, a record breaking 29 pound 2 ounce steelhead in 1955.

Jock Scott:
Sir Edward Grey called the Jock Scott “the best all round fly, excellent for all seasons, weathers and waters.” This incredibly intricate fishing fly can take up to 10 hours to craft by hand and was originally composed of more than 28 different materials. The Jock Scott’s timeless design has retained its popularity since it was first crafted in 1854.

Although these 5 fishing flies rank among the most popular, don’t hold back on trying new varieties of flies. Pack a variety of different fishing flies during salmon season and try a variety of colors and sizes until you find the types that work best for you.

Author is a writer for Blue Fly Cafe which specializes in fishing
flies for salmon and steelhead fishing
. For more information you can visit