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skeet3t

Salmon fly colors?

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Not a salmon angler as I have to get my salmon at the supermarket. Over the years, I have noticed that salmon flies have bright colors, lots of feathers, etc. Is there a particular reason for this? Looking at common fly patterns in my fly boxes. Thanks for taking time to reply.

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Interesting question skeet3t.

Atlantic Salmon have a reputation as extremely difficult to entice to take a fly...so over the years almost anything and everything has been tried to lure them to take. If you were to begin tying classic salmon flies among the first thing you'd buy in materials is red, orange, yellow, blue and green dyed goose, turkey or swan. Those 5 colors would cover you for about 90% or more of the patterns out there. Various colored seal's fur, silk floss, wool and other body materials. Exotic feathers like red Indian crow (sub), chatterer (sub), toucan (sub), golden pheasant, Amherst pheasant, etc, etc, etc...and that's just for the classics. You can add plenty more for the modern hairwing patterns too.

So...is there a reason for this? I honestly don't know. They first fish I ever caught on a Muddler Minnow was a 10 pound Atlantic Salmon. Still haven't taken a trout on that fly. On a trip to the Tobique River in New Brunswick when it was still open and had a salmon run every fish I caught that week was on somewhat large various classic patterns. Go figure. Over the years I've taken them on drab patterns, tube flies, small flies, big flies. hairwings and classics of course. The bottom line to me...these fancy/flashy patterns are designed to catch fishermen. Yes they will catch fish, but they have to catch the fishermen and have them pay good money to buy your flies first.

This should give you food for thought...and hopefully generate some conversation on the subject.

George

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Salarman, thanks for the info. I caught my first fly rod trout on a Muddler Minnow about  years ago and still have it.  Might try it this year. I often wondered about salmon flies that are illustrated or in photos in my tying books. Drab flies? I would like to have a dime for every fish, no matter what species, that has been caught on a black woolly bugger. I could have retired 40 years ago! Tight lines.

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Salmon fishing prior to Canada & the United States was a sport for noble gentlemen, lords, and kings. Many English salmon rivers where closed to  fishing for commoners (the fish of kings). The flies to angle for the king of sportfish, started as drab colored similar to trout flies. As the British warships and regiments roamed the world the nostalgic officers sent home rare plumage's for ladies millinery and they found their way into salmon flies and they where rewarded with gaudy flies when home on leave.  Sometime in the mid 1800's (1845 Jock Scott, believed as the first noted) they became the Elizabethan era flies we know as classic's, as gillies seemed to be in competition to tie complicated, colorful, gaudy patterns.  Salmon struck at them all probably more from form and presentation than beauty and complexity, but the era was born and ran strong until around 1930 or so as the supply of some material start to disappear. North American fishermen generally lacked access to these materials and developed the hair wing salmon flies popular today.

George Kelson's book The Salmon Fly (1895) lists around three hundred patterns many where shown in color. (consider that most fly dressers where not open to sharing their craft)  

references for timeline and material;  Joseph Bates Jr, Poul Jorgensen

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Absolutely spot on "CP". You nailed this on timing, location, sources of materials, etc, etc, etc. Well said indeed!!

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4 hours ago, SalarMan said:

Absolutely spot on "CP". You nailed this on timing, location, sources of materials, etc, etc, etc. Well said indeed!!

I like his explanation. Thanks!

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Really admire these classics and the guys that tie them.  But if we book a trip to Alaska,  which flies should I try to collect/tie for the trip?

 

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I believe your first picture is more appropriate for Alaska's salmon (Pacific Salmon) the classics and hairwing are generally for Atlantic Salmon. Check the regulations for Alaska, Mark Knapp (if he ever stays home from fishing long enough🙄) would be a better & current reference. (yes I am jealous🙊)

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My friend cphubert is right again. I will add comparing Pacific Salmon and Atlantic Salmon is the proverbial comparison of apple and oranges...not even close.

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Hmmm...nope I disagree😁

Atlantics return to the sea rehab themselves after the travels and troubles of running up the river and spawning. Pacific salmon as...we all know...all die after spawning. They may appear the same on the outside but they are quite different animals.

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