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Are these the best back end Salmon Flies?

Published: 1st November 2018 | Author: Craig McDonald

When it comes to fishing the very last of the season, ensure you have the best back end salmon flies to increase your chances of a fish… As we move swiftly into November the days have shortened considerably, the leaves change colour and the salmon season is slowly drifting towards its end. This season will not be one for record books but there is still time to see it off on a good note by getting a back end fish or two! A drop in temperature can work wonders at this time of the year, bringing the fish on the take as they become more lively and aggressive. Often the most productive time of year, here are a few flies and tactics to try to hopefully end your season on a high.

Ally’s Shrimp

A fly that needs no introduction, the famous ally’s shrimp. A classic fly, which has caught more than its fair share of salmon over the years, I like both the orange or red version at this time of year. These colours seem to work particularly well at this time of year and the longer tail works nicely in the water. I will fish both a double and a tube depending on the water conditions.

Calvin Shrimp

A newer fly developed by Ross Macdonald but for me, ticks all the right boxes for a back-end salmon fly. All the right colours and a highly mobile tail means it swims beautifully and stands out well. Again I will fish this fly in a variety of sizes to match the water conditions.

Red Francis

My go-to fly for autumn, the red Francis. Originating from Iceland it has developed into a popular fly over the last few years, and for good reason. My preference is to fish this fly slow and deep, rocking the rod back and forth to get those feelers pulsating. In low water, I will still try to fish this fly deep and in the fishes face whether with a sink tip or using a small tube or cone head. A small half inch tube is my favourite. The Francis can really rile up some old coloured cock fish and produce some savage takes.

Sunray Shadow

An excellent fly to have in the armoury, the sunray can be a hugely exciting method of fishing, sometimes producing results when nothing else will. While fresh grilse love to chase this fly, I’ve found on plenty of occasions it will stir up the old residents in a pool and just sometimes tempt one to take. Cast square, let a small belly form and then working the fly back brings it swinging across the current. Takes can be explosive and often very visual. If a fish swirls at fly but doesn’t connect, be sure to wait a few seconds and then try again at the same spot. I have seen a fish come numerous times to the fly before connecting as long as it hasn’t felt the hook! It is worth varying the speed of retrieve to find out what they are after.


The first time I came across this style of fly was a number of years ago fishing late in the season on a middle dee beat. Good conditions and fish showing I was feeling confident. I finished the pool without a touch having tried a number of flies and methods. The angler on the other bank had landed 5 in front of me… I later found out he was fishing the black snaelda with a slow retrieve. It had certainly worked so I made a note to try it out for myself. The following day having acquired a couple I was back among the fish and feeling better! I will fish this always on tube for some weight and only vary the size depending on water levels. It can be fished both conventionally down and across or as mentioned above, fishing with a slow draw.

If the water comes up and is carrying a bit of colour the cascade snaelda is the fly I reach for and as caught numerous fish in high water conditions. I like it to fish deep and slow, working it into the quiet backwaters where fish will be sheltering out of the heavy flows.

This small selection is more than enough to cover all eventualities during the final weeks of the season. I like to have a small number of flies and just some variation in size. A quick note to say play your fish hard at this time of year and get them in quick. Keep them in the water and take any photos quick.  They are approaching the most important time in their lives and we need them to be in best of condition for it, look after them!

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