Sunday, September 8, 2013

Part III - CT Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Fishing: Wet and Dry Flies

Waaaay too many flies, but there are still some
open spaces, so I should probably tie more

Since this blog is primarily focused on salmon flies, much of this information has already been covered here before. I will try to distill it as best I can and provide a little insight into each fly pattern. If you look through the archives of this blog, you’ll see old entries about my favorite CT broodstock salmon flies. Some patterns have worked well for a season or two. Some have worked consistently well through several seasons. Consider this post the updated list of consistent winners. 

I’m an avid fly tyer, so I carry way more fly patterns than I really need. Sometimes I try new flies as an experiment, sometimes I just want to catch a fish on a particular pattern. If I was so inclined, I could whittle down my box to a handful of patterns in various sizes and I wouldn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage. 

Please note - none of my flies tied on conventional hooks are weighted in any way.

Hairwing Wet Flies and Bucktails:

Butterfly w/Green & Red Butt

This is the fly with which I usually catch my first CT salmon of the season. I find it works best at the very beginning of the season, particularly in slightly off-color, falling water. The Butterfly has a bit of a wobble to it, so I think the fish can really feel it coming. I like to use it when fish are holding in relatively slow water. Under normal conditions, a #4 or #6 is perfect for the first couple weeks of the season. 

Butterfly w/Green & Red Butt

Mickey Finn

The good ol’ Mickey Finn could be the most popular fly used and for good reason. It really works. I would put it in my top three, and perhaps tied for the number one spot. It works on sunny days, it works on cloudy just works. When I’m tired of experimenting and I just want to hook a fish, the Mickey Finn is what I use. I carry them in many sizes, though primarily #4-#8, with #6 being my all around favorite. The hottest CT salmon I ever hooked came up twice for a #4 Mickey Finn but didn’t take. I switched to a #6 and he was all over it. 

This #6 MF caught a lot of salmon, some fairly large.
The dressing lasted longer than the hook did.

Same Thing Murray

The Same Thing Murray is also in my top three list. When I need a medium-to-small dark fly, this is what I use, almost exclusively at this point. Though it’s predominantly dark-colored (peacock and black), it has red, orange and fluorescent green “hotspots,” all great colors for salmon. My all around favorite salmon fly is the Sugerman Shrimp, which has worked for me in CT, but not nearly as well as the Murray. I carry the Same Thing Murray in #2-#10, with #4-#8 being my most commonly used sizes. 

A pair of small Murrays, #8 & #10

L.T. Special

This is a bright fly in the quintessential autumn colors. This fly has been most useful to me in the peak of foliage season. When the trees are all colored up, the L.T. Special does a good job of blending in with its surroundings. When I need a dark fly, the Murray seems to get the job done. When I need a bright fly, sometimes I need something other than a Mickey Finn. The L.T. is a fantastic companion and, unlike the Mickey Finn, it’s a fly these salmon don’t see very often. I carry it in #2-#6, with #2 being the most successful size. 

The L.T. Special hard at work

Ally’s Shrimp

Besides being one of the most successful salmon flies ever created, it also works well on trout (incidentally as well as intentionally). The first CT broodstock salmon I ever landed took a #2 Ally’s Shrimp. Two seasons ago, I caught a beautiful, well conditioned, kyped and colored up 18” brown trout on a #2 Ally’s Shrimp. It’s a big, bright fly which tend to use in the morning before the water warms up (on an intermediate tip). I mainly use this tied on a #2 salmon iron, though I also tie it on tubes. 

Ally's Shrimp is one of my top "confidence flies"

Some Sort of Small Wet Fly

I don’t think the specific pattern matters all that much. As long as you have a small fly or two, you’ll be covered. By “small,” I mean #10 or #12, which is considered a pretty small wet fly for this time of year. There are three major scenarios when I decide to go to a fly this size:

  1. Very low water...even when the water is quite cold. It’s important to get the fly right in front of the fish in cold water, so you might have to use a sink tip even if the water is low
  2. Water that has been heavily pressured, especially when a lack of rain has kept the fish from changing pools
  3. When a fish rises to larger flies but won’t take, sometimes a very small fly does the trick

Even large fish take small flies. I landed a 15# salmon on a #10 Same Thing Murray. He rose twice for larger flies, but would only commit to taking a small fly. The Murray was the smallest fly in my box at the time. I keep a few different small patterns in my box. My favorite is a silver bodied fly called the M1 Killer. It also pays to have a small dark fly such as the Almost or Undertaker. 

Top to Bottom: M1 Killer, Red Butt Butterfly, Almost

Dry Flies:

Yes, it is possible to catch CT salmon on dry flies. I don’t fish dries often, but they can be effective under the right conditions (more on that in part IV). From what I hear, last season was great for dry fly salmon fishing on the Shetucket River. I know of at least two anglers who caught salmon on dries. One of them, a buddy of mine, had landed seven when I last saw him in mid-November. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went into double digits on dries. 

I really don’t think color matters as much as size. These fish hardly ever see dries since very few people will attempt to fish with them. I like a bright green, split-wing Bomber with brown hackle or a large White Wulff, both in a #6 or so. 

These dries weren't specifically meant for CT salmon,
but they do work now and then

Most of the patterns listed here will be on sale this season. I have sold CT broodstock salmon fly assortments in the past, but I plan on making a wider variety of flies available starting this season. They should be ready just before the first group of salmon arrives, so check back soon.

Part IV will focus on tube flies, so check back soon. 


  1. Very nice post Ben, all the salmon I've caught took the Mickey Fin (granted it's only an n=2)


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