In this article, I’ll cover the best flies for salmon fishing on the west coast, east coast, and around the Great Lakes region. These are the top flies used by guides and anglers, and they are proven to be effective.
I’ll also discuss the top flies for each salmon species and even talk about dry flies for salmon fishing. Over 40 salmon flies are listed.
The four best types of flies for salmon are egg patterns and nymphs, which are good for nymphing, and marabou streamer flies, and hair streamer flies, which are great for swinging or stripping methods. Often, brightly colored flies are best, but not always.
Best West Coast Salmon Flies
When it comes to fly fishing for salmon on the West Coast, there are certain things West Coast salmon are attracted to in a fly. Things like flash, movement, color, and size are all triggers.
Big salmon will often hit any fly pattern. However, certain fly patterns tend to be more effective for certain species or under different water conditions, as well as at different stages of their spawning cycle.
Some flies that are great for chinook salmon may also be top flies for coho, pinks, chum, or sockeye. I’ve even caught Atlantic salmon on traditional West Coast fly patterns.
Special thanks to the following for the use of images and for selling great salmon flies:
7 Best Flies For King Salmon
Kings also like flashy flies with silver, gold, and green flash when fishing open water and on the tide. However, kings sometimes prefer less flash or no flash later in the season or when they are higher up the river.
When in the river, the more effective fly colors change, which is when red, chartruese, and pink flies work well.
1. Intruder Fly and King Intruder Fly
The Intruder Fly is a well-known spey fly that is popular with steelhead fly anglers, but it’s also one of the best salmon flies that I use.
The original Intruder fly has a lot of movement in the water but there are now many variations, including the King Intruder, Stu’s Chinook Intruder, and the Guide Intruder, among many other variations.
The Intruder Fly can be tied fairly large (over 4 inches) and can be tied in multiple color combinations to suit the species and conditions.
2. Dolly Llama Fly
The Dolly Llama is a large fly pattern with a lot of movement and built-in flash, and it can be tied in many colors.
Add a colored conehead of your choice, or stick with silver, gold, or copper.
This fly can be cast out and stripped in or swung through the current.
3. Bunny Leech
The bunny leech is a fly I have been using for trout fishing for over 30 years.
The Original Bunny Leech is simple to tie, has plenty of movement, can be tied over five inches, and can be tied in any color.
This fly is great for stripping in, or it can also be swung. The Articulated Lead Eye Bunny Leech is a variation that is a favorite of many West Coast salmon anglers.
4. Dirty Hoh Fly
The Dirty Hoh fly is a popular salmon fly for swinging. It has lots of movement and can be tied long and in many colors.
This fly is basically a hybrid bunny leech and intruder fly. The Dirty Hoh-Chinook Fly is a slightly larger, bushier version of the Original Dirty Hoh, which is very popular with steelhead anglers. It is a great fly for king salmon and big Coho salmon.
5. Egg Fly
The Salmon Egg Fly Pattern can come in many variations, and since I love to nymph for salmon, and when I do, one of my go-to flies is this simple egg pattern in sizes 10mm to 16mm. My go-to colors are gold, pink, orange, chartreuse, and red.
Top guide Brad Elfers from Alaska Fly Fishing Goods says the Egg fly variations called the Fat Albert and the Fat Freddie are very good for salmon fishing.
The Fat Albert Fly is a weighted flashy egg pattern that’s well worth having in your fly box. Check it out HERE.
6. Rubber Leg Hares Nymph and Nymph Flies
I will tie this fly in natural hares ear as seen, black hares ear, and brown.
I’ve also done well on size 6 to size 8 Bead Head Prince Nymphs, Flashback Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Black Stoneflies, Original Bead Head Hares Ear Nymphs, San Juan Worms, and even Frenchie nymphs.
7. Salmon Fly Selection Kits
RIO’s Alaska Salmon Assortment Kit has ten proven pre-selected flies for king salmon and other salmon species likely to be encountered in Alaska and down the West Coast.
The kit includes the following flies for salmon fishing:
One of the best and most complete king salmon fly selection boxes I’ve seen comes from Alaska Fly Fishing Goods.
You get 24 of the right flies pre-selected for king salmon by experts. It contains big patterns for swinging for kings as well as classic nymphing patterns.
Includes Articulated Hareball Leeches, Fat Freddies in several colors, Jumbo Critters, Bjorn’s Stinger Prawns, Mega Dolly Llamas, Squidros, and more……
8 Best Flies For Coho Salmon
The same flies for chinook salmon also tend to work well for coho salmon. Here is my list of the best salmon flies for Coho Salmon.
1. Woolly Bugger
The Woolly Bugger is one of my best flies for coho salmon fishing anywhere that cohos swim.
I will swing a large bushy-tailed Woolly bugger, or I’ll nymph fish and dead drift traditional 2 to 3-inch Woolly buggers through pools and runs. The best colors for coho salmon are pink, black, blue, purple, and white.
2. Egg Sucking Leech
The Egg Sucking Leech is one of the best flies for Coho when you are nymphing and when swinging flies.
It’s also a great fly when used for chinooks, pinks, chum, trout, and steelhead. Try pink, purple, and black body and tail flies with pink, orange, or a red head.
If you want to build up your selection of wooly buggers and leeches, The Reelflies Bugger and Leeches Fly Selection includes 35 effective buggers and leech patterns capable of catching all salmon species!
3. Starlite Leech
The Starlite Leech fly is a popular fly with West Coast and Alaska coho anglers.
On some websites and guide lists, this is the number one fly for silver salmon.
A great variation is the Custom Starlight Leech UV – Pink/Red/ and Pearl/Fuchsia.
4. Bunny Popsicle Fly / Hot Cone Stinger Bunny Popsicle Fly
The Popsicle Fly is a great fly for salmon, but add a bunny leech tail and a cone head, and you have the Stinger Bunny Popsicle Fly.
This multi-color fly is one of the most popular salmon flies in Alaska and the West Coast and is a very productive fly for Coho and Chinook salmon.
The added flash in the tail with the combination of purple, pink, and orange attracts all salmon species.
5. Hoh Bo Spey
The Hoh Bo Spey is one of my favorite swinging flies for steelhead, but it’s been great for Coho salmon and for kings.
For Coho salmon, I tie this in many colors. However, bright pink, orange/purple, black/blue, and white/chartreuse have been hot color patterns for me.
6. Davis Spanker Fly
It might be worth adding the Davis Spanker or the variation known as the Kryptonite Spanker to your salmon fly box.
7. Silver Salmon Fly Selection Box
If you want a hand-picked selection of flies for coho salmon, look no further than this Coho Salmon Fly Selection box, which is available at Alaska Fishing Goods.
These are guide-tested and proven to be consistently good flies for silver salmon fishing on the West Coast.
Other flies for Silver Salmon Include:
- Intruder Fly
- Dolly Llama
- Zonker Minnow
- Egg Patterns
- Clouser Minnow
- Foam Top Wog Fly
5 Best Flies For Pink Salmon
Pink salmon prefer flies in the 1.5 to 3.5-inch range, and they seem to love pink-colored flies, especially if there is some silver flash added.
These are the best pink salmon flies to try.
1. Humpy Hooker
The Humpy Hooker is said to be the best fly for pink salmon on the West Coast and in Alaska. The experts at Alaska Fishing Goods say the humpy hooker will out fish all other flies.
That’s a bold claim, but they are the experts, so I don’t doubt it.
2. Clouser Minnow
The Clouser is an old traditional fly that I have caught just about every river species with, including bass and carp.
The closer is also a great pink salmon fly worth having in your box.
Two to three-inch Clouser Minnows in pink or chartreuse are good options.
3. Borden Special: Tie this classic in Pink and white or chartreuse and white.
4. Rubber Leg Nymph: The rubber leg nymph listed above, tied in pink, is a good option for nymph fishing.
5. Nuke Egg: Pink salmon will also eat egg patterns while nymph fishing. One of my favorites is the Nuke Egg Fly. It is also good for other species.
Chum & Pink Fly Selection Kit
Chances are, if you’re fishing for pink salmon, there will be chum salmon in the river, and they usually eat the same flies.
This is a hand-picked selection of 30 of the most effective pink salmon flies from the experts and guides at Alaska Fishing Goods.
Other great pink salmon flies include:
- Hoh Bo Spey: Pink and white.
- Zonker: Pink, White, and Chartreuse.
- Egg Sucking Leech: Pink body with white, orange, red, or chartreuse head.
- Flash Woolly Bugger: Pink with silver flash.
Best Flies For Chum Salmon
Chum salmon love flies, and they love pink flies and chartreuse-colored flies. I also like to mix in purple or black with some of my flies.
Pink and purple or chartreuse mixed with purple or black can be excellent color combinations.
Almost any 2 to 3-inch salmon pattern listed here will catch chum. These are some of the best chum salmon flies.
1. Foam Top Wog Fly
Foam Top Wog Fly was designed for silver salmon fishing on the surface, but it turns out this is a great topwater fly for Chum Salmon to.
This fly moves a lot of water and makes a lot of commotion that gets those active salmon to bite.
It’s also a good summer steelhead fly.
2. Comet Fly: The Comet fly tied in pink, orange, red, or chartreuse is a good fly for chum salmon.
2. Woolly Bugger: Pink, chartreuse, orange
3. Dolly Llama
5. Hoh Bo Spey
Best Flies For Sockeye Salmon
Sockeye Salmon flies tend to be different from other flies that work for salmon fishing. They are smaller and thinner and almost resemble bright wet flies you would use for wet fly fishing for trout.
These smaller, sparsely tied Sockeye salmon flies are ideal for nymphing and slow swinging methods.
Wide gape hooks sparsely covered ten to be best for Sockeye salmon.
1. Sockeye Lantern
The Sockeye Lantern fly is a top fly pattern for Sockeye salmon. This fly is best dead drifted under an indicator.
With its Krystal flask and spall profile, sockeye go nuts for this fly. This is the #1 socket fly for some guides in Alaska, and it comes in multiple colors for varying conditions.
2. Mercer’s Sockeye Fly
3. Mercer’s Sockeye Fly: Invented by legendary angler Mike Mercer is a classic-looking salmon fly known as Mercer’s Sockeye Fly.
It is subtle in size and color to entice fussy reds. Try it in green, pink, red, and orange.
3. Sockeye Lightning: This fly is popular in Alaska for salmon. It’s very basic, sparsely tied, and good in red, white, chartreuse, and orange. A great Alaskan salmon fly that is used by guides and anglers.
4. Sockeye Killer: A thin, sparsely-covered fly with lead eyes gets this fly down in faster water or when sockeye are deeper.
5. Allys Shrimp: This is a double hook fly that is used for multiple salmon species. This is a bright fly that is good for catching salmon with the swing method.
6. The Sockeye Salmon Fly Selection
The Sockeye Salmon Fly Selection is great way to get all the flies you need in one shot.
This is a hand-picked selection of 28 effective sockeye fly patterns from the guides at Alaska Fly Fishing.
Check them out for these and more great flies for salmon.
Great Lakes Salmon Flies
I have spent many days fishing for Chinook and coho salmon around the Great Lakes region. In many cases, anglers will fish salmon the same way they fish steelhead, which is with nymphing methods and streamer or swinging methods.
The best flies for Great Lakes salmon are:
I have caught a lot of salmon on worm fly patterns like the San Juan Worm.
A 3 to 4-inch worm in pink, red, and brown will usually entice some bites, and some days, the worm pattern is my #1 fly for salmon.
2. Hex Nymph: The Hex Nymph fly is an excellent pattern in the tributaries flowing into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. It is widely used in Michigan rivers for trout and is also excellent for targeting king salmon and cohos.
3. Egg Flies: Egg flies like the Estez egg, the Glo Bug, and the Blood dot egg fly are all great for targeting salmon on all the Great Lakes rivers. Bright colors are best. Try gold/yellow, orange, pink, and chartreuse. Depending on the water conditions, you may need to try different colors to find the right fly.
4. Bead Head Wooly Bugger
5. Snake Fly: The snake fly is a long fly that is very similar to the bunny leech and is good for imitating bait fish.
6. Hoh Bo Spey
Also, see my article on the Best Spey Flies For Great Lakes Salmon.
Best Atlantic Salmon Flies
Atlantic salmon anglers are very picky about the salmon fly patterns they use. Often, they prefer to use traditional patterns that have been used for generations. But times are changing, and many anglers are starting to try flies used on Pacific salmon species to catch salmon on the East Coast.
If you plan on targeting Atlantic salmon, these flies should be in your box.
1. Mahoney Spey Fly
Spey Flies like the Mahoney Spey Fly, and the Traditional Spey Fly are common and effective flies for Atlantic salmon fishing.
2. Crusher fly
3. Hairwing Flies
4. Stoats Tail
5. The Executioner
6. Allys Shrimp
7. Foam Top Wog Fly: Designed for coho salmon but also good for Atlantic Salmon
10 Best Dry Flies For Salmon
There are times when salmon will rise up and grab a dead drifted fly or a dry fly skated across the surface. Although dry fly fishing for salmon was only done from Atlantic salmon, more fly anglers are trying this for Pacific salmon species.
Why Do Salmon Love Dry Flies?
Salmon feed on flies above and below the water when they are young. When they return as mature adults, the instinct to eat a dry fly on the surface is still there under the right conditions and the right water.
The best dry flies for salmon fishing include:
- The Bomber Fly: The Bomber flyr is likely the most popular salmon dry fly ever invented.
- 2. Grizzly Wulff
- 3. Ratface MacDougall
- 4. Brown Whiskers
- 5. Dry Cosseboom
- 6. Salmon Caddis
- 7. Klinkhammer
- 8. Crimson Butt Bug
- 9. Chernobyl Ant
- 10. Foam Top Wog Fly
When To Use a Dry Fly For Salmon?
I use dry flies for salmon in calmer water and when I see action on the surface of the water.
Classic Streamer Patterns
- Blue Charm
- Silver Doctor
- Black Doctor
- Green Highlander
- Durham Ranger
- Fiery Brown
- Helmsdale Doctor
- Spey Fly
Tube Flies For Salmon- What are tube flies?
I still remember when tube flies started gaining popularity in my area, and I had to bring tube flies and tube fly tying kits into my fishing store. I started to fly fish with tube flies around 2010.
A tube fly is simply a fly tied on a small skinny tube, and the leader is passed through the tube and then tied to a wide gap single hook.
Just about every fly pattern above could be tied on a tube, and your local fly shop should have everything you need to tie them, including special tube fly boxes.
Tube flies are perfect for salmon, and these are some of the best tube flies for salmon.
- Bunny Hare Leech Tube Fly
- Scandi Candy
- Hartwicks Marabou Flashtail Tube Fly
- Harwicks Marabou Tube Fly
Deeper/Faster Water Salmon Flies For Salmon
- Frankie McPhillips Cascade Shrimp Gold Conehead
- Jock Scott
- Olsen Salmon Fly
- Green Machine Salmon Fly
What Kind Of Fly Box For Salmon Fishing?
When it comes to the best fly box for salmon fishing, you usually need a slightly larger box. I have one fly box for all my salmon nymphs and egg patters, and another box for all my streamers. There are also fly boxes that are suitable for tube flies.
See all my recommended boxes on my page, Best Fly Boxes.
What size flies for salmon?
The size of salmon flies to use will range between one inch and five inches. However, egg fly patterns and some nymphs will be smaller than one inch. The ideal size of fly for salmon is between 2.5 and 3.5 inches.
I will also upsize or down size my flies based on the conditions. As an example, higher water or dirtier water would require a bigger brighter fly. Whereas, low clear water is often better fished with smaller flies.
What type of hooks for salmon?
The best type of hooks for salmon flies are thick and strong wider-gape single hooks. At times, a double hook is suitable for salmon fishing.
Should I use barbless hooks for salmon?
Some areas and some rivers require barbless hooks, however, you could have success with either a barbless hook or a barbed hook since both have their benefits and drawbacks. 90% of my salmon hooks have barbs.
What do flies for salmon imitate?
Flies for salmon imitate insects, fish eggs, or baitfish. The size, shape, and pattern changes based on which of those you are trying to imitate.
Are salmon flies the same as flies for salmon?
There is an aquatic insect called the Salmon fly. It is a large western giant stonefly. Although the imitation version of it can be used to catch salmon, it is not exclusively a salmon fly since trout and steelhead love these large Salmon Flies too.
Best Flies For Salmon Fishing Q&A
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