6 must-have spring flies

Ross Macdonald picks six patterns every angler needs this spring.

Most fly selections in blogs and articles are notable for the patterns they leave out just as much as they are for those that make the list. I don't recall looking at any such list without thinking it was lacking in some way. Of course, that is the pleasure of fly choice; it's an endless source of conjecture among us anglers. So, here are six suggestions for you to try. I have included some of the usual candidates and a couple you may not have tried before.

1. & 2. Scottish style bucktail tubes

Scottish Sporting Gazette

Scottish Sporting Gazette

These still form the backbone of early spring fishing in Scotland. Lots of new flies have come onto the scene, but these old favourites remain as popular as ever. In the early season the Willie Gunn and Tosh are must-haves on every river and are my first two selections. There will be local favourites and endless variants, but these two flies - dressed on a mix of aluminium and copper tubes from ?? to about 1?? - are the spine of any cold water spring selection.

3. Monkey

Scottish Sporting Gazette

Of all the many wonderful imports from Scandinavia, the Monkey has really captured the imagination throughout Scotland and is a strong rival to the Willie Gunn and Tosh, having been embraced everywhere as a fantastic spring fly. They can be dressed on any tube you like. I like them on short heavy brass tubes and longer plastic tubes with a conehead. In February and March these can be heavy bottle style tubes, dressed with 3" - 4" wings or longer to be swum deep through cold spring pools. Why not try these with an orange hackle as well as the more common yellow?

4. Maggie's Shrimp

Scottish Sporting Gazette

As it is my selection I get to include one of my own patterns! Maggie's Shrimp is from the same family of flies as my Park and Calvin's Shrimps, which have proved themselves to be worthy additions to any fly box. I like these on ?? and ?? tubes and coneheads and on silver double hooks. These are light mobile flies which look alive in the water, and are irresistible to fresh fish. Black, yellow and silver is a favourite colour combination for spring, and Maggie's Shrimp is a fine example.

5. Wee Brown Pig

Scottish Sporting Gazette

The Pot Belly Pig is a firm favourite and this version, tied by my late father, is a small lightly-dressed version that can be deadly for running fish. He only ever tied it on a copper tube and generally fished it off a floater with a short tip, perhaps with a couple of mends at the start to let it sink a little, before being swung over the lies. I have seen him take springers off the Lochy, Spey and Thurso with this set up.

6. Thurso Dog

Scottish Sporting Gazette

This is a pattern my father devised, taking element of a number of classic spring patterns, including the Garry Dog, Fast Eddie and Willie Gunn. We took a few springers together on this, usually on bucktail Waddingtons. I also like it Scandi style on short brass tubes, and it works well on doubles later in the spring and into summer. Green is not a common colour in Scotland, so it is certainly something different to add to the mix!

Tight lines all!

To see more of Ross' creations, visit www.macdonaldsalmonflies.co.uk

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