Bill Drury – Five favourite salmon flies
Bill Drury nominates his five most indispensable fly patterns for Atlantic salmon and explains why he simply couldn't live without them.
Bill Drury has been involved in salmon fishing for almost 30 years, mainly on the River Spey where he was head ghillie on the Knockando beat for many years. He has fished for Atlantic salmon all over the world, is a World Champion spey caster and has been designing tackle for over 10 years. He is currently working as an Atlantic salmon fishing consultant with Roxtons.
Having to choose five salmon flies is possibly easier for me than for most salmon fishermen. The main criteria for me is confidence – confidence in the way the fly looks and swims in the water. Thereafter, it is my job is to present that fly in a way that I feel will attract fish. Having a picture in my mind of what the fly is doing throughout the swing is another confidence booster and I will adjust this depending on the height, flow, colour and temperature of the water.
No British salmon fisher's fly selection would be complete without a Cascade pattern of some sort. The original Cascade, invented by Scottish ghillie Ally Gowans, who also invented the once ubiquitous Ally's Shrimp, has probably accounted for as many if not more Scottish salmon over the past 10 years or so than any other single pattern.
Although another of my favourites, the Green Flee (below), is also tied in a Cascade style, the Aurora has more of the original Cascade colours and the green butt and gold holographic body are enough to convince me that it has that little bit more going for it.
I fish this pattern in a conventional down and across manner on double hooks of various sizes.
This pattern was first introduced to me a few seasons ago by fishing friend Edwin Whyte. Tied with a chartreuse and grey collar hackle, silver body and red and yellow bucktail tail, it is one of those patterns that instantly instills confidence in you simply because of how good it looks in the water. It almost immediately became one of my go-to confidence patterns.
Fished in a conventional, down and across manner, either on a floating line or sink-tip – depending on the water height, depth and temperature – it has yielded a lot of salmon for me over the past few seasons, particularly during the summer and autumn months.
I tend to tie the Green Flee on Salar double hooks in various sizes, although I also tie them on aluminium tubes.
Yellow & Black Monkey
This is my favourite early-season fly. I would fish this quite happily all day long, confident that if I come across a taking fish it will almost certainly have a go.
Monkey patterns are normally fished on a sinking line or sink-tip, dependent on the water level and temperature. As a rule of thumb, the colder and higher the river, the deeper and slower the fly should be fished. This pattern is usually dressed on a copper tube, although my personal preference is for bottle tubes.
If the water is low, clear and cold then I would still use a sink-tip, but I would opt to change to a Sunray Shadow (below).
Invented by Ray Brooks in Norway on the banks of the Laerdal, the Sunray was originally tied on plastic tubes using three materials: white-tipped squirrel fur, colobus monkey hair and peacock herl. It is an incredibly versatile fly and can be fished in a number of different ways.
As mentioned above, it would be my go-to fly in low, clear, cold water, swung conventionally on either a sinking line or sink-tip. But it can also be cast square and stripped fast across a pool which will often produce a reaction – either a boil behind the fly or an aggressive take.
Early in the season, by stripping it more slowly it can be also be used as a fish-finding pattern. Once a fish has moved to the Sunray, as they often will without committing to the take, the fish can then be targeted with a smaller or more conventional fly.
Gold Bodied Willie Gunn
The Willie Gunn has been an ever-present in my fly box since I started salmon fishing almost 30 years ago.
Named after a keeper and ghillie on the Sutherland Estates, it is reputed to have produced six salmon from the River Brora on its first outing. Dressed in the colours of the classic Thunder & Lightning, it went on to become one of the most successful salmon flies of the 20th century. It can be dressed on conventional hooks or tubes and has spawned numerous variants over the years.
I use this fly all season and have had success with it tied on tubes of various sizes and types, as well as doubles.
A lot has been written about this fly over the years and I can't really add much more, other than to say that it is set to remain an eternal favourite as long as we fly fish for salmon.