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Saltwater Attractor Fly Patterns for Salmon and Steelhead


Saltwater attractor fly patterns can be tough to figure out, especially for species such as salmon and steelhead trout, which live in both fresh and saltwater at times of their life.

So trying to match the hatch can be a never-ending guessing game, which makes attractor fly patterns that much more valuable in the eyes of newer fly anglers or even avid fly fishers who are new to an area they're fishing or are unfamiliar with the species they're pursing.

That said, here are some popular saltwater attractor patterns for nearshore saltwater species such as salmon, steelhead and char.

Shrimp Flies

To be more specific, one of my favorite shrimp flies is Ally's Shrimp Fly, with is simiar to but lighter and and more streamlined than the General Practitioner, which is another great shrimp fly.

The Ally's is great because it catches -- and lands -- fish. Because it has a treble hook, if you hook a fish you're going to land it with this pattern. So keep in mind these flies are tied for the most part with trebles, which you'll have to remove if fly fishing heavily regulated waters or catch and only species for the most part.

It's best for the fish anyway to use single, barbless hooks, so please keep that in mind when tying your own flies as well.

The Ally's, like many shrimp flies, is great, all-season, all-water type fly.

Egg Flies

These types of flies are exactly what they sound like, an imitation of salmon or steelhead roe. They come in red, orange, yellow, pink, even purple, and look ike the salmon eggs you probably used as a kid.

Like salmon eggs as a kid, you'll want to use sinking lines and consider a splitshot to get the "fly" down on the river bed, using a dead drift over the spawning grounds.

It'll be tougher to feel a nibble down there, so you might want to tie on an indicator as well, and definitely keep the line tight and a feel for that first strike.


The bomber is a Finish fly that originated in Lapland and was used for salmon on the Tana River. It can also double for large trout in the warmer months if a large caddis hatch is coming off.

Other than it's size, this brown, earth-tone pattern doesn't scream eat me, so it might not be as "attractive" as some of the others on this list.


Who doesn't enjoy a good flash? All kidding aside, the flash fly is a classic and must-have fly in your box in Alaska. This pink/red streamer stands out like no other in salmon waters.

Strip this spinner look-alike through the bottom two-thirds of the river and you're going to attract fish every time.

Red Tips

Like some of the others on this list, red tips is more of an unofficial term for the description of two more popular attractor patterns I can't live with out.

The Zulu and Ferry Canyon are similar in look, but they're used in different situations.

Both are dark flies with red tips, and both are to be fished on darker days, but the Ferry Canyon is much bigger and geared toward larger fish such as steelhead.

The Zulu, which is an all-time classic, is a loch pattern for use on gloomy UK days, but is much smaller and geared toward sea trout.


And then there are the "teeny" flies. The smalls that are more about quantity than quality, and will get you on a few smaller fish in a hurry.

The Teeny Fly is a simple fly tied of pheasant. So while it's small, it's pretty durable and can be useful around cover and vegetation because the hook is covered by the pattern itself.

Enjoy this piece? Check out our "From the Guides" articles on:

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Fly Fishing Northern New Mexico: The Chama River and other fine fisheries make New Mexico a hidden gem for fly fishers.
Fly Fishing Cape Cod: A look at some tips for for shore fly fishing Cape Cod.
Fly Fishing Cranberry River: All about fly fishing the tasty river in West Virginia.
Fly Fishing Colorado River: A closer look at the 16-mile stretch from Lees Ferry to Glen Canyon Dam.
Fly Fishing British Columbia: Pemberton gives anglers all sorts of fly fishing options.
Fly Fishing Helton Creek: The fishery out of Jefferson, N.C. provides some of the best fly fishing North Carolina has to offer.
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