Australian salmon – the winter flyfishers favourite
  |  First Published: June 2013

If there was ever a perfect species for winter fly fishers, it is the Australian salmon.

Salmon are everywhere in winter – in the surf, estuaries, bays and coastal areas. In fact you have to try pretty hard to not find a salmon in winter.

They are the perfect target – they feed hard on the surface, love a fast pulled fly, go like steam trains and release very easily. Mostly they range from 250g tiddlers up to 3-4kg, depending upon where on the coast you chase them.

Here on my home waters of the Tamar River they rarely get about 1kg, but across at St Helens they are much bigger, as well as at the mouth of the Swan River and at Little Swanport.

In Victoria, Port Phillip has millions of them from the Rip all the way down to the Warmies and everywhere in between.

The estuaries and bays from Western Port to the NSW border through South Gippsland and East Gippsland are home to some incredible populations of salmon – just a quick glance though the many reports in this issue will give a great idea on where to go.

The gear

Basic trout gear is ok for salmon, but if you are planning on getting into some of the bigger specimens you will need to use heavier rods and line.

I mainly use a 7-weight outfit, and I’ve landed salmon up to 3kg on this. It is a fast action saltwater specific rod, but pretty much any good, fast action 7-weight will do the trick. Some guys use an 8-weight, but this is mainly to combat the wind more than anything.

The best line I’ve found is the clear intermediate-sink line or a clear sink-tip line. It pays to get some depth when the fish are about – even when they are busting up on the surface. If possible, steer clear of the lines designed for the tropics. The colder water here in winter sees them coil up like springs, which does make line handling a pest.

Reels will need to be able to cope with the long runs that salmon can make. Mostly salmon will brawl it out if hooked in deep water, but if hooked on a flat then they can scoot off a long way.

Leaders are pretty simple – just 2m of 8lb nylon, 10lb if you are worried about being broken off or if there are big fish about. Salmon have next to no teeth, so you won’t get bitten off unless a tailor comes along – or some barracouta!

The flies

As with any branch of flyfishing, too many flies is never enough! While I am in the simple white Clouser camp for the most part, there are some awesome baitfish patterns about, such as this issues Tying Bench pattern.

I love my Muz Wilson Fuzzled baitfish too, but I’m too scared to use them in case I lose a few!

Keep the flies simple and tie them on with a loop.


Technique is brutally simple. First find your salmon. I often will troll a few lures out the back of the boat while looking – as soon as I hook up I mark the sounder and the start casting. If they are busting on the surface I cast right into middle of the school, let the fly sink and then start pulling very quickly. If they don’t take it, pull faster. Often they become focussed on krill, and speed is necessary if you are to trigger a strike.

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