Usk salmon flies and fishing tactics

Advice on salmon flies:

Many good salmon flies exists that can be used successfully on the river Usk.

  • In early spring use relatively large flies (black and yellow colours are usually good)
  • In May it is recommended to scale down the size of flies used and towards the end of May flies should generally be between size 8 and 12. Good flies to consider include:
    • Usk Grub
    • Wye Bug
    • Bann Special
    • Cascade
    • Ally Shrimp
    • Reverend mole
    • Any fly that brings confidence to the angler

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  • Into June and in July size 10-12 flies are usually best and some have success using very small tube flies. These flies works both for grilse and larger salmon.
Small tube flies with turbo disks with an overall length between 1.5 and 3 cm.
  • In August very small flies are needed if the water levels are down but if spate conditions prevail bigger and more colourful flies can be tried again
  • In September and October bigger flies should be used such as size 6-8 and it usually is a good idea to include red and orange colours in the fly
The Bandit
  • It is generally a good idea to use colours in the fly similar to the colours of the water and riverbed so yellow, brown and grey colours can be very successful on the river Usk. At the same time a colourful Cascade type fly is used with great success by some of our members
  • In general avoid using too much flash in the fly but a little and subtle flash added on the body and/or wing can be good albeit 1-2 strands only and not 20!!
  • Flies with a cobber coloured body can be very good from late May onwards but a silver body is usually better early in the season

If you happen to be near Usk town then please do not miss the opportunity to visit Sweets tackle shop where the best trout and salmon flies for the river Usk are made by Jean Williams. Jean also has all the latest news from the river.

Advice on fly fishing tactics:

  • Try to fish the fly fast and in particular from May onwards. The aim should be to achieve a slight down stream curve in the fly line so that the fly fish with some speed across the river. The rod tip should be held out across the river and a little upstream to ensure you maintain tension in your fly line as the fly moves towards your bank.
Down stream line belly (Reference: “Salmon Fly Presentations“, 5th June 2014)
  • It is usually best to fish the fly near to the surface using a floating or intermediate line.
  • Early in the season or during spate conditions sinking lines or sink tip lines are worth trying
  • As a golden rule, the fly cannot be fished too fast unless the fly is very small!
  • Try to ensure the fly line lands in a straight line on the water so that the fly starts to fish immediately it gets into the water. It is much better to cast a short line well than a long line that lands in a heap and where the fly drift down with the current instead of fishing immediately it lands on the water. The fly must look like a living thing to attract the salmon!
  • Take a minimum of 2 steps between casts. A salmon will often lose interest in a fly if it sees it coming down the river slowly in small steps before getting to the fish… Always aim to surprise the fish with your fly!
  • Sometimes and in particular in slower pools, it is recommended to put some life into your fly. This can be done by pulling in line while the fly is fishing across the pool. Do not wait until the fly is hanging in the stream below you but try instead handlining from the moment the fly is in the water. Some days long steady pulls works well whereas on other days shorter pulls with more erratic action seems to work better.
  • Try to avoid wading too deep and it is usually best to stay as close to the bank as possible. A salmon will not take your fly or spinner if it is scared or has seen the angler!
  • In the summer, a salmon might be found in much faster water than when the water is cold so never fail to fish fast flowing water with care such as right at the top of a pool.
  • On a bright sunny day try to avoid fishing with the sun behind you. This advice is particulaly important when using a floating line. The floating line will cast a shadow through the water column that the salmon is likely to perceive as a obstruction or even worse as a threat. I have had several salmon jumping over my line in panic under such conditions. Try instead to fish facing the sun or having the sun to one of your sides and it is recommended to either use an intermediate line to get the line into the water and/or to use a longer leader than normal (+15′)

Advice on fly fishing gear:

  • Most people use too heavy rods and lines on the river Usk
    • Try to leave the 10/11 rod at home and instead use a 8/9 salmon rod with a length between 12’6″ and 13’6″
    • In the summer, a rod rated for a 7 line can be a delight to fish with on the river Usk
    • A rod rated for a 9/10 line is good for spate conditions and for fishing early in the season with bigger flies and sink tip lines
  • Heavy lines 10/11 or even worse skagit lines make much more noise than lighter lines both when landing on the water surface and during Spey casting. Any noise and other disturbances, such as careless wading,  can easily disturb the salmon and in particular once they have been in the river for a few days. A frightened  salmon will never take your fly or spinner!!!
  • Most fly fishing on the river Usk from May to October can be done with a floating fly line. Coupled with a good selection of polyleaders in different lengths and sinking densities, a floating line will cover most situations that you will come across. Exceptions include bright sun-light, cold water, fast streams and currents and heavy water conditions such as when the river is in spate where sink tip lines or even sinking lines can be better.
  • Invest in a good reel. An old fashioned reel with a click and pawl braking system is wonderful for the noise emitted during a fight but a more modern reel with a good braking system might be better when you connect with the fish of a lifetime …
  • Use good leader material either fluorocarbon or normal nylon and check this regularly for any damage such as knots and/or abrasion. 15 Ibs strength is best for most conditions but a 12 Ibs leader is recommended for low and clear water conditions. A 10 Ibs leader should only be used in exceptional circumstances and then one has to be very careful during a fight with big and even medium size fish.

Recommended reading:

Below are some links to other websites on the subject of salmon fishing and flies that might provide additional inspiration:

  1. Two articles written by Bill Bryden in Rackelhanen (this website also contains lots of other interesting information)
  2. Fishmadman website with useful information on innovative types of salmon flyfishing
  3. Letsflyfish by Ally Gowans
  4. The SalmonFishingForum (SFF) contains useful information on salmon fishing from expert anglers and has an annual thread on the river Usk under the Welsh rivers section
  5. A couple of articles from that can be read using a translator such as provided by Google or Microsoft