The Stoat's Tail is a very effective solid, dependable, traditional Atlantic salmon and sea trout pattern. This fly derived its name from the fact that it was first winged with the black tip of a stoats tail now dyed bucktail is preferred.
SALMON AND STEELHEAD SINGLE HOOK FLY PATTERNS. Hook size 6 8 - $US each
The dark silhouette the Stoat's Tail fly creates works in crystal clear summer level water as well as the colored water of a spring flood. The North American steelhead Black Bear fly has more than a passing resemblance to the Stoat's tail. It is a good bet when the fish refuse the more gaudy patterns and during times of low water disinterested fish. There is debate over it's origins. In "Trout and Salmon Flies" by Sutherland and Chance it is listed as originating at Park on the river Dee in Scotland. In the "Encyclopedia of Fly Fishing" by Conrad Voss Bark the Stoats tail is credited to James Wright of Sprouston-on-Tweed (Scotland) made during 1870-80's. Nowadays it is given a dyed bucktail or black squirrel wing. The salmon do not appear to notice the difference as it is still a very productive salmon fly. This black fly can be irresistible to salmon, Steelhead and sea trout in difficult summer conditions of high water temperature and low levels. It is also very popular in big clear water rivers. This fly will take both "stale" and "fresh" fish in all hook sizes and weather conditions. It is a good all-round fly.
Grilse Salmon & the Stoat's Tail Fly
Grilse are young, returning adult salmon that have spent one winter at sea in the North Sea or Atlantic Ocean. They have changed over winter from being only a few ounces to now being several pounds in weight. You will find them appearing about May time in Northern European salmon rivers. My favourite patterns salmon fly patterns for Grilse are Ally's shrimp, Blue Charm and of course the Black Stoats Tail.
Grilse salmon are very energetic and do not like being hooked. They will do everything they can to dislodge and throw a hook. Many anglers are lucky to land one in 10. Landing is also problematic. If you try to grab the tail of a grilse, one wriggle and you will see it slip from your grasp. Normally I hate carrying landing nets but you would be silly to go on the water without one during the return of the grilse.
During the season you will see bright silver sparkling small salmon at the heads and tails of pools as they make their charge back up River. They are prized as a sporting quarry because of the difficulty in keeping a young grilse hooked on your line. They do their utmost to struggle free with more energy, vigor, head shaking and aerobatics the many larger fish. I have found the most productive time to go fishing is at dusk. The darker conditions appears to give them confidence to leave their comfortable daytime lie and swim upstream into the faster well oxygenated current.
A Black Stoats Tail salmon fly cast near the neck of one of these pools normally tempts one of the young salmon to take a bite. I have observed that dark storm clouds also have the same effect in stirring the salmon into action. I do not know whether it is the lowering of water temperature or the reduction in light that triggers this reaction. Either way, when the light goes, so do the grilse so you had better be ready with your rod and flies.
In smaller rivers, the fish find problems navigating their way upstream because of the lack of water depth. After a good rainstorm the rivers soon fill up with water washed down from the hillsides. This is what the waiting grilse salmon have been hoping for. They take full advantage of the deeper water conditions and storm up the river.
Tips for Spring Salmon fly fishing
Salmon are one of the most sought after gamefish in the world for three reasons: first because of their size; second, because of their unpredictable taking habits; third, because they taste good.
Most experienced fisherman would agree that the thrill and anticipation of not knowing what size a fish is when it first takes is part of the charm of this fascinating sport. The fly fisherman at first hasn’t the remotest idea whether a fish that takes is a 5lb grilse salmon or a salmon of 20lb or more.
Because of the salmon’s unpredictable taking habits and the fact that returning fish do not feed in fresh water, nobody can be dogmatic about what type of fishing pattern it will take, or when it is most likely to take it.
The Salmon angler is therefore left with no alternative but to be confident, patient and persistent, hoping that he will find a salmon fishing fly that will trigger his quarry to make an instinctive attack and a presentation that assists in getting this response.
The main lesson to be learned is that it does not pay to plug away day after day with the same fly, casting style and presentation, regardless of the ever changing water, weather and temperature conditions. Use your eyes and observe what is happening around you. Try to work out how these changing conditions will affect fish behaviour. A good example is how water temperature, that fluctuates throughout the day, controls what depth you will find fish.
If you fish a pool without success, fish it down again with a different fly, or size of fly. Then try a different presentation, casting squarer across the pool, or moving the fly more slowly or more quickly than previously.
Return later in the day and back-up the pool instead of fishing it down. It often pays, too, when doing this last thing in the evening to put a large long winged fly and fish it quickly through the water as a last resort. I have found this trick works surprisingly often when nothing else does, especially in the spring.
When changing flies, salmon anglers are often inclined to put on a different pattern or a similar sized fly to the one that has just been ignored i.e. a size 6 Munro killer replaced by a size 6 Stoats Tail. This can sometimes do the trick however a radical increase or decrease in size I have found is more productive. In Spring, however, unless the weather is reasonably mild, a change to a larger fly is much more likely to work than a change to a smaller one.
If you are fishing with a friend it is wise to use the same fly pattern but each use a different size, then use different presentations to decrease the time it takes to work out what is best practice for that day. One could use an intermediate or a sink tip whilst the other uses a slow sinker line. Or if one is using a fast-sinker the other could use a slow-sinking line. If one moves his fly fast the other could fish slowly.
By co-operating and varying tactics the unsuccessful variables that get no response can be ruled out early on. This will give you a much more fun interesting days fishing if you apply a little bit of logic.
In the morning salmon are likely to be resting in the larger holding pools after an overnight journey. Fish prefer to ascend up a river during darkness so they do not expose themselves to aerial predation from birds like fish eagles.
By mid-afternoon, however with dusk only a few hours away, salmon often begin to move quietly, provided the weather is mild. Then they can be found in the necks of pools or in shallower resting runs or small pools, where they often take a fly more freely towards the evening than when lying in the deep, slacker, holding pools.
It always pays to fish quickly through all the pools on your beat, your stretch of the river, then return to fish them again. If perchance one is showing more activity than the rest you can leave time to fish it once again last thing in the evening.
These tactics ensure you search your whole beat thoroughly and effectively. You will not miss a pool in which a run of fish may be resting on that particular day. If you are fishing a beat low down in the river system in Spring, make sure you check the time of high tide and plan your fishing accordingly.
Fish are likely to come off the tide most frequently when it is full and some hours after it starts to ebb. If your stretch actually runs down to the tidal area of the river fish down your beat so you meet the fish coming off the tide during that period of the day. Do not fall into the trap of allowing them to pass without seeing your fly.
I was fishing for trout on the river Usk. It was near dusk. The river was low. I knew there may be a chance of some sea-trout so I tied on a small Stoats Tail. I felt a solid draw on my line and after a 15 minute fight landed a 12 lb salmon. I later caught three Brown trout around the 1 lb mark and a larger chub. What a fly! - Hugh Montgomery
Last week on the Miramichi they were taking a Size 8 ... But "they" is somewhat of an overstatement as the fish were few and far between: ONE fish per pair of rods in 6 1/2 days! Absolutely glorious fishing nonetheless and fortunately that one fish was my 14-year old son's first Atlantic salmon. We have a convert in the next generation!... "Bright days, bright flies and dark days, dark flies" is the colloquial rule although it is hard to believe sometimes... My son's fish was taken in the evening on a rather dark day so I would say it IS true. - Jane Cooke