Tackling-Up for Back-End Autumn Salmon Fly Fishing

Tackling-Up for Back-End Autumn Salmon Fly Fishing

Autumn Salmon Fishing

The final few months of the salmon season can provide the most prolific sport of the year as large autumn fish enter our rivers, hopefully in good numbers. On rivers with a true autumn run this time represents the pinnacle of the season’s sport and salmon anglers travel from far and wide to enjoy this marvellous fishing. Being correctly prepared will make the most of your time on the river as the days get shorter.

Our most famous back-end fishery is unquestionably the Tweed, and the best fishing on this river is both sought after and expensive. The Tweed valley can be very beautiful in the autumn as the leaves change colour and is without doubt a great place to be at this time. There will be a good stock of fish in the pools with new fish coming into the river on each tide and moving up the river when conditions are suitable. There is good fishing to be found on other rivers in the autumn and a little research will reveal some great fishing at attractive prices. Start your search at www.fishpal.com – be aware that the best fishing disappears quickly. The tackle recommendations below are given with the Tweed in mind but apply equal to other larger borders rivers that stay open into October and November.

Autumn Salmon Northumberland
A beautiful autumn salmon caught in Northumberland

Fly Rods
Just a few years ago the standard double-handed fly rod for back-end fishing would have been a 15’ model casting a 10/11 weight line. Recent advances in both rod & line design and manufacturing technology have allowed shorter and lighter rods to be used. It is now common to see rods down to 13’ in length used matched with modern fly line systems. In normal conditions they cast nearly as far as longer rods and make much lighter work of a day on the river. The longer rods still have a place for more extreme conditions however, and are still an important tool in the salmon angler’s armoury. Ideally it works well to have a couple of rods set up with different lines to allow tactical variation without having to break down your tackle.

Fly Reels
A perfect salmon fly reel needs a smooth disc drag system, line capacity to carry a spey, skagit or shooting head line plus 200yds of backing, plus the correct weight to balance the rod nicely in your hands. My preference is for a large arbor design although some prefer a traditional design with a loud click check. The most important things are that the drag yields line smoothly regardless of the amount of drag being applied and has enough line capacity.

Autumn Salmon Tackle
It’s important to select the best tackle

Fly Lines
Unless you hit a period of low water you should expect to fish with sinking fly lines of one type or another. Precisely which densities of lines you use will be determined by the depth of water and the power of the flow. However, like all things in salmon fishing there are plenty of exceptions to disprove any rules that we think exist, so it always pays to keep an open mind and have a range of options at your fingertips. Years ago, a very wise and well-travelled angler told me to always carry a fast-sinking fly line on any fly fishing trip anywhere. This is excellent advice and has, on occasion, caught me the only fish of the day when the water is high and coloured. There are quite a few options today with the style of line you choose – spey, skagit or shooting head. All are good options in the right conditions and have their own pros and cons. If you are fishing from a boat a skagit line is a great choice – they are very easy to cast from a sitting position. If you want an easy casting sinking line set up a shooting head system is easy to handle and easily adaptable to suit conditions. They also work well with shorter lighter rods. Spey lines are perfect for those that prefer a longer bellied line that does not have to be retrieved so far in before recasting. Your final choice will be one of personal preference, but please feel free to call any of our stores for advice before making your decision.

Autumn Salmon Flies
Choose your autumn salmon flies carefully!

As you will be returning most or all of the fish you catch it’s best to use either single or double hooked flies. Trebles are best avoided. Take a range of tube flies tied on tungsten, brass/copper, alloy and plastic tubes. This will give you good tactical variation. Choose tried and trusted patterns – cascades, willie guns etc. plus some change patterns like the red francis, sunray shadow and snaeldas. These can be fished close to the bottom or stripped back quickly (particularly the sunray) to provoke an aggressive response from the fish. If the water is lower remember to take a box of singles and doubles down to size 10 for use in lighter flows. If it’s cold and there are lots of fish in the pools red can be a killing colour for your fly.

Shop Autumn Salmon Fishing

If you need any further advice for autumn salmon fishing or indeed have any top tips of your own, please leave your comments below! It’s great to share & chat. You can also share with all your friends via our social sharing buttons below.



  1. hi, I’m hoping to fish Lower Kinnaird in early October, sadly for one day only, so probably will be bristling with all the wrong sort of kit. Any advice for what to take: Normally fish with a l4′, with varying tips to line?

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