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What gear do you need for fly fishing salmon in rivers?

What gear do you need for fly fishing salmon in rivers?

Are you looking to catch salmon here in the UK using the fly fishing method? Fly fishing is different to regular fishing in a few ways, one of the main being the gear used. Although fly fishing is most popular for catching trout, it is also a very successful technique to catch salmon too. As salmon is most commonly found in rivers you must ensure your equipment is up to the task.

What is the best fly rod for salmon fishing in rivers?

Finding the best fly rod for your salmon fishing adventure is essential. As salmon fishing takes place on rivers, the size of the river itself plays a part in choosing your fly rod. For most rivers in the UK a rod between 12 - 15ft in length is perfect, for much larger rivers you can get a longer rod and for smaller, you can get a shorter one. As for weight, a fly rod between #8 - #10 is perfect. For salmon two handed spey rods are best as they give the most control when fighting the fish. This setup will give you the rod you need to catch a 25 pound salmon whilst retaining enough flexibility to cast large flies.

Good - Oracle 2 Scandi Double-Handed Rod by Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Oracle 2 Scandi fly rod is perfect for your salmon fishing. Equipped with a short Scandi style handle ideal when using shorted shooting heads or underhand style of casting.

Better - Aydon Double-Handed rod by Hardy Sometimes you need a little more reach, and that’s where the Hardy Aydon fly rod comes to the forefront. More than capable of reaching distant targets with large flies with a fantastic blend of balance, power and recovery.

Best - Delagdo Double-Handed 5 piece by NAM
Specifically designed for the Salmon angler in mind, the Delgado by NAM is a game changer. With a stylish timeless aesthetic, the Delgado will inspire thanks to its medium fast action and low swing weight making for satisfying casting.

Which fly reel should you get for river salmon fishing?

You don’t need to blow your budget when choosing the best fly reel. That said, many believe a reel's only purpose is to hold the line; therefore, buying the cheapest one is job done. Salmon are powerful and fast and can tear your line from the reel completely. Therefore, you must ensure the reel is up to the task. The fly reel should balance the rod setup, control the line, and apply a sound drag system as well.

Good - Fin Fly Reel by Greys
You won’t go wrong with Greys FIN fly reel. This reel provides a sturdy smooth drag and the encased frame prevents line escape. The reel has been designed to ensure the line is well cared for whilst retaining an affordable price point.

Better - Tidal Fly Reel by Greys
The flagship fly reel from Greys is our choice for runner up. The Greys Tital fly reel features an effective and secure spool release, high performance drag system, and increased impact resistance of full barstock construction.

Best - Ultradisc Udla Fly Reel by Hardy
When it comes to the very best you can get for salmon river fishing we must recommend the Hardy Ultradisc fly reel. Hardy really set a new standard in lightweight disc drag reel design and as a result invented the best possible reel for your needs.

Choosing the correct fly line for salmon fishing

If there is any part of the fly fishing setup where quality places the most significant role, it is with the fly line. For salmon fishing there are two main types of fly lines you should be aware of; spey lines, and shooting heads. A spey line has a longer and lighter head section in comparison to a shooting head line.

Spey vs shooting head lines

As for which one is best, it tends to come down to the river itself. As most of our rivers are not that deep, a spey line can be better. However, a line that allows you to go deeper and locate a fish further down can be very effective.

We recommend the RIO Intouch Scandi Outbound for the smoothest casting of all Scandinavian style lines or the RIO Scandi Versitip fly line which comes with four interchangeable tips: floating, intermediate, type 3 and type 6 DC sinking. If you’re looking for a more budget friendly option you can’t go wrong with the RIO intouch scandi 3d spey fly line or the RIO elite metered shooting line both of which are still excellent lines for catching salmon in rivers.

Which backing is best for salmon fishing?

For salmon fishing the backing you choose is of great importance. Backing helps to reduce line memory, prevent line coiling, and extend the length of your line. For salmon fishing in rivers look to add about 100 - 150 yards of backing to your reel before adding the fly line. This extra length will ensure you don’t break your equipment, given the strength of a salmon.

Our choice: RIO 30lb Backing

Best tippet and leader for salmon fishing

Before attaching the flies, you must apply leaders or tippets. A leader is a material that goes between the line and the fly and is often transparent, helping fool the salmon. The tippet attaches to the leader and ties on the fly, and allows the fly to float or 'swim' more naturally. Most anglers choose to use a tippet as it extends the longevity of your leader. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect one type of tippet to work in every scenario, but we’ll give you the best option for fly fishing salmon in rivers.

Our Choice: Seaguar Ace

Choosing the right flies for salmon fishing?

The best flies for salmon fishing do vary a little depending on time of year, water condition, and the river itself. Fly fishing is all about imitating the natural diet of the fish you're looking to catch afterall. We have put together a section for the best salmon flies to ensure you get the best match.


When it comes to the best equipment and gear for salmon fishing, never overlook the clothing. Afterall, the best rod in the world isn’t going to catch a salmon if your fingers are frozen to the core and you’re uncomfortable to the point it’s miserable. We’ve put together the best clothing to make Salmon fly fishing an enjoyable experience even in those winter months.

What are the best waders for river salmon fishing?

Our rivers are often very cold, even in summer. To be successful in your Salmon fishing endeavours, you will require access to waters that you’d not be able to have without good quality waders.

For salmon fishing, you want breathable waders that offer comfort all year round. Chest waders are best as they do not restrict your capacity to enter the water. Here are our top picks to ensure you not only look fly but you're successful too.

Good - Tributary Stockingfoot Waders by Simms
The Simms Tributary Waders is a great ally in your salmon fishing adventures, these popular waders will keep you waterproof and comfortable all day long.

Better - Freestone Stockingfoot Waders by Simms
It’s often the small details that make the difference and with the durable Simms freestone waders there are many. From a large fleece-lined, reach-through hand-warming pocket to heat up cold fingers, to a secure chest pocket to hold essential tools, and a dedicated fly patch for sidelined flies. It's an excellent choice.

Best - G3 Guide Waders by Simms
Our top choice when it comes to the best waders for salmon fishing is without a doubt the Simms G3 Guide Waders. Balancing reliability, breathability, and all-day comfort, the award-winning G3 is 33% more breathable and 23% more puncture-resistant.

Which boots should I wear for fishing salmon in rivers?

Rivers often hide uneven and slippery rocks underfoot that without the right footwear will have you on your backside cold and possibly very sore. Footwear must be waterproof, durable, warm, and offer a high amount of grip. Making the right choice here will allow you to have a much more successful and comfortable Salmon fishing experience.

Good - Tributary Boots by Simms
As with the waders above the Tributary boots are a fine choice. Featuring a felt sole for extra grip on slippery rocks.

Better - Freestone Boots by Simms
Next up is the freestone boots to seamlessly match their warder counterpart. These boots feature a rubbery sole perfect for rocky rivers and have fantastic durability.

Best - G3 Boots by Simms
Of course, it’s the G3 wader boots that come out on top for Salmon river fishing. These boots perform at a very high level, ensuring your foot is well supported, has a fantastic grip, and is durable.

Best Sunglasses for Salmon Fishing

The glare from the river can cause serious harm to your eyesight as harmful UV rays bounce off the surface. As you peer intensely into the water for any sign of that salmon, you could be putting your eyes through irreversible harm. A quality set of polarised sunglasses not only protect your eyes, they aid your ability to see through the water more clearly by blocking too. They also do help you look pretty cool, we must say.

Good - G4 Polarised Sunglasses by Greys
Featuring hydrophobic material which reduces water spots making for much easier cleaning, the G4 polarised sunglasses are a fantastic choice.

Best - Del Mar Jose Pro by Costa
Designed with fishing in mind the Del Mar Jose Pro comes with a scratch-resistant polarised lens and a durable and lightweight frame ensuring a secure fit whilst protecting your eyes.

What is the best bag for Salmon Fishing on a river

A lightweight tackle bag is essential for your salmon fishing adventures. Ensure the bag you choose is easily accessible and big enough for all the essentials while remaining small enough to be light to carry and comfortable to wear. Look for one with many compartments to ensure you can carry all the stock you could need.

Good - Simms Freestone Backpack
It's no surprise the Freestone backpack by Simms is a popular choice given it is specifically designed to meet the needs of a river angler. With quick release straps to make accessing your flies and gear effortless and multiple compartments to keep organised, it ensures you can move comfortably on the river. Not to mention, the waterproof, durable backpack has a stylish, streamlined design making it a desirable choice.

Best - Simms Freestone Sling Pack
Our top pick has to go to the Freestone Sling Pack by Simms. With all the features we love about the backpack, but with greater mobility and ease of access. It's smaller and lighter than a backpack with the ability to easily rotate the sling pack across your chest to quickly grab tools and flies.

There we have it, the essential list of gear for fly fishing for salmon in rivers. If you have any questions feel free to check out more quality fishing news and advice on our blog, or give our team a call or email, we’d be happy to help you.

Grant Ottignon-Harris

Grant Ottignon-Harris

Grant Ottignon-Harris is one of the most respected names in the fishing industry, with two decades of experience including as a Managing Director EMEA at Pure Fishing and Group Managing Director at Farlows.
As the founder of Rod and Tackle, Grant brings his extensive expertise and guidance to anglers across the UK, both in-store and through the online shop. His mission is to provide the very best in fishing tackle, alongside unrivalled advice and support.

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