Improving the Salmonfly Dry Fly

We walk through tying a modified 64 Impala fly pattern and clarify how to customize this recipe to match the hatch beyond the original

salmonfly fly pattern

June 2023

Salmonfly dry flies exist in two worlds; the bright orange variety, and the not-very-orange-at-all variety. I find this a bit confusing when browsing patterns in fly shops, or even deciding on which patterns I need to tie for this epic late spring hatch. Some are way too bright orange, while others are muted brown, and another subset doesn't really look like a salmonfly at all. Here I walk through tying a modified 64 Impala, by the great Andrew Grillos, and clarify how to customize this recipe (or any other) to match the hatch beyond the original.

64 impala, Andrew Grillos fly pattern, salmon fly, salmonfly dry fly pattern
64 Impala by Andrew Grillos (


1. Yellow Thread: Using yellow thread can provide body segmentation visible through foam and looks so much more realistic compared to the original 64 Impala. If you notice on the actual bugs, the edges of each abdominal section is lighter and yellow(ish) in color. Plus it's a super easy adjustment for fly tiers.

fly tying salmon fly pattern

2. Long Antennae: Long antenna are not well represented by other patterns (64 impala excluded), and if we're trying to match the hatch, we might as well tie them in long. It's easy enough to make streamside adjustments if necessary.

64 impala salmonfly pattern

3. Mottling the Abdomen: The biggest customization is to apply some brown sharpie across the sides of the orange foam to mottle the abdomen. You could simply run a sharpie over the body, but I found a more subtle application method by saturating a kleenex with the brown sharpie and smearing that across the underside of the fly. I intentionally left a stripe of orange remaining down the center line, to mimic a more recently emerged salmonfly. But as they develop, that orange seems to darken. So customize as needed.

adult salmonflies on the Colorado River
Left (recently emerged), Right (aged)

I think the look of smoothly applied color from this method adds to a more realistic blend that should suit the appearance of adult salmonflies, and possibly a host of other flies tied with foam; golden stones, hoppers, green drakes.

Full Tying Video