Flies for Steelhead and Salmon:
Steelhead and salmon flies are vastly different from the flies we use to catch trout. This is because steelhead and salmon, once they enter the rivers to spawn, can go a month or more without eating. They just do not have the urge to eat daily as do their trout brothers. As a result, these flies tend not to imitate natural fish foods. There are, instead, intended to be "attractors" and are designed to trigger a response from the steelhead/salmon. Most of these flies are considerably larger and have more bright colors. Often, the one fly a steelhead will more readily take is one tied to imitate fish eggs. Steelhead do actively feed more than do salmon and when available, salmon eggs are a favorite food.
Articles and Videos on Tying Steelhead and Salmon Flies:
12 Best Steelhead Flies - article (credit: Matt Straw and Fly Fisherman Magazine)
Top Ten (Atlantic) Salmon Flies - by Alex Jardine
Steelhead Wooly Bugger - Wooly Buggers can be fished either dead drifted as a nymph or as a streamer by "swinging" or stripping. Swinging is a common steelhead technique where you cast a little up current or across, mend a time or two and then let the fly "swing" down below you as the current takes the fly downstream. Steelhead are commonly caught on the swing. The Wooly Bugger is a fly that can be fished several ways for steelhead and salmon. These can be tied in a variety of colors and combinations. Russell Blessing is the originator of the Wooly Bugger.
Steelhead Wooly Bugger by Jay Nicholas
Egg Sucking Leech - I sometimes struggle to consider a fish egg as a "fly" yet I have successfully fished the egg sucking leech successfully for steelhead and salmon. I don't often admit it but I do carry 1-2 egg patterns...probably because I have been in situations where others I was with used them successfully while I stuck with more traditional flies. I guess the egg sucking leech is a compromise that somehow makes me feel a little better...being somewhat of a traditionalist can be limiting on occasion.
Atlantic Salmon Fly - I have never cast a fly to an Atlantic salmon. Despite that, I have always had a fascination for the flies used in that pursuit. To me, they look nothing like something any respectable fish would eat...they do not really look like fish food and they are way too beautiful to destroy. For those that do not know, Atlantic salmon do not eat once they enter freshwater to spawn. As a result, Atlantic salmon flies are not tied to imitate a food source but to somehow elicit a natural instinct to eat or, as others say, to irritate or anger them while others think it is a natural instinct to protect their territory. Regardless, to many fly fishers, the pursuit of Atlantic salmon is a religious experience. The fly show here is the famous Jock Scott and is said to be the first fly tied (or as they say "dressed") of this style.
Tying the Jock Scott TempleDog - by Davie McPhail
Jock Scott from G.M. Kelson - Recipe and history