skip to Main Content

On this page we will try to highlight some details on riffling hitch fishing that goes beyond the general detail from our introduction page on this surface sport – Should you have any specific questions we could help you with – then your more than welcome to contact us on where we can chat with you – Obviously you’re also more than welcome to contact us directly here on

It's all happening right in the surface

Riffling hitch fishing V-FLY

it’s all happening right in the surface – Which makes the riffling hitch technique one of the greatest sports a fly fisherman ever can venture into – Some of the absolutely best takes of the season will be on the hitch fly – and both big and small salmon is drawn to this miniature fly in such a way that your whole perception of salmon fly fishing will change once you have tried this sports of sports..

Your whole perception of salmon fly fishing will change once you have tried this sports of sports.

Riffling Hitch is not a particular demanding sport – but like when fishing dry fly, skating, dibbling or dapping it´s a sport that demands your full attention.

Asoosiated with fly fishing for Atlantic salmon but also a technique equally used by anglers fishing steelhead on top.

Fishing riffling hitch is foremost a visual sport and salmon will ever so often show them self when they approach the fly – Doing so they give away vital information about their position but they will also give you some idea about their intentions.

Sometimes it can be tiny aspect in the way you present the fly – or it could be small details in the way the fly move that make all the difference. Things worth  analysing – imitating and refining.

Hitching a hook-fly in the surface - Portland style

Blue Charme Riffling Hitch version

Hitching the fly the Portland way – riffle hitch knot

Riffling Hitch the Portland way is the traditional style of fishing riffling hitch in North America. It is described as;  A couple of half-hitches tied in behind the head and eye of a single or double hook fly so that the leader sits at an angle of the fly – This will make the fly pull to the surface.

Blue Charm: Probably the most versatile of all salmon flies. Here styled to be used with the Portland Hitch

Portland Creek - The cradle of the riffling hitch technique

Correspondingly with salmon fishing literature the technique Portland hitch departs from Portland Creek in Newfoundland where local anglers in the beginning of the 20th century would reuse broken gut flies by tying them on to the leader with a series of overhand knots/hitches.

What is a gut eye fly?

In the early years of fly fishing for Atlantic salmon – salmon hooks did not have eyes to tie the tippet material to as we know them today.  The hook shank was tapered toward the front and the leader that was made of strands of gut was tied directly to the shank of the hook, later in history eyes of twisted strands of gut was tied to the hook shank like on this victorian fly seen in the picture

Hitching salmon

During summer there will be times when the riffling hitch – or the fly moving in the surface – will be much more efficient than other flies.

Portland hitchDetails in the Portland hitch; Fishing the fly on its side or with the hook facing downwards?

It may already sound a bit laborious and many anglers will pass on the riffling hitch technique simply because of their uncertain if they are using the method correctly.

North American salmon anglers have for years argued whether or not the hook gape should be turned facing downwards or with the hooks fished outwards. Some will state that a hook facing toward the center of the stream will hook the fish better when the fish intercept the fly and return to its lie.

Below we have used a thick white line to illustrate how you can tie on your flies in such way that they will drag on the surface with the hook facing downwards in a traditional wet-fly way. We have chosen to show a series of flies that we and other anglers have had great success with through the years. All classic patterns but dressed slim on a light hook, and trimmed so they will give the best results when hitched. Plenty of space in front of the head ensures room for the hitches.

Portland Hitch – Simple but a bit intricate

The leader can either be tied to extend to the left – or the right side of the fly – all depending on what river bank your fishing from. For best performance tie the hitches on the fly so the leader extends from the fly towards the bank – when the fly is facing upstream.

Riffling Hitch Portland Hitch

Riffling Hitch Portland Hitch

Fly ensured with a normal Grinner or Blood Knot

Riffling Hitch Portland Style

One of two hitches applied to the head of the fly. Note how we have tied the fly with plenty of room to make the Portland style Riffling Hitch – or Riveling hitch as it was called by local Portland Creekers. Fly in picture version of Red Sandy. Get flies in E-SHOP Buy salmon & steelhead flies
hitch fly the Portland methoid

Here a version of the Blue Charm on a # 6 lightweight hook Get flies in E-SHOP Buy salmon & steelhead flies

Riffling Hitch the European way

Riffling hitch salmon dry fly steelhead wake fly

Europeans anglers rarely tie on single hook flies to fish them with a Portland Hitch set-up, we would rather use tiny tubes to work salmon to the surface.

Riffling Hitch V-FLYJust as with the Portland Hitch, the leader comes at a slant of the fly – in this case through a hole in the belly. Single, double or treble hooks can be fitted in the tube and positioned in preference with the angler.

See the many perfect Riffling Hitch patterns in the Fishmadman Shop   Buy salmon & steelhead flies

hitch tube fly

Hitch tube fly - micro tube fly

riffling hitch tube fly

Hitch tube fly seen from below

Single or two holes in the riffling hitch tube fly?

V-FLY from Fishmadman - super Riffling Hitch flySingle or two holes in the riffling hitch tube fly: There is often debate on this topic and the answer is quite simple – but let’s just take the two types of RH tube flies apart

One hole RH tube flies normally have the hole in the belly – wing on top – The fly can be used from both banks

Riffling Hitch tube fly from FishmadmanTwo hole versions have a hole in each side of the fly and rely on the angler to use one hole for the left bank and another for the right bank. The leader can either be tied to extend to the left – or the right side of the fly – all depending on what river bank your fishing from. let the leader extends from the fly towards the bank – when the fly is facing upstream.

So what is the better solution?

There is no answer to that question… That is the short story. One hitch fly with two holes could be a great pattern like the Munro Killer seen above  – so can the next pattern with one hole… It is all down to micro details in these patterns – and if you have a good pattern… keep it in your box and on your leader.

riffling tube flyWhat about the hole in the front of the tube – should that be blocked up?

The front of the riffling hitch tube is normally left open – something that also fuels a lot of debate among fly tiers and RH anglers – and my answer to that is more or less the same. One fly tier might make a great RH pattern with a blocked hole in the front – and the next fly tier might do a great pattern with the hole open – Both might be great flies and in that way…there aren’t any rules… Fly tying and especially riffling hitch fly tying is all about micro details – and what creates the perfect fly is not always visible to the naked eye.

Tube flies a ace


A note on the hole in the front of the tube: I and many other riffling hitch anglers also use our diminutive RH flies as regular tube flies – Simply put your leader through the fly the traditional way and get a micro tube fly you can fish just below the surface

Fly tying and especially riffling hitch fly tying is all about micro details – and what creates the perfect fly is not always visible to the naked eye

Fly Tying

Riffling Hitch is the discipline in salmon fishing where the questions about flies and fishing – expose the fact that we know very little when it comes details in salmon flies.

See our page on riffling hitch fly tying

Micro details in riffling hitch fly tying - Read our special page on this issue

making a riffling hitch fly

If your interested in learning more about micro movements and details in the art of building riffling hitch tube flies – Check out our page on this subject here

When to use Riffling Hitch

Riffling Hitch flies will work in all kind of circumstance. Weather and temperature can not always be held as a guideline – Saying this I will note that there seems to be a period during summer when a Hitched fly will work extremely well. Even during spate and muddy waters the Hitched fly may pull salmon to the top. Salmon will be moving closer to the bank and out of the fast turbulent water.

Jerry Rothman using Riffling Hitch on North EskKeep up the deception!

Riffling hitch flies should be fished at an even phase. Atlantic salmon seems to lose it’s interesting if the fly loses its momentum and stops hitching. Sometimes you may have to add speed by lifting the rod or mending downstream. At other times you might need to slow the fly down by mending upstream or letting out line. Make sure to follow the fly closely during its path across the river salmon tends to leave their lies to intercept the fly often seen by wakes near the fly or flashes of silver below the fly. Riffling Hitch wake fly pattern V-FLY Silvertip seen from below Get the fly   Buy salmon & steelhead flies

Jerry Rothman Fishing at Allan Stream, Kinnaber beat North Esk River Hitch waters

Here UK angler Mr. Jerry Rothman hitches the middle stretch of Allan’s stream at the fantastic Kinnaber beat, on the North Esk. Salmon is hanging just on the edge of the current making the V-FLY the perfect Riffling Hitch fly

A superior pool for Riffling Hitch fishing

The upper part of Morphy Dyk pool at the North Esk

Some places are just made for Riffling Hitch! Here looking at the Lower Dyke pool at the North Esk River in Aberdeenshire Scotland – The best Riffling Hitch pool I have ever fished – The famous Bailey Middleton pool below.
 A good river to use Riffling Hitch More about North Esk
STOP PRESS! – Well! The Lower Dyke Pool is no more – It has been ruined by a breach on the dike above – resulting in tons upon tons of gravel to be washed down into this pool of pools…

White water is often a sign of hot-spots for salmon and steelhead

Fly on top of white water

Keeping the fly jumping on top

A simple trick in the book of trailing flies: Keep your fly bouncing on top of the white water. Ex. at the inlet of a pool. Below waterfalls and fast ripples where salmon stop and rest.

Even though the water is white from bubbles and not possible to look through by human, things work much different for salmon who will come out of the water like a troll in a box – to grab your fly –  For years I have shown this technique to anglers who with some disbelieving have tried it… With success…. And have you first had a big snapping salmon head coming out of those bubbles…. then there is no turning back – Your hooked.

Cover the area like your panting a entire canvas – top to bottom

Keep the rod high and the line short while you search of the entire area of white water…Keeping focused on areas with different speeds of water flow: On the edge of the drop down where the river falls into the pool – On the edges of the fast water – At the very back-end of the white water – or by a small oily spot in the middle of everything… These spots are not always obvious nor visible  – But when ones found they will always be the place to focus on…Mr. Salmon will very likely be their next time – Best procedure is to move the fly backwards slowly – When you have covered an area – lift the fly up place it on the water and do the procedure again – only very rarely will a salmon chase the fly that is moving forward…that is the game of its cousin; the sea trout.

Only very rarely will a salmon chase the fly that is moving forward…that is the game of its cousin; the sea trout.

Riffling hitch technique

More white-water tactics

A simple technique of getting attention from salmon hiding in white water is to use a tiny shimmering hitch flies like flies from the Hitchman series Position your self at the top as seen here and fish straight across and let the fly bob across the surface Keep your rod up and lift the line out of the water – don’t worry about the tiny fly not being visible enough – or if the salmon will be able to grab it… It will and if you look carefully you will see them snapping for the fly on the turbulent river. Often stale salmon that has seen 1001 presentations of sub-flies will be inclined to hit those tiny shimmering flies.


Just the one you where looking for… A super strong fish on the fly rod… jumped 5 times and made a 150 meter long run straight into the pool below – Fly a Hitchman Gold

Back To Top