Fly Fishing Links
& Resources


The Hook & Hackle Company encourages support of those "Wounded Warriors" who have suffered physical and/or emotional injury as a result of their service to our great country.

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Rose River Farm, Virginia's finest private water trout fishing experience, has just gotten even better. Now in addition to over a mile of private water managed for Trophy Trout (all strictly on the fly and catch and release) they have added luxury rental cabins. As an introductory special ....

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The Hook & Hackle Company highly endorses this fine bonefish, tarpon & permit fishing destination. Our recent visit there exceeded our expectations many times over.

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David Ruimveld, is one of my favorite "Sporting Art" artists.

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From time to time, we will feature different folks who are making a difference to fly fishing, conservation, outdoor art, helping others & so on. We welcome your suggestions for this column.

Peter C. Thompson, artist, writer, fly fisher & conservationist is our current feature.

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Wilderness North – Ontario Canada's Premier Fly-in Adventure Provider!

Deep in the heart of the Northern Ontario wilderness lies an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts and anglers seeking a definitive Canadian adventure. Accessible only by floatplane, Wilderness North offers a haven for those who want to reconnect with nature.

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Dolly Varden, January 2013, Fish of the Month!

Dolly Varden

Salvelinus malma

Local Names:

Dolly char, Redspotted trout, Western char, Oregon char, Salmon trout

Average Size:

12 to 18 inches (30.50 to 45.75 cm.)

0.50 to 1.5 pounds (0.25 to 0.70 kg.)

Distinguishing Field Marks:

Color and color pattern are reliable distinguishing field marks for this species. (See the illustration.)

North American Range:

Map to the right shows approximate range in North America.


There are both landlocked and anadromous populations of Dolly Varden (named for a character written by Charles Dickens in his novel Barnaby Rudge who wore a green dress with pink polka-dots). Landlocked Dolly Varden are found in lakes while the anadromous form live in coastal streams. Most sea-run Dolly Varden return to the streams of their birth to spawn, although many may stray to other rivers. They spawn in the fall months, from September to early November, with runs commencing in August and September. Landlocked adults also spawn at this time.

Young Dolly Varden may spend from a few months to as long as 3 to 4 years in their natal streams before descending to lake or marine habitats. While in the smaller streams, Dolly Varden travel widely. When they reach the marine environment, some will remain in the estuary while others move short distances, although never far, offshore. Sea-run adults often return to spawn only on alternating years. Though they usually enter fresh water from late July to September, they might enter as early as May, or as late as December, depending on water temperature.


Beginning with zooplankton, graduating to aquatic insects and whatever other aquatic invertebrates are available, including snails and leeches. During salmon spawning season, Dolly Varden prey extensively on salmon and trout eggs, as do Steelhead, Cutthroat trout, and Coho salmon smolts. But, because of the Dolly's taste for salmon eggs, and it's less than spectacular fighting ability, there was once a bounty placed on the species, reflecting a popular attitude that has resulted in severe reductions in its abundance. Dolly Varden also feed on salmon carcasses, helping to clear the streams of them. Sea-run Dolly Varden mainly consume Capelin and Sand launce. In estuaries, their diet is extremely varied, consisting of aquatic insects, salmon remains, young out-migrating Sockeye salmon, sculpins, and salmon eggs. Large landlocked Dolly Varden will eat mice, moles, frogs, and birds, in addition to smaller fish, insects, leeches, worms, and any other food-stuffs which come their way.

Fly Fishing for Dolly Varden:

From the above text, you can see that Dolly Varden can be found in a very broad range of habitats, from small upland spawning tributaries to large coastal rivers , in lakes and ponds, estuaries, and near shore salt waters. Dolly Varden can be comfortably taken on medium fly tackle, using streamers, wet flies, and egg patterns.

Fishing the mouths of tributaries, either in spring when Dollies are out-migrating to lakes or the sea, or late summer when they are returning on their spawning runs, is most likely to meet with success. Of course, these chars can be taken on the open water of lakes or ponds, but will follow their preferred temperature of 55 degrees F (12.80 degrees C.) down as it sinks in warm summer weather. Many Dolly Varden are taken while casting or trolling from shore or a boat near the mouths of rivers where they are known to spawn.

On the hook, Dolly Varden are typical char, not spectacular like Rainbow trout, but strong and dogged, only occasionally breaking the surface.

Anglers should be aware that the Dolly Varden and the Bull trout were not long ago considered the same species, and since the Bull trout is now very strictly protected in many waters where it is still found and some find the two difficult to distinguish, make sure you know which species is in your hand. (Refer to Distinguishing Field Marks)

Significance to Humans:

Dolly Varden have historically been viewed as a food fish. Their often large size, willingness to take an angler's offering, and their excellent table quality have continued to highly recommend them for this purpose. But, as salmon and Steelhead become less abundant and much more strictly protected, sportsmen are turning their attention to other species, including the once maligned Dolly Varden.