Riffling hitch – The ace up the sleeve

Text and photos: Helge Dahlen

 – Guideline Power Team Norway.

The fly stripes as soon as it hits the water. The current is strong, but the little tube fly with the thread in a hole in the middle of the body surfes well on the waves and makes a good wake. Just as the fly surfs from the hard current and into the seam the water explodes behind it. The salmon misses with a few millimeters. Judging from the splash it was a decent  fish! In this blog  post we follow Power Team member Helge Dahlen when he fish the Riffling Hitch ion different rivers in central and northern Norway. 


We have passed mid July and I am in Lakselv in north of Norway, a river that has built up to become one of the world’s best rivers for the big salmons, so I know that here i could have the fish of my dreams coming up to my flies. I check the fly and with the pulse on top i make another cast. The explosion of water occurs in the same place, but this time the fish don´t miss. 
The salmon soon reveals its size to me with an acrobatic jump that makes my shoulders grow taller than my ears.  I am using a 13 foot Lxi rod so its powerful enough to fight the fish anyway with a lot of strength, but still it takes me a long time to wear it out. The fish in perfect condition, and the fights are therefore also insane. But in the end i come out winning and can hold the powerful fish in my hands. Its a 23 pounder, so not a monster but still a memorable one. When I caught this fish it was on my first trip to this river, we had just come from Kongsfjordelva in the eastern part of Finnmark. There we had some really good days with a lot of fish on the hitch, some in good size as well for this tiny river. My confidence to the hitch was therefore quite good before we came to Lakselv.


The fishing had been a bit slow the days before we arrived, but I noticed that not many where hitching for the fish and thats why I tried. No point in fishing with the same as everyone else when none of them are catching anything. So here the hitch proved to be a true ace up the sleeve. After 3 days in Lakselv with having contact with fish every day on the hitch we headed up to another river an hour north of Lakselv called Reppardfjordelva. We where only going to fish there one day while waiting for our flights south again, but day became perhaps my most memorable one as i hooked and landed 3 salmons on the hitch, all on a singlehanded LXi #8 . Biggest one was estimated to 25-26 pounds! 
 Later the same season I was in the middle part of Norway and fishing one of the tributaries to Stjordalselva. The river had just settled down again after a nice spate, but the fish seemed to had settled down again on they`re spots and were not very interested in the flies. In the evening I just had to give the hitch flies another try again, and in the second pool I surfed over the water just exploded. My friend that was looking from the bank shouted immidiatly that this was a good one as he had seen its size from the side when it took.


Here I was using my 11,6 feet #7/8 Lxi switchrod and it had to be pushed to its limits a couple of times to keep the fish away from a rocky rapid, but the good fortune was with me this time as well, and after 20 minutes i could land a beauty female salmon at aprox 25-26 pounds again. A quick picture and a kiss and she was out in the river again to complete the task she had come to the river to do. I hear a lot of different things about the setup you need to fish with riffling hitch and i have to say that there is a lot of misleading «rules» that is existing around. Some say that you have use a singlehanded rod (without explaining why you cant use a two handed rod) and others say that if you don´t have a monofilament leader it will not hitch.
 I say you can use whatever rod you want as long as it has a floating line. The leaders can be both mono and fluorocarbon and I actually prefer fluorocarbon as I feel that its stiffer and that helps to force the the tube up on the surface. You can buy and/or tie hitchflies in all sizes and therefore I say that the hook you choose to youse have to be at a size that will be reasonable to use for the particular fly.


I use almost all the time medium sized flies tied on medium  tubes and therefore hooks in size #10 and #12 are the ones i choose.

 For me I have to say that riffling hitch is a real ace up the sleeve, and since I started to use this technique my catch rate have got up. Specially when the conditions are difficult with clear and low water this has given me several memorable catches. The salmon and also the seatrout seemes to be aggressive towards this little thing skating over they`re heads and making the wake in the surface. 
I have found that also in higher water it will work as long as the water is not to colured, and it have to be warmer then 9-10 celsius for it to be effective. But there are also many stories about the opposite, and I know about several salmons caught on the hitch in colder temperatures. As always there are no certain rules in salmon fishing, only that catching fish on riffling hitch is some of the most fun, memorable and exiting ways of salmon fishing.


Text and photos: Helge Dahlen

 – Guideline Power Team Norway.




  1. Hello Pierre. I prefer to have almost the same lenght as the rod, and that have mostly to do with the casting and ancering then the fishing, But a nice rule to have is almost a rod lenght no matter the rod.

    Best regards from Helge Dahlen

  2. Hello Helge,
    How long are the plastic tubes you are using? I guess it’s just a simple fly with a divided squirrel tail wing and a short mylar body..
    Thank you and tight lines

    1. Hello Armando.

      the tubes i normally use is proximatly from 3/4 inch and up to 1 inch in length. But when fishing for the really big ones then dont be afraid trying them larger! that might do it.
      I prefeer black bear over squirrel as its a bit softer and that makes the divided wings surf better in my point of wiew 🙂 but squirrel works aswell.


  3. Hi Helge, than you very much for sharing your expereiences!
    At the end of the drift, do you continue fishing the “dead” fly, letting it hang or do you set the next cast directly after the end of skating? Thanks, Oliver

  4. Yesterday, 3C in Nothern Iceland with a flooded river, on a 9,6ft Loop Opti Stillwater 14.6 gr line, 9ft of leader with Haugur Hitch tube! Bang! Amazing!!!

Leave a Reply