Catching A Quick Salmon
By Jock Monteith 13th April 2023
As a professional ghillie it's always a great thing to take the pressure off and eliminate the 'expectation management' effort while looking after guests with a quick salmon capture at the start of the fishing day.
Salmon Fishing Can Often Be Totally Unpredictable
Scottish salmon fishing has always been unpredictable as there are far too many completely uncontrollable salmon stock & water conditions that can affect even the most astute river mind's fishing forecast. Over the years I recall a few brilliant experiences when salmon cooperated within seconds of a guest's fly or lure touching the water which took both myself and the fishing guests by surprise just as much as the fish and here's a few of these incidents.
The Very First Cast Of The Fishing Day
A couple of seasons ago I recall being on the Tay with a returning guest who had completely nailed the Spey cast on his previous guided fishing visit even though he didn't catch a fish on that occasion. There wasn't really too much for me to do on this guest's 2nd visit other than to make sure he was fishing the best areas of the pool correctly so as his ghillie I thought it was only right to start proceedings off by lengthening his line to start then hand him the rod. I did exactly that and literally as I was handing him the rod a salmon took the fly! I'll never forget the look on his face as he realised what had just occurred and we both had a hand on the rod the split second the fish took. Thank goodness we had a witness upstream who also couldn't believe what he'd just seen!
To The Total Amazement Of Another Fishing Guest
That particular morning we were sharing the pool with another angler who I knew and who was already fishing the pool when we arrived. At lunchtime the other fisher said to me I wouldn't have believed what I just witnessed had I not seen that for myself! After pulling off line and flicking a short 20 yard cast the fly must have literally landed on the nose of a fish as featured in the photograph with the guest. My right hand was stretched out in the process of handing the rod to the guest and as the fly was very positively taken by the fish. This is one of the many brilliant components of salmon fishing and how a salmon can sometimes be your best friend!
Quick Takes While Harling On The River Tay
I recall numerous occasions on the River Tay as a professional boatman where sub surface cooperation occurred instantly. On one such occasion I was out with the beat owner's father in law who I'd just met for the first time. We were up on the Tay's Fiddlers Pool on Newtyle and had just quietly sneaked into position in the boat at the neck of the pool. I'd literally just cast the first 'harling' lure out and clicked over the bail arm on the reel and was stretching to place the butt of the rod into the 'harling' iron and the rod was buckled by a very lively 16 pounder! The owner's father in law's fishing success rate on the beat from previous visits with other boatmen wasn't great so he couldn't believe what he'd just witnessed and I soon became one of his best pals!
The Being 'In It To Win It' Salmon Fishing Tactic
Cyber politics or theorising in a fishing hut is not as effective for creating your own salmon fishing luck by being out on the river effectively swimming a fly or lure. Salmon fishing on most Scottish beats will provide little 'windows of opportunity' that pop up throughout the course of the fishing day whether they are visible ones or not. Often you'll never be aware of the movement or presence of salmon as they enter or are holding up in a beat so work on the assumption they are always present because even during lower stock periods they will be! Let others rabble on about how it's a waste of time and all the other stuff that goes on and let it bounce off your kevlar coated fishing cap! You'll school them all properly when you're summoning them out of the fishing hut to land the fish you've just hooked that should have been theirs!
Silencing The Salmon Fishing Critics
This topic I could truly right a huge book on and so many times I've seen anglers or have personally demonstrated to the 'nae sayers' the presence of salmon that they were convinced weren't present. One incident at the Upper Kinnaird salmon beat hut where 2 Scandinavian fishers were bleating on about how the prevailing low cold water conditions were a waste of time as my long standing pal & expert Perthshire joiner Kevin McKay (William McNaughton joiners in Forfar) slipped out of the hut and with his 3rd cast hooked and landed a perfect Spring fish to their astonishment! I also recall a busy late Spring day on the same beat where a disgruntled fishing guest literally 'lobbed' his fly rod at me as we disembarked from the boat saying 'show me what you can do!' A dozen casts later I offered him his buckling fly rod back which he refused! He didn't know though that I had intentionally herded some Spring fish up into the Daffodil Lie (a natural shallow ridge stopper) below the Upper Kinnaird hut with the revs of the boat engine while commuting the anglers up from the bottom of the beat and before he even offered me his rod I already knew they'd very likely be some newly arrived fish in there for the taking.