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Control Your Salmon Fly

By 1st October 2022

I'll keep this daily salmon fishing article simple, understandable and to the point. If you're not fully in control of your salmon fly throughout the morning and afternoon fishing sessions you're wasting a huge percentage of your salmon fishing day!

Are Recent Fly Fishing System Changes Better Or Worse!

Having personally watched thousands of salmon anglers over the years I'd say that 90% of them 'switch off' after their forward delivery cast is made instead of 'switching on' at that spilt second their fly lands on the river when they should be having intense thoughts of how their salmon fly is behaving in the stream. Far too many anglers are only concerned about the distance they can deliver a line and even the aerial elegance seems to be out of the window these days unlike the old days where a good Speycaster could almost hypnotise you! Modern shooting head and Skagit line systems have put the emphasis on feel good easy distance casting and depleted the effective fly control of a 'properly taught' Spey caster who always had easier & better control of their salmon fly and especially at distance.

The Most Renowned World Champion Spey Caster

As as youngster in the 70's I recall my late friend big Peter Anderson swinging into the Tay at Birnam late one Saturday afternoon with his kilt on and a car load of first prize silverware he'd just won at a highland game fair earlier that day. My mentor Willie Laird used to love it when Peter dropped by and went on to the jetty and started delivering a perfect 50 yard plus double or single Spey cast that really needed to be seen to be believed! I'm not talking here about a carefully prepared 60 or 70 yard 'one off' distance cast but what I'm referring to is an elegant use 'all day long' fishing Spey cast as these 2 things are completely different. Peter was highly (& internationally) respected for his ability with a salmon or trout fly rod throughout his entire salmon fishing career and was even given complimentary membership to the AAPGAI casting association (no exam) such was his stature within the industry.

Salmon Fly Mend Control At Long Range

The really amazing part of this was watching big Peter put a mend in to control the fly he was casting with. This would be done as the fly was starting to land and the trailing line and part of the belly section was still mainly airborne. This was the most amazing 'mind blowing' salmon fly fishing entertainment you could ever imagine and something that I personally believe has been largely lost or forgotten about these days. In saying that I know the distance side of things hasn't been forgotten but seriously capitalised on to a degree where effective salmon fishing fly control and elegance of the fly line's aerial performance has been completely disregarded.

Salmon Fly Control Has Diminished In Recent Decades

If you're using a shooting head or Skagit system on a relatively shortish to medium cast range you'll possibly be able to mend your line on the forward delivery but any further than that your salmon fly will highly likely be out of control until it's at least one third of its way back towards your side of the river. Although the angler will feel like they're fishing effectively due to the thrill of achieving distance the reality is they are not in control of their fly and are not fishing effectively at the longer distance their line system is presenting the fly at. Fly control at long range is however very possible with a longish Spey rod and long bellied Spey line and I'll cover that in the next paragraph.

Effective Long Range Salmon Fly Control

If you use these short head types of casting systems have you ever wondered why the majority of takes usually come in the last half of the fly's swing and that should be all the proof you need if you really think about it. As a professional ghillie on the Tay often my role was to hook salmon for guests that were struggling to reach fish that were lying in the 30 to 40 yard range area of a pool. My weapon of choice on the Tay was a 16ft Bruce & Walker Spey rod for a long range effective mend advantage with balanced Spey line with normally a 'proper' braided core sink tip for total control of the fly at that precise presentation range as I knew the inside edge (from 25 yards in) had been effectively covered by the guest. Studying fly control for both depth and swim pace at longer range was my 'daily focus' for many years and getting that balance just right would usually always get a result when the opportunity arose to cover long range fish that otherwise would not get covered.