Grinding Out Salmon Catches
By Jock Monteith 5th May 2023
Salmon fishing in Scotland has always been the ultimate fishing challenge and much of the moaning & groaning I hear about diminished catches in my opinion has often as much to do with a lack of angling ability, effective water coverage & general low rod pressure than in many cases a lack of fish.
Bin The Scottish Salmon Catch Stats Curse
To make this scenario even more amusing the vast majority of the Scottish salmon fishing fraternity has been conditioned over the last few decades to respond to 'digital stats' on a daily score sheet. This defies the laws of gravity as surely at times of the year when salmon are transient and a fish is caught the opportunity to be on that particular beat has been already capitalised on by the angler who showed up and intercepted a running fish which was completely missed by the internet observer! In the good old days you booked early and took your chances as Atlantic salmon fishing anywhere has always been a bit of a lottery and the 'unknown element' of how the river is looking always played an exciting part of the daily fishing challenge for me.
Salmon Angling Competence Levels
Every season I hear of many good salmon hooking opportunities that were squandered by salmon anglers that should have been converted into landed salmon. Obviously when we fail at anything it's easier to blame something else and not take a good look in the mirror. In the 70's when I started my salmon fishing 'addiction' you worked hard for a take just exactly the same way as you do today. Salmon in the 70's were not always that easy to catch either or were ever to be taken for granted on any salmon fishing day. Remember the fact you're only looking for 1 fish to have a go and it doesn't matter if that fish is accompanied by 100 or 10 of its colleagues.
Professionals Who Can Deliver
From what I see there's often a lack of understanding on various tactical salmon fishing approaches starting with basic 'mental toughness' from anglers which is sometimes paired with a general lack of understanding of how salmon need to be thoughtfully approached and dealt with when they do co-operate. Personally, I feel that the whole business has been far too 'easy-osy' with anyone being allowed to buy access to a river and enter the realm without any basic salmon fishing skills or sometimes not even the correct salmon fishing equipment levels. The cost of this can never truly be calculated but I strongly suspect it represents a massive loss to the Scottish economy annually through poor daily water coverage, blown hooking or landing opportunities and now more so now than ever since 'digital stats' were introduced as the main driver in this game. Why should a Scottish salmon river only be as good as its visiting angler's skill set (if even fished) and how is that poor measuring tool of relevance to understanding how many salmon are present in any river or what the possibilities of intercepting one are.
Learning The Real Salmon Fishing Skills
It takes a certain 'mind set' to grind out results especially during the cold and wet Spring months when the beautiful Scottish sleet is attacking you like a swarm of bees! For me this is the name of the game and where would the challenge be if it were too easy to catch the 'King of Fish' on an often wet & cold Scottish salmon river when that fish is not there to feed. Learn from a professional who has sub surface fly mentality and who wears a confident smile that masks their true identity as a riverbank expert. The salmon fishing legends I've been fortunate to know all had an almost smug look of absolute confidence written all over their faces and those of you who've been in the game long enough will know exactly what I mean by that. Don't think salmon are going to ever make life too easy for anglers as they seldom will so get with a 'professional' who only envisages their salmon fly from below the waterline!
Spring River Tay Fly Fishing
The Tay especially during the early Spring months doesn't get anywhere near as much fly fishing attention as the warmer months do. The fly is however the more deadly approach in the right hands as the slower presentation of the fly works far better in the cold water of Spring than most faster moving spinning lures. To my mind there's more satisfaction and skill involved in hooking and landing a super fit Scottish Spring salmon on the fly during the early months of the year even though I've also enjoyed catching many salmon while 'harling' or spinning over the decades. This River Tay Spring salmon in the picture was a good example of 'grinding out' a fish in cold wet low Spring water conditions via good properly spaced riverbank movement, multiple minimised 'frequent & often' known salmon lie coverage protocol (for a briefly pausing runner) & knowing exactly how to set the hook when the hard earned hooking opportunity finally and inevitably arose! If you want consistent success in this glorious pursuit become a salmon lie antagonist machine with the mindset from the hymn To Be A Pilgrim; 'Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit'!