Grinding Out Salmon Catches
By Jock Monteith 12th March 2020
Salmon fishing in Scotland has always been the ultimate fishing challenge and much of the moaning & groaning I hear today about diminished catches in my opinion has often as much to do with a lack of angling ability & 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 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
Every season without fail I learn of many good salmon hooking opportunities that were 'fluffed' 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! In my early days there were also many more expert salmon fishers and ghillies operating on the rivers than what I see today which again has an impact on effective water coverage and ultimately catches too.
Professionals Who Can Deliver
From what I see there's still a distinct lack of understanding on various tactical salmon fishing approaches starting with basic 'mental toughness' from the salmon anglers and often a general lack of understanding of how salmon need to be carefully & consistently 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 game without any basic salmon fishing skills or sometimes not even the correct salmon fishing equipment levels. The cost of this could never truly be calculated but I strongly suspect it represents a massive loss to the Scottish economy annually through poor water coverage, blown hooking or landing opportunities and now more so than ever since that 'digital stats curse' was naively introduced to our game. Why should a Scottish salmon river only be as good as its visiting angler's skill set (if fished at all) and how is that of relevance to understanding how many salmon are present in that river.
Learning The Real Salmon Fishing Skills
It takes a certain 'mind set' to grind out results in salmon fishing especially during the cold and wet early 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 his true identity as a riverbank expert. The salmon fishing legends I've been fortunate to know all had that 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 you as they seldom will so get with a 'professional' who only envisages their salmon fly from below the waterline!
Early 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 often works far better in the cold water of Spring. 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 Spring salmon fishing conditions via good riverbank movement & knowing exactly how to set the hook when that hard earned opportunity finally arose.
Salmon Fishery Boards & Beat Owners Wake Up
If you're a Scottish salmon fishery board official then get to grips with the power of the internet & social media if you haven't already done so. With the exception of a few I don't see much that represents the glory and brilliance of this pursuit that could be taken seriously for promoting Scottish salmon fishing which is a disgrace given the significance of this pursuit. If ghillies aren't producing fish (or quality images of fish they catch) then find competent anglers or guides to go out onto beats that are not producing (or being fished properly) to prove the point. Every quality photograph that hits social media these days reaches thousands of people yet many in this business still don't take this seriously enough but they should be doing so to counteract the often unfair tabloid assassination attempts the industry has been under in recent years. Yesterday one of my fish catching 'machine' associates caught a perfect 23lbs salmon on the River Dee at Invery & Tilquhillie which the lovely photograph of was all over the internet within minutes. I believe 'top' salmon anglers like that need to be circulated much more often as their 'consistent' successes produce synergy for the entire river. A fishery board or a beat owner would likely acquire expert salmon fishers on a 'complimentary cast' scenario but it would be a chargeable service (for marketing) in the real world if they really think about it!