Hold Back With The Landing Net
By Jock Monteith 10th April 2023
Given the skill and patience involved in getting to the point where a salmon cooperates then what's the point of rushing proceedings. There's nothing worse than a fishing buddy or ghillie lifting the landing net too soon during the early stages of battle and 'ruining' the scenery between you and your salmon!
Do Not Play A Salmon Too Hard
Firstly lets start with a few hards facts regarding what I'm about to mention to clear up yet another of the misconceptions surrounding playing salmon. On the few occasions that I've witnessed salmon not surviving the trauma of being caught have been when the angler has fiercely bullied them to the net and the fish has gone berserk and completely beat itself due to the stress and strain of resisting. The other instances when I've seen salmon not surviving the fight have been during warmer water conditions when an angler hasn't held the salmon in a good oxygenated stream flow to properly revive and then eventually release the fish.
Relax During The Salmon Fight
On most of the fight footage videos I watch there's usually always a fisher or ghillie standing out in the river with a landing net after only a few minutes of the fish being hooked. On average it's about a pound of salmon body weight per minute of battle so unless you're only catching very small Summer grilse leave the landing net alone and stay away from the battle scene until the time is right. There's much more personal or commercial value for whoever is landing the fish to pull out their camera and shoot a video which takes the pressure 'off' the angler and captures the special moments of playing the fish when it is clearly not ready to be landed.
Hold Back Until The Salmon Is Ready
Nothing puts more pressure on an angler and reduces the enjoyment of the salmon fight than a non thinking colleague standing out in the river way before the salmon is anywhere close to being ready for landing. Not only does that kill the 'fight experience' for the successful fisher but it can 'panic' a salmon at a time when it's still got full battery power! Stay out of the way until the salmon fight appears to be coming to an end would be my advice. You'll know when the time is right to be thinking about landing any salmon as the fish will be under control and showing its flanks near the margins of the river.
Take Control Of Your Salmon
If you play any salmon 'side on' with a reasonable bend in your rod the action of the rod will eventually tire the fish for you as a salmon fly rod is not just for casting with. Just like ourselves fish also get a build up of lactic acid in their muscles during physical exertion so all salmon will eventually tire and can be easily landed when the time is right. With a big fish just take your time and don't try to rush it as you could be 30 minutes or more with some of them. Playing your salmon from a 'side on' position increases the chances of a successful outcome as does shouting any salmon landing 'assistance' back out of the river if you see that happening way too soon into proceedings!
The Enjoyment Of Catching A Salmon
Personally speaking there are a few attributes involved in catching a salmon that I'll always find highly exciting. The first is that little and often gentle knock on the fly reel that's lets you know your fly is under close quarter inspection! That little initial adrenalin inducing tug of approval intensifies my thoughts and is a seal of approval that the tactical approach has been good enough. The second thrill is indeed the exhilaration of battle and seeing a salmon jump out in the middle of the stream as the drag on the fly reel sings its heart out. Thirdly, I've always had an obsession with inspecting all salmon I've landed as they all have differing characteristics and especially perfect fresh run Spring salmon which are in a total class of their own as anyone will understand who's experienced a close encounter with one!