Life On A Salmon River
By Jock Monteith 11th May 2023
If you've chosen the ghillie route in life then thank your lucky stars you can spend your days in such beautiful natural surroundings and in such an amazingly natural pursuit. There's huge 'life value' in turning up on a salmon river each day compared with what most people have to endure.
The Highs & Lows Of Salmon Fishing
Not enough water, too much water, the Spring run arrived too early, the Autumn run arrived too late or the big Winter floods washed out the spawning redds a few years ago! Our salmon smolts have been decimated by 'suspected' mackerel shoals at sea! What's new if you really sit back and analyse the 'highs & lows' (and 'smokescreens') of Scottish salmon fishing and all the guff and media misinformation that often surrounds it. With zero oceanic security on 'known' migration routes and no annual individual river salmon smolt output targets (and no effective way of even counting them) or even main stem fish counters to know our true 'in river' returning adult salmon stock positions isn't it amazing that salmon are still there to be caught at all. If you've trained your head to react to the recently established 'catch stats' beat marketing theme like a goldfish waiting for its feed pellets to be thrown then it's best you reset your focal point as negativity is so contagious and dangerous for any business or any unprepared human mind. In addition to that I was never one for allowing the competence levels of other salmon fishers (if a beat was even fished that day!) to dictate to me whether salmon were present or not.
Beautiful Cyclical Wild Salmon Runs
I recall my late colleague & mentor Willie Laird advising me that there was a period back in the 30's where salmon stocks on the Tay were running low and his most favourite word of all was 'cyclical'. The psychology of the salmon angler is the most fascinating thing of all to study as it's easy for a fisher's head to go down when they've not had success after a day or sometimes even an hour! I once recall picking up 2 salmon anglers who were sitting on the riverbank who said it was a complete waste of time as I approached them in the boat even though we'd caught 2 perfect long tailed 'sea licers' (which must have swum right past them) in the pool directly upstream of where they were fishing to their absolute amazement. I could see their heads were down as I was approaching even though my guest and I were as high as kites! In actual fact I remember pouring a dram and handing my guest the glass as he was playing number 2 just to relax him a bit which I'm sure he'll never forget judging by the look of absolute astonishment on his face as i handed him the glass which quickly changed to a look of sheer delight at my 'moment enhancement' technique!
Develop A Salmon Fishing Mindset Of Steel
Staying positive in your head whether you're a ghillie or salmon angler is crucial for success and forgetting the dreadfully thought out 'Catch Stats' theme that has 'afflicted' this beautifully unpredictable sport which was always going to bite the industry on the arse when 'Old Sam' decides to stay away longer, not be fished for or dare not show up on a specific beat on time! We can often be like sheep that are fairly easily lead and especially by the luxury of a 'convenient' negative thought. I'm also 100% convinced that wild Atlantic salmon can sense negativity which can spread like wild fire among anglers massively reducing the actual fishing effort unless its flames are quickly dowsed! Catching salmon is seldom easy and has never been a 'condition of let' although many seem to think that should be the case or that their skill set is up to the same level of recently caught 'stats' fish. Making a completely wild creature take an artificial fly or lure when it's not in the river to feed should tell you enough about why you should celebrate when a fish does cooperate! Understand the game you are playing as a fresh run salmon can easily sneak up on you at any moment during the fishing day and if your head isn't down (or your backside sitting on the grass riverbank!) then you've always a chance of catching it. I've seen this so many many times where the 'lucky' angler manufactured their own luck by keeping their fishing effort consistent throughout the entire fishing day and who placed galvanised steel between their head and the 'cup half empty' negativity brigade who were also present!