Make The Salmon Take Count

By 9th May 2018

Having been involved in Scottish salmon fishing since 1970 one of the most important parts for success is knowing how to set the hook when a salmon takes your fly. This vitally important discipline has always completely baffled me as even experienced salmon fishers today still fall 'well short' in this area of their game and have a poor 'take to landed salmon' ratio. Somewhere at some previous point in time a disciple of the LFA (lost fish association) travelled the length and breadth of Scotland with a dreadful 'just lift into it' message and successfully paralysed the entire industry in a oner!

Leave Nothing To Chance When The Salmon Takes

Don't squander hard earned takes on the fly rod by thinking your fly hook will set itself correctly or the salmon will self impale itself so you can get a photograph together beside the river! As a professional salmon guide on the Tay regularly in charge of several fishers on a daily basis I've witnessed great opportunities to catch salmon lost by fishers who fail (or won't listen) in this very important discipline. This is very seldom properly discussed and in many cases left for the salmon to hook itself when the fish's objective very soon into the contact is to get rid of the fly!

Trust Professional Life Experience

My own advice when a salmon takes is never to lift into the take with a soft actioned rod and slack reel clutch setting as logically there's little or no hook point pressure applied from doing so. After ignoring the initial tugs at the start of the take and after several seconds of the fly line being drawn consistently from the reel just clamp the fly reel face with your hand to stop the line flow dead with the rod tip down and pointing at the fish and briefly feel the weight of the salmon for a further few seconds. There's nothing worse in life than a limp fly line following a taught one so save yourself that anguish and feed your brain with the massive flood of neuropeptides all successful salmon captures bring!

All The Way To The Landing Net

I'll repeat myself again to make sure this tactic is clear. Make sure the rod is pointing down in the direction of the fish when you clamp the reel face in order to maximise direct hook point pressure from the reel to the hook. After feeling the weight of the fish for at least a few seconds then release the reel and lift the rod. As you're tightening on the salmon at the optimal moment during the take quietly growl the words 'come here you'!  If this is all done correctly as detailed your fish will be hooked properly regardless of where the initial micro hold of the hook points were positioned in the soft or tougher tissue within the salmon's mouth as it turned on your fly. Logic will tell you all you need to know as to whether or not you've just added sufficient hook point pressure to the fly if you time this hook set procedure perfectly as the fish is swimming away from you. If you let the whole line tighten up solidly for at least a few seconds (to combat the average 12% core stretch in many poorly designed fly lines) before releasing your hand and only then lifting the rod I can assure you the only thing 'coming off' will be the landing net from your shoulder!

Don't Let Adrenalin Ruin Your Hook Set Chance

This effective hook set method will allow the salmon's forward momentum & bodyweight to set the hook for you. In warmer Summer water the take will usually develop much quicker than in the colder early Spring water. In these colder water conditions allow a few more seconds before clamping the reel as the lower temperatures usually mean a much slower initial take and draw. Wait until the initial 'plucks and tugs' stop before you start counting as the fish hasn't turned at this stage of proceedings yet. Wait until the steady draw of line commences from the fly reel then start the stop watch. 7 seconds seems to work perfectly for me however that will be preceded by 4 to 8 seconds of 'tugs or nudges' which do not count!  When a salmon turns properly on your fly don't 'rapidly' count these vital seconds and have the composure to 'agonisingly' wait until you're almost feeling that you've given the fish too long! That'll re-synchronise your adrenalin fuelled sense of time and bring you in pretty much on the desired '7 seconds of steady' draw target!