Playing A Scottish Salmon
By Jock Monteith 15th December 2022
Once you've mastered the art of how to fish effectively down through a salmon pool it is very important that you master the art of effectively playing a salmon too. There's a few important factors to keep in mind once the excitement of the initial contact is under control and you're ready to play your fish. Normally the initial take from a salmon will come 'out of the blue' to catch you off guard so early composure is very important.
How To Effectively Hook A Salmon
Reacting to a salmon take too early accounts for thousands of lost opportunities each year on the salmon rivers of Scotland so it is important that you wait until you start to think you've almost given the salmon too long before you clamp the reel face with the rod tip down and pointing in the direction of the fish to set the hook. Only after you've briefly felt the salmon's weight for a few seconds ensuring the hook is set 'properly' should you ever lift the rod.
Why To Keep A High Salmon Rod Tip When Playing A Salmon
Now that the hook has been set effectively your rod tip must remain high throughout the fight. This high rod position assures steady pressure on the salmon with the added cushioning effect should the salmon bolt suddenly. This high rod position also keeps your fly line away from any subsurface obstacles which could snag your fly line so never let the rod tip drop when you're playing a salmon. I completely cringe every time I see a fish being played with a low rod tip giving the fish the advantage of a quick sharp unexpected direct pull at the hook hold which they can be good at! Avoiding a drowned line is important although it's sometimes difficult especially with a shorter rod and a bulky shooting head style fly line that's difficult to lift clear of the river surface due to excessive line drag.
Following Your Salmon Downstream
If your salmon takes off downstream at any point in the fight it is important that you follow it to regain a 'side on' fight position if at all possible. If you try to play a salmon that is way below you then you'll be playing the weight of the river too and all the hook hold pressure will also be directed out of the fish's mouth instead of into it which can often result in the loss of the salmon. You don't really want a hooked fish way downstream of your riverbank position as it shakes its head left to right (and the hook set angle!) in an attempt to get rid of your fly. If however the riverbank terrain doesn't permit you to follow your fish a steady gently applied pressure may just coax it back upstream to where you want it to be.
Salmon Fishing Fight Pressure
When playing your fish take your time and just release your fly reel when the salmon starts to pull away and draw line back onto the reel when the fish eases off its pressure and eventually this will tire the fish out. While you are playing your salmon always be scanning for a suitable slow flow, deep 'snag free' area of the pool to land the fish in. Never try to play a fish in fast or shallow water as both will give you very little control of the salmon in the latter stages of the fight when full control is important for the effective landing of your fish. A wet 'pre-sunk' landing net can then just simply be lifted as your fish is drawn over it so there's no need to chase a fish about with the net if you wait for the right moment to land it.