River Tay Harling
By Jock Monteith 5th October 2018
Traditional River Tay harling is the most amazing craft in Scottish salmon fishing and requires the utmost skill and attention levels to be carried out effectively by your boatman. Don't underestimate this salmon fishing method as the water coverage achieved from traditional harling on the River Tay is immense.
Traditional River Tay Harling
In the old days on the Tay before the outboard era began in the 50's harling was conducted by 2 professional boatman on the oars all day with the guest positioned at the stern of the boat. It was this syncronised boatmanship that would position the guest's baits over the likely salmon holding areas and as importantly at the right pace of presentation.
The Salmon Harling Advantage
The main advantage harling has over riverbank fishing in addition to the fact than you can easily fish 3 or more salmon lures that don't leave the water is the ability to present the lures over longer range salmon lies at a controlled pace you'd never be able to achieve from the riverbank. This is especially effective in the cold high water of early Spring or when you really need to 'hang' a lure over educated Autumn salmon that have seen it all from the faster fished lures and flies from the riverbank anglers.
The Traditional River Tay Coble Boat
The traditional River Tay coble in the right hands is indeed the most deadly tool in Scottish salmon fishing and a skilled boatman who fully understands his craft is a pleasure to watch. A boatman should have been taught to drop downstream by one boat length between each turn of the boat with his 3 lures or flies set at different distances. If this is done technically correct every square metre of the salmon pool will have been covered by at least one of the lures.
Marking Each Turn Of The Salmon Boat
A professional Tay ghillie should also be taking visual markers on the riverbank as 'aiming off' points for the bow of the boat between each downstream turn. There's only a minority of professionals working on the Tay these days who fully understand this craft as many haven't been taught these effective harling skills and therefore have little confidence in this boat fishing technique. The other big mistake you see on the Tay is boatman charging up through pools they're about to then fish back down through and oblivious as to what they have just done.
Careful Salmon Beat Commuting
A boat under an expert boatman's control should manoeuvre up through pools away from the likely salmon holding hot spots with the absolute minimum of disturbance for obvious reasons. If you disturb salmon by charging a boat straight over them with a full throttle engine salmon could easily move on and right out of the beat in many cases on a big river like the Tay. Look for a beat where the professional boatman or ghillie understands how to maintain the ambiance of the river while going about his traditional boating duties.