Salmon Fishing Sink Tips

By 1st March 2018

Salmon fishing these days has become an exacting science of grains & grams and specific cut lengths of exacting tungsten impregnated PVC or polyurethane sinking tips. It makes me often wonder how on earth we used to catch salmon at all in the old days!

Double Taper Salmon Fly Lines

There are many who will automatically jump in and say there were more salmon around back then and it didn't matter as much but I remember plenty blank days on the Tay through the 70's & 80's too or maybe I was just imagining it! When I started salmon fly fishing the popular line was a white Hardy double taper with a 10 ft sink tip extruded into the front ends. When I say 'front ends' I mean 'front ends' as when the end you were using got tired after a few seasons all you simply had to do was reverse the line for a new one. No wonder the tackle manufacturer's phased out the old double tapers!

The New Sink Tip Science & Sink Rates

These days we've created a system of T this & T that that you'd need to be the captain of a Boeing 747 to correctly assess exactly what tip was needed to match what the flow rate and pool depth was before selecting a specific tip from the vast array of sink tip densities that are now fully available and at all lengths to also match the new exact science of rod grain or gram 'circus seal' balancing trick! Thinking back to the old days on the Tay my late ghillie mentor colleague would have remarked "if the salmon wants your fly son he'll let you know!"

Fishing A Deep Salmon Fly

On the deeper salmon pools on the Scottish rivers it often pays when the water warms and salmon are naturally lying deep in the cooler thermals to get down onto the fish but unless you can truly see the bottom of a salmon pool it's a guess as to how close you are to the riverbed unless you feel your sink tip or fly clipping the riverbed through the swing. The only way to properly assess this is to get into the river and take a look yourself with a snorkel & mask! If you do you'll be surprised as to how much higher these long sink tips are actually fishing your fly as opposed to where you thought they were fishing in the water column. 

Where Is Your Salmon Fly Fishing

Relax about the above as the whole 'T' or 'Type' identification system where the number following the T represents the sink rate of the tip in 'inches per second' is only calculated when an inch of tip material is dropped into a container of still water. This sink rate 'Type' system does not take into account the buoyancy of the floating belly fly line that is so commonly used these days with most sink tips or the draw of the river flow which cancels out the majority of any tip's sink rate ability. Even when a big mend is applied after the forward delivery allowing the tip to get a few seconds to do its job the tip will tend to start 'riding up' on an upward plane through the middle section of the swing due this floating main line buoyancy and the draw of the river.

Knowing The Exact Salmon Pool Depth 

How does all this science affect our salmon fishing line depth selection you may ask. Well it doesn't as much as you may think unless you intimately know the riverbed & depth of each pool you are fishing and salmon are lying deep on the riverbed and are in 'snap happy' mode when your only chance of a 'take' is to put the fly right on their noses as they 'thankfully' will often come up for a fly. If your fly's flight path is half way there and there's a 'taker' in the pool you're making it much easier for that fish to intercept your fly. The shorter distance the salmon has to travel obviously reduces the chances of that fish changing its mind after starting the investigation process! 

Braided Core Sink Tip Or Polyleader

Although some shallower Scottish rivers like the Spey require a full floating line for many of its beautiful salmon pools the Tay is the opposite of that. The other thing that often influences the sink tip choice for anglers is their personal ability & their fly lines ability to turn over a heavy sink tip. On the bigger deeper Scottish salmon rivers fishing a proper sink tip is often the way to go and that doesn't necessarily mean a lightly dipped thin profiled polyleader which I'd only consider for the front end of a proper braided core tip when delicate small fly presentation was required during low Summer water conditions.

My Own Thoughts On Salmon Fishing Sink Tips

Personally I don't like fishing full sunk lines even though I designed one that didn't need a role cast to lift it and that came with an intermediate belly that would hold good 'sub surface' shape profile all the way to the salmon fly business end while swinging through the pool. I think there's a few specific purposes for a full sunk line at certain times of the salmon fishing season and I don't mean in the freezing cold water of early Spring when salmon are 'naturally' holding higher in the water column for warmth closer to that of the temperature of the North Sea where they've come from. The full sunk line from what I've seen works best in the warmer water of late Spring, Summer & Autumn when salmon are lying on the riverbed in deep pools and have 'seen it all' and you need to make it very easy for them to have a go! From a grace, elegance and personal enjoyment point of view I like catching salmon on my full floating belly line with a 10ft, 12ft or 15ft tip and on the Tay I'm usually always on the Type 3 which is probably very close in sink density to the front end of my old Hardy double taper!