Salmon Fly Swim Time
By Jock Monteith 8th March 2021
Effective salmon pool water coverage and a sound understanding of how to react to the inevitable take from a salmon are the biggest two misunderstood aspects of Scottish salmon fishing. The next few paragraphs will maybe cause you to adjust your strategy if these points differ from what you're currently doing.
Sub Surface Salmon Fly Thoughts
Once you've mastered the art of Spey casting or whatever cast you use to deliver a reasonable length of line consistently to the salmon river it is crucial that your thoughts not only become 'sub surface' but also on covering as much water effectively & consistently as you can throughout the salmon fishing day. It's never been too easy to catch salmon (except for the odd occasion!) so make sure you're bringing to the table the necessary water coverage strategy required for success.
Salmon Pool Coverage
Logic will tell you that the more water you effectively cover the more you are raising the odds of swinging your fly in front of a taking fish. Showing a salmon too much of the fly from what I've seen throughout my professional career will only diminish the chances of a salmon reacting positively to it. With that in mind make sure each & every swing of your salmon fly is spaced at exactly 3 feet which is normally the length between the butt cap on your rod and the first butt ring on a normal sized salmon fly rod if you need an approximate measuring tool. Look for a riverbed feature directly under the butt ring before casting then simply move to that exact spot if you seek real wading boot movement precision!
Salmon Fly Swing Spacings
Any less than 3 feet and you're showing salmon too much of the fly and reducing your effective water coverage by hundreds of metres over the full course of the fishing day. Any more than 3 feet and you're possibly going to miss swinging the fly into the 'taking range' of a salmon that's keen to cooperate. I've personally found 3 feet to be the perfect distance which equates to 3 small steps between each cast which is much safer than 1 big step while wading!
What The Salmon See
Imaging you were a salmon watching a salmon fly swing closer and closer separated by 6 inches to a foot. By the time the fly was over or in front of you you'd already have been too used to seeing it and likely not react through boredom! On the other hand if all of a sudden the fly is right on top of you and you haven't been able to see too much of its approach there's much more likelihood of a solid predatory reaction. The worst case scenario if the fish doesn't take is that that you've warmed it up for your fishing buddy who's 60 yards behind you which automatically gives you a credit from the Salmon God!
When A Salmon Takes
Most of the salmon fishing books are full of utter nonsense with this 'let the fish draw line and slowly lift into it' guff. If you do that you'll find that the majority of fish will shake the hook out soon into the fight. Don't take a chance after all the effort and tactical astuteness you've deployed to get to the critical magical moment when a salmon cooperates. Logically all hooks require pressure to be properly set so if you think the soft action of a fly rod and lightly set fly reel clutch are going to convert these hard earned hooking opportunities into landed salmon then think again.
Setting A Salmon Fly Hook
Let the salmon take the fly past the 'dunts & nudges' stage which often lasts for several seconds until your well into the steady 'draw of line' peeling off the reel stage. Keep the rod tip down and firmly clamp your fly reel's face until the line tightens. Directly feel the weight of the salmon for a further 3 to 5 seconds with the rod tip pointing in the direction of the fish as that weight you're now feeling applies the logical hook point pressure needed to set the hook properly. Once you've felt the fish's weight release your hand from the reel face, raise the rod and say to yourself thanks Jock I owe you a large Macallan! I guarantee you the fish won't drop off if you do exactly that at the correct moment. Just beware and don't let instant salmon take adrenalin get the better of you making you come in too early with your hook set attempt as the take from a salmon is the only thing in this world that can speed up time!