Salmon Fly Thoughts
By Jock Monteith 2nd December 2022
If you're not completely in love with the fly you're fishing then don't fish it. A salmon fly needs to inspire your inner soul with her sexy stream movement, tantalising colours and real 'live' creature simulation. If a fly can do that to your mind then a salmon has got no chance of being able to ignore it!
The Old School River Tay Ghillies
I used to hang about with a professional River Tay ghillie who would carried an old tobacco tin in the left hand breast pocket of his tweed jacket with a few old battered looking flies of a few patterns and sizes for most water conditions. The patterns were mainly Orange & Yellow, Thunder & Lightening, Mar Lodge, Garry Dog & the Silver Stoat. Although his flies were old and suffered from 'alopecia' the hook points were always well honed and he always carried a little sharpening stone for that very purpose. Seldom did he throw away any of his flies and when he did out of respect it was always a ceremonial cremation in the fishing hut's fire!
Too Many Salmon Flies Are Not Necessary
Of course in those days there were more salmon in the Tay (most of the time) but these old flies were all great movers in the stream when tested at the side of the river during selection. To gain entry in to my late friends tobacco tin a fly needed to be something special indeed. These days many anglers turn up with huge boxes of salmon flies to choose from which have been purchased based on colour & bling combinations and rarely due to the more important 'stream movement' element side of the fly. This is great news for the tackle dealers but to lure a difficult salmon more attention should always be placed on the movement of the fly if you seek more than the easier caught fresh runner!
Travel Light On The Salmon River
During most salmon fishing days all you really need in your pocket are 2 or 3 spare flies and a spare length of leader material. Great big heavy fishing bags over your shoulder that you've got to keep walking back to on a riverbank only diminishes your fly's swim time throughout the fishing day. Travel light and find complete 'faith' in the salmon fly & spares that you're carrying and leave the full selection box suit cases alone as they'll only add confusion to your fishing day. Arctic fox & long soft Schlappen hackles do it for me on the movement side of things but the combination of these materials are seldom found in mass production salmon flies so learning to tie your own will always be advantageous.
Make Your Salmon Fly Stand Out In The Stream
If you're a salmon swimming up a Scottish river there's a great chance you're going to see a few different salmon flies during your journey. There's more chance of a predatory reaction from a salmon when it's not used to seeing something so any fly that's behaving differently in the stream is going to catch the fish's attention better and that's where good fur, feather & fibre 'stream pulsing' waggle comes into play. Make sure your salmon flies swim differently from the normal stuff salmon are seeing day in and day out and 'flight path' them right down on to fish when the going is tough and watch the difference!
Atlantic Salmon Have Acute Vision
Don't underestimate a salmon's radar for spotting a salmon fly either. I've seen heavyweight salmon come to the most sparsely dressed little black trout sized flies and on some occasions in coloured water too! I'm usually always fishing a size smaller or bigger than what most other anglers will fish with and I've had great days with size 9's when all other anglers are touching nothing with the 'correct' big 2 inch tube flies during the higher water conditions of early Spring & late Autumn. To my mind (regarding small flies) if a salmon can't see something too easily then there's a chance he's going to commit to further investigation. Once a fish comes off its lie to inspect a fly more closely it can only properly do that with its mouth!