Salmon River Fly Fishing
By Jock Monteith 5th September 2021
Catching a salmon on any river anywhere in the world requires a reasonable level of skill and understanding of the task in hand. It's very rare for a salmon fly fisher to experience immediate success in this sport unless accompanied by an experienced professional salmon fishing guide.
Knowing How To Catch Salmon
I believe that if salmon were much easier to catch they'd have less attraction and the fact that you need to know what you're doing to stand half a chance of success is a big part of the challenge and attraction of the sport. A salmon requires stealth, thought & consistent persistency in order to make it cooperate and I'll cover a few of the basics in the next few paragraphs.
Salmon Fishing Equipment
While the fishing tackle industry has gone berserk with a vast array of ever changing tackle 'systems' as they're now referred to a salmon doesn't give a jot about any of that. The things that make a fish cooperate are normally decided in a spilt second and are solely to do with the sub surface swim of the fly and zero to do with the arial performance of a fly line or the brand label of your fishing kit.
Salmon Fly Presentation
'See yourself as others see you' are the words that come to mind on salmon fly presentation and a good salmon fly fisher will be in full control of the salmon fly through its swim range and as importantly how much of the fly a salmon is allowed to see. The reason I mention that last point is because the less a salmon sees of a fly the more chance you'll get the predatory or inquisitive reaction you're looking for.
Fishing Your Salmon Fly Correctly
Fly fishing means 'fly fishing' so it's important that your thoughts are tuned fully into the swim behaviour of the salmon fly at whatever range you're fishing at as that's really the only thing that matters. Space each swing of the fly by approx 3 ft and consistently arc these fly swings down through the pools with a controlled fly that suits the season and water temperature. This approx 3ft fly swing spacing will increase your chances of a reaction and maximise your days water coverage. The rule of thumb on this is a slower fly in the cold water and a faster fly in the warmer water but keep an open mind and don't be afraid to experiment when the normal approaches aren't working.
Deep Fly Salmon Fishing Tactics
When salmon are lying 'doggo' in the pools and are being stubborn because they've been bombarded daily by anglers on beats where the ghillie allows an over-fishing scenario on the pools then your only chance is to get your salmon fly right down onto them and tweak the fly right past their noses as they're highly unlikely to come off their lie to intercept a high swimming fly. This scenario means that often even in the height of Summer you'll need to be fishing a heavy sinking line or long heavy sink tip which is the opposite of what most salmon fishing books will say is correct.
Get A Proper Grip Of Your Fish
I've seen so many examples of anglers who refused to listen completely blowing fantastic high quality salmon takes over the decades that some times it wakes me up at night in a cold sweat! What's the point of getting your Spey casting good enough along with perfecting correct riverbank movement with a properly thought out depth of fly to then fail at the final hurdle of setting the hook. Technically speaking if you keep your rod down and never lift it your salmon will hook itself due to the drag on the belly of your fly line if you're in a pool with any reasonable flow and fishing your fly at 20 yards plus. I've personally demonstrated this to many guests over the years but once you know the salmon has turned clamping the reel with the rod tip down to momentarily feel the weight of the fish will make certain you've got him well pinned!
Studying Salmon Fishing
You could take a PHD on this subject and these are just a few initial thoughts that are high on the relevancy list. The guest in this photograph is holding one of four salmon that he caught on his first day's salmon fishing because he was thoroughly taught all about the importance of 'fly mentality' in the first hour of his salmon fishing introduction. Don't be a 'launch and hope' specialist then on touch down forget all about the performance of your fly and get your thoughts tuned into salmon fly sub-surface mode as quickly as you can. As soon as you 'become' the fly and are fully aware and are in full control of its pace & depth I can assure you that your opportunities to hook salmon will increase ten fold.