Salmon River Traditions

By 3rd July 2018

There's some lovely traditions that add to the magic of Scottish salmon fishing that makes it even more appealing than other types of fresh water angling. The fishing effectiveness from a traditional River Tay salmon boat with a professional boatman is without doubt one of them.

The River Tay Coble Salmon Fishing Boat

The use of a traditional River Tay 16ft coble salmon fishing boat offers several definite salmon fishing advantages on the Tay where there are often long distance salmon lies which would be difficult to effectively cover from the riverbank with the correct pace of fly or lure. A skilled boatman on the Tay or any other larger Scottish salmon river where boats are often used will handle his boating techniques with absolute perfection even though on the majority of occasions you'll not even be aware of his constant concentration levels and precision maneuvering.  

A Skilled River Tay Boatman

An experienced River Tay boatman will use the minimum of energy required on the outboard's throttle while navigating upstream and downstream with no bow wave commotion that could move salmon off their lies in the salmon pools being commuted through. What the point in using the boat as a fishing advantage if you're going to 'scatter the pigeons' before you even start fishing! Watching a true master boatman is an education in itself and I was fortunate as a young man to have such guidance from the renowned Tay ghillie Willie Laird who was indeed a true master craftsman. In the old days before the outboard era you'd have had 2 boatmen on the oars all day when 'harling' duties were required and a long day that would have been on the oars!

Salmon River Fishing From A Boat

The traditional larch built Tay coble salmon boat is often also used during lower water conditions as a casting platform where a professional boatman will rope you down through the pools while you cast a consistent length of line as he's doing so. This is a truly methodical method of salmon pool coverage where your boatman is in full control of your fly swing spacings over the likely salmon lies. The boat can also be used for traditional River Tay 'harling' where lures or flies are swung methodically behind the boat as it slowly works through the pools in a downstream direction. The water coverage achieved from 3 lures that never leave the water for re-casting should never be underestimated!

River Tay Salmon Fishing Harling

With 'harling' the proper technique involves having your lures or flies staggered at different ranges with the middle rod of typically 3 rods fishing the longest line. The correct River Tay 'harling' approach is to drop the boat back downstream one boat length between each turn of the boat. When you study the 'harling' form of a true River Tay boatman you'll see it's a serious business of water coverage and making sure the lures are moving at the correct pace for the water and temperature conditions. This requires focus from the ghillie or boatman and if he's engaged in conversation with his guests he'll be operating on peripheral vision and his concentration levels will be hardly noticeable until a buckling rod confirms your suspicions!