Salmon Take Composure
By Jock Monteith 2nd May 2021
Wild Atlantic salmon are true masters at appearing at your fly at a moment during the fishing day when you're completely 'switched off' as if they are mind readers. It's crucial that you 'keep the heid' at this moment and maintain absolute composure!
Experimentation With Hooking Techniques
Having been a salmon fisher & professional ghillie for many decades I've played about with various different methods of hooking salmon on the fly but here's the one I choose to stick with and have been successfully using for the last 20+ years. My take on this subject is that all salmon fishers work hard for that 'golden opportunity' to hook, play & land a salmon so it's important you make it count or your adrenalin from contact with the underworld will be well and truly wasted! Let good old 'logic' be your judge & jury and have faith in what you're about to read as all hooks require sufficient pressure to be set properly and all anglers would rather land a salmon than lose one!
An Effective Salmon Fly Hooking Method
This is the hooking method I personally use & teach when guiding for guests and often when a new fisher's water coverage is good enough and the opportunity to hook a salmon arises this method has brought many fish to the landing net on day 1 of many new salmon fly fisher's careers. I personally simulate the take from a salmon with every client prior to a salmon fly being tied on and the client starting to fish. I do this 3 times at least (as a form of brainwashing!) with every guest until they understand completely that they under no account are to react to the initial tugs or knocks on the fly which typically last for 4 to 8 seconds or 'ever' lift the rod without first setting the hook.
Wait For The Steady Fly Reel Line Draw
I inform all guests that it is 'imperative' that they wait for the 'tugs & plucks' to stop and a steady draw of fly line to start peeling off the reel. That they must 'also' wait for this steady draw of line to continue for a minimum of a further 4 to 6 seconds before clamping the reel face with the rod tip pointing down towards the fish until the weight of the salmon is felt for a further few seconds before releasing their hand from the reel face and then finally lifting the rod. I let all guests know 'in advance' that these seconds will feel like 'minutes' with the added shot of adrenalin and under no account should they rush proceedings even though they’ll feel compelled to do so! I make completely sure they understand the importance of getting effective pressure onto the hook points and that the most effective ‘logical' method to do this is by clamping the reel face with the rod parallel to the river at the 'correct' moment (rod pointing in the direction of the fish) and prior to lifting the rod!
Lifting Your Fly Rod Without A Hook Set
Lifting without previously clamping the reel face to feel the weight of the fish and add sufficient hook set pressure only gives you the soft action of the rod and slack reel clutch to create an effective hook set. That means you're really relying on the salmon's head shakes or the water drag from your fly line belly in the stream to deliver sufficient hook set pressure to your hook points to set them properly. I always go 'heavy' on this when teaching to ensure that the guest has the best chance of converting a 'take' into a landed salmon. I advise every guest that this is a crucial part of salmon fishing and that few fishers understand this effective & ‘logic’ backed method. I've seen it all too often over the years where salmon fishers completely fluff their hard earned salmon take via far too quick a lift (without firstly setting the hook) and the fish saying goodbye within the normal 10 second period!
Simulate This Salmon Fly Hooking Method For Yourself
A general salmon fly fisher lack of understanding results in the loss of thousands of salmon hooking opportunities each year on the Scottish salmon rivers which is completely unnecessary. Have a colleague take the end of your fly line and simulate a salmon's draw of fly line from the reel and ask him which method placed more line pressure on his hand between the 'lifting with a slack clutch' method or clamping the reel face with the rod still down method. I know 'logically' what the answer will be and so do you before you even try it. A salmon’s mouth has reasonably tough tissue so it is imperative that the hook set is achieved properly or it will be ‘catch & release’ at 20 yards and usually always in under 30 seconds of contact! It has amazed me over the years that even highly experienced fly fishers still drop hooking opportunities through not getting enough crucial hook set pressure onto their hook point at the critical salmon hooking moment.