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Salmon Fishing Advice

By 21st April 2023

Here’s a few wee thoughts to consider the next time your out on your favourite salmon beat swinging your fly over the known salmon lies. They say it’s the little things that can make a big difference and in salmon fishing it’s no different.

Always Listen Carefully To Your Ghillie

Even if you’re a true 'Captain of Industry' in the real world give the beat ghillie the respect he deserves by listening carefully to his advice on how to fish the pools. Absolutely nothing beats being on a river every day of the fishing season for working out exact salmon holding positions in all of the varying water conditions. If a certain 'hot spot' is identified to you by the ghillie then make sure you take that information on board unless you want to see another angler benefit from his advice and not you!

Don’t Wade Into A Salmon Pool Too Deep

Just because a pair of chest waders go all the way up to your chest it doesn’t mean you have to! When approaching any salmon pool always work on the assumption that salmon could be lying very close to the riverbank you’re fishing from as often they will be. A careless pool approach or too deep a wade could completely ruin your chances of what could have been an easy quick fish! Adopting the mindset of how salmon could be viewing you will always improve your batting average!

Space Each Swing Of The Fly Correctly

Inching you’re way down through a salmon pool not only frustrates other anglers who may have to fish behind you but also diminishes your chances of a subsurface assault on your fly. Salmon respond far better when they see a fly for the first time so make sure your riverbank movement is spaced by at least 3ft which will also allow you to cover much more water during each fishing day. Remember the fact that there's a far greater chance of obtaining the desired sub surface reaction from a fish that's been startled by your fly than from a fly that's bored it to death!

Reacting To The Salmon Take Or Not As The Case May Be!

Salmon have a great habit of taking your fly when your mind is completely elsewhere which could easily make you do something silly like quickly lifting the rod! The effective mantra to repeat over and over in your head is ‘do nothing’ as it’s crucial that you allow the fish to not only take a few 'dunts' at the fly but also to turn on the fly and to start to head back to its original holding position. Only when you’re totally convinced the fish has turned should you tighten on the fish to set the hook. The most ‘logical' way to apply this 'hook set' pressure is by clamping the reel face with the rod tip down until the weight of the fish is briefly felt and 'only' then lift the rod.

Look For A Suitable Salmon Landing Area

Once battle commences with a salmon try to get into a position where the fish is being played opposite you. Playing a fish that’s been allowed to take a downstream position also brings the weight of the river into the equation and technically applies hook pressure in an 'out of mouth' potential direction which isn’t as safe as being opposite therefore applying pressure in an 'in to mouth’ direction. Always be looking for some calmer deepish 'snag free' water near the riverbank as an intended landing area to steer your salmon into when it’s ready to be landed. Positioning yourself optimally soon into the salmon fight greatly increases your chances of a successful outcome if you utilise this logic based advice.

Netting A Salmon

Whether you’re fishing alone or have a fishing colleague landing your fish for you don’t let them stand between you and your fish until the fish is showing obvious signs or tiring. Nothing rushes or kills the enjoyment of playing a salmon more than a ghillie or angler getting ready with the net too soon. In addition to that an early look at the net while a salmon still has full 'battery power' can result in the fish fighting even harder than what it normally would have done. When the time is right the angler should only have to draw the fish over the sunken net before the net is lifted and the salmon should never be ‘chased' around with the net. Over my career the only salmon I've ever seen that didn't survive capture were fish that had been played far too hard by the angler (especially in warmer oxygen depleted water) which had reciprocated to a point of total 'irrecoverable' exhaustion. When playing a salmon don't completely lay into it nor be too soft on it but take your time as necessary until you start to gain control of the fish.

Salmon Fishing Beat Etiquette 

Most of the professional ghillies of Scotland put many unseen hours of continual effort into their already 'time intensive’ careers which in all too many cases isn’t properly remunerated by salmon beat owners. An unserviced salmon beat is never as good as fishing a fully serviced salmon beat where the riverbanks are maintained along with a nice clean tidy inviting salmon fishing hut. If you’ve enjoyed your day out in paradise and (regardless of whether or not you've scored) then pay respect to the beat ghillie on departure as these men are real ambassadors of the Scottish rivers and they should never be taken for granted nor should their life time investment in this fantastic pursuit be forgotten.