Stealth & Salmon Lies
By Jock Monteith 6th June 2020
There are many good opportunities to catch salmon blown each year in Scotland by salmon anglers who rush straight into a salmon pool far too quickly and without much thought. Here's a typical example of how close to a riverbank salmon often are.
Salmon Have Great Radar
Any fish that's survived the heightened perils of juvenile river life for 2 or 3 years from the constant imbalanced daily assault from brown trout, goosanders, mergansers, cormorants & otters is one smart little creation if you truly think about that fact. Predation control for juvenile salmon these days is at an all time low on Scotland's main and largest salmon river the River Tay so any juvenile salmon that actually survives early river life in the Tay should be on the New Year honours list! Don't underestimate a salmon's ability to sense any type of predator as they are forced to become 'true masters' from a very early age.
Juvenile Salmon In River Protection
Maybe on the face of things this could be misconstrued as a biased statement but juvenile salmon have a hard time of it due to over cautious laws that protect and allow other creatures to dominate & flourish that serve little or zero benefit to Scotland's rural economies. It's like a failed IQ test for Government & all of the other wild life quangos who've not provided enough sensible basic protection of our juvenile salmon and have allowed the demise of the once huge annual Scottish salmon smolt migrations to head to sea. Then management conveniently created the latest 'false narrative' that 'ocean mortality' is the only problem in salmon management when the returning adult salmon numbers inevitably started dropping!
Salmon Need A Careful Pool Approach
With the perils of in river life predation that salmon instantly have to adjust to or be 'snaffled' it's no wonder they require a careful fishing approach most of the time. Their dark backs and their tendency to enjoy lying up often in areas that are very close to the edge of the river make them virtually invisible and easy to spook by a salmon fisher who's not thinking about where fish could be holding in a pool as he approaches it with distant cast fever! Stealth of approach on any size of Scottish salmon river is a useful skill to learn and will increase your success ratio if you tune in. Unfortunately a mirror is a seldom used salmon fishing instructional tool but then again few anglers even bother to undertake any formal training so naturally moaning about the general lack of salmon (even when they're only really pursuing one fish) is more convenient to justify their lack of success.
How To Approach A Salmon Pool
Your approach to a salmon pool should always be a 'slow' movement 'wide' berthed one and never from the tail to the neck of the pool crunching your way up the gravel along the side of the riverbank. Stop at the neck of the pool if you're not familiar with the salmon lies and study the flows looking for the dark glassy patches or the edges of the stream where there's calmer deep water. Look for the surface swirls and boils created by subsurface features where salmon could be present. Once you're ready to fish move slowly into the water to ankle or shin depth only (no bow wave!) and start with a short gradually extending line before going deeper (only if required) and extending your fly line to full casting length before commencing your downstream fishing movement.
Undisturbed Salmon Pools
There's nothing that beats being out on a salmon pool on any of the Scottish rivers when you've an internal 'hunch' that salmon are present whether they're showing or not. This is what salmon fly fishing is all about and that careful pool approach goes along way to increasing your chances of gaining the desired reaction from a fish that doesn't know you're there! I've watched hundreds of salmon anglers over the years put their chest waders on then within minutes they've 'charged' into a salmon pool right up to there oxters and wonder why they don't catch salmon on the fly. Common sense really but drop those often inaccurate thoughts that salmon are only present in the centre seam of the river as that's a real fallacy.
The Green Bank On The Upper Kinnaird Beat
The above photograph was taken from the Green Bank Pool on the Upper Kinnaird beat of the River Tay where I've marked the salmon lie that all anglers miss out on covering unless they're with me! There's a burn that enters the Tay on the gravel you see and deep water right off the burn mouth. This is a serious hot spot and example of just how close salmon often lie to the edge of the river. Only a careful pool approach from above with a fly that ghosts right into the river margins here will catch a salmon. A clumsy walk right onto the obvious stoney bank casting location which is what happens here with vast majority of salmon fishers and old Sam is gone along with a great opportunity to fish an easy and often productive salmon lie. The 2nd picture shows the 2 main salmon lies at the March Pool on Upper Kinnaird where the Tummel greets the Tay. If an angler wades beyond the red line their chance of a fish off this 'highly' potent upper pool salmon lie (red circle) will be blown.