Stealth On The Salmon River
By Jock Monteith 15th July 2021
Wouldn't it be fascinating if just for one day we could get salmon to swim upside down exposing their white bellies in the dark river water to show us exactly how they react to a clumsy riverbank wading approach!
Ghillie Salmon Pool Approach Advice
From my own personal daily riverbank observations I've often known before a fly is even cast whether an angler has blown their chances or not just by the way they've followed salmon pool approach instructions or not as the case may be. All too often in this game the professional advice from the ghillie is not taken on board for whatever reason but probably more to do with the sheer excitement involved in being back on the salmon river than ignorance. The excitement of the salmon river often blocks quality professional ghillie salmon fishing advice and seems to often disrupt the ear's nerve connections to the human brain!
Salmon Are Highly Sensitive
Salmon are far more wary of us than we give them credit for and sometimes after they've been spooked they'll still show in a pool even after being moved off their lies to a different holding area by a careless angling approach. Once salmon have been 'rattled' like that they often become experts at salmon fly avoidance techniques! It's the same on the River Tay where you'll also often encounter professional boatmen 'full throttling' their way right up through a salmon pool that they are about to fish back down through instead of carefully & logically commuting on low revs slowly up the river away from the likely salmon holding areas. At night thankfully salmon pools get 'reset' but what's the point of churning up the pool unnecessarily to unsettle or scatter it's inhabitants and reduce the chances of success when you're just about to fish back down through the pool!
A Cautious Salmon Fly Only Approach
To catch a salmon it is imperative that the very first thing you engage the fish's 'naturally' cautious mind upon is your salmon fly and not some gravel crunching lateral line 'rattling' careless pool approach or the water flow displacement you've just caused by wading far too deep in the pool. When many salmon anglers put a pair of chest waders on there seems to be an irresistible urge to go in as deep as possible but maybe that's just our salmon protection God at work! Your first swing down through any salmon pool should always be conducted from the margins and your riverbank approach to the neck of the pool starting position should be a slow moving and as 'wide berthed' one as possible!
Salmon Fly Fisher Mind Sets
Most salmon fly fishers are under the completely wrong impression that salmon will always be found in the deepest most furthest away point in the salmon river. This is mainly only ever the case when salmon anglers from both banks have herded the fish there! I've been completely shocked on numerous occasions over the decades by just how close to the riverbank undisturbed salmon will take up their lies. As a professional salmon ghillie give me the artistic 25 yard consistent fly controlled shin depth fly fisher any day over the deep wading 40 yard plus WMD 'salmon dispersing' specialist who has zero fly control awareness or thoughts on how close salmon could be holding or the damage his body turbulence wake has done to his chances of success!
The First Run Through a Salmon Pool
No matter how hard the studs on your wading boots are 'wheel spinning' to get out into the chest wader 'test' zone keep back for at least your first run through the pool. Remember that there's much more chance of a salmon having taken up its holding position at the edge of the stream and not necessarily out in the faster flowing mid stream area. Treat the margins of any salmon pool with respect and be aware at all times of what a salmon may be seeing! Take a fascination in short range salmon fly control to effectively cover those calmer smooth gliding areas at the edge of the stream before even getting into the river. If you learn how to properly lift & control your Spey cast 'swing' and 'anchor point' you can fish these areas without even getting into the river and you'll likely be amazed at what you'll find!