Summer Salmon River Tactics
By Jock Monteith 22nd August 2021
This is the time of the salmon fishing season where switching into careful stealth mode will often be the different between success and a blank. In Scottish salmon fishing tactical astuteness often represents a game of opposites.
Salmon Fishing Success In Summer
Success in salmon fishing has nothing necessarily to do with expensive fishing kit or being out on the best available salmon beats but much more to do with adapting your fishing approach to match the water conditions. It always amazes me how salmon anglers often keep going with biggish size 9 Spring flies right into June and beyond instead of switching down to the much smaller sizes that salmon are far more likely to take an interest in during the often lower clear warm water conditions of Summer.
River Dee Summer Fly Fishing Tactics
On the beautiful River Dee the low warm water of Summer key to success requires the use of the lightest dressed size 16's & 18's for salmon to be interested. Clearly these salmon have switched back into their 'juvenile' mind set for these tiny salmon flies to be of interest and fishing with anything bigger is usually a complete waste of time. These tiny River Dee salmon flies are seldom used on the River Tay from what I've seen and anglers keep going with the bigger largely 'ignored' flies. Having independent thoughts works in salmon fishing so it's best that you break from the pack and experiment when the normal sized salmon flies are being completely ignored.
The Low Water Salmon Pool Approach
The low water levels of Summer often creates confusion in a salmon fisher's mind so let me explain what I mean. In high water conditions the water pressure of the river in many cases pushes salmon into the river margins where they can get a break from the current and a short line is the order of the day. In the low water Summer conditions (and lower water pressures) the salmon lies are much more likely to be out nearer the centre of the river in the deeper pockets so a longer line is required. In other words presenting a fly line at longer range is normally more appropriate through the lower water Summer months than during the higher water levels of Spring or Autumn when salmon are usually holding much closer to the riverbanks.
Keep Back From Low Water Salmon Lies
With the above in mind here's the big error that is often made by Summer fly fishers. Those low water Summer conditions usually encourage anglers to test out their deep wading skills which will highly unlikely not go unnoticed by the underworld! The key to low water Summer fishing is giving the salmon lies due respect and keeping well back and fishing a long line to cover them. This approach works far better and the only thing the salmon are aware of is your fly! Salmon pools can easily be completely trashed by Summer salmon fishers who are convinced getting as close to the fish is the answer or who haven't taken the time to learn how to 'load' their fly rod properly! Also, you'll be able to perform a significantly better & easier cast when your body gauge is registering shin to knee depth as opposed to thigh to waist depth.
Get Your Summer Fishing Tactics Just Right
If you're fishing the correct small size of proven salmon fly pattern in low Summer water paired up by keeping well back from suspected salmon lies then you'll be definitely in with the chance of a fish. On the other hand if you're fishing a big 'Argyll & Southern Highlander dress sporran' paired with a deep wade through the pool you'll very likely be wasting your time (and the pool) when salmon are reliving their juvenile years! The tiny salmon flies I'd recommend through these low water months would be some of the 'tiniest' and lightly dressed red or black 'Francis' patterns (fished with a fairly heavy sink tip) and have the faith to stick with them as salmon will always find time to snap at a deeply fished shrimp simulator! The other Summer low water pattern I have complete faith in is the Silver Stoat which has worked very well for many decades for me on the Scottish rivers and you'll never catch me without one in my fly box during the bright low water months of Summer.