The Atlantean Encounter
By Jock Monteith 7th March 2020
While it's been gradually getting tougher to catch wild Atlantic salmon on any salmon river over the last 40 years there's nothing that beats that electric nudge & pull on the fly reel when the 'Atlantean' does appear!
2 Types Of Wild Salmon Stock
To my mind there's 2 types of salmon in any river at any one time. Firstly there's the 'easy' fish and secondly there's the 'difficult' fish much the same as kids! If you're fortunate to be fishing a salmon pool jammed with alert, reactive, oceanic hunting head still on 'newcomers' then the reality is that (even if a few hooking opportunities are squandered) a blind dog in a snow storm is going to catch one or two of them at least! Call yourself an expert salmon fisher if you want but to my mind you've still not passed the real salmon fishing test!
Catching Difficult Salmon
The 'difficult' resident fish in the pool that will gladly and often 'annoyingly' show themselves but have completely 'switched off' from investigating a salmon fly are a different proposition and need very careful handling if success is to be achieved. If you're trained only to catching the 'easy' fish with the normal fly fishing tactics then you need to shift into a different gear to have half a chance with these educated salmon. To keep fishing in the same style that these older fish are not responding to is a complete and 'illogical' waste of time and will only educated these fish further!
Targeting Resident Salmon
This creates a great opportunity for salmon anglers to think about how they are going to catch 'not so easy' resident salmon on the Scottish rivers until the Scottish Government are announcing a crackdown on the highly ecologically destructive Scottish North East & West coast aquaculture operations that our 'detached' politicians favour over the wild resource and also deploy some basic salmon migration route policing! In the meantime anglers should make an effort to become 'fully' tuned in as overall from what I've seen too many are not. Most anglers unfortunately do not get the opportunity to fish and hone these salmon fishing skills as often as needed for these skills to be developed effectively or simply have never been fortune enough to be in the company of a true expert and be shown the differing approaches for catching tricky resident fish.
More Than Just Casting A Lovely Line
I'm not talking here about a beautifully presented long range fly line as to my mind while lovely to see that's just the entry ticket to the carnival which doesn't get you a free pass for the dodgems! The way to catch difficult salmon is to firstly stop and think! What's the point of swinging the same 'repetitive' fly patterns 6 feet over resident salmon's heads over and over again hoping one is going to break radio silence! It's not going to happen but understand if you can place any salmon fly into that 'magical' square foot of water directly in front of even a difficult salmon's nose then there's a real chance that fish is going to at least have a 'nudge' at the fly.
Become A Salmon Psychologist
If you can achieve the above thought process and add different angles of 'psychology' to that approach like going much smaller or bigger in fly pattern with some added nudges, dunts and sharp draws to the swing profile of you salmon fly then all of a sudden you'll find these difficult salmon are not as difficult as you once found them! While you're pursuing the targeting of 'difficult' salmon there's also the added possibility that an 'easy' fish will quietly enter the pool and that fish is always likely to be a self identifier! Target the 'difficult' salmon and get your thoughts 100% sub surface and become a highly effective salmon psychologist!
Scottish Salmon Stock Thoughts
I often wonder with these apparently reducing catch numbers if this scenario isn't made to look worse than it really is because of a reducing overall angling effort or indeed a reduction in 'effective' angling methods. For decades there was little emphasis placed on actual salmon fishing tuition as it was all about just buying the permit and turning up with some appropriate (or too often inappropriate) salmon fishing gear. Maybe we are now witnessing the inevitable end result of the mass 'non qualification' of new (or even existing salmon anglers) that's been occurring for the last few decades since the internet era arrived and the change from weekly experienced angler party lets who knew the their salmon beats and exactly how to fish them to single rod day inexperienced angler lets.
Scottish Salmon Stock Guesswork
There's more often than not a huge difference between what a salmon beat ghillie can assist an angler with on the skill development side of things compared to what a dedicated personal salmon guide can do as most beat ghillies have other guests and duties to attend to on a daily basis. Personally I just wish we had effective salmon stock counters on all of our famous rivers to shine a 'true light' on factual salmon stock information and not the complete guesswork that's based on inconsistent angling efforts that we've all trusted to be a true indication of salmon present in any one river system. On an exceptionally low water year like 2018 where salmon all appeared late in the season (when the water came!) an actual main stem river counter is the only way to know for sure as most anglers respond to 'catch stats' these days so a low water season is never going to inspire or encourage angling pressure. Surely knowing (not guessing) your basic stock position is crucial for the management of any industry.