What Makes A Great Salmon Fishing Day
By Jock Monteith 10th March 2020
Many would obviously instantly answer the above by saying that catching a salmon would make the salmon fishing day special but from my point of view as a former professional beat ghillie that was only a part of the icing on the cake when it comes to the fishing guest's enjoyment of their day.
Going That Bit Further For The Salmon Fishers
The enjoyment of the entire salmon fishing experience for all fishing guests is the name of the game from a professional ghillie's stand point if returning fishing guests are what they're trying to achieve. In the old pre-internet & social media era when my work started on the Tay if you weren't getting quality salmon fishing referrals from existing fishing guests & be-back business you'd have a quiet salmon beat. To achieve these things you had to be running higher overall service levels than your competitor beats and that worked a treat and I doubled my beat's turnover each year for the first 3 years with that winning formula approach.
Attention To Detail On A Salmon Beat
From a salmon fishing guest's point of view it was the 'attention to detail' and preparedness of the salmon fishing hut that got their attention long before you took them around the beat and astutely pointed out exactly where their best daily chances of hooking a salmon were to be found and how best to tactically approach these 'hot spots'. My kettle was always whistling away before the first guest's car ever drove in at the back of 8am and the entire fishing hut and surrounding area would be immaculate and fully ready for all of the guests. There's much satisfaction for all professional ghillies too when their beat & hut is looking at its best and ready for the fishing day.
Taking The Salmon Fishing Guest's Day Seriously
They say first impressions go a long way to sizing up compatibility and the potential of a relationship so aside from the instant hospitality all fishing guests would receive it was always important to my mind that the salmon fishing guests knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was taking their salmon fishing day very seriously. As a professional ghillie it's easy to take the sheer magic of the river for granted but placing yourself into another man's boots who's fighting in the concrete jungle for a living is a good & 'grounding' thought to consider.
The Effect Of Fishing The Salmon River
A big part of the magic of our pursuit is the brilliant 'escapism' back to mother nature and the basic 'hunter gatherer' far distant memory recall. To pursue an often unseen amazing creature like a wild Atlantic salmon in such beautiful surroundings in itself plays a huge part of the enjoyment of this pursuit. The flow & swirls of the river, the cry of the osprey and just breathing in the natural greenery away from the electronic controlled zones of modern day society are just as potent for many anglers whether that initial adrenalin inducing tug on the fly reel commences or not.
Great Banter On The Salmon River
The riverside banter of a party of salmon fishers in amongst a ghillie who's got a bit of social & professional spark about him can also lead to amazing sit downs after the fishing day is over. I can recall with clarity special moments in salmon fishing huts that go right back to the early 70's as if they were branded into my memory banks for life which they have been. The interaction of kindred spirits over a quality dram reflecting on the brilliance of the salmon river whether a fish was caught that particular day or not is and always has been another major part of the attraction of this amazing sport.
Playing Salmon Fishing Guests To Their Strengths
If a professional ghillie is focussed too much on personal catches then other areas of their business operation will be suffering. The real secret of running a successful salmon beat and maintaining consistent catches is 'talent spotting' at guest arrival time first thing in the morning. Playing all the fishing guests to their strengths in the most appropriate salmon pool areas dictated by the daily water conditions is the key for making sure salmon are caught by the guests. Managing a busy salmon beat of 6 to 8 rods and keeping all guests happy with their day on the river is indeed also a skill in itself. As a professional ghillie there's repeat booking value in monitoring and knowing all guests are fishing contently through every hour of their fishing day.
Returning Salmon Fishing Guests
It doesn't take a lot of brain matter to realise that if a fishing guest has enjoyed a great day out on a salmon beat and has been made to feel welcome he or she will be back regardless of whether or not they caught a salmon. There's way much more to this business these days than just catching salmon as we are indeed in a 'service' industry. While many home grown anglers have been negatively affected by the 'doom & gloom' mongering media based on reducing catch levels over the last 40 years and a very poor low water season in 2018 there's always the chance of a salmon on Scotland's major rivers. As importantly there's some fantastic entertainers on the rivers of Scotland who have highly polished people skills who'll deliver a fantastic day out regardless of whether 'Old Sam' makes an appearance or not. If success in salmon fishing came far too easy I'm certain it would lose much of it's appeal and diminish the buzz of when a salmon is tactically outsmarted!