I have to admit that I was never too analytic of my salmon fishing, more of a go-with-the-flow guy. But things change, especially when you get kids and get to spend way less time at the river.
A skilful salmon angler has a toolbox full of different techniques for different scenarios facing at the river. I strongly believe that the best anglers in the world are the ones who are able to determine and figure out the correct factors any given time, to get the salmon to bite. Their outstanding results come partially from their experience, determination and desire to experiment. All the top anglers that I know are (at least mildly) stubborn and have their own unique way seeing things on the river. Even with their stubbornness they listen carefully about flies and techniques they don’t know, and when they hit the dead quiet day on the river, they might give these new ways a try. All of them have this weird way of sensing that things are about to happen.
I always thought that over-analysing your fishing was just a waste of time. Blabbering about different salmon fishing theories in the Internet discussion board or Facebook’s groups was never my thing. But life tends to drift you in different paths. Getting twin boys sure is one that changes your life. First, you don’t get to sleep. Ever. Second, you don’t get to fish too much. The latter hit me hard when the first salmon season as a dad was approaching fast. I found a way to cope with my misery. Every night when I went to bed, I started to go through each single salmon that I’ve ever caught. I haven’t caught thousands so the task wasn’t mission impossible even without a fishing diary that I never kept. The two weeks going down the memory lane gave me a clear idea about me as a salmon angler. There were also several eureka moments when I realised repeating patterns either in the choosing of flies or the behaviour of salmon.
Having only one option limits you too much and having a hundred just confuses you. With this in mind I figured out five or six different approaches for different scenarios and they have improved my fishing quite a lot. I’ve also limited the number of gear I use to be more efficient with the ones I really like to use. I don’t believe that I’ve cracked the code of salmon fishing but at least I feel confident and concentrate in my fishing way more than I did in the past. Here are some of the most memorable lessons I’ve learned in the past years.
It was the later part of the season and we decided to do a last minute trip up north with one of my best fishing buddies. I don’t recall how our schedules were determined but he went a day earlier than me and I hit the gas pedal pretty hard after getting a text saying the fishing was hot. My friend had landed three good sized salmon ranging from 5 to 7 kilos and, just to get me going even harder, landed one around 9kg just when I arrived to the river. All the action came with slim tube flies swung fast across the current except the biggest fish, which took a skated dry fly. The fish seemed to be determined to hit hard almost anything swimming just beneath or above the surface.
I had to wait for my turn for a couple of hours before my license was valid and I could start fishing. I got one ferocious take on a fast swimming slim tube fly, but then the action died. I was exhausted from the 10 hour drive so we decided to set up out tent and with the help of some red wine and a warm sleeping bag, missed the sunrise which many times produces lot of action after a pitch black night. Nevertheless, we geared up and started hitting pools one after another waiting to feel yesterday’s magic all over again. After three pools we were starting to feel somewhat marveled about the lack of action. Nothing, no fish, no takes.
Finally on the fourth pool we started to see good number of fish jumping, especially in the tailout and the higher part of the pools, which is always a sign that the fish are on the move. All the fish were bright-colored and seemed to move pretty fast. I got a lazy take on the fast swimming tube fly at the start of the pool. I fished the spot twice more with the same fly, but got a sense that the fish wasn’t ready to commit. I quickly changed to a small black tube fly with a fluorescent red brass cone on it, just to get it below the surface. First cast and I felt a small tap, then two more and after the fourth tap lifted the rod gently. The fish was hooked but after about ten seconds it came off. I was disappointed but seeing some more fish jump made me continue to fish the rest of the pool. Pretty much in the middle of pool I felt again the small taps and this time some line took off from my reel. The take was still gentle, but I gave the fish few extra seconds to turn for a proper hook set. After a five-minute fight I landed a nice 5-kilo fresh fish. I handed the turn to my fishing buddy and he pretty much repeated what I did. The rest of the afternoon went on the same pool taking turns, using the same small conehead tubes and hooking a lot of fish all between 5 to 6 kilos.
The weather didn’t change between these two totally different days but something made the fish lose their interest on the bigger fast swimming flies and react steadily on a bit more traditional approach. This time the solution and the fly were simple. What I believe made the difference was that we found the right pool. Make sure that you don’t have cement on your wading boots and you are ready to find the spots that have fish and haven’t been fished too much by others. Many times this means lot of walking, but most of the time it pays off. And you don’t get the reputation for being the guy hogging one pool.
This article was published in Chasing Silver magazine earlier this year. Part 2 will be published soon.
Red Francis (or Frances) is one of those love & hate flies. Every salmon angler usually has a opinion about it. We think that you should carry a few always in your box. Read our tips for fishing with Red Francis and have a look on the step-by-step tying tutorial.