Within the realms of UK angling, Atlantic Salmon have to be one of the ultimate prizes that swim in our waters, there is however the holy grail within this species – The ever elusive spring salmon! Anyone fortunate enough to come across a “Springer” has been truly blessed by the Salmon God’s. The shape and condition of these fish are second to none, mainly down to the fact they will be in the river systems the longest, sometimes up to a year, and all of this without eating a single thing. Due to the fact they enter fresh water and fast for so long means they have to feed heavily and aggressively at sea to get to the required size, for me, this gives a slight advantage over later run fish in the season, as if you’re lucky enough to actually find a Springer you’ve got a better chance of getting a reaction from them.
Rivers to fish
We all know that wild salmon stocks have taken an absolute battering in recent years, mainly down to man, the days of multiple Spring catches on beats maybe few and far between if not gone, all is not lost, as a few very iconic rivers still give the willing angler a good chance of catching one of these special fish and at a very affordable price, that won’t break the bank. A few rivers I’d hedge my bets on would be the Tay, Dee, North Esk, Tweed and my beloved mighty Tyne, especially the lower system beats, due to lower water temperatures the fish won’t be in a major rush to get through the river system and will be very particular on where to rest.
Reading the river
There’s a high percentage of beats that actually have full-time Ghillie’s, in my eye’s these people are absolutely priceless, they know the water better than anyone, especially area’s of drop-offs and lies under the water’s surface not visible to the averaged eyed fisherman. If you’re hitting the river DIY style, fishing public or your syndicate water here are some critical features to look for, firstly as these fish travel thousands of miles and the fact they can’t eat in fresh water they have to reserve fat stores, this means taking the easiest route possible to navigate the river is going to save precious pounds, so stay away from the fast flowing white water that you would normally target in the summer months. Concentrating on the slower flow on the inside of current and seem lines is a great place to start looking for these fish, these spots allow them to get the required oxygen without expelling anywhere near as much energy, these lines are nearly always visible on the surface, a good indication is often foam on the surface traveling at different speeds. Unfortunately, what’s not visible is the underwater structure of the river bed, again the surface is your key; large boulders, and hidden structures push water upwards when passing over objects creating a small disturbance that we call a boil, these can be phenomenal resting areas in and around them due to the distortion of the water.
Springtime often brings mixed weather, one thing you can usually guarantee is cold and higher water, putting the fish down deep and hugging the bottom. Having a sinking fly line or the more popular multi-tip line system is a must in any salmon anglers armoury. When the water is colder I always think you can’t go deep enough, so if you’re not catching the bottom don’t be afraid to dredge the bottom and go even deeper. It’s important to remember that even though you may have a super fast sink tip on (7 inch per second), it will never be as deep as you think it’s fishing. This is due to the current naturally lifting the line up higher in the water. A common mistake made by a lot of people is using too long a leader when fishing a sinking line, this totally counter-acts what we are trying to achieve as yes the fly line is at the depth we want but the fly ends up towards the surface away from the danger zone. The easiest way to remember this is the faster the sink rate the shorter the leader and vice versa for slow sink rates, for example when fishing a super fast tip I personally use a leader around 2.5 foot, this keeps the fly right down where I want it, compared to when I fish a slower sink rate I increase the length of the leader and so on.
Springer Fly Choice
There are thousands of salmon flies on the market and they all hold there own on different rivers, heights, and water-colour, the most important thing is to make sure that the fish can actually see the fly but not to the point of scaring them back to sea! The easiest system to use is the following: when the water is high and has some colour go bigger and brighter, as the water and colour drops do the same with the fly, go smaller and tone down the colour. Don’t always judge the water on what you see from above; we sometimes forget that these fish are predators with excellent underwater vision. Popular spring colours consist of yellow, orange, red. Those are usually paired with black wings and dressed and tubes flies can both be used successfully. The tubes will have the depth advantage due to their weight and the dressed flies having more mobility in the water. I’m always one to move the fly no matter where I fish, however, early season its literally minimal movement compared to my normal fast figure of eight retrieve I fish, a slower paused retrieve seems to be more attractive to the fish probably due to them being lethargic, this retrieve matched with a 1 inch flame thrower tube has actually done the damage so far, accounting for 4 Tyne springer salmon this season, including 2 stunning fish for myself.
To keep things simple here are 5 Springer Salmon flies that are a must for anyone looking to chase some silver this spring.
More essential Springer fly patterns here
Tight Lines Guys!