The spring salmon season is well under way, hardcore anglers are on the hunt and some specimen fish have already been caught. There is nothing quite like fly fishing for spring salmon. Sometimes it seems like a constant battle against the elements and often the elements win, but, the prize is great. The fish are pristine and powerful like no other and that’s what keeps the spring angler pumped and full of dogged anticipation.
Tactics are fairly simple and lots of technical combinations will offer a similar chance of success. For years, traditional Scottish spring salmon fly fishing consisted of deploying heavy full sinking double taper lines with an array of large tube flies like Waddington’s and brass & copper tubes up to 4” long. The classic Brora Waddington made solely from Bucktail was a sight to behold, they all caught many salmon and were the ‘go to’ flies of the period. Spring fishing was tough, aggressive, even dangerous when the wind blew, these large tubes were accompanied by large treble hooks and you did not want to be in the flight path too often!
Nowadays we have it easier, constantly seduced by superb user-friendly tackle combo’s which can propel your desired fly enormous distances over huge swathes of likely looking water with effortless power, and of course, there are as many tactical theories as you can shake a stick at!
If you want my advice of 40 years of grinding out spring salmon then keep your eye on the prize and remember where he is in the cold water. The season is relative; salmon are not as mysterious as we think. When the water temps are cold and around freezing don’t be too keen to start at the head of the pool as salmon will not be running fast and punching through the system. Concentrate on the middle to tail of the pools and present your fly as deep as you can without snagging the bottom. Full sinking heads, shooting, Spey or Skagit will deliver effectively, all you then need to do is pick the fly density that allows your line to swing unhindered across those most likely spots. The most popular early season salmon flies right now are Monkey tubes, Gold Bodied Willie Gunns, Black & Yellow, Alistair Tigertail & the best-selling RS SuperSnaelda all tied up on a variety of brass, tungsten and conehead tubes.
The Alistair TigerTail copper tube has once again caught the first salmon from the Helmsdale river in Northern Scotland in January and more recently accounted for a 20 pounder on the river Dee amongst others. It is a proven successful fly for early season salmon and just goes on scoring right through the season.
The Classic Dee Monkey is another deadly tube when used in the correct manner and you can catch fish like the one below when your luck is in. Another 20 pounder from Deeside this year taken on a 10ft 3.9ips Gaelforce sinking tip with Fulling Mill silver tube double size 6. Thumping spring salmon are entering most rivers now so get yourself out on the water and be aware of the temps and set the tactics and approach required.
As the season rolls on and salmon become a little more numerous and energetic they start to look further up the pools, closer to the tails, and sit higher in the water. Speed up your fly slightly; vary your swing angle. Be aware of what’s going on around you, when the fish are running, you will know. Keep an eye out for the classic “head & tail”, the torpedo like jump and get ready for action as fish are active.
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Tactically you need to fish higher in the water column as the season warms up, there is always an exception to the rule when a tungsten Frances can be used to bump the nose of fish to wake them up but that is often last resort tactics unless you are stalking fish in Iceland. As I have stated, early season fly fishing is dominated by weighted flies fished on various sinking lines & Poly tips. Fish deep with full sinking lines and large flies in January and Feb if temps are still below 40 degrees or fish sinking tips and weighted flies to reach the same depth. March & April are different. Weather conditions can change quickly and air temps can be volatile. Large Sunray shadow tubes start to make an appearance as soon as temps reach the mid 40s coincidentally small flies can also be successful, it is all about the temperature of the air and water. When air temps rise above water temps you can expect surface activity and floating lines are on the agenda, that’s another story and one we will be telling here soon.
In the meantime keep your flies swimming deep for best results. The “inside track” is telling me the new Kinermony SuperSquid on a size 6 double is fishing very well on full sinking heads…Tight lines.
Ron Sutherland | Fulling Mill Consultant