Last weeks blog went down very well, touched a few nerves and got a few people asking questions. It also awoke an old myth that still persists and again it all ties in with previous blogs with the same topics coming up time and time again. I have covered sinking lines, sink tips, the benefits of fishing deep many times before, but, the majority still keep doing the same thing day in day out, then I get hit with the statement, the one phrase that brings a smile (actually doing it now writing this) is that when I say I am fishing sunk lines you are met with,
“yeh, but your fishing underneath the fish”
So, fishing under the fish, the salmon looks up and it dosnt’t look down. True! But those salmon are not where you think they are. I talk about the experiences in Canada a lot, but this place has taught me more in the few weeks I have spent there than all the books I have read so far. Theres one major benefit to fishing some of the clearest rivers in the world, the clarity, the simple fact that you can see exactly where the salmon are. Do you want to know where they are? On the riverbed! They don’t hold mid water, they don’t sit in the top 18 inches when the water reaches a certain temperature, every fish is holding just off bottom. When you apply a bit of logic to why they are there its simple, economy of effort.
Remember the salmon do not feed in fresh water, they live off their energy reserves built up in their tissue, these fish have a long time to wait in the rivers before spawning, so they don’t want to waste that energy swimming against the current 24/7. Again in Denmark this winter I picked up the tip from Mr Mortensen that the flow at the edge of the river is an excellent indicator of the flow rate at the bottom of the pool. The hardest current is at the surface and again by applying a bit of practical thinking the cooler water will be at the bottom of the pool, this is the place you will find the salmon during the warm summer months, in the cooler water, having to expend as little energy as possible. So why o why do we insist on fishing our fly so far away from the fish in these low, warm water conditions. Normal thinking is to fish a small fly on a long leader and floating line during the drought scenarios, surely thats the complete opposite of what we should be doing!
Now depth is crucial in my opinion, salmon are at the bottom of the pools, but one thing they love is structure, you will find them around structure and features on every pool. It dosnt’t have to be a prominent feature that you can see sticking out of the water but the smallest of changes in the river bed can be enough to make a salmon stop and take a rest, its these resting fish we want to target, these are the ones that are the good takers. Structure can be a boulder or group of rocks, a rock ledge or even an old tree trunk lodged into the river bed. This structure provides the solution for the salmon, the possibility to make their time in the river even easier, economy of effort. When the water hits any structure it is deflected, it’s this deflection that creates a cushion for the salmon to ‘lie’ in, letting them sit in the river without having to do very much at all. The front of rocks, on top of rocks, to the side, on top of rock ledges you will find these cushions and there you will find the salmon.
Now you don’t have to go to Canada to witness this. A face mask and a snorkel on your section of river is a superb way of understanding why you are catching salmon in a particular part of the pool, there will be some form of structure or depression that makes them lie there. Now not everyone wants to get the speedos on, low water conditions are a blessing in my eyes, 2018’s exceptionally low water conditions was a real eye opener for me on a stretch of river I have been fishing for 20 years, I saw rocks I didn’t know existed and I was able to see the exact entry/exit points the salmon would use when entering and leaving the pools, where they would rest and what side of the pool certain areas would be better fished from.
Now thats the norm, the fish hug structure to conserve energy, they hug the river bed to conserve energy, every time you bring your fly closer and closer to the fishes nose, the more likely you are to get a reaction from them. Instead of changing your fly to another variation of the same thing, try changing your depth, fish where the fish are!
Fish hugging the structure expending as little energy as possible and our guide searching the depths to see if the were reacting at all to the fly. Another pool with the salmon making use of the currents around the rock ledge.