The first show of the year is over and with it another understanding of what the anglers are facing when they spend their day fishing for salmon. This year I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation each day about how to improve your chances of catching a salmon. I gave a few examples, a few tips and broke a few old myths, even if the truth hurt some feelings slightly. But I will share one of the points that touched a nerve with a few in the audience.
What if I told you, that 70% of the time you swing the fly, you weren’t even fishing!
Hard to stomach, hard to believe but for the majority of anglers this is the case. I shared with them a story, a lesson that has stuck with me and again something that I tell others to help them fix this percentage.
The first time I ever fished a big river really isn’t that long ago. I have always been used to the small spate rivers of the Northwest but when given the opportunity to fish the Mourne in Co Tyrone for the first time I jumped at it. On arrival at the river the host insisted I fished through the pool first as the guest, his words of wisdom “make sure you focus on the dangle“ apparently that was vital if you wanted to hook a fish. So, in I went into the river and began working my way down the pool, doing as I was told, working the fly right round until it was right below me. A cast and a step or two and I had soon fished through the pool with no joy and so I reeled in and headed to the river bank. Even then I still fished through the pool quickly so I had plenty of time to wait for the other angler to fish through the rest of the pool, I sat and watched, you can learn so much from just watching others.
Now this was before I really understood the importance of the leader and how it affected the cast, but sitting watching I analysed what was happening. The host was doing everything a salmon angler is told to do, thinks he has to do. A long cast as far as possible and a big mend upstream before tucking the rod butt under his armpit as the fly swings round into the dangle where all the fish are caught. The cast would shoot out but a lot of the time the leader would land in a pile. A few more casts and I realised why all the fish in the pool are caught the dangle.
Do you get it?
You see, this pool wasn’t special, it wasn’t that the fish only sat directly downstream of the angler. The only reason they had so much success ‘on the dangle’ is because that is the only time the fly was actually fishing, by the time the current finally straightened the line and the leader the majority of the cast had been wasted, only when the fly reached the dangle zone was it engaged with the current and actually swimming against the flow, at this stage the fly looked alive.
At the show I stressed the point that you must ‘engage’ the fly, it must be engaged with the current, otherwise it simply looks like another piece of debris getting swept downstream. Once tension comes on to the line then the fly begins to look like it is swimming against the flow, it looks alive, it catches the attention of the salmon, who is bombarded by thousands of small fly size pieces of twigs and leaves every day.
So how do you change those percentages, how do you make sure you are fishing from the moment the fly touches the waters surface to the moment you lift off for the next cast. Well, understand the leader for a start and make sure your leader is fully extending and turning over on each cast. As soon as your fly hits the water, engage it, make sure it is swimming into the current. If it’s not Turing over, pull in a bit of line until you can feel it swim.
If you want to take it even further get out of the salmon fishing mentality and think more like a rainbow trout angler fishing for stockies, figure of eight the line, short sharp jerky pulls, big long slow draws even change the retrieve several times on the one cast. If you want to spend more time fishing then get the rod butt out from the arm pit and get more active, try fishing with a single handed rod some day for salmon and look at how differently you fish, I bet you move the fly a lot more!
Make the fly swim, you WILL catch more fish!