There is a growing army of salmon anglers thirsting to extend their know-edge and improve salmon-catching skills with bait and lure techniques. It’s beguiling to dawn on salmon hunters that these methods can be as skilful, and in some cases more demanding than, the fly.
But fly fishing is a traditional and proven salmon method, so why bother trying any-hing else? First of all, not every angler wants to fish the fly all the time. You might enjoy bait and lure fishing for a change.
Secondly, there are many salmon rivers throughout the UK that quite simply are lot conducive to fly fishing. For instance, rivers with slow moving currents, or small “ivers with overhanging trees, may have excellent runs of salmon, but they call for a different approach and new skills to fish hem properly.
1. A wormer explores a high and coloured River Dee at Bangor in Wales. He uses enough weight to keep the worms moving along just off the bottom. Standard worming rig Don’t put any shot above the bullet so a taking fish can pull line through the bullet with little resistance. Be careful in choosing the size of bullet -you have to consider carefully the strength of current flowing – too light a bullet moves too fast in the flow. It’s a matter of practice and experience. Use sturdy hooks for salmon.
2. Snagless rig Here the weak line snaps if the bullet snags. Some anglers use a loop of twisted lead wire to replace the bullet on the link. The thin wire is less likely to get snagged.
3. Bouncing Betty The beauty of Bouncing Betty is that it travels over the boulders and rocks – actually bouncing its way along, much the same way a rubber ball does. It’s a great way to avoid snagging and creates a very steady rhythmic drift down the stream.
4. Pay attention to bait restrictions. Find out what methods are allowed before you start wielding a prawn or a bunch of worms. It’s handy to have a number of techniques at your fingertips but always fish within the law and the rules of the fishery.
- Flying Condom Saucy bait with powerful rippling action.
- Copper Mepps Subtle flutterer fished slowly.
- ABU Droppen Heavy body handy for fast water.
- Flying Bucktail A hint of he fly about this one.
- Blair Spoon Formidable wobbler often fished high in the water.
- Devon Minnow Comes in many colours and left or right spin option.
- Toby Spoon
It is very important to be mobile and not burdened down with too much tackle. This leaves you free to explore all the water available to you. Wear a waterproof jacket with plenty of pockets to carry all your tackle bits.
Ruby red prawn and mount with two trebles and spinning vane, with copper wire to bind the prawn.
Vermicelli whiskers – a writhing gobful of worms snapped up with gusto by a ten-pounder (4.5kg). Store your worms in damp moss with a sprinkling of sand to toughen them up for use.Mounted purple shrimp and yellow prawn. Note the position of the spinning vane and the copper wire binding the prawn in place.A River Shannon salmon taken on a Flying Condom. Always make sure a fish is well beaten before attempting to net or beach it. Many a salmon is lost at the net through rushing when it still has plenty of life in it.
As far as basic tackle goes, Andy Nicholson prefers an Umift (3.5m) rod which lets him lick light baits out long distances. It should have a sensitive tip for bite detection and a fast taper for quick pick-up and striking purposes, and then plenty of power in the od for playing a big fish. With such a long rod you can control the bait correctly.
You don’t need a particularly specialized reel. Go for a good quality ball-bearing ixed-spool reel with a large line capacity md a first class drag system.
Worming is a versatile method suitable for flooded, coloured rivers, and low water conditions. Lobworms and brandlings are best. Tackle shops sell both, or you can find brandlings in compost heaps, and lobs on lawns at night after it has rained.
It is very important to keep the bait moving when worming and to explore as much water as you can. Read the water and fish all the likely lies behind boulders, in the necks of pools and in deep runs where the current is fast. When you are fishing water with virtually no movement, cast your bait in the most likely spot, leave it a while and then twitch it in a few inches at a time.
There are several effective ways of rigging up for worming.
The standard worming rig is the simplest way to fish worm baits along the bottom of a swim. Feed the main line through a drilled bullet and tie it directly to the hook. Secure the bullet with a split shot some 75-90cm (2y2-3ft) above the hook.
Choice of line strength is important. When fishing a big flooded river use 15lb (6.8kg) b.s. or more, stepping down in diameter as the river drops away and clears. Only consider going below 8lb (3.6kg) when the river is very low and the fish are timid and difficult to tempt.
Worming rig with added trace Instead of a split shot on your standard rig, attach a swivel so you can tie a finer trace through to the hook. This saves you having to change the main line if you want to go finer.
For snaggy bottoms try this rig. Tie the main line to a swivel and attach the trace line as before. Then tie a small] piece of thin line (about 2lb/0.9kgb.s.) to the bottom loop of the swivel and secure the desired weight on the weak line with split shot. When it gets stuck the fine line breaks and you lose only the weight.
The Bouncing Betty is Andy Nicholson’s favourite. It’s a round elastomeric ball (a heavy sort of rubber) with a swivel attached. Fix it above the swivel and trace and it bounces its way along over boulders and obstacles.
Takes when worming are usually a series of short sharp jerks. If you hold the line by the reel with a finger you can feel what’s going on through the rod tip. Sometimes bites are timid and it is worth waiting a little while for the salmon to take the worms. Then set the hook with a firm strike.
Salmon have a surprising fondness for boiled shrimps and prawns. They are definitely worth a try, especially when the fly is out of the question. You need a keen sense of touch for this method. Get your supply of shrimps in various colours from any good game fishing tackle shop. Ruby reds, pink and purple are top choices.
There are a number of mounting possibilities but the basic idea is as follows. Hold the shrimp or prawn on its back and insert a shrimping pin (threaded on the line) above the paddles on the tail. Section by section, feed the pin into the shrimp to straighten it. Next position one or two trebles (tied to the end of your line) to the shrimp’s undercarriage between the feelers. Secure the shrimp with a half-hitch around the tail and pin. If using a prawn you may need to bind it with copper wire to help keep it all intact and straight.
Use this method in fairly fast currents. The rig is like the worming set-up but with a shot above the weight as well as below. Mount the bait with a shrimping pin and a treble. Fish the shrimp in the current but don’t let it touch the bottom – it’s very delicate and soon falls apart. Cast across the pool and allow it to swing round in the current towards the near bank, then retrieve it slowly. Only one game fish will take a shrimp and that is the salmon. So, you must react to the merest tweak or pluck on the line with a fast strike – a salmon can eject the bait in a trice.
When confronted with slower glides and deep pools the floatfished shrimp is a must. Use a sliding balsa float weighted with shot to make it cock. Tie a stop knot above the float to set the depth — usually 30cm (1ft) or so above the bottom. Ease the float down the current to the waiting fish. Strike at any hint of a bobbing float or if the float pauses along its glide. Don’t wait for the float to go under – you will be too late.
Mount a shrimp with a spinning vane and fish it like a spinner. You can buy mounts with pins, trebles and vanes from the shops. You should include a swivel on the line somewhere above the mount – and any weight required.
Spinning for salmon is a skilful method which enables you to cover a great deal of water relatively quickly. It’s most effective when there is some colour in the water.
Fished almost like the fly in an arc formation, the secret is to use the current, allowing the lure to flutter enticingly in the stream. Retrieve as slowly as you can, giving the fish as much chance as possible to see the lure.
Whatever tactics you use, when a fish takes, strike firmly, and when you hook one hold the rod up high, making full use of the bend in the rod. Never try to stop a fish on its first run – usually its most powerful. Set the clutch according to the breaking strain of the line. Never backwind but allow the line to run off the clutch. Fresh salmon have soft mouths and if you’re too rough you can easily pull the hook out. If the fish jumps, lower the rod tip to avoid breaking off.