An introduction to the four major techniques of salmon fishing – spinning, worming, prawning and fly fishing. Anyone who masters all four can enjoy sport throughout the game season lenging aspect of the exercise is to be on the right river at the right time and place. This injects a degree of chance into the success or failure of salmon fishing and there are few short cuts to assist the novice.
Fly fishing with small flies and floating lines is one of the easiest and most successful forms of salmon fishing providing that the water temperatures have been sustained over the 10°C (50°F) mark for a few days, the water lacks an excess acidity and is clear and not excessively deep. The Aberdeenshire Dee is a classic example of a fly river, but there are many others where similar conditions are found. Basically the fly is cast across the current and slightly downstream. The angler may have to wade to successfully cover known lies, but the object is to make the fly pass over the Hes slightly submerged and as slowly as possible. The take from a fish may appear as nothing more than a slow but solid draw. In any event it is a grave mistake to strike and it is quite normal for the salmon to hook itself as it pulls the fly. A hooked salmon has a few ideas of its own and the angler may expect to struggle with a fish for roughly one minute for each pound it weighs.
It cannot be stressed too strongly that the primary requirement is to know the salmon lies, and what to do and when. Casting or placing the fly may be quickly learned, but it may take years to know an area.
Undoubtedly, the form of salmon fishing that requires the most prac-tice is spinning with a double-handed rod and a fixed-spool or multiplying reel. This technique must account for the lion’s share of all salmon caught, but it is often overused and abused and there are some rivers where its continued use may do more harm than good. It is a useful technique to apply in the early spring when the water is cold and deep and when the fish are reluctant to move far from their lies. At such times it is barely possible to make the bait move too slow and deep. Of course, it is not much fun to be continually hung up on the bottom, but if the right weight of bait has been chosen it should be possible to cast it across the current and have it swing round without wind- ing the reel handle. The current is generally strong enough to make the bait revolve. Any form of reel handle winding before the bait is out of the current and dangling immediately downstream will make the bait move too fast and too high in the water.
Choosing the weight in the bait is therefore of paramount consideration. The angler must assess current strength and depth and then choose a bait which, when cast across the current, will swing round at good depth without fouling the bottom and, in all but semi-stagnant water, without winding the handle of the reel. Good salmon baits are to be found in the wide range of Devon minnows, and the myriad of spoon baits on offer are available in a wide choice of colours. During the colder months there is rarely a call for baits smaller than 2in long.
Although spinning and fly fishing form the basis of most salmon fishing techniques there are several other legitimate methods which the angler may resort to when the going gets tough. It is possible to limit all salmon fishing to small flies and floating lines in late spring and summer and big flies and sinking lines for early spring or late autumn. However, worm, prawn or shrimp have many a time saved an otherwise blank day or week. At certain times and seasons the use of these natural baits can be very effective, but there are still too many anglers who will resort to them without trying other more sporting methods.
It should not be implied that fishing with any of these natural baits is easy. There is a sense in which successful fishing with a worm or prawn is more difficult than fly fishing, but there are times, conditions and situations when they might prove too effective and spoil the sport for others.
The same basic requirement for good weight assessment is necessary for successful worm fishing. The worm has to trundle over the bottom of the river and if the weight is too heavy there will be frequent hang-ups. If it is too light the worm may not get to the bottom.
The best time for worm fishing is, perhaps, after a recent flood when the water is still coloured and higher than normal. The salmon may be laid quite close to the bank and there is again no substitute for knowing the waters. Whatever happens the angler must be at great pains not to strike at the first bite he detects. A salmon will frequently play with the worm for several minutes before rejecting or pouching it and moving off. The angler should, in fact, feed line to the gentle tapping movement given to the line; and he should not make a firm and decisive strike until he feels definite movement from the fish. This is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of worm fishing.
Shrimp and prawn
The roving shrimp or prawn can be very deadly sometimes. In Norway, a popular way of prawn fishing involves a sink-and-draw method with heavy lead banging on the bottom of the river. Extensive knowledge of the river bed is required to bounce the prawn skilfully over all the likely water and the angler must expect frequent and irritating hang-ups. Usually when the prawn is taken it is with a bang, but there can be times when it is taken lightly. Unlike worm fishing, however, every suggestion of an enquiry should be dealt with by the angler with a firm and decisive strike.
Another successful way to fish the prawn is with it mounted on a spinning flight. Sometimes it may be fished as any other spinner, but it can be used to good effect by letting it drop downstream with nothing more than the current making the bait rotate. In very sluggish water, when the fish are confined to the deep holes, the small shrimp may be merely cast across the current and retrieved in very slow jerks. Sometimes it is possible to see the salmon come and inspect the shrimp and there may well be more salmon which want to play with the bait than there are which take it firmly.
For most of the season, therefore, it is the angler who makes his fly or bait move slowly who will have the highest number of successes. But there are times when a small fly fished fast near the surface will pay high dividends. This happens chiefly when the water temperature is quite high – and there are not many situations in the waters of the British Isles where this occurs.