Nymphing for Salmon

fish3As we all know, salmon are enigmatic creatures at the best of times and in the low summer flows we have experienced in the past two years they can be almost impossible to catch with traditional fly-fishing tactics. Science tells us that salmon take best within the first 3 weeks of entering fresh water and get progressively harder to catch until colder water later in the season re-energises their taking response.

Lack of water will often mean that fish entering the river hang around in the brackish estuarine environment and those already in the river switch off in deep pools and become “uncatchable”.

So it was with these thoughts in mind that I travelled to my timeshare fishing at Aboyne, on the River Dee in mid September 2019. The first session confirmed Ghillie Chas Booth’s advice that the beat had few fish in situ and that those that were there had been in the river some time and were mainly locked in the Red Rock pool, a right angled pool with a deep holding spot below the neck. This area looked really fishy and tapered away gradually into a widening gully which shallowed toward the tail of the pool.

As soon as I started casting fish started to show. An hour using a Float / Hover/ Intermediate line with a size 12 Stoats Tail and then finally a Sunray fly convinced me that fish were showing because this set up was actually spooking them. They had seen, or been caught by all the usual suspects before and were moving to get out of the way of the fly.

Something radical was required!

As someone who fishes for salmon with heavy nymphs regularly on the Hampshire Avon, this method seemed ideal to solve the problem. nymphs2By casting square with a 12 foot leader and holding my 13′ rod upright leading the nymph through the pool, I could get down to the fish with something they hadn’t seen before and without the profile of a fly line in the vicinity to worry them.

The result was electric!

In a pool that had produced just one fish in over a week, I took a Hen fish of about 9lbs on my first cast, lost another next cast, and then had a fish of about 8lbs before having to adjourn for lunch.

Changing tactics slightly in the afternoon I fished a heavy Red Frances nymph style for a fish of circa 20 lbs, with my fishing partner taking a fish and losing another using the same method.

frances2As the fish were coloured and having had enough of our “against the odds” excitement for the day, we packed up early. I am sure we could have continued to catch fish that afternoon had we fished on using the same tactics.

In the tough times that we are experiencing in salmon fishing just now it pays to be innovative and to try non-traditional fly fishing techniques to unlock even the most difficult of Salmon.

I was lucky that a technique learned on Southern Chalkstreams just happened to be the answer to those fish on that day.
Bio: Rae Borras is a very experienced salmon angler with over 1000 salmon and regularly salmon fishes in Scotland as well as Russia and Iceland. Rae owns Fishing TV and presents on several programs including the excellent, Game Fisher’s Diary on the Fly Fishing Channel.

Fishing TV on demand platform is free to join and is available on many Smart TVs, iOS and Android apps, plus Apple TV and Amazon Fire. There is a range of free and premium content and Fishing TV are giving FishPal customers a £5 credit so they can access their huge library of fishing videos, TV shows and films.



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