Summer salmon fly fishing
(article and pictures by Ally Gowans)
|Summer salmon fishing
Long, warm summer days are fine for touring and sun bathing
but a hot, dry summer can be a nightmare for the angler. Rivers shrink
to trickles, the water warms up and salmon become more uncooperative than
usual. Salmon are a cold-water species; they do not enjoy high water temperature.
If the water temperature exceeds 21 degrees C they are likely to be affected
by stress due to the combined effect of low water and the heat, making
them more susceptible to disease. In extreme conditions any disturbance
can exacerbate the problem and it is better to leave the river well alone.
Fortunately due to the vagaries of British weather such incidences seldom
occur here however we must be aware that global warming could worsen the
situation in future. Maritime provinces of eastern Canada are not so fortunate
and there is it not unusual for angling to be stopped or limited to certain
periods when conditions deteriorate.
Having got the bad news out of the way it's time to look at the opportunities
that the summer angler can enjoy. When fish are confined to pools due
to drought, instinct tells them to shelter and lie low to conserve energy
and reduce the risk of attracting predators, especially during daylight.
Whilst one can never be certain when a salmon might take a fly, in low,
warm water the most reliable periods are when the sun is not on the water.
Another influence upon their behaviour is air temperature. When the air
is colder than the water their keenness to rise to the fly is suppressed,
but the minute the air temperature rises is a well known taking time.
It is easy to tell whether the water is warmer than the air without resorting
to measuring temperatures. Cold air over water produces vapor and a low
mist over the surface is a sure sign of it. When the air warms up, the
mist disappears. Experienced anglers and ghillies are very much aware
of this phenomenon and are quick to advise that fishing is no use when
there is mist on the water.
Given the salmon's dislike for bright sunlight it is easy to predict that
dull days are best during summer, as indeed they are. In fact even brief
shade from a passing cloud is a better opportunity than blue sky. Thankfully
there are at least two periods during the day when shade can be guaranteed,
namely at dusk and dawn. These are the prime times for summer salmon fishing.
Dusk is by far the most convenient time to be out. Chances of success
are determined by a number of factors, including the likelihood of disturbance
to the pools during the day. My advice is to avoid if possible any pools
that have been used by bathers, dogs, canoeists and the like, although
in practice the latter cause little disturbance to salmon. Seek out places
that have been left in peace during the day. Study your options carefully
because most beats have of pools at different aspects and varying degrees
of shade from trees, high banks and the like. Pools that are shaded earlier
in the evening can be fished after the sun leaves them and fishing them
in order of shading lengthens the period of good opportunity. Warm, balmy
evenings are best and it is usually advisable to concentrate on streams
and pocket water before tackling glides. Often a drop in air temperature
that unfortunately can curtail prospects and bring about an early cessation
accompanies the setting sun. This is not a problem at dawn however.
There can be few more magical experiences than the dawn of a summer morning.
The short night means an early rise and little sleep, compensation is
provided by countryside deserted by humans and populated by birds and
animals rarely seen in the open by day. Occasionally mists hang over the
water in which case my choice is to attempt to fish the pool that offers
the best opportunity just at that special time as the mist lifts. Apart
from that, the best plan is to fish pools in the order that the sun will
strike them to take full advantage of shade and fish effectively for as
long as possible until the full light of day appears.
Low clear water means that the angler has to adopt a very careful approach
to the river and present his fly as softly as possible to avoid disturbance.
These conditions call for small flies, #10, 12 or even smaller. Tiny plastic
tubes provide more movement than dressed trebles or doubles and are very
effective when fished close to the surface, especially in low water. Strong
silhouettes, dark patterns like Stoats Tail, Blue Charm, Tosh and Arndilly
Fancy do well on a floating line. Choosing a line weight as light as possible
helps to give better presentation and more movement in the soft flows
of a low river. Often a single-handed rod is the better choice where subtlety
is desired and my personal favourite would be an AFTM 7 or 8 rod of around
10 feet in length. An alternative is to use a light double-handed rod
with a long leader, say up to 15 feet to ensure delicate presentation.
Leaders should be kept sensibly light. The minimum diameter that I use
is 0.24mm, irrespective of breaking strain. I do this because I like to
have enough stiffness in the leader to ensure turnover and provide a reasonable
chance of landing a fish with a margin for error that copes with the odd
rub on a stone or dare I say it, tangle round a branch.
Summer time is also sea trout time. Really keen anglers who can recuperate
from overnight sleeplessness at their leisure may decide to fish right
through between dusk and dawn in the hope of encountering sea trout in
the dark hours. During June and July it is hardly worth doing anything
else in the north of Scotland where darkness does not come until 11pm
and pre-dawn fishing can start at 3am.
Summer fishing can be summed up very quickly, dusk, dawn, fine and far
off. Softly, softly catch a salmon!