If you are a newcomer to river salmon fishing, you ought to know how to fish the head of a salmon pool. By this we mean the shallow section of a river, where the water runs quite fast, leading into a deeper and steadier stretch of water.
It is quite a daunting place to fish as the water is quite swift to begin with, slowing down rapidly as the river opens out and deepens.
But here is part one of our guide to tackling a typical salmon pool - how to fish the head of a pool. It will provide you with enough information to be able to fish these wonderful salmon-holding spots in confidence...
A term used in river trout fishing but often ignored in salmon-fishing. Because the water is clear it is advisable to keep back from the main run of water, especially if the neck of the pool is narrow. This will avoid disturbing any fish that may be lying there – the first thing they should see is your fly. If possible, position yourself at or in the tail of the pool above.
All salmon rivers will have rules and regulations that should be followed, but a universal one is that you must keep on the move. If you are fishing down a pool with others you should take a pace or two downstream when each cast has been fished out. Everyone should work down the pool in rotation. Never, ever, enter the water in front of an angler: start behind him, at a respectable distance. If someone has a fish on, it is also polite to reel in and stand aside.
Fishing the fast water
Here, control of the fly will prove difficult due to the speed of the current – especially in this case as summer conditions will dictate the use of a floating line and small flies (size 8 down to 14).
If you fish in the normal manner (casting at 45 degrees, letting the fly swing round in the current) a small fly may skate on the surface as the current catches the line, swinging it round too quickly. To prevent this, starting at the head in the fast water, cast a short line across the river, keeping the rod high and positioned over the middle of the stream, holding as much line off the water as possible. You can then control the speed of the “swing” by tracking the rod as the fly swings round.
Always cast to the other side of the main current. Fish will often lie in the “crease” formed where the main flow meets the slack water. Here it is important that the fly fishes properly straight away. A good cast is when the fly-line tugs at the reel as it extends to its limit, delivering the fly in a straight line. If the leader lands in a heap the fly will not fish immediately. Many a salmon is caught in the crucial few seconds when the fly hits the water and starts to fish.
Look at the water’s surface to identify any subsurface features – these can be good lies for salmon. In the neck of the pool white water will be created by rocks and boulders. Smooth, “glassy” water will often indicate a smoother riverbed (gravel or bedrock) offering a less turbulent lie for fish to rest comfortably.
As the river widens and a longer line is employed you may (if the fly is travelling too quickly) need to add an upstream “mend” in the line (below) to slow down the rate at which the fly fishes. To do this, as soon as the cast is made lift the rod upstream to take some of the angle out of the cast – preferably without moving the fly.
You will hear of fish taken “on the dangle”. This is when your fly has swung round in the current and is directly below you on your side of the river. It may appear that the fly is not moving and has stopped fishing properly. Not so! If you were able to see the fly it would still be flickering tantalisingly in the slowest of water. This is the point at which many fish that have followed the fly into the slacker water will take. Always hold the fly there for a while and, if nothing takes, impart more movement by either raising the rod tip up and down, pulling the rod back and forth or retrieving line. This should be the procedure for every cast in all parts of the pool.
It may double your catches.