The heatwave is finally over and the long-awaited rain has arrived giving many of our rivers a much-needed lift they needed, ready for a surge in late summer salmon activity.
The grilse run should be well on by now too and as the air temperatures drop and the rivers cool down, the fish that entered the river in the spring will also come back on the take. If you’re lucky enough to have fresh grilse entering the pools at the same time as the older fish waking up, then sport can be very good indeed.
I caught my first salmon at the end of August a good number of years ago now but I can still
remember it as if it was yesterday. I was fishing a pool on the River Don that had seen a lot of angling pressure before my arrival. I wasn’t hopeful of getting a fish out behind all these more experienced guys so I couldn’t believe my luck when a nice grilse weighing 6lbs hammered my Size 10 Silver Stoat’s Tail off the back of a very dodgy double Spey cast! If my fly was cast perfectly at 45 degrees and drifted round nicely on the current, would I have caught the fish? Who knows? But on that day, my fly landed in a heap and probably behaved much differently from anything it had seen floating over its head previously. I didn’t think of it at the time but I now believe that the unusual behavior of my fly caused the fish to have a go at it. The rest, as they say, is history but it just goes to show that there is no such thing as a duff cast. Making the fly behave differently using different techniques can have the same desired effect.
As August wears on and we enter September, I don’t tend to vary the flies I use that much. I stick with the same six or seven patterns as I feel the depth that the fly is fishing at is far more important than the pattern. A fine example of this occurred recently on a memorable trip to the River Dee at the end of July with good friends of mine. The river had risen for the first time in months the day before we arrived and this brought the fish on the take. It didn’t matter what fly we used, the fish were more than happy to take our offerings as long as it was fished deep. We landed 7 salmon that day. late summer salmon
The following day, the river had dropped 3 inches or so and the fish were willing to come up on the water to take a fly. They didn’t want it deep. A change to lighter poly leaders produced the goods and we ended up with 5 salmon landed and a few sea trout. These fish were caught using a large variety of patterns but the common denominator was the depth the fly was fishing at.
Experience will always help you in situations when the river is running at a decent level for fishing. Personally, I find it pays to go through a pool first with a full floating line and small fly or Hitch tubes just to see if the fish are willing to come and take it. Starting off big and heavy in low/medium water levels may only result in spooking the fish first run through a pool. I’m sure many of you have watched fish show at the neck of a pool yet when you start fishing they all seem to be jumping in the middle or at the tail? This is probably down to the fish getting away from the harassment of the fly and seeking a bit of peace in the deeper water until you have moved on. If the full floater and small fly tactics don’t work then I’d try something like a floating line with a slow sink tip or poly leader with a dressed double of a size suited to the conditions. If that still doesn’t work, then fishing a heavy tube fly sink and draw style can often produce a take. More out of aggression than anything else but it may just save you a blank day. I find the Red or Black Francis is great for fishing this way.
It’s well worth taking the time to change depths. I find that fishing two setups is the best way to minimize the time your fly is not swimming for. That way you can just change rods rather than lose fishing time by changing poly leaders and flies. So the next time you think the late summer salmon aren’t biting, change the depth you are fishing and the way you fish the flies. It might just save yourself a blank day.