Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Know How -

Chas­ing mi­gra­tory fish is not only a test of your skill but also your men­tal re­silience. Most suc­cess­ful fish­ers that I have spent time with ex­ude a re­laxed but fo­cused at­ti­tude.

1 Don’t wait to hear of fish be­ing caught. Book your fish­ing and go. Fish the con­di­tions as you find them; it is all valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence. The vol­ume of in­for­ma­tion avail­able to us nowa­days has never been greater, but noth­ing beats time on the wa­ter. You can’t catch salmon by sit­ting at home.

2 Get into the right mind­set from the off: be at­ten­tive and con­fi­dent. Try to main­tain this through­out the day. Stay pos­i­tive and don’t sulk. Con­cen­trate on ev­ery cast, be­lieve that you will catch a fish on ev­ery swing. Once you be­come worn down and frus­trated you may be cast­ing but you prob­a­bly won’t be fish­ing ef­fec­tively.

3 Be­come im­mersed in the en­vi­ron­ment. We’ve all had “that

fishy feel­ing” be­fore some­thing hap­pens – this is you tun­ing in. Pay at­ten­tion to your in­stincts.

4 Fish early and late when you can, if you can – es­pe­cially on a bright day. Grow­ing up, I fished the Find­horn in Au­gust when the vast ma­jor­ity of fish came be­fore the op­po­si­tion had hit the river af­ter a lazy break­fast, and again in the evening when other rods had clocked off for the day. 5 Take a break. Any­one who says they haven’t got frus­trated while fish­ing is ei­ther ly­ing or a robot – it hap­pens to us all. When it hap­pens, step out of the river, rest and think. When you step back in you will make smarter choices.

6 Be like a test match fast bowler who keeps putting the ball in the right place again and again un­til the bats­man makes a mis­take. Put in the hours and your time will come.


A solid cast­ing stroke with a good work­ing knowl­edge of the dif­fer­ent spey casts is fun­da­men­tal to ef­fec­tive fish­ing. If you’re more wor­ried about mak­ing the cast than how your fly is fish­ing, you’re not go­ing to be fish­ing ef­fec­tively. Once your cast­ing starts to flow and turnover is con­sis­tent, you can then con­cen­trate on tac­tics.

7 To max­imise your cast­ing abil­ity get a les­son from a pro­fes­sional in­struc­tor. Time (and money) in­vested in cast­ing tech­nique is never wasted, re­gard­less of your level of ex­per­tise. Max­imise your time with the in­struc­tor, don’t frit­ter it by at­tempt­ing fancy casts with a piece of wool at­tached – ask your in­struc­tor to work through ac­tual fish­ing sce­nar­ios.

8 Learn to make ac­cu­rate an­gle changes and don’t just fish the fly at 45 de­grees. Think about what you want the fly to do (eg, sink deeper, swing faster) and pre­sent it ac­cord­ingly.

9 Be com­fort­able with cast­ing and fish­ing sink­ing heads. It is now pos­si­ble to tai­lor a shoot­ing-head line (eg, float, hover, in­ter­me­di­ate, Sink 1 to Sink 8, T16) to fish at a pre­cise depth. Carry a se­lec­tion with you and make the ef­fort to change them to match the con­di­tions that you face on the day or even on dif­fer­ent sec­tions of a pool.

10 Man­age your run­ning line ef­fec­tively. Re­trieve line to im­part speed and life to the fly as it swims. Rarely do I let the fly come around on its own with­out im­part­ing some ac­tion, es­pe­cially as it comes to­wards the end of the swing.

11 A long cast is wasted if the leader and fly don’t turn over prop­erly. If nec­es­sary, pull your leader straight as soon as it lands (with a long strip). If your leader hasn’t turned over, your fly is not fish­ing. Tension is the key to good cast­ing and an ef­fec­tive swing.

12 Learn to deal with wind. Mas­ter the dif­fer­ent spey-casts (sin­gle, dou­ble, snake roll, cir­cle, snap T and snap C, and off the op­po­site shoul­der) so you can put a line out re­gard­less of which way the wind is blow­ing.

13 Fine-tune out­fits. The grams, grains and line rat­ings printed on rods are the maker’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of how they want the rod to bend. We are all built and cast dif­fer­ently and there­fore may pre­fer the rod to “feel” a dif­fer­ent way. Find set-ups (line weights and lengths, and lead­ers) that work for you.

“Time (and money) in­vested in cast­ing tech­nique is never wasted, re­gard­less of your level of ex­per­tise”


Work­ing out where the fish are likely to be is a con­stantly chang­ing puz­zle. The so­lu­tion comes through the ex­pe­ri­ence of time on the wa­ter.

14 Don’t rush in and find your­self half­way down a run won­der­ing if you’ve got the right set-up. Take the time to as­sess the con­di­tions, work through the rea­sons why one set-up will work bet­ter than an­other.

15 Lis­ten to the guide or gillie, if you have one – they want you to catch fish. From a guide’s per­spec­tive, af­ter days of hav­ing ad­vice ig­nored he or she will be less likely to keep talk­ing – it is much eas­ier to help some­one who’s pre­pared to lis­ten.

16 It’s of­ten re­peated that time spent in re­con­nais­sance is never wasted. Map the pools in your mind, vi­su­alise where the fish will be and how you should pre­sent your fly to tempt them, based upon: tem­per­a­ture (eg, warmer wa­ter might in­di­cate a smaller fly); wa­ter height (eg, in low wa­ter look for well-oxy­genated pools); and speed of cur­rent (eg, do you need a faster-sink­ing line? Where is the best po­si­tion from which to make your cast? What mends should you make?)

17 Net­work: good salmon an­glers talk to each other, and share knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ences. The more you fish with good an­glers, and pay at­ten­tion to what they’re do­ing and say­ing, the bet­ter you will get.

18 Don’t for­get your po­laroids. You may not be sight fish­ing but in­vest­ing in the right glasses will al­low you to spot move­ment be­hind the fly when you’re fish­ing near the sur­face. You’ll be able to wade more safely, too.

19 Start fish­ing high up the pool. Fish a short line in the fast wa­ter at the pool neck. It’s amaz­ing how many fish can be taken close to your feet at the top of a run. I see many an­glers stand­ing where their fly should be.

20 Think about your wad­ing line so that you don’t end up stand­ing on the fish.

21 I pre­fer to fish the pool down twice quickly rather than once slowly, where al­lowed, and with a change of line and fly in-be­tween. Show the fish some­thing dif­fer­ent and you may get a re­sponse.

22 Fish the pool all the way through the tail. Let your fly swing through the bro­ken wa­ter be­yond the Vs.

23 Bet­ter fish­ers pay at­ten­tion to de­tail. Check your knots are strong and neat and your hooks are sharp. Don’t carry on fish­ing if you have a wind knot or if the fly’s wing is tan­gled around a hook. If the set-up is less than per­fect, don’t just “make do”. You don’t want to lose the only fish of the week through lazi­ness.

24 Re­spect your quarry by fight­ing your fish hard. Give them the best chance of a speedy re­cov­ery by en­sur­ing they have some gas left in the tank. It’s called “fight­ing” for a rea­son so don’t be scared to bend the rod. If you’ve in­vested in a qual­ity reel then use its drag. That’s what it’s there for.

25 Fish a lighter fly or tube on a sink­ing head rather than a heavy tube. A lighter fly on a fast-sink­ing head

has more move­ment than a cop­per tube dragged life­lessly across the stream.

26 Try some­thing dif­fer­ent. Fish hitch tubes, try two small flies cast up­stream and stripped back, or dead-drift a heav­ily-weighted Frances as though nymph­ing for trout. All will take fish when the swung fly fails.


27 There’s no shame in blank days. They hap­pen – just make sure that you learn some­thing each time you fish; some­thing other than just catch­ing fish. Ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t just come from fish in the net. Time in the river or on the bank, watch­ing or map­ping out pools in your mind is all valu­able in the long run.

As well as learn­ing dif­fer­ent casts, ask your in­struc­tor to put them in a fish­ing con­text.

If your rod is loaded with the cor­rect weight of line your cast­ing will im­prove sig­nif­i­cantly. Ask your cast­ing in­struc­tor to try your out­fit and sug­gest im­prove­ments to it.

In the “zone”: fo­cus on ev­ery swing of the fly and fish in­stinc­tively.

Fight fish hard us­ing the power in the butt of the rod and the reel’s drag.

Off at the net: the mo­ment the fly pings out of a fish on the Lower Beauly. Take such mo­ments in your stride.

Check­ing your fly should be­come habit.

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