Why these agile patterns could make the difference this autumn
Stuart Foxall's pick for autumn salmon
AFTER A LONG HOT summer, we can look forward to greater rainfall, refreshing the rivers and enticing late-summer salmon to leave the estuary with the first of the back-end run. These fresh fish can agitate salmon that may have held a prime lie in a pool for weeks or months, who’ll now continue their journey to spawn in tributaries upstream or become grumpy and defensive, showing their strength and seeing off rivals. Both scenarios give us a chance to catch a fish while the conditions are in our favour. Salmon are slightly more active in cooler water and this means we can use a slightly longer fly to search for freshrun or more aggressive fish. Long-tailed Shrimps are probably the best-known and most popular salmon flies of the last few decades. Their design works in every scenario – from fast pool-necks to slow, deep dubs – so you can explore a longer stretch of river without changing and second-guessing your choice of fly. In autumn, my favourite way of fishing them is to use a floating line with a sinking polyleader or tip. Sink rate is determined by flow. The faster the water, the faster the sink rate (Int, S1, S2 etc) – but don’t go too heavy. Fish will be slightly happier in the cooler water and move further to take a fly. It also pays to fish the fly faster. The floating line will help you to control speed by making mini mends. Little strips and handlining also make the flies look alive. There are many styles of long-tailed Shrimp, but most have slender, mobile tails that wriggle in weak currents while keeping the fly stable and cock head hackles that kick and pulse in fast water. The choice of hackle is important. Many commercially tied flies use hen hackles because they are easier to wrap, but the stiffness of cock fibres and the transparency they create are important to a fly’s success. Viewed from below, the fly should have a teardrop profile.