Fishing questions, salmon leaders, salmon eyesight, tippets, hook sizes, single handed Spey casting

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Fly fishing questions page 3.

Questions can be about any aspect of fly fishing, fly casting, casting instruction, fishing in Scotland or abroad, fly fishing courses, fishing flies, etc. The following is just a random selection of questions that have been send by readers and answered by Ally. If you have a question that you wish to ask please do not hesitate to complete the form.


Beginners Questions
Salmon leaders
Salmon colour blind
Tippet sizes
Hook sizes and fly names
Single handed Spey casting
Best time for salmon in Scotland

Beginners questions
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Questions: I'm a little new to flyfishing so I've got a few questions.
1- Is it best to throw nymphs upstream and let them carry past you in a stream condition?
2- I like to dryfly but I'm having very little luck in pools within a river. Is a nymph the best bet?
3- For some reason I keep thinking that I should give larger flies (size 4,6,8)a little action as I bring the fly in calmer river waters. Little pulls of the line simulating live?
4- Being new, I keep migrating to calm waters and don't give riffles & runs enough attention with my dryflies. Mistake? Answers:
1- It's best to make nymphs behave like naturals and dead drifts or especially at the end of dead drifts as they start to lift produce good takes. You can suspend them under an indicator or bobber if you want to make life easy and get some confidence. Gold heads or heavy nymphs will help to get your team down and you can use two or three at a time depending on rules etc.
2- Dry fly is best when fish are taking naturals on the surface. On glassy water your presentation has to be good and that means good casting and delicate entry coupled with a fine enough tippet. In faster moving water the fish get less time and the surface disturbance makes presentation less critical.
3- Retrieving flies in slow water is usually a good idea especially if you are using streamers or wooly buggers etc. because these flies need to be pulled.
4- Best plan is to figure out where the trout are and you will find them in all sorts of pockets, buckets, under banks, around stones etc. In these places the fish are usually much easier to fool because they are less likely to be disturbed. Fieldcraft is vitally important.

Salmon leaders
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Question: I fish a small river for trout & salmon and use 8ft6in 5# & 9ft6in 8# rods could you please advise on best leader setup ie. whether mono, braid, polyleader & length? Thanks.

Answer:The best leader set up depends on the type of lines that you use, what the fishing conditions dictate and to degree how you want to fish. For trout dry fly fishing I normally use continuously tapered leaders with 4x or 5x tippets. For salmon fishing with a floating line I either use the same type with a higher BS point or simply make a tapered leader from three or four lengths of monofilament. With the tackle that you are using (#8) I think that three feet of 0.40mm material, three feet of 0.32mm and three feet of 0.28mm or similar would be suitable for most fly sizes (up to hook size 6). Obviously larger/heavier flies require thicker/stiffer leader material. If you were fishing a sunk line 6 ft of suitable level mono leader would be OK. A similar setup can be used with braids and poly-leaders but you can make the tippet shorter if you have problems with 6 ft, I know some anglers that use only 2 ft. Hope that this is helpful.

Salmon colour blind
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Question: Are any salmon color blind to anything?

Answer: Normal healthy salmon are not colour blind but like humans some individuals may be. Their eye structure is very much like ours and so it is assummed that they can see colours like we do or perhaps even better. Colours do however change due to the filtration effect of water so what we see in air may look much different to fish.

Tippet sizes
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Question: Leader tippet is listed as 3x, 4x, 5x etc. What pound test is each x value ? Thank You

Answer: The "X sizes" are diameters and the BS depends upon the material used for the monfiliment and so the two are not really related except that bigger diameters mean greater strength in all of them. The following is one of the X sizes scales used. These are useful if you want to know the approximate size of suitable tippet for a small fly because if you multiply say 4/x by 3 = 12 hook, 5/x by 3 = 15 hook etc. This is a good ready reckoner. Fishing Gazette Suggested Scale for gut sizes is given below for reference.

Hook sizes and fly names
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Question: Sorry 2 questios here! How can anglers tell the size of a hook just by looking at it, and how do they know the names of their various flies, is it important to know? I'm a complete novice just taken up the sport at 63 years of age but already I'm "hooked" ?? Thanks in advance

Answer: There are published scales for hook sizes but the easiest way to recognise them is to get a Partridge of Redditch or other hook manufacturers catalogue which show the actual sizes in most of the ranges because they do vary between types of hooks. With regard to fly names again catalogues or books are the easiest references. The names of flies are important if you want to know what the fish are taking and to converse with other anglers.

Single handed Spey casting
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Question: I was reading on the web site (where I found your link) about single handed spey casting. I am planning a trip to Scotland (to include fly fishing) and would like to know what type and line weight, rod length, etc. you would suggest. Thank you very much for any suggestions you might make.

Answer: You can Spey cast with almost any rod and so starting at the other end with the fly size you can work back to the line and then the rod. A #7 line is good for up to about a size 6 hook for instance and a nice action for Spey casting may be a rod around 9ft 6in long in that case although a stiffer rod could be used if you use hauls with the casts. But really you don't need anything special except the ability to make the casts. I can usually get up to 90 feet with a rod around 9ft 6in long in reasonable weather conditions and so the technique is not just for short lines. Hope that this helps and suggest that you try Spey casting with whatever you use at present - you will probably be surprised. For serious s/h salmon fishing I use a 9ft 6in #8 rod. Spey casting single handed.

Best time for salmon in Scotland
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Question: I am planning a trip to Scotland to do some salmon fishing. When is the best time of year to catch salmon?

Answer: Salmon fishing "best time" depends greatly on the river that you are going to fish and the weather. All our rivers have their own "hot times" tempered by conditions of course. The Tay system fishes best for spring salmon between April and June and for autumn salmon during September and October. The Dee fishes best between March and June and the Spey is similar but before booking you must make sure that you are not going to fish the "right" beat ate the "wrong" time and the only guide to that is past records and to some exptend the demand for and price of the fishing. The Angus rivers North Esk and South Esk are also very much worth exploring. In the Borders the Tweed offers fishing at its best between September and November so you will see that we have a really long season (in fact from 11 January to 30 November depending on where you are) and within that there are best times for most sections of river that can differ quite widely. Check all the details, book through a reputable owner or agent, ask for records and remember that the cheapest salmon are often at the most expensive fishing times because at other times you may not see one! Hope that this helps and good luck.


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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.