Hooking salmon on fly
- more hurry less success

spring salmon fishing for salmon salar

Fly fishing, hook salmon, striking success! (article and pictures by Ally Gowans)

hooking salmon
Hooking salmon by holding line

Having assembled the tackle, tested your leader, tied on a fly, made the cast and have a fish take, what now? Well I guess that you really want to hook a salmon and you may be lucky. It may turn on the fly in such a way that it hooks its self it happens that way sometimes. Hooking salmon when fly fishing can be problematical here is some advice that may help. Fish that are sufficiently interested take the fly into their mouths do so in a variety of ways; usually unseen and sometimes not even felt immediately by the angler because they are heading in a direction towards the rod in such a way that nothing is communicated back to your hands. I know that it’s perfectly possible for fish to inhale a fly and eject it with a swift return of breath only because I have seen it happen. How a fish takes the fly is therefore unpredictable, inconsistent and no matter what advice I give you can expect that not every fish that takes your fly will be securely hooked. However there are certain responses that have stood me in good stead over the years and I fish with confidence knowing that in percentage terms they are as good as any others in the longer term.

Arthur Wood and others recommend that you hold a loop of line and drop it when is fish is seen or felt to give the fish enough slack on which to turn before the hook is pulled home. This method I find complicated and although it has worked for me it seemed less reliable than other ways of setting the hook and now I use two different methods depending on the type of line that I am using. With a line that is all or mostly floating, fishing directly off the reel with the drag adjusted to a bit more than the pull of the current allows a fish to pull line from the reel and turn and only when I feel the line going out do I react by lifting the rod tip to take the weight of the fish and secure the hook. Fishing from the reel is useful for trout and sea trout fishing too. Working my way down the fast water at the top of the Flats pool on the South Esk with the water dropping after a spate I pulled several fresh sea trout, they tumbled briefly on the surface and were gone. The tight line gave no slack and the hooks had little chance of holding them. I put that episode down to bad luck but only briefly because my fishing pal fished the same water down half an hour later, rose six sea trout and landed five of them. That certainly got my attention, I noticed that he was fishing off the reel and giving the fish a chance to hold the fly and turn with it and the striking difference was obvious. Another lesson learnt.

Salmon caught with tube fly
Salmon hooked on a tube fly

My other method of hooking is even easier; I hold the line, do nothing and let the fish hook themselves. This works well with sinking lines because there is generally a lot of belly in the line and the force of the water on that is sufficient to make the hook grip. When hand-lining or backing up fish tend to overshoot the fly and the pull of the line hooks them just as it would do if you were spinning. The biggest problem for the inexperienced salmon angler is involuntary reactions to pulls, plucks and knocks. It is not uncommon for something to be felt on the line prior to a fish hooking up and this is maybe the fish investigating the fly or indeed taking it before it turns. If you tighten at that time you may hook the fish but in my experience probably not very well and so and it is better to ignore anything other than the weight of the fish or the whirring of the reel before gripping the line and lifting the rod to do battle.

As I mentioned previously nothing that you do will ensure a secure hook hold on every fish and occasionally everyone gets spates of bad luck when it seems that every fish is lightly hooked, I once hooked and lost 13 fish over three days and landed none and then I successfully hooked and landed the next 22 fish. Explain that – well I can’t its fishing!

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