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Fly-fishing For Salmon

When you begin fly-fishing for Salmon, you must be careful not to let

out too much of the reel line first, but when you become accustomed to

it, and are master of throwing a short one, let it out gradually till

you are enabled to cover the pool over which you cast with ease.

If you practice throwing over a smooth wide part of the river, you will

see how your line falls on the water, whether thrown in a lump, or light<
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and straight without a splash; but at one time you may cast the line

right out over the stream at its full length, and on giving another cast

you may allow the line to fall on the water in the middle of it first,

and the fly to fall last, which is not so good, but in either way the

fish will rise and take it; by the last cast you may get the line

farther off, and the fly alighting near the opposite bank, it is very

apt to be taken by a fish lying close under it; and when throwing, keep

the point of the rod up out of the water, and do not let it strike it;

throw across in a rather slanting direction, allowing the fly to sweep

down without a curve in the middle of the line, and at the same time

move the rod playfully to give the fly a life-like appearance; drawing

it in towards your side of the bank, moving it up and down gradually

with the current, and when a fish takes the fly raise your hand, and

fasten the hook without a jerk, holding up your rod at the same time

with what is termed a "sweet fast," that it may not get slack at any

time till you have killed him; when you poise the rod in your hands for

a throw, the whole knack is in keeping the left hand steady, and with a

turn of the right hand cause the line to make a circle round the left

shoulder and over the head, propel it forward with the spring of the

rod, keeping the fly going all the time till it falls on the water

before you as straight as possible; when you lift the fly out of the

water to throw again, you require to make use of the strength of the

right arm, giving it the proper turn round with the wrist, making a

sweep of the extent of the line behind you, and with the spring and

power of the rod direct the fly on that part of the stream where you

desire it should fall; letting the line out occasionally off the reel

with your hand, which gives the fly a very natural motion on the water,

moving it gradually down towards your side, when you lift the line out

and make another throw as before a little lower down, and so on until

you cover the whole stream.

You may change to the left hand when you are tired with the right, or

according to the side you are fishing from, to facilitate and ease your

exertion as much as possible when throwing a long line. When I have

happened to be in a barn at a farm house on the river side, I have often

thought when taking up the flail to thrash awhile, whilst the man was

resting himself, that the exertion was remarkably like throwing the fly

with the Salmon rod, the whole method appears to be in the turn of the

wrist and arm, for when the flail is raised up and wound over the left

shoulder, with a certain impulse known to one's self you propel it

forward over the head, striking the sheaf on the ground with full force

on any part you like, where you think there are any ears in it.

Many may not be acquainted with flail thrashing, but were they to

understand the knack, it is easily done; so, also, is the using of the

salmon rod, with a little practice, and observing a good thrower if you

happen to meet one on the river, or an old fisherman you employ.

Keep yourself steady on your feet, and your body well up when casting,

as it gives more power to the muscles, and when a salmon is fairly

hooked it will prevent your being nervous or striking too quick, but as

I said before, rise your hand and keep the line taut; as the fish will

often rise several times out of the water in succession when first

pricked with the hook, on finding himself detained; when he runs keep

the rod nearly perpendicular, as the spring of it will soon tire him

out; if he is a good way off and makes a rush towards you, wind up your

line quickly, keeping it taut at the same time, and moving backwards

till he is near your own shore: if he rolls over in the water apply the

gaff and lift him out, but if he is not regularly beat he will rush off

again on seeing the gaff with great strength, give in he must at last

by the gentle strain of the rod that is always upon him. He often gets

sulky, and lies down on the bottom of the river, when it will be found

difficult to start him again: a clearing ring let down the line on his

nose will cause him to run, and when he does so, it is best to bear

stronger upon him, as in so doing you have the best chance of quickly

tiring and capturing him. I think it the best plan to lay the gaff under

him, and gaff him in the gills, which prevents tearing or making a hole

in the fish.

The Salmon reel should be made of the lightest and hardest material, not

too much contracted, but a good width, that the line may be wound up

evenly without incumbrance; a plain upright handle is much the safest

when playing a fish, as the portable ones are apt to crack or snap off

if they meet the least obstruction in the running out of the line; and

the portable handle stands too far out, which catches the line almost

every time it is drawn off or a cast given. Small reels may be made with

portable handles, without any fear of their breaking, as the fish are

small and can be managed easily.

The salmon line should be of silk and hair eight-plait or four-plait,

eighty or a hundred yards long, and for small rivers, sixty yards for a

sixteen feet rod. The casting line for clear waters should be half

treble and half single gut, to suit grilse or small salmon flies in

summer; and in the spring of the year when large flies are in use, good

strong-twisted gut, three yards long, is what is necessary for a heavy

reel line, particularly in large rivers, as the Shannon and the Bann in

Ireland, and the Tweed in Scotland.

There are not three better Salmon Rivers in the world than the above,

were the salmon allowed access into them during the summer months for

the amusement of those great angling gentlemen who would visit them

during that period, or even if there were but a few let up past the

"cruives" or "cuts," that there might be a sprinkling for them to throw

flies over. It would not matter to them what nets the fishermen along

the shores of the estuaries used, as they only affect the "Cruives," or

"Fixed Traps" built across the rivers, as of course less fish run into

them, and there would be abundance of salmon and grilse go up the

centre or deep part of the river, which the fishermen could not possibly


These "Traps" are kept down all the summer, from the early spring till

the end of August, at which period they are what is termed "lifted," and

up run the spawning fish; and the great fly fishers now lay by their

rods and tackle for that season, as fly fishing is prohibited when the

salmon are spawning in the rivers. There is certainly a respite in the

Tweed, when the nets are taken off at the end of the season for the

accommodation of the fly fisher; and were it so in the Shannon and the

Bann, there would be very great satisfaction in having a month or six

weeks' fishing in these splendid rivers. They are certainly free

throughout the summer to the fly fisher, but he might labour a whole day

with his rod and fly without getting a rise, except by chance.

There will never be any good done until the "cruives" or "cuts" are

removed off the rivers, unless the head landlord would make an agreement

with the renter of the "cruive," and enforce it as a law,--to lift the

"cruive" two days in the week, that there might be fish in the rivers

for the accommodation of the great body of gentlemen anglers who make

it their business to travel to these rivers to find amusement in Fly

Fishing, at very great expense; although I do not know if even this

would do,--it would be best by all means to remove them; and,

independent of fair netting for the general supply at the mouths and

estuaries, a Society of Anglers could rent the entire river, were the

owner to meet them on liberal terms which no doubt he would, and this

would prevent the destruction by degrees of the best breeding-fish in

the river.