Salmon Fishing Method: Greased-line Fundamentals
No one seems to be very sure why a salmon takes afly — or indeed any fly. It seems certain that salmon do eat small items while in fresh water, despite the belief to the contrary. While it is one thing for a vigorous fish to snap at a large glinting lure being drawn past its nose, it is quite another when a slightly stale salmon rises like a trout and takes a small fly off the surface. The motivation in the two cases must be different. All this is still an open field for speculation and experiment.
Greased-line fishing is probably the most finely controlled method of wet-fly fishing possible. This is why so many anglers find it interesting and attractive. The following typical advantages may be noted :
1. The depth at which the fly fishes can be controlled by fishing flies of the appropriate size and type.
2. The speed at which the fly fishes can be controlled by rod and line manipulation.
3. Control is possible over the track or path of the fly.
4. The angler can see the fish as it takes his fly.
Standardflies are normally dressed on the light salmon hooks mentioned in the tackle section. Some experts supplement these greased-line flies with small tube-flies and flies in the sea-trout range of sizes. All of them, however, are fished according to the greased-line method.
Salmon and sea-trout that have been a little time up the river are often very circumspect about taking a fly. Many fishermen believe that the fly and its reflection in the surface-mirror need to be a certain distance apart. There may be optical reasons why this should be so. The weight of a fly, the pace of the current, and the manner it is fished all bear on the distance a fly sinks beneath the surface. And on this rate of sinking — or lack of it — it would seem that the success or failure of greased-line fishing depends.
The most important point of all in greased-line fishing is for the angler to keep out of contact with his fly. It is interesting to note that the same applies to CARP fishing. The salmon must be free to take the fly and turn away without feeling any resistance from the rod just as a carp must be at liberty to take a bait and move away without feeling the attached apparatus. In greased-line fishing the angler must make no attempt to strike or hook a fish which breaks surface as it reaches for the fly. If it is given a moment or two’s grace the fish will hook itself; hasty striking will almost certainly pull the fly out of its mouth.
Salmon are conservative creatures while in the river. They cherish their favourite lies with a zeal matched only by the most home-loving town-dwellers. They will leave home for a short time but soon hurry back. When a fish rises to take a greased-line fly its next move is to return whence it came. If the angler tightens after the fish has turned down it will be hooked firmly. In practice most anglers school themselves to wait — after seeing the boil to the fly — until the downward-moving fish has taken up the slack line lying on the water. If the fisherman finds this too nerve-racking he should close his eyes and wait until he can feel the fish.
A high proportion of salmon hooked in this manner will have the hook embedded in the ‘scissors’ at the corner of the mouth. Such a hold is very secure.
Most casting in this form of fishing is across and up or across and slightly down, depending on the pace of the current. The aim of the exercise is to make the small fly swim across the river at a speed in keeping with its size and on a slack line.
Expert greased-liners know when fish are likely to take a fly and when conditions are unfavourable. Only experience can tell you when the glint of the sun on the leader is so acute that it will scare the fish. Likewise, the shadow of line and leader, moving over the bottom, will often repel more fish than the fly attracts. Conditions on a river are changing constantly. On some days for example air temperature falls rapidly towards evening owing to the lack of moisture, and although greased-line may be appropriate during the middle part of the day, the evening conditions may indicate a return to sunk fly, perhaps of quite large size.
The angler will need to do a good deal of study of the low-water salmon lies on the river he is fishing in order to get the best out of them. Salmon like cover and deep water into which to retreat. Unlike sea-trout, they are rarely caught after dark. This is probably because sea-trout actively feed in fresh water while salmon merely pick at trifles.