Salmon Fishing Tips: Summer Spinning
It must be agreed that many anglers do all their salmon fishing with a minnow. Althoughin spring is widely regarded as a fair method of getting fish out of high, cold rivers there is possibly less to be said in favour of the minnow when the water is low and warm.
The late Alexander Wanless — arch-champion of the thread-line — wrote devotedly of the pleasures and problems of spinning for salmon. The methods he advocated — natural minnow, fine monofil lines, and light spinning rods — are still widely used. His other brain-child — the fly controller — has been thrown out of court.
Some experts insist on a distinction between threadline spinning and light spinning. By definition, the words ‘thread-lining’ imply the use of lines of 3 kg (6 lb)and below; the words ‘light spinning’ imply the use of lines of from 3.5 to 5 kg (8 to 12 lb). As a further mark of distinction some anglers in the latter group use multiplying reels instead of fixed-spool reels.
A rather important principle is at stake here, the point being that if salmon can be caught on 3 kg (6 lb) lines then there is no point or purpose in using heavier tackle. Where salmon run small, a 3 kg (6 lb) line, given luck, is adequate. The trouble is that a 3 kg (6 lb) line today may be no more than 2 kg (4 lb) tomorrow through wear-and-tear and the twisting action inherent in all threadline reels, and a 2 kg (4 lb) line is dangerously weak for even a small salmon. A tapered fly-leader with a 2 kg (4 lb) point rapidly increasing to a substantial thickness is of course quite a different thing.
Much depends on whether one can follow one’s fish. It is easy to do so on some rivers, impossible on others. Places where the angler must hook, play, and land his fish all at the same spot call for a strong line if any sort of success is to be achieved. There are 3.5 kg (8 lb) lines available today that are no greater in diameter than the 3 kg (6 lb) lines advocated by Wanless. So, in theory, perhaps the light spinner is still ‘thread-lining’.
Natural minnow, shrimps, and small prawns are readily taken by summer salmon. These can be spun upstream, across-and-up, across-and-down, or downstream.
In low-water conditions fish can be taken by casting a very small devon minnow upstream and recovering it fairly fast. Quill minnows are very good for this type of work, but the hook flights should be bound against the body of the quill instead of being left ‘flying’, to ensure that the minnow spins true and fast. Minnows thatlop-sidedly or fail to revolve easily are useless for fishing purposes until suitably repaired.
Some anglers like to use a spun shrimp. There is a good supply of these in summer and they make a good bait by reason of their strong odour. Shrimps should be spun slowly, down and across, so that fish have a chance to smell them. Fresh shrimps can be netted, or bought from the shop, and will keep for several days if pickled in strong brine.
Elvers can also be used. Failing these, or as an alternative, a glass-jar minnow trap will soon catch a quantity of minnows big enough for salmon spinning. Hen minnows in spawn are best, if procurable.
From July onwards, fresh mackerel is often available locally. A `lask’ of mackerel, cut from the side and back of the fish, is very attractive to salmon.
Some fishermen dose their baits with pilchard oil. Salmon have an acute sense of smell, so anything that appeals to this sense is well worth trying. Baits pickled in formalin should be avoided. Salt is best for short-term pickling.
Good artificials to use are the spoons in which the blade hangs freely on a pivot. The smallest sizes — say 1.90 cm (3/4 in) —are big enough for low-water spinning. Big spoons with a 3.81 cm (1-1/2 in) blade are excellent in high water.
Dull-coloured quills and devons seem to do best in low water. A dark brown back with a gold belly is a useful choice for summer fishing. In spring, all silver is preferable.
There is room for experiment with fresh natural baits. The sand-eel for example, is easy to collect and is abundant at many coastal resorts. Fish feed freely on the eels both along the coast and in the estuaries. Sand-eels can be spun or fished on theprinciple. In brackish water the live sand-eel will catch fish if lip-hooked after the manner of a live minnow. In estuaries, however, these baits are likely to receive the attention of bass.