The comfort factor of smooth evenly flowing currents to a salmon is best described with this analogy-lets imagine we are out for a leisurely walk and there is steady, evenly blowing wind in our face.  The only adjustment we might have to make is to maybe lean slightly into the wind as we walk.  Now imagine we have to walk in a strong swirling wind that is buffeting us from all directions and the road is littered with unavoidable deep potholes.  Which of these scenarios would you chose if you wanted to return home aching, and tired?

  One of the most frequently asked questions in salmon angling is- what is a salmon lie?, and this is usually followed up by other questions such as-why do salmon rest here?, and how do I go about spotting possible lies for myself.  These are just some of the questions we must answer if we are going to become consistently successful salmon fly anglers.  Beginners especially find this aspect of salmon fishing technique very daunting, so over these next articles we will have a look at some of the variables that we may have to contend with.

The first problem in assessing where salmon lie, may arise for anglers coming to salmon fishing from other branches of angling in that salmon don’t feed in freshwater and have different requirements to other fish as regards to where they lie.  Brown trout, roach, and pike will sometimes lie in places where they have to use extra energy, but only if the food obtained from being there compensates them handsomely.  Salmon carry their food reserves with them in their bodily tissues, and their main concern is to conserve this energy, as it must sustain them during their stay in freshwater.

The main requirements of a salmon lie from the fish’s perspective are safety, a smooth evenly flowing current to help conserve energy, and a flow rate that provides the required amount of oxygen The safety part of this is an inbuilt genetic wariness about camouflage, blending into the environment, and although there are few birds of prey capable of taking salmon flying around nowadays, historically it was of major concern for all fish.  The ability to observe and pick out sections of smooth evenly flowing water on a salmon river,even among areas of seemingly wild rapid water is an important skill for the salmon angler to cultivate.  Salmon do not like to lie in turbulent, swirling water. Salmon will adjust their position in different current flow rates to access the level of oxygen that ideally meets their requirements at any given time and this can vary depending on the time of year, water temperature, or air temperature.  An example of this happens during times of low water levels and high air/water temperatures, when salmon get distressed because they are being forced to expend extra energy to lie in faster water to obtain the oxygen they need.


This simple diagram shows a sweeping bend on a salmon river. The water level is at summer low and whatever current remains is along the outside bend of the river.  The red dots are possible salmon lies and they are in the main flow.  Salmon will not be lying anywhere else in this pool but the main flow at this very low water level and it is a waste of valuable fishing time if one does not concentrate their efforts there.



This diagram is a cross section of the same pool depicted in diagram A1.  You will see that the deepest part of the pool is on the left and is the outside bend of the river. The two salmon depicted are lying right in the main current.  You will see that the river bed shallows up to the right (inside river bend) but there will be no salmon resting here in these reduced flows as it is to shallow (safety)and there is not enough current flow to provide sufficient oxygen for the fish.



Now the river level is at a medium height and as you can see the main current, depicted in darker blue, has expanded over a wider area of the river.  There are still some potential salmon lies shown along the outside bend but the higher water level has also now made available some new lies towards centre river.  If the current gets too strong at some points along the deeper outside bend then the salmon will move into the easier current towards the middle of the river.



This cross section of diagram B1 shows the potential salmon lies expanding towards the middle of the river, while still retaining some lies along the deep outside bend.




The water level is now high and the current is too strong for any salmon to lie along the outside bend or even at centre of the river.   Salmon will now take up residence close to the inside bend.  They will be lying in an area that may well have been high and dry when the water level was low.  This scenario causes many problems for salmon fly anglers as they may be using sinking fly lines to combat the strong current and when their fly approaches the shallower water near the inside bend it continually gets snagged on the river bed.  A better option is to use a floating fly line, as these fish are lying in only a few feet of water, and we can cover this well defined taking strip with much better control.  Sometimes salmon can actually be lying right in among the grass along the river bank, so if possible it is better not to wade, and keep bank side vibrations to a minimum.  Occasionally you will hear about the beginner who caught two or three salmon when more experienced anglers blanked. In this particular situation it is easy to see why.  Our beginner only owns a floating fly line and because he is new to the sport cannot cast very far, so it’s a case of the right man in the right place! .



This cross section of C1 shows how the salmon lies have moved right over to the inside bend of the river.  At this high water level we should concentrate our efforts along the inside bend, close to the edge of the river.




Here on the Glenamoy River we have the same scenario as depicted in diagram A1, and A2.-low water, with the fish lying in the main current in the outside bend.  This angler is fishing in the right place, but he is not being stealthy enough, and is showing himself to the fish.  He should be keeping back from the salmon lies, and possibly kneeling down to remain unseen.




Here on the The Wall Pool on the Rockhouse Fishery river Owenduff our angler is concentrating on the strip of water between the red lines.  In higher water levels this potential taking strip will move to the inside bend to the right.




In this pool the angler is adopting the correct approach by staying low and remaining unseen.  The salmon will be lying in the easier flow between the red line and the edge of the white foam line, as the current directly under the angler’s bank is too strong at this water level.  Upstream we can see a stretch of very shallow, fast water (see yellow lines) these turbulent shallow stretches rarely provide good taking lies and are best avoided.

In the next articles we will look at various types of salmon lies, the holding depth of salmon in different types of pools, the importance of choosing the right depth of water in which to fly fish among others, and going over some of the topics in this article in more detail.  The skill of being able to spot potential salmon lies takes a little time to master, but even a little effort and thoughtful observation will pay handsome dividends.

All the best




























































Hooking Salmon On The Fly (part 2)


In part one we looked at a hooking system that works very well, and can be used with confidence for the majority of our fishing.  This involves ensuring that we keep our rod tip well up(about 45 degrees) as our fly fishes around in the stream, and when we get a take the rod is lowered in gradual increments as the fish tugs on the line.  When these tugs increase in strength to become positive strong pulls, and we begin to really feel the weight of the fish we stop lowering the rod, clamp the line for a couple of seconds while smoothly raising the rod back up to make sure the hook is fully set.  This taking process can be over very quickly with the fish almost pulling the rod out of our hands immediately, but because we had been fishing with our rod tip well up we had a nice drooping curve of fly line from the rod tip to the water, and this buffer allowed the fish to turn with the fly.  It is the versatility to cope with, and accommodate a wide variety of salmon taking behavior that makes this hooking system so dependable.

 the Rock Pool on the river Easkey



A windy day on the Rockhouse Fishery river Owenduff and this fly fisher has wisely decided to keep his rod tip low and fish off his well adjusted reel drag in the fast water

There are certain conditions where we may have to modify our approach and hooking technique, and one might be during spells of windy weather when our high held rod tip may be a disadvantage as it allows our fly line to be flapped all over the place, with our selected presentation being adversely affected.  In this situation we need to keep our rod low and fish off the reel.  There are many experienced, successful anglers who use this technique of fishing off the reel, which also works very well when fishing in fast water pools.  The taking salmon is allowed to pull line freely from the reel during the taking process, and when the fish stops taking line off the reel, the rod is then smoothly raised up to feel for the strong pulls and weight of the fish and set the hook.  Obviously the drag setting on the reel is set relatively lightly, but we must be careful that the drag setting is not set too lightly or we may risk an overrun on our fly reel, with our fly line ending up in a bird’s nest of tangled loops, and everything jamming up.  A good way to guard against this problem lies in the initial adjustment of reel drag before we commence fishing, and all we have to do is grip the line near the reel and give it a sudden jerk, if the reel overruns then adjust the drag setting until the reel gives line without overrunning.  There is a subtle margin of error between having the reel drag set too strongly with the salmon feeling excessive resistance during the take, and a fly reel drag that is set too lightly with the possibility of an overrun, and a jammed reel


Hans Bender landed this lightly hooked grilse because he was using a progressive action 7 weight fly rod on the Owenduff river

Fresh grilse are notoriously soft in the mouth and many are lost during the taking process, or during the subsequent battle. The problem of lost fish may not always be to do with the angler’s technique, but might actually be the choice of hook that the fly is tied on.  Treble hooks in the mouths of fresh grilse sometimes allow one prong of the treble to lever against another, with the hook rolling around the mouth, and eventually working free. If fresh fish are been lost on standard sized trebles (6s,8s,10s) then it may be wise to change to double hooks which are excellent for hooking, and staying well set in during playing fish.  Smaller size 14,16,18 trebles are also excelent hookers of Salmon.

Another area of tackle and technique that sometimes gets overlooked is actually the line weight, plus the action of the fly rods we use when targeting these soft mouthed fresh fish.  Sometimes when we set the hook in these fresh fish the hook hold we achieve is barely holding in, and if we are not careful during play then it is very easy for the hook to pull out, especially if we are using stiff rods and heavy fly lines.  We should try to use as light a fly line as will get the job done effectively, and use nice progressive action rods as opposed to ultra fast action rods.  With a lightly hooked fresh grilse we stand a much better chance of landing the fish on a progressive action seven weight than a stiff action nine weight rod, as the lighter outfit is much more forgiving, and absorbs the salmon’s lunges more smoothly and softly.

Jurgen Van Den Hout clamps the line tight for a few seconds to make sure the hook is set after he had already allowed this salmon enough time to properly take and turn away with the fly.

When a salmon takes a fly into its mouth it will feel resistance from the rod and line but that is ok as salmon are used to capturing prey that resist.  The salmon rapidly opens and closes its mouth trying to crush and kill its prey, with the occasional fish actually swallowing the fly.  Successfully hooking, and landing salmon on the fly has many important factors, but the most important one is giving the fish time to go through its natural prey killing behaviour, whether that takes two seconds or ten seconds

All the best



A Guide To Wading In Salmon Rivers


Remo Schorno hooks a nice fish


The main purpose of wading when salmon fishing, is to allow us fish our flies in an effective, lifelike, and controlled way over the salmon lies.  There maybe other reasons why we wade out into rivers such as, crossing over to fish from the opposite bank, providing that we can find a suitably shallow section that allows us to achieve this safely. Trying to assess the water depth or flow rate of pools in rivers that are new to us can be occasionally frustrating, but if we can find the nearest shallow area where we can safely wade at least partially,if not completely across,then this will give us a much better appreciation of the rivers average depth, and water speed. With this information logged in- our brain will subconsciously help us to evaluate/calculate depth, and current speed in other pools on that river. This little exercise might seem very simplistic, and unscientific, but our brains are super computers and with a little practice you will find this invaluable. Other reasons for wading might include such necessities as, playing a fish on a shorter line or when trying to clear our fly/fly line from some obstruction/snag.

Jurgen Van den Hout decided to wade out a little more to get better control while playing a strong running grilse


One of the Golden Rules of successful salmon fishing is, never wade into a river unless absolutely necessary, as even stealthy wading causes some disturbance, and this can reduce our chances dramatically.  In most salmon pools it is very likely that there will be some salmon lying on the near side of the main current, and if we wade heedlessly, or unnecessarily down this inside edge, then we run the risk of scaring these fish.This is a very common mistake especially with beginners, as many anglers seem to believe all the fish will be resting on the far side of the river. On big, wide pools it often pays to fish the near side from the bank, and only then returning to the top of the pool to wade in, and cover the fish that maybe lying from mid stream to the far side.  We must try to get our fly to land beyond where the fish is lying, and sometimes it is better not to wade in, or wade in a short distance and cast a long line, rather than to wade deeply casting a shorter line.  Every pool is different, and to err on the side of being over cautious is much wiser, than plunging in straight away, lashing out a long line, especially on pools that we are unfamiliar with.

Lovely glidey fly water on the Moy with easy wading on a shingle bottomed pool. Total relaxation, no danger here, or is there?? see diagram below.


Some anglers really enjoy wading, but for many others it is a slow, tiring, and frustrating necessity, but most of all it can be dangerous for anyone who is unable to swim, and quiet often for those that can also.  Wading is a major part of our overall fishing technique; however there are some pitfalls that we must be aware of when working our way down a salmon pool. The first mistake some anglers make is to try and wade to fast leaving themselves very little margin for error.  One consequence of this is when they happen to kick a small boulder on the river bed with the tip of their wading boot losing balance, toppling over downstream; as their overly rapid momentum doesn’t allow them enough time to readjust their balance. Standing up on submerged, or partly submerged rocks is another common recipe for disaster, as often the river currents have gouged out deep holes on the downstream side of these rocks.  Never ever clamber up on rocks while wading as getting back down again especially in a strong current flow can often be a very unnerving experience, with possibly deep water awaiting your next step downstream. Just carefully go around the obstruction and take care if you decide to go around on the outside, as this can also be unexpectedly deep. Those of us who have a poor sense of balance should work our way downstream in a sideways type of fashion, as this ensures that we have our feet placed in a more stable platform against the current, and if we happen to step into a small depression, then it is easy to readjust.  Pools with shingle bottoms should be treated with great caution as it can easily happen that one can find themselves wading out on a shallow shingle spit with deep water all around until the miniature landslide of shelving shingle takes you into deep water with no way back unless you can swim.


The angler, unfamiliar with this deep pool, has waded out onto this seemingly shallow shingle spit, and if he continues to wade downstream along the orange line he is going to end up swimming as the steeply sloping shingle gives way underfoot

Deep wading takes a lot of weight off the legs, and so is less tiring, that is providing the current is not too strong. Wading waist deep allows the weight of the lower half of your body to be borne by the water, and one is less likely to fall in because of the extra support gained from the water all round from your waist down.  Most anglers when wading deep show more caution, moving more slowly, and this helps in reducing mishaps, in fact it is probably true to say that we get more tumbles in knee deep water, as the shallower water gives a false sense of security, and we start to speed up too much.  A good little trick that we can use having lost our balance when wading deep is to quickly slap our fly rod down horizontally onto the water surface, and this will give us vital extra support for the split second it takes to regain our balance and footing.

A cold spring day at Oldcastle on East Mayo Anglers Association Water river Moy. Very important to wear extra layers of warm clothes because numb legs and safe wading don’t mix.

Sometimes we can inadvertently wade too deep and because of the extra buoyancy, start to actually sort of bounce along, and this can be a nerve wrecking experience, with probable feelings of panic which we must keep under control, as our life may hang in the balance.  If you find yourself in this situation and cannot swim then, try to bounce in a vertical fashion, all the time aiming yourself towards shore, and hopefully each successive bounce will bring you into shallower water as you make your way diagonally towards shore.  If this fails and you find yourself under water don’t panic, keep your mouth firmly shut, there should be enough air in your lungs and trapped in your clothing to help you back to the surface.  Keep your arms by your side and kick with your feet until your head breaks through the surface, try to float on your back with your arms outstretched, and your feet pointing downstream.   Take a good deep breath to maximise your buoyancy, then relax and breathe as gently as possible to maintain this buoyancy, all the time looking out for a suitably shallow exit point, as you will not be able to get out along a high bank.  After paddling your way into the shallows, don’t be in too much of a hurry to stand up as you will be physically weakened from your ordeal, just get on all fours and carefully and slowly get out of the water. The single most important thing to do when wading in deep and possibly dangerous water is to always wear a life jacket, let this be your number one priority.  Another problem that crops up occasionally is cramp, especially for people who are susceptible to it and have been maybe wearing non breathable waders for a prolonged period during hot weather.  A good antidote to cramp is salt, so for these people it would be wise to carry a few salt tablets in their wading jackets.

 This young angler had a minor mishap, but was wisely wearing his life jacket and after a quick change of clothing was back enjoying his fishing once again

A wading stick is a great asset for those that are a little apprehensive about venturing out in a fast current, and by the way a little fear and respect for fast flowing streams is no bad thing. There are some super hero style waders out there that could do with a little fearfulness, but sooner, or later all these risk takers end up swimming, and hopefully they will survive to learn from their foolishness.  Most wading sticks have lead added at their ends to stabilise them in the water, just check that when purchasing one that there is sufficient lead incorporated, as many of the sticks that I have seen don’t have enough ballast and lay flat in the water instead of standing upright beside the angler.  Care must be taken when attaching cords to our wading sticks. The end of the cord must be attached to the wading stick using a quick release knot/system, because if the fly fisher falls in the cord must break away easily, otherwise there is the very real risk that the wading stick may anchor, or snare its unfortunate victim. Another thing to watch out for when attaching the cord to our body is that we don’t hinder in any way the proper inflation of our life jacket.

A really good way to learn about possible wading dangers in your favorite river is to go on a scouting mission in low water conditions.

 If you are wading in a strong current without a wading staff, and are a little worried, don’t be afraid to wind up your line and use your rod as a makeshift wading stick, this has saved many lives down through the years.  River beds can vary from fine pebbles all the way up to huge boulder strewn death traps, and when choosing wading boots it is important to get ones with felt soles, or felt in combination with metal studs, as these give us maximum grip, but be very aware because these very boots that give us such a good grip on slippery rocks while wading, are absolutely deadly dangerous on wet grass and muddy river side banks. Keep a backup change of clothes in your car along with some towels, and if possible a flask of hot drink. After a wetting in the river don’t be tempted to accept a drink of whisky or brandy from a well meaning friend, as all it will do is lower your body temperature further, leave it until later when all the boys are having a good laugh in the pub!!!

The most important thing to remember is, SAFETY FIRST, at all times. Our families and friends expect nothing less from us.

Tight lines