Salmon Lies (Part 4)

Salmon Lies: Part 4
The picture above is the same as the one we looked at in part 3 of this series. A rock (yellow arrow) causes a fairly evenly divided break in the current flow with an area of turbulence immediately behind it. When the braids of current rejoin there is an area of smooth evenly flowing current formed that creates and is a salmon lie (red arrow). In this case the current broke evenly and the salmon lie is created directly downstream from the rock. These breaks in the river current caused by rocks don’t normally break so evenly and there is usually only one braid of current created downstream of a rock that will possibly provide a moderate even flow of water.
This term moderate flow is difficult to describe, but if we wade out into some shallow streamy water and stand facing downstream with both legs close together we can then bend down placing our hand in the water to gauge the effect our submerged feet have on the current flow. If we place our hand in the water immediately downstream from our legs we should feel fairly slack/dead current and as we move our hand outwards to either side we will feel fast water. Somewhere between the two extremes we should be able to feel a moderate flow of current, and this will give us a basic understanding about the effect that rocks might have on current flow/speed. Salmon rely on obstructions such as rocks to provide this break in the current and insert themselves into the moderate flow which they prefer.



This diagram shows a large rock and its effect on current flow. The big curving red arrow shows the path of the main current in this pool and the other red arrows diminish in size indicating a gradual reduction in current flow across the pool. It is more than likely that a salmon will lie along the current break on the main current side of the rock as opposed to the slower flow on the other break line. The current flow that meets the rock head on is fairly moderate, and in situations like this salmon will sometimes lie in front of a rock.

 In this diagram a combination of rocks can create the right conditions for even more potential lies. Depending on the size of the rocks involved (especially a combination of large rocks) there is more of a chance that moderate flows will be created. The black arrows show the deep main current, with the three small red arrows indicating a weak secondary flow. The large red arrow indicates an area of weak current over water that is too shallow to provide ideal lies. These break lines (black dotted lines) can be either evenly flowing or swirling/turbulent/eddying. Salmon will not lie in swirling/turbulent/eddying water.

 This diagram depicts a tributary stream where it enters the main river. The orange arrow shows the main river flow and the blue arrow shows the tributary stream. Where the two currents meet (two red Xs centre river) once again may provide moderate evenly flowing water and the fish can insert themselves along this break line, with the added bonus that all fish travelling up either river will pause at least momentarily so they can decide which one to ascend. The black dotted line is another break line along the inflow of the tributary stream, where slack water meets faster water, and the angler must be careful not to spook any fish lying here as they will often be quiet close to the river bank. The red x just downstream from the rock is another salmon lie along the break line created by the rock.

When faced with a smooth surfaced pool with few clues at the surface to help the angler to figure out where the lies might be or where the main current is concentrated the angler needs a little extra help and this comes in the form of wind

 With a breeze to ruffle the surface of a normally flat surfaced pool, we now start to see some smooth areas among the ripple. These smooth areas are strips of evenly flowing current that the wind is unable to ruffle because the current is stronger there than the rest of the pool and usually pinpoints the main current seam through the pool. An upstream wind is best but as you can see in this photo even a downstream wind can work its magic also. This is a super tool for the angler trying to decipher featureless/slow current pools as the wind reveals not only where the main current is located , but it will also reveal the location of possible individual salmon lies just off the main current flow.

 In this photo the red lines indicate where salmon may pause momentarily when entering this pool , with the red line on the left showing the location in low water flows and the other red lines showing the pausing positions progressing across the pool tail at medium and then high water levels. The most important thing about this photo is actually the positioning of the angler as he fishes down the pool. He could have easily worked down the pool from on top of the bank (yellow arrow) but he wisely decided on the stealthy option and waded quietly down along the edge. Being able to work out where salmon might be lying is a great weapon in our arsenal, but it is often so easy to spoil all the good detective work by showing ourselves to the fish.
All the best, Paddy

Salmon Lies (Part 2)


All anglers can remember various influences during their fishing careers that have helped them in obtaining a better understanding of the complexities and little nuances that are involved in the jigsaw like puzzle that salmon fishing sometimes seems to be.  Every new piece of knowledge that we add helps us to form a more complete picture and also helps us to approach our fishing in a logical, confident manner. One of my own early influences was a book on salmon fishing by R.V. Righyni which was kindly given to me by my first mentor Ned Gallagher(now sadly passed on).   Righyni’s book (Salmon Taking Times-published in 1965) was a mine of valuable information  for a fanatical young salmon angler! . In the book there is a chapter on the behavior of water in rivers.  The first three diagrams in this article are based on the content of this chapter in Righyni’s book, and will really help us to have a better understanding of the salmons environment.  Reg Righyni was one of the best salmon angling writers of all time and probably never got the full recognition that the brilliance of his work deserved.

There are two different types of flow in rivers that are important to us anglers as we try to figure out the location of potential salmon lies, and in the diagram above which is a waterfall we can study water flow caused by suction.  In the diagram the water current at A is very fast but that is not due to the immediate gravitational pull at that point because there the pull is vertical and prevented from operating on the flow, other than to keep the water compact, by the flat rocky bed of the river beneath it.  At point B the force of gravity is able to assert itself and the water drops, and as it will not allow the formation of a vacuum, suction draws the water from A to replace it.  The impetus of the falling water is largely lost when it reaches the bottom of the falls, and what remains is deflected in all sorts of directions.  At the bottom in the falls pool the water has no inherent forward pressure to make it flow away.  Consequently, a slight dome of water tends to collect, but gravity will not allow this to build up.  The strong vertical pull on this extra surface water is deflected by the water beneath it (which cannot be compressed) into a much weaker, almost horizontal pull which causes the top layer of water to flow gently away.  The subsequent behavior of that water flow depends on the changes in capacity and character of the channel through which it must pass until ultimately the water is again taken over by the influence of suction.

 In this diagram above the more inclined fall results in a more gradual deflection of the movement of the water, and it loses considerably less of its impetus by impact with solid matter or other water than in our first diagram.  Consequently the falls- pool does not get washed out as deeply, and is more elongated.  Nevertheless, the back washes, and undercurrents still arise and the residual forward pressure is compelled to exert itself mainly on the surface layers.

 This diagram is a vertical section of an average sort of pool that is to be found on many rivers.  It includes all the same features of a waterfall, but everything is elongated even further with the head being a rapid rather than an actual fall.  Pools which are less well defined than the one depicted above are simply the same thing over again, but elongated still further, and the proportionate size of the component sections(Head,Neck,Main Body,Tail) can vary infinitely.  Gravity is, of course, responsible for all the inherent flow of the river, but the effects of it are modified by other factors which deflect or transform the vertical pull into horizontal flow.  When the gravitational pull can exercise itself forcefully on the water and is deflected by the slope of the river bed into horizontal or forward pressure, it is hardly possible in natural conditions for it to occur smoothly and evenly. Backwashes in all planes from vertical to horizontal are set up,and quickly,if not all together, the forward flow becomes concentrated in the level near and on the surface.  The movement of this layer is resisted by the pockets of slack and swirling water beneath it.  Unless some additional impetus is given to the forward pressure by a further drop in the bed of the river, it is quickly divested of its power, and the movement is reduced to no more than that required to equalize the level of the surface. It is necessary to try and visualize the essential differences between the two basic types of flow.  Runs through the necks of pools and the streamy water in the wider shallow stretches have a rough or popply surface.  The smooth surface water in glides and pool tails behave entirely differently.  Here the water moves along en masse owing to the pull of the suction created immediately below, where a drop in the bed of the river enables gravity to take hold forcefully.  As the smooth surface of the glide indicates, there is a minimum of turbulence at all levels, with the flow being nearly even from the bed of the river up to the surface                                                                                                                     The reason why we need to understand these different types of flow is because salmon will lie in both of them to varying degrees,but this will depend on many variables such as, time of year,time of day, light intensity, water temperature,oxygen availability,safety,water clarity, whether the salmon is a long or short term resident or just stopping for a short little breather as it runs upriver.                                                                                           Let us try and look at these two different types of flow in an even less complicated way and give them simple names such as  SMOOTH GLIDEY FLOW                                                                                                                  RIPPLED EVEN FLOW                                                   We can now add a third equally important type of water flow and lets call it                                    CHAOTIC TURBULENT FLOW    

 The first two we need to spend our valuable fishing time in and the third we need to avoid as there will be generally no salmon lying in Chaotic Turbulent Flow.  The vast majority of fly caught salmon are taken in water that is 6ft/2 mts or less in depth, so even if the flow type that we happen to be fishing in at any given time seems to be ideal it is also  important that it is not too deep.  Fly fishing for salmon in water that is 9ft,10ft+ deep is usually very unproductive when using normal fly fishing techniques.

With the aid of some photographs we can now have a look at these three types of flow

CHAOTIC TURBULENT FLOW – The red arrows points towards a very strong water current with its white tipped waves jostling for position!-too fast, too turbulent.  The yellow arrows point to swirling,boiling and up-welling water.  No salmon will lie in this type of water either. Fly fishing our way down through water like this is a complete waste of our valuable fishing time, and during the course of a weeks fishing holiday, it is a sobering thought to realize that we may have been fishing completely barren water for a substantial part of each day.

 This is an interesting pool.  The salmon run upstream from the pool below along the yellow line.  From the point of the yellow arrow you will notice a smooth area and this is the tail of a mini pool (Smooth Glidey Flow) that lies between the yellow pointer and the downstream point of the red line on the left.  This mini pool is fairly easy to spot in this instance, but other so called pools within pools are more difficult to spot, especially if the overall current is moving slowly.  The smooth appearance of the water surface in this tail is easy to see at distance and would be even easier to see if we were looking upstream from further downriver.  In fact all types of current flows along with all their varied little nuances reveal themselves much better to us when viewed from downstream looking upstream.  The first red line on the left marks two salmon lies in the tail of the main pool and at this point the suction from the drop off below is really beginning to take effect –Smooth Glidey Flow.  In low to moderate water flows running salmon will pause and hold here(along the red line), with some resting longer than they normally would in a pool tail because the overall speed of the river flow is moderate.  When the river level is higher and the current stronger some larger fish still pause here, but smaller fish start to find this lie too uncomfortable, and start to lie along the red line to the right where the depth and flow rate suits them better.  The purple arrow points at a whorl on the water surface caused by a large rock on the river bed.  The black arrow pinpoints where the rock is actually situated, and you can see that it takes a little time for the effects of the turbulence around this rock on the river bed to actually reach the water surface downstream from its actual location.

 The red line indicates the position of three lies in a Rippled Even Flow.  The yellow line is also in a current flow that is caused by forward pressure, but in this case it is too turbulent.  When the water level in the river drops down a little more, and the pace of the main current along the yellow line decreases, then there may be some places along this area that may become more evenly flowing and steady where a fish might possibly lie. Running salmon will occasionally lie in this type of turbulent,fast water, but only when a large rock, group of rocks, or something like a ledge of some sort set at a fortuitous angle happens to buffer the current to produce a relatively even, slower, pocket of current flow. These potential lies in turbulent stretches of salmon rivers can be very difficult to spot, but if we remember to look out for evenly flowing, or better still, smooth evenly flowing, areas in among all the chaos, then we may discover some valuable new lies that we might have previously walked by.  Not many of these fishy looking potential lies in turbulent water will actually hold salmon, because there are just to many things that have to come together perfectly to make a suitable lie in this hostile type of current, but enough of them will produce a bonus fish to make the effort of trying to discover them both enjoyable and worthwhile.                                                                                                               There is still more to cover on this subject of where salmon lie in rivers, and in the next article we will try to click a few more pieces of the jigsaw into place.  Until then, enjoy the spring salmon fishing, and remember don’t lift into those takers too soon!!

All the best




 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