UK Fly Fishing Expert Manfred Raguse

The landing of one’s first salmon is a milestone for every fisherman and never disappears from the memory. For some this breathtaking event occurs early on, others may endure a long wait before tasting success. Until the first salmon takes the fly presented by the salmon tyro, some prerequisites must be met. Nowadays salmon fishing is available in most countries at a modest price. However, the quality of the fishing is usually better if the angler is prepared to pay a little more to access some exclusive fishing on private water.

Fly Fishing for Salmon
Fly Fishing for Salmon.

It’s generally accepted that the one who is first to present a fly to a newly arrived fish resting in a pool is more likely to have success. They are in the right place at the right time, a very important factor in salmon fishing. Yet, provided there are salmon in the beat at any given time, there is always the chance of a fish. Obviously weather plays a huge part in salmon fishing. Most desirable are the conditions following a spate when the level is still high yet clear enough to tempt fish. This usually encourages fresh fish into the system and can even put the more resident salmon in a receptive mood.

The beginner should refrain from venturing out too early in the season. High, cold water conditions are typical of Spring, and generally dictate the use of sinking lines with big, heavy flies. Warmer weather can see salmon becoming more active and perhaps a little more cooperative. A distinct advantage when it comes to line control and mending, we can now look to intermediate or floating lines for presenting a fly. Equally, tempting fish on smaller flies is often the order of the day.

Whilst there are times when a single-handed rod can be relied upon, namely on small spate rivers, I’d strongly urge you to master the double-handed fly rod. Captivated by the relaxed rhythm that such a rod affords, something unexplainable happens when you become familiar with this outfit. Really for an in depth understanding, lessons should be sought from a qualified instructor. Apart from the overhead cast, the Spey, underhand techniques and snake roll casts will prove invaluable when it comes to presenting flies in demanding circumstances. Casting a double-handed rod is easier than most beginners think. As with all fishing, the rod, line and reel should all harmonize, making balanced tackle a pre-requisite. Then the beginner will recognise the immediate benefits and fully appreciating the joys of casting a two-handed rod.

With excellent braking qualities the Mach and Vortex reels are particularly well suited for two-handed rods. These have sufficient capacity to carry at least 150 metres of backing plus the appropriate fly line. Backing should be at least 30lb. breaking strain and of high visibility so the whereabouts of a good fish is known following a long, hard run. The Spey WF type II Floating, Multi-tip Spey Fly line, Wonderline Density Compensated V and Salmon/Steelhead Wonderline in line weights to match the rod’s rating are my choice. For that vital connection between fly line and fly the 9ft Salmon and Steelhead tapered leaders are ideal.

In signing off, be thoughtful of your prized catch and handle salmon with care. Hold them gently in the current until fully revived, by doing so things will look a whole lot brighter for the next generation.

A great general purpose rod, the 14' 9/10 weight Two-Handed Spey is capable of covering most rivers and prevailing conditions. However, it’s worth stepping up to a 15' rated for 10/11 weight lines for tackling powerful, wide rivers or during periods of high water when heavy sinking lines are required. This rod has the desired solidity to lift and cast such lines that are loaded with big, heavy flies. Possessing “backbone” it also handles big, angry salmon with ease and authority. On small to medium size rivers or when low water dominates, a 13' 8/9 weight or even 12' 7/8 weight warrants consideration. Delicate enough to present small flies to potentially wary fish, these two rods still have enough punch to deliver sink-tip and intermediate lines.

Manfred Raguse
Manfred Raguse
President, Norwegian Flyfishers Club