Atlantic Salmon FAQ- Presentation

Contributed by Bob Boudreau (copyright)


Wet Fly Basic Technique

The object of this technique is to present the fly broadside to the salmon. The most common presentation for wet flies when fishing for Atlantic Salmon is to cast at 45 degrees, across or quartering downstream. The rod is pointed at the fly and continues to follow it. Effort is made to keep an absolutely straight line from the tip of the rod to the fly by periodic mending to eliminate any belly that forms in the line as a result of variations in current. (See H. Kanemoto's FAQ on Mending Your Line.) Always finish the drift or in other words allow your line to fully complete its swing. Quite often novice fishermen will pick up the fly to start the next cast before the line and the leader have fully straightened out down river. You should even let the line pause for a couple of seconds at the end of the drift. A salmon will often take the fly when it has stopped, after following it across the pool. When a salmon takes, he will normally move to the fly, take it in his mouth and turn. The hook is set almost automatically if there is good current and you have a straight line. All you have to do is raise the rod tip when you feel the fish. Although there are many modifications to this technique, this method of presentation is the one most commonly used.

One variation of this method used with a floating line is the "riffling hitch" . After joining the fly to the leader, slip a half hitch over the head of the fly. With the fly facing upstream, place the hitch on the side you are fishing from. Repeat the process with a second hitch. The fly will wake on the surface rather than riding under the water. This is an extremely popular presentation technique used in Newfoundland where it as originally developed. It is gaining acceptance in other areas as a successful alternative technique. The technique can be used with a sinking line. The object in this case is to vary the depth at which the fly swims.

Action - A wet fly can be fished in a dead drift manner or action can be added to the fly. Techniques to add action include twitching or bouncing the rod tip or by stripping the fly line.

Speed - The speed the fly travels is more important than the action and may, at times, be more important than fly selection. Salmon seem to prefer flies that travel at a certain speed but it varies and you have to experiment. You can control speed by - mending line to slow the fly - stripping line to speed up the fly - create a belly in the line if there is a faster current between you and the fly to speed it up - or alternatively, you can lift your rod tip to hold slack line off the water to slow the fly down.

Fly Depth - The traditional wet fly presentation allows the fly to swim in approximately the top 2 inches to 1 ft. of the surface depending on the size of the fly and the speed of the current. In high water conditions, with salmon lying in deeper pools or with salmon that have been in the river for some time, it is necessary to present the fly at the same level as the fish. One way to do this is by using a sinking tip fly line. There are also various casting presentations that will allow the fly to swim deeper. One method is to cast up river or directly across river with a mend and allow the fly to dead drift while feeding line into the drift. This will allow the fly to sink in the water column. When the fly approaches the salmon's lie you tighten up on the line and the fly will then swim across the water in front of the salmon with a deeper presentation.

Water Coverage (wet fly)

Salmon have a tendency to lie in specific locations with various levels of water in a pool. Certainly, if you know where these lies are, you can concentrate your efforts accordingly. However if you are not sure where the salmon are lying in the pool you must cover all the water thoroughly. When using wets flies, start at the top of the pool and begin casting with a short line using the down and across technique. At the end of the drift, let out another foot or two of line and cast again using the same technique. Do this until you have reached the full width of the river or holding water or until you are at the maximum length of line you can control. At the end of each drift take a step or two down stream and cast the full length again. This procedure is repeated until you are at the end of the pool. You will have covered all the lies in the pool using this method.

Dry Fly Basic Technique

Dry flies are fished with the traditional drag free technique also used when dry fly fishing for trout. Depending upon conditions, this can be accomplished on an up river, across river and down river approach by using various casts to achieve a drag free float e.g.

The objective is to present your fly without drag. The fly should be presented above a known salmon lie and allowed to drift into the fishes window. It is important to allow your fly to drift all the way past the fish or lie and to lift the line only when the fly is dragging. Some salmon fishermen allow the dry fly, at the end of the drift, to swim into the shore (the fly may be drawn under the surface by the current), before beginning the next cast.

Generally, salmon will take a dry fly while it passes directly over their window however salmon will also travel long distances sideways, upriver and will occasionally turn around and chase a fly down river. It is therefore important to fish the entire drift.

Have patience with a dry fly. It often takes more than one identical drift over a lie to entice a fish to take. This may be especially true when you cannot see the fish. A salmon may move after a fly several times without actually disturbing the surface of the water.

Occasionally salmon will rise to a dry fly that is skimmed or skittered across the surface. This is especially true with warmer water temperatures and in the calmer water found in the back end of pools or where the water runs out of the pool. Some dry fly patterns are actually designed to produce a wake on the water surface. A traditional dry fly can be fished in this manner by either stripping line or allowing current to produce drag on the fly.

Water Coverage (dry flies)

Presenting the dry fly when you can see the salmon involves placing the fly above the salmon's window and allowing the dry fly to float drag free into his view and completely past. Where you cannot see the fish and are not familiar with the salmon lies in a pool, it is important to cover all the possible lies. The standard method to cover all the fishable water is to start with a short line and fish the up, across and down river water directly in front using the drag free float presentation. Then strip an additional foot of line and make the same series of casts. Continue this procedure until you have covered all the water within reach or you are at the limits of your casting comfort level. Then either proceed up or down river (depending on where you are in the pool) to a position where you will be able to perform the same casts without covering the same water. You should cover the water by only casting across river and down river (not up river), if you are rotating a pool with other anglers above you (see Pool Rotation further on).

Occasionally, fishermen will fish a wet fly down through the pool and a dry fly up the pool provided there are no other fishermen fishing through the pool.

General Presentation Issues

A common mistake made by fishermen is wading out too far in the pool. Salmon often use the easy currents near to the shoreline and sometimes rest close to the shoreline. Start by just getting your toes wet and cover the close in water first with short casts before starting to lengthen your casts. Common knowledge suggests that jumping salmon do not have a tendency to take a fly while salmon that are rolling are more likely to take a fly. Check your leader for knots and hooks for broken points on a regular basis.

Salmon Fishing from a Canoe

Canoes are often used in large rivers or on large pools as an alternative to wading. Fishing from a canoe employs similar techniques as those used in wading. The advantage of a canoe is that the fisherman can cover more water. One of the drawbacks is the relative difficulty in landing a salmon from a canoe.

The canoe is first anchored at the very top of the pool in the center of the run. The fisherman then begins casting with a short line casting down and across current at approximately 45 degrees similar to the wet fly presentation technique used when wading. After each drift the cast is extended by 1 or 2 ft. and the procedure is repeated until you reach the longest cast you are comfortable with. With the canoe in the same position the entire procedure is repeated on the opposite side of the canoe. This allows you to cover all the water in the immediate vicinity of the canoe. The anchor is then pulled and the canoe is repositioned down river near the end of the longest cast of the previous anchored position. The procedure described above is then repeated until the canoe ends up at the tail end of the pool and all the water has been covered. The canoe is then moved back to the top of the pool to begin the rotation again. The procedure is similar for dry fly fishing from a canoe using the dry fly presentation techniques discussed earlier.

salmon pic
Contributed by Dave Liverman and many others..
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