LANDLOCKED SALMON TACTICS
The fall months of September and October signal the beginning of the landlocked salmon runs on rivers in the Adirondacks. This year there is plenty of good news and hope for a banner run of salmon on rivers such as the AuSable, Bouquet and Saranac. The efforts of the Environmental Conservation Departments of both the State of New York and the State of Vermont to curtail the lamprey eel problem on Lake Champlain has been a great success and both the number and size of the salmon coming into the rivers has increased dramatically over the last two seasons. Many of the fish returning to the streams to spawn in the fall are now free of lamprey scars and their average size has been increasing with a number of fish in the eight to ten pound class being taken this past Spring.
For those who have never taken a salmon on a fly, it is without a doubt the ultimate in fly rodding. There are, however, certain techniques that will enhance your chances of taking a trophy salmon. It becomes important to know some of the habits of landlocked salmon if you want to be successful. First off, remember that the salmon are not in the river to feed during the fall spawning months and therefore, are not looking for something to eat. There are certain methods of fishing for salmon that vary greatly from those used to catch trout. A salmon doesn't usually take the same lie that a trout might. They will usually hold next to a boulder where the current is slower or at the tail end of a pool alongside an underwater rock. When lying in the head of a pool, they will most likely be along the edge of the current instead of out in the center but keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule so keep an open mind and don't hesitate to experiment.
For the most part, I've found that when salmon have first come into the stream they can be taken quite easily on streamers, and flies with bright colors often entice the fish easier than ones of more subdued colors. After the fish have been in the stream for a time, they do not respond as well to the larger streamer patterns and fishing small nymphs or wet flies generally will take more fish. Out of the 24 salmon that I caught on the Bouquet one fall, 18 were taken on nymphs tied on size 12 or 14 hooks.
When fish first enter the river, they are not normally leader shy but after they have been in the stream awhile or when the water is low, they can be extremely so. In this case, it is more prudent to use lighter tippets such as 4X or 5X. Of course, this requires more skill in playing and landing the fish so more caution is necessary. My philosophy has always been "It is better to hook and lose a fish than never to have hooked one at all". The old "Better to have loved and lost" theory prevails here.
When casting for landlocks, cast at an angle across the stream and let the line swing down and hang the fly in the current for a few seconds before making another cast. Many salmon will take as the fly swings in front of them. No one knows for sure just why a salmon takes during their spawning run but some of the reasons suggested are greed, territorial protection of the spawning area, annoyance, and anger. Whatever reason, when you are successful in hooking that first salmon, don't panic. Drop the rod tip when the fish jumps (and they almost always will) and then keep a tight line when it is in the water. Play the fish strongly and with confidence and bring it to the tailer or net as quickly as possible. The longer you have a fish on the better chance of losing it and if you want to release the fish, you might kill it by playing it too long. A salmon, as do all fish, builds up lactic acid when fighting for too long a period and might die from this.
Someone once said that catching a salmon on a fly is the most fun you can have standing up. They just might be awfully close to the truth so good luck on your next salmon trip to the river. If you would like up to the minute information on the salmon fishing in the area, feel free to call me at my shop. (518) 946-2605
FLY FISHING GUIDE
The following is a list of recommended landlocked salmon flies.
Streamers: Sizes 6, 8-4X long
Nymphs: Sizes 8, 10, 12, 14-1X or 2X long
G.R. Hares Ear
Wet Flies: Sizes 10, 12, 14-Standard
G.R. Hare's Ear
Good Fishing!! - Fran Betters
Fran Betters is a legend in fly fishing circles. His custom flies, custom built rods, many books and videos are available through his store, the Adirondack Sport Shop in Wilmington, New York. (518) 946-2605
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