There is nothing more frustrating when salmon fishing than to lose a fish, especially if you have had a long tussle with it. It is true to say that how well a fish is hooked can be down to luck, especially if all the old adages have been followed up to the point of not striking the fish, not lifting the rod too quickly and allowing the fish to turn after it has taken the fly. It is difficult enough to catch a salmon on the fly, which is why for most anglers the sense of achievement is immense. After hooking a salmon on the fly, a few simple things can be done during the fight, which make it more likely that you will land the fish. After all, if you have spent all week fishing the fly and on the Saturday afternoon you get the only take, you want to have the best opportunity of landing the fish. Every angler has their preferred method of hooking and playing a salmon on the fly and there are pros and cons for each.

 Nervous moments when playing a hard fighting Scottish salmon

When examining the whole process of landing a salmon the fly you have to start with the take itself. How aggressively a salmon takes your fly can be down to the mood the fish is in at the time. This is not within the angler’s control and so can be put down to luck, but certain other factors are. When for example you are fly fishing in the standard way (casting the fly slightly downstream and letting it swing around in the current), some anglers always keep a loop of line in their hand. As soon as they feel a firm tug on the line, they let that loop of line go, then lift the rod and tighten into the fish.

Some anglers prefer to hook the fish directly from the reel, while others like to tighten into the fish as soon as they feel the tug. If you employ the method of keeping a loop of line in your hand, it allows the fish to come up to the fly, take it and then turn back to its lie. As the fish turns with the fly in its mouth, the loop of line is pulled out of your hand and then the rod is lifted, hooking the fish more often than not in the scissors.

So far we have looked at hooking fish when you are using the current to move your fly, but what if you are fishing a pool where there is relatively little current and you are having to hand line? If this is the case, obviously you would not be keeping a loop of line in your hand. When hand lining, the motion of the fly, pulsating in bursts should hook the fish. I feel a tug, I just slowly but firmly lift the rod and get in contact with the fish.

One important thing to remember is not to strike a salmon when you get that take. Many experienced trout fishers have fallen into the trap as this the technique commonly used to hook trout. Trout fishers often strike as soon as they feel the line tighten as they would when trout fishing and invariably lose the fish. The most likely reason for this is because they have pulled the fly out of the mouth of the fish, before it has had a chance to turn with the fly.

 Hooking a fish on the dangle can be very difficult

 When the fly is on the dangle and you get a take, the fish can be notoriously difficult to hook. The term “on the dangle” refers to a fly that has swung around in the current and is now parallel to your own bank. At this point, the fly is directly downstream of where you are standing. Often when the fish take on the dangle, they fail to stick. Many anglers believe this is because the fly is no longer swinging around at an angle in the current and is more of a stationary target. It is usually in the lap of the gods whether you go on to land a fish which is hooked on the dangle.

So what measures can you take after the fish is hooked to ensure you have the best chance of landing it? Again, many anglers have different theories and a lot depends on how the fish reacts when it is hooked.

 Make sure the drag on your reel is correctly set

 There are two things that you can do even before starting to fish a pool. Firstly, you can make sure that the drag on the reel is correctly set. There is nothing worse than having to mess about with the drag whilst playing a fish. A correctly set drag is important as it not only protects your leader from breakage but also tires out the fish during the fight. The second thing you can do before you start fishing is to scan the pool for any                              possible snags like large rocks or branches. If then, you do go on to then hook a fish you can try and keep the fish well clear of any potential pitfalls.

As soon as you hook a fish, it is also important to look for possible landing points, especially if you are fishing alone. This is important as then you have an idea throughout the fight of where you would like to beech or net the fish. Of course, this also depends on the fish cooperating!

 It is important to keep adequate pressure on the rod

 It is also important to keep the rod well up and maintaining adequate tension on the line when playing a salmon. Keeping the rod well up coupled with a correctly set drag helps keep adequate tension on the line. As anglers after a long hard fight, we often have a tendency to drop the rod and fail to maintain adequate tension on the fly line and this can spell disaster.

Patience is a virtue in life and this rings true especially when you are playing a salmon. It is important not to rush during the fight by trying to bring the fish to the net too quickly. A salmon usually rolls on to its side when it is tired and this can be the best time to net the fish. It is also worth bearing in mind that the fish might making a hard run when it sees the net or encounters shallow water near the bank, towards the end of the fight. So it is always important to be ready for this.

 The fantastic end result when everything comes together!

 Many anglers say that if “a fish is hooked, its hooked”. That may be the case. There is definitely an element of luck on how a salmon takes your fly initially. After that, there is a lot the angler can do during the fight that gives him or her the best chance of landing their fly hooked salmon. As we all know, hooking and landing salmon on the fly is not an exact science.