With Christmas and New Year just around the corner for many people, salmon fishing is not on the radar at this time. In actual fact, the salmon fishing season in Scotland will begin in earnest in less than four weeks. A number of salmon rivers open in Scotland in mid-January, the first of these being the Thurso and the Helmsdale which are located in the magnificent Scottish Highlands. In the not too distant past, opening day fish have been caught on the Helmsdale, so there is always some optimism among anglers. Probably the most famous river to open in January is the mighty River Tay. Salmon fishing on the River Tay begins on the 15th of the month. Usually, a handful of fresh fish are caught on opening day and some of these can be big in size. Once we move into February many other famous rivers like the Dee, Spey and Tweed open their banks to anglers and then you can truly say that the Scottish salmon fishing season is in full swing.
Of course, during the early part of the season catching a spring salmon can have its challenges. First of all, the term “spring” is quite loosely held. Anglers that regularly brave the elements in January and February know that the conditions can often be anything but spring-like. Of course, this should not be of any real surprise as in actual fact we are still in the midst of the Scottish winter. So, gale force winds, driving rain and snow showers can often be some of the extreme conditions that any hardy angler may have to contend with. It is not only the conditions that make chasing early season silver difficult. During the early part of the season, the numbers of fresh salmon that run our Scottish rivers are limited so finding these magnificent but elusive fish can prove to be a bit of a challenge. However, when these fish first enter the river, they are usually by nature quite aggressive and so can readily take the fly. Often it can be a case of finding the fish first and if it sees the fly there is a good chance that it will take.
So why as salmon anglers, are we willing to brave such harsh conditions to try and land such a fish? Many of the fish that run Scotland’s salmon rivers during the early part of the season are large in size and extremely powerful. Especially in January and February, they are also quite rare and so this is what makes catching one of these fish such an achievement. To catch an early season Scottish springer on the fly has to be the pinnacle of our wonderful sport.
So while you are enjoying the festive season over the next few days, remember that it’s not long before you can wet a line in Scotland, less than four weeks in actual fact. If you brave the elements and prove to be successful it will be the late Christmas present that you will never forget!