When salmon fishing in Scotland during the autumn months, often anglers can be confronted with high coloured water. This can be the salmon angler’s worst nightmare, as it makes for far from ideal fishing conditions. If the water resembles dark coffee or even chocolate in colour and is rising fast, then it is better to save your energy, until the river starts to drop and clear. Many anglers that have come to Scotland for a salmon fishing holiday, for a few days, or a week, would rather lose one day’s salmon fishing due to high coloured water, if it means there will be decent water for the remainder of their trip.
When the water is heavily tinged and is steady or even dropping there are a few tactical decisions you can make to tilt the odds of catching a salmon in your favour. Firstly, you should select carefully the parts of the beat you concentrate on. Generally, if the water is coloured, fishing deep pools can give little reward. This is because the water is stagnant and so invariably the visibility is poor. This means there is less chance of a salmon to seeing the fly. Instead, it is better to concentrate on shallower streamy water, as the fish are more likely to see the fly. The water is not as deep and the visibility is generally better in these areas of the river.
Another aspect to consider carefully, is the colour of the fly that you are going to use. There are three colours that show up well in coloured water. Yellow and Orange or a combination of the two colours tied in a salmon fly are highly visible in coloured water. These colours stand out well and if they are combined with some strands of flash you have everything that you need. So, flies like Flamethrowers, Cascade variants or even Park Shrimps are perfect for the job. Another colour that shows up well in tinged water, believe it or not, is black. A large black fly, if fished close to the surface of the water can act as silhouette. Black is quite visible in tea stained or brown water and so this should also not be discounted.
Finally, we come to fly size. As you want the fly to stand out in the murky water, it is best to be bold in your fly size. Often a tube fly around an inch or even two inches in length can do the trick. The bigger the fly, the more likely the salmon are to see it.
By concentrating your efforts in shallower runs, and carefully considering the size and colour of the fly, you optimise your chances of catching a Scottish salmon if the water is high and coloured.