Don’t be too rigid in your thinking!
As salmon anglers, we are often creatures of habit. We try and find a formula which works best and then stick to it. Of course, this logical and with success brings confidence. Having confidence in the tactics that you are using is probably the single most important ingredient when it comes to salmon fishing in Scotland or anywhere in the world for that matter. Sometimes though, anglers can almost get too rigid in their thinking, and not be prepared to make changes to their tactics. It is an easy trap to fall into and one which can lead to a blank day. If there are salmon showing in the pool that your fishing and you have covered them to the best of your ability, then it can be worthwhile changing your tactics.
When it comes to changing tactics, it is not just about making subtle changes, like changing the pattern of a fly from Cascade to a Willie Gunn. If a fish has seen a Willie Gunn a number of times and not reacted, will it then go on to take a Cascade of exactly the same size? It could make the difference but more often than not it won’t. We as anglers perceive there to be a big difference between the Willie Gunn and the Cascade cosmetically but can the fish tell the difference? Probably not. Instead, it is better to make bolder changes and this can be done in a number of ways.
Firstly, you can change the size and style of fly. If you are using a small dressed fly, instead you could change to a larger tube fly. A tube fly looks quite different in appearance to a dressed fly in the water and this is a much bigger change than a subtle change in pattern.
As well changing the style and size of the fly you are fishing, you can also change the depth at which the fly is moving through the water. It may be that you are using a floating or sink tip line. The fish may not be too keen on coming up and taking the fly close to the surface of the water. So instead, you could try a sinking or intermediate line. By changing the depth at which your fly is moving through the water, you are giving any salmon in the pool an entirely different proposition.
Another easy change to make which can have a big impact is imparting artificial movement on the fly. If you have fished down a pool a number of times without success in the standard fashion (casting slightly downstream and letting the fly line swing around in the current) why not give the fly some extra movement? This can easily be done by either stripping the fly line, after casting or performing a slow figure of eight motion. A faster moving fly can often elicit an aggressive response from a fish.
So, if the fishing is tough, and you are having little success, don’t just make subtle changes like using different fly patterns. Alter other parameters like the style of the fly, the depth at which your fly is fishing and also the speed at which it is moving through the water. These are easy changes to make and can often have a big impact!