The 2020 Scottish salmon fishing season is now almost upon us. Over the next few days, a number of salmon rivers across Scotland will open their banks to anglers. At this time of year, it would be fair to say that fresh spring salmon are quite rare. However, each year there are a number of clean salmon caught on opening day on the mighty River Tay which opens on the 15th of January. Nothing beats catching an early season springer. It would have to be the pinnacle of our wonderful sport. Fresh springers (a fish which has been in the river for no more than 48 hours) are by nature aggressive and so are good takers. Often if the fish sees the fly or lure it will attempt to take it. However, as these magnificent fish are few and far between especially in January and early February it can often be more about finding the fish first. If you can cover a fresh fish that there is a high chance that it will have a go.
If you are lucky enough to hook a fresh springer early in the season you want to make sure that you have the best chance of landing it. It is therefore very important to make sure that your tackle is up to scratch. The last thing you want to happen is to lose the fish due to a tackle malfunction. This can be more common than you think as often this is the first time your tackle has been used since the previous season. Early season springers are very powerful and put both the angler and their tackle to the most extreme test.
In terms of rods, it is important that you have a powerful fly rod, anything between fourteen and fifteen feet is usually adequate. The rod needs to be powerful firstly because early in the season you are often using sinking lines coupled with heavy tube flues and a powerful rod makes casting easier. Also, if you are lucky enough to hook a springer you are more likely to have control over the fish during the fight with a strong fly rod. It is also important to consider the fly reel that you will be using. Make sure that the reel has a decent line capacity and so can hold a large amount of backing. Spring salmon are extremely powerful and often when they decide to run there is no stopping them. So, if you are using a reel which can hold plenty of backing you reduce the chance of seeing your fly line and backing disappearing downstream with the fish. It is also important to make sure that the reel that you are using has a good drag system. This again allows you to have more control during the fight with an early-season springer.
During the early part of the season often rivers are running high and so the fish are not nylon shy. Therefore, in most cases, there is no need to use lighter nylon. So, using nylon with a breaking strain of between fifteen and eighteen pounds is often the safest bet. This has two advantages. Firstly, heavier nylon can make it easier to cast larger tube flies and secondly there is less chance of the nylon snapping during the fight when playing a big fish.
There is no greater feeling than catching an early season springer and as anglers, we do not get many opportunities. By making sure that your tackle is up to scratch, it will give you a much better chance of making the most of that opportunity when it comes along!
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