If you have come salmon fishing to Scotland in early spring you will have quite possibly had to contend with very high cold water. Usually in February and March in Scotland the rivers are high and water temperatures low. Even with the water being high often the rivers run clear so actually visibility under the water is good. So if you are faced with such conditions during your salmon fishing holiday in Scotland what tactics should you use?
Generally at this time of year, the salmon lie close to the river bed, so you want to get your fly well down in the water column. To achieve this, you need to use sink tip fly lines or even full sinking lines. This coupled with a heavy tube fly is often the order of the day. When it comes to fly selection, you generally want to use anything that stands out well. There is no need to be subtle when choosing a fly and often being bold in fly selection can pay rich dividends. Sometimes flies up to two and half inches are in length are needed in high cold water with heavy brass or tungsten tubes being perfect for the job.
Apart from using heavy tubes and sinking lines there are also some changes in technique that you might want to make. When salmon fishing in such testing conditions, you want to slow the fly down as much as possible, when it swings around in the current. This is because the fish don’t particularly like to chase a fly when the water is cold. You can do this by putting an upstream mend in the fly line after casting. This not only slows the fly down as it moves through the water but it also helps the fly sink. Often if you are fishing a pool with a lot of current you may need to mend the fly a number of times on each cast.
So far, we have looked at tackle and tactics but which parts of the river should you be concentrating on when fishing in very high, cold water? Generally you want to be fishing pools which are deep and slow. These areas are often ideal resting places for the salmon. The salmon will also lie close to the riverbank in some instances and so distance casting is often not required.
So when salmon fishing in high cold water, make sure that your fly is fishing slowly and deeply and concentrate on the slowest parts of the pools, after that the rest is down to lady luck!