Early Fall Salmon

It is about time for the fall salmon run once again. And with the salmon, come all the mystique, misconceptions and legends. I do not intend to intend to set any record straight, or make any big statements here. All I intend to do is describe how I go about fishing the salmon run.

Yes, I am a fly fishermen, it is how I prefer to fish. Fly-fishing is no different than any other type of fishing. It has advantages and disadvantages. Many techniques that are employed by fly-fishing can be extended to conventional gear fishing also.

Salmon are like any other fish that inhabit rivers and they are influenced by the same conditions such as water temperature, water flows, fishing pressure and light conditions. Salmon can be as spooky as any spring creek trout. Spooked salmon behave two different ways. The first line of defense is to not move, lay tight to the bottom and make like a rock. The second is to run to deep water. Spooked salmon are not going to play. Let these fish rest for a while, they have a short memory and will settle down in an hour or two.

The early part of the salmon run is from September to mid October. Salmon will be responding to water temperature and light conditions. The ideal day is a cold drizzly day, but these days do not happen enough. So, fishing during warm bright days are the normal conditions. The best approach is to fish early and late, a.m. — p.m. Early morning, water temperatures are cooler. Cooler water will hold more oxygen and more oxygen in the water means more aggressive fish. Last light or evenings the salmon will start to move up river. At this point the salmon will start to become more aggressive. A good bite will normally be expected at both ends of the day. The middle of the day is generally not too productive unless a cold front is coming through. On these days salmon will run all day. Until the water temperatures drop down to the 55 degrees. The routine that I follow is to fish hard in the morning and then in the evening and lay back during the mid day.

Early fall salmon are in a run and hold mode. While the salmon are in this state, choosing where and when to fish, and what fish, to fish to will make the difference of hooking up with a salmon or two or a lot of casting practice.

Resting salmon in early fall are not as eager to bite as they are later on. There can be a pool with 100 salmon sitting in it, but only 10 of these fish may be in a biting mode. You can spend hours working your way through the salmon to find the biters. Remember prime fishing time is a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. A more productive an approach is to fish the tails of the pools. This can hold a few salmon that are still entering the pool. These fish can still be in a biting mode. The second is the heads of the pools where the fast water is flowing into the pool. This part of the pool holds more oxygen and the broken water on the surface gives the salmon some security. This is where you will most likely find the “sweet spot’’ that is the best part of the pool to fish. The sweet spot is where you will almost always find a fish in a biting mode. Finding the sweet spots and learning the best way to drift theses spots are a big key in early fall salmon fishing. Remember rivers like the Salmon River, have a bottom that moves a lot and the prime spots in a pool can change and usually does move from one year to the next. Concentrating on the sweet spots of the pools, which I know of, and fishing the prime time of the morning and evenings is the routine that I follow for early salmon. As I stated at the beginning, I like to swing flies to the fish. The flies that I fish work best that way. The same flies can also be effective when fished with a noodle rod or spinning rod. Salmon like to bite flies regardless of how they are cast to them.

I am for the most part, a Wooly Bugger fisherman for salmon. What I like the about the Wooly Bugger, is that they are easy to tie, and there is no wrong way to fish the fly. Dead drift or swing the fly and they will fish well both ways. I tie my Wooly Buggers a little different, I use heavy wire wet fly hooks [I like the Daiichi 1530] in size 4. That gives me is a fly body of a standard size 10 fly with a size 4 hook. A small fly with a big bite. Colors that work good for me are black and silver, Brown and copper and black and purple. I like flies tight with earth tone colors. Comet, tie in size 6 to 4 flies such as the boss, black and purple. A word on the comet, do not tie these flies with heavy eyes, bead chain eyes are heavy enough to get the fly down, heavier eyes will put the flies straight down to the rocks for good. Traditional salmon flies like the green but black bear, silver rats silver Hilton are just a few flies that I carry in sizes from 8 to 4. Early in the salmon run I do not fish egg flies. Despite the fact, that you can catch a few salmon on these flies. The spawn is not on yet, and I just like to swing flies. However, dead drifted Stoneflies in sizes 8 to 6 are a favorite of the salmon.

We always like to talk about what flies we are using but that is only secondary to what I believe is the most important element to successful fishing. Presentation is where it is. The best flies, lures and bates are all worthless without good presentation. I have mentioned several times that I like to swing flies. I have included the description on how I go about this style presentation.

Down and across

Down and across or slow swing. This has evolved into a very productive method of presenting a fly. The down and across is intended to be a two part presentation. The first part is intended to be a dead drift along the fiver bottom. The second part of the presentation is the slow swing.

How is the presentation done?

A. Cast up and across the river at 2:00.As the fly drifts down stream maintain a dead drift all the way down to 10:00 while following the drift with the tip.

Once the fly reaches 10:00 the currents will start to work the fly. The first thing that will happen is the fly will lift off the bottom. To counteract this, first lower the rod tip and let line slide through your fingers, as needed. Doing one or both of these will normally do the job and of course keep mending the line as needed to maintain the desired slow swing.

The advantage of this type of presentation is that the fish are given two different looks at the fly with the first part being the dead drift. The fly can be presented in profile. By doing this, the fish gets the best look at the fly’s dressing. Many tributary flies are designed to be presented to the fish in profile. When the fly is allowed to start its swing [and that’s when most of the bites will occur] the river currents can bring the flies to life. The flies dressing will have a lot to do with this. Files such as traditional wet files, spey flies, streamers and of course wooly bugger are made to order with this type of presentation.

This is a straight forward approach to fishing the early salmon run. Fishing the prime times, and working the sweet spots and paying close attention to presentation. I hope all this will be of some help, good luck and tight lines.