But let’s not dwell on that, but instead something known. I *know* we’ll be fishing sinking lines - and heavy ones. This winter has seen massive amounts of rain, and although it’s been dry for some two weeks, and most rivers are dropping, there’s still a lot of water. And even if there wasn’t, we usually have to get down deep to get them to strike.
Hooking a salmon isn’t an exact science, but there’s some advice that has stood true for probably more than a century. When the salmon rises and grabs your fly, it’s imperative that you let it turn with the fly. You can do this if you’re cool enough to just do nothing - very few are. Another old advice is to have a big loop of line between your holding hand and the reel. The first thing you do when you feel a strike is to let the loop go (and don’t raise the rod!). This gives the salmon time to turn, and this will, usually, ensure a good hook up in the scissors of the salmon’s mouth.
Allowing the salmon to turn is important for two reasons. One - it increases the chance of a good hook up. And two (maybe even more important) - it allows the salmon to hook itself against the weight/tension of the line rather than relying on the long rod to be able to set the hook.
And hooking against the weight of line the line not trying to set the hook with the rod, is especially important when fishing a deep sunk and swung line. Since you can’t lift the line off the water as you can with a floating line, you’ll end up primarily bending the tip of the rod rather than applying force to the hook. I’ve seen it done in various ways - one is the above mentioned with a loops of line. A more extreme version is practiced by a friend. He has his brake set so the line doesn’t get pulled off by the water and just hard enough to prevent it from tangling if a salmon takes the fly. Other than that, he keeps his hand off the line when swinging the fly, and even allows the reel to scream for 2-3-4 seconds before gently braking the reel with his palm and slowly lifting into the salmon.
On film, I’ve rarely seen it demonstrated better than my friend Steffan Jensen does it in the Small River Salmon-movie on the kanalgratis.se YouTube channel (this link takes you to the exact time, but if you’re interested in a taste of what’s Danish salmon fishing is like, this is a good movie).
It’s an art and it takes 10-15.20 salmon to learn it properly, and it doesn’t always work. I remember one year in Norway, where we suddenly got a big run of grilse (small, mainly male salmon) and they were not late to the fly, they just didn’t stick. Until I completely reversed my tactic and gave good, long, firm pull back on the line as soon as I felt a tug. That worked!
Have a great weekend - stay sane in this isolation-madness!