They are fairly easy in the early part of the season, where their instincts are fresh and there’s plenty of water. But they can be scarce. In the middle of the season, fresh salmon are still running and sometimes create a productive disturbance in the pools and runs. Then the water usually drops and you have to find them in other spots and often change methods. In the latter part of the season, there are always plenty of salmon. The big ones that can really stir up a pool are up already and holding their lies in the river. Grilse can still be running, but they aren’t big enough to cause the productive disturbance. And August salmon can be notoriously difficult to catch. A good rise in water can cause them to move and moving salmon are usually easier to catch than holding salmon. It’s really never easy and you can thank me later for providing the above, where there are excuses to be found.
As said, in August there are usually plenty of salmon and they are likely to lie in almost any obvious spot. In good water, in pools, beside rocks and boulders and smooth glides with a steady current. In low, warm water in the riffles and white water. But they are (nearly) always a bit sulky, hard to entice a take from. But there are methods that work. And if they are hard to find, two of them can often trigger an aggressive response, which rarely leads to a proper hook-up.
Add a third method and you have a real chance for an August salmon. If you’re in doubt where they are, cast a huge Sunray Shadow across and fish it full speed across the river - even adding a retrieve. They will sometimes slash at the fly. If this doesn’t cause a reaction, try hitching the same fly. And should this work, try a real top water fly, skated across at full speed or cast downstream jumping and skating it upstreams over likely lies.
If you see salmon slashing or otherwise reacting and not getting proper takes, then it’s time to change tactics. A small fly, preferably in dull colours (brown, olive, tan etc.) dangled slowly through the pool, right after the big fly, can be effective. Beware though, takes can be hard to detect and hooking a salmon on a downstream line is difficult - you really need to give it time to turn with the fly.
If there are two of you, one targeting lies and riffles with the big fly and the other ready to cast at spotted salmon is a good tactic.
And here’s the compromise. I like to (prefer, in fact) to catch my fish on beautiful, at least nice flies. I’ve yet to try it, but this (in the PoD) was shown to me by a good friend and he assured me it’s effective. Which I believe. But it’s not really beautiful. Nice? Perhaps… But it looks deadly for skating across lies and riffles, so there’s already a small army of them in the box.
Have a great weekend,