Something that I’ll never stop wondering about is the way in which we entice a salmon to take the fly. It certainly changes across the season. Big, flashy, blue, green flies for the early season gradually decreases in size and the colour, slowly drifting towards brows and oranges as the season progresses and the salmon have spent more time in the rivers. But when it comes to it - does it really matter? I don’t know. I know very experienced salmon fly fishermen who say, “No, absolutely not” and some who say “Yes, definitely - to a certain degree”, very few who say “Yes, success is entirely dependant on it”.
Personally I’m on the middle ground. I think it matters and I’m 100% certain that success is mostly dependant on presentation. River Dee in Scotland is steeped in salmon fishing history. Home to the beautiful and unique style of traditional salmon flies, aptly called Dee flies. Famous for being the river river where, equally famous salmon angler, A. H. E. Wood developed floating line fishing (by greasing a silk line) for salmon. Wood also being famed for fishing both small and large flies and even fishing a 12’ one handed cane rod!
Small flies became normal on floating lines for summer salmon. Classic patterns like the Logie and the Jeannie, which were tied on a relatively large hook (a 4 or a 6), but tied on only the forward half of the shank. In the early season on Dee, they used huge irons - famous was and is The Ackroyd, often fishing on 4/0 and even large hooks. But small flies for summer salmon is old news.
While very small flies can be effective for late season salmon anywhere, it’s now well known that even early season fresh run salmon are taken on minute flies. A factor here is clearly that the average depth on the Dee is low and the water is relatively clear. The same goes for the Icelandic rivers, where really small flies are also used a lot.
All through the season on any salmon river in the World, 4 inch Sunray Shadows will catch fish - probably as many as any other fly. And what does this mean? That presentation and speed is everything? That salmon perceive small and large in different ways than us?
I don’t know. But I am certain that all factors must be considered. Water colour, water speed, water level, stationary salmon or running salmon, fresh or “old” and presentation chosen accordingly. Speed and depth. In high water, which most of the time also means coloured water, I’m certain that a minute fly is less effective than a larger one. Whether it’s brown and orange or black and yellow - I honestly don’t think that matters. In coloured water, a foot or so below the water, there’s very little light and it’s all down to silhouette. Maybe silhouette is everything?
I don’t know - but I still have several patterns, most of them from 5 to 3/4 of an inch, some on tubes, some on hooks.
Have a great weekend!
PoD: Two Dee Sheep. The left, in no measure large as tube flies go (6-7cm and lightly dressed) and on the right, a really small 2cm long Dee Sheep on a 3-4mm tube. Does in matter which one I choose? In some cases, yes, in some cases no - I think. So I’ll bring plenty.