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How To Catch Salmon

The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is a member of the Salmonidae family of fish. This migratory breed of fish is distributed throughout Northwest Europe, North Eastern Canada and USA and the North Atlantic Ocean. The fish, initially, remain in freshwater for between one and four years, before migrating to the sea. When they have matured fully, after a further one to three years, the fish return to freshwater in order to breed. The adult fish is silvery blue in colour with black spots.


This type of fish can grow very large. The official UK record for a rod caught fish is 64 lb (29 kg) for a specimen caught in 1922. A fish caught in 2007, which was 4 feet 2 inches (127 cm) long and had a girth of 3 feet 4 inches (102 cm), is believed to have been even heavier, but because of problems weighing the specimen it has not been officially accepted as a record-breaker. This variety of fish can commonly grow up to 20 lb (9 kg) in weight.

How And Where To Catch Salmon

These fish are found in rivers and streams in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cumbria and Southwest England. They prefer clean, fast flowing water.

Breeding Habits

The lifecycle of this fish is complex. The fish have an acute sense of smell and return to breed in the rivers in which they were born. The fish spawn in late autumn or early winter when the water temperature is between 3? and 11 c. The female excavates a number of hollows, called redds, in the bed of the stream and deposits around 2,000 pale greenish eggs in each of them. They hatch after 4 to 14 weeks, depending on the water temperature.

The fry (also known as alevin) start to feed on small aquatic invertebrates about two days after hatching. After about a month, the young fish starts to develop distinctive bluish oval body markings and then becomes known as a parr. After about two years, (it can be between one and four years) the parr loses its juvenile markings and acquires a more silvery colouration, becoming a smolt. At this stage, the fish start to go downstream and migrate to the open sea. Wild fish, from the UK, congregate and feed in an area of the North Atlantic, off the west coast of Greenland. Usually, after a further two years (it can be longer), the adult fish returns to breed in the river of its birth.


In freshwater, these fish have a varied diet that includes fish eggs, insects and small fish. They will take a variety of baits including prawns, shrimps and specially formulated pellets made from fish meal, fish oil, soya and sweet corn. Food baits are discouraged in many UK rivers, so fly fishing is the normal method used to catch these fish.

A great variety of artificial fishing flies have been created over the years and anglers are always on the lookout for new models to use on their fishing expeditions. Most fishing flies are designed to mimic a potential food source, so this will influence the shape and colour of the materials from which they are made. Surface flies: usually designed to look like insects, for example, the mayfly, which attract fish to the surface of the water.

Underwater flies: either fabricated to look like aquatic larvae, for example, nymphs, or to mimic small fish such as minnows.

Attention attractors: flies, which are often brightly coloured or cause water disturbance when moved, that don't resemble a particular food source, but will attract the fish's attention.

Yellow coloured flies are considered to be more effective in cold water conditions, whereas darker coloured flies appear to be more appealing to the fish when the water temperature rises.


When choosing a rod for this type of salmon fishing, the main decision to be made is whether you want a single handed rod or a double handed rod.

A single-hander is appropriate for fishing in streams and small rivers, particularly if they are surrounded by overhanging trees. These rods are usually between 9 feet 6 inches (290 cm) and 12 feet (365 cm) in length. For fishing in larger rivers, double-handers really come into their own. The length of these rods can be anything from 12 to 18 feet (365 to 550 cm) in length. However, 18 foot rods should only be seriously considered by experienced, physically strong fishermen, as they can be unwieldy to handle, particularly in windy conditions. For people with smaller physiques, double handed rods no longer than 14 to 16 feet (425 to 485 cm) are more appropriate.


The type of line and weights attached to the line very much depend on the type of fly being used and the angler's personal casting technique. Some lines are designed to float, others are designed to sink. The water conditions will influence the fisherman's decisions as to whether he wants the fly to float on the surface, to sink slowly or to sink rapidly. Choice of fly, type of line and distribution of weights on the line can all have a significant effect on the speed that the fly moves through the water and whether the fish will be attracted on to the hook.

Spey Casting

How to catch salmon with the technique of Spey casting was developed to help salmon anglers deal with situations where their ability to make a back cast is restricted because of the risk of their line getting tangled up in trees or bushes on the river bank. This technique also enables anglers to make changes to the position of the fly in the water, after the initial cast has been made.

There are three types of Spey casting: the single Spey, the double Spey and the snake roll. The type of Spey cast chosen depends on the angler's position relative to the direction of the wind and to the direction of the river flow. Whichever type of cast is chosen, the initial phase of the cast is always carried out downwind of the angler, so that, in the event of a gust of wind, the hook will be blown away from the angler and nor into his face.

When the wind is blowing downstream, a double Spey or a snake roll cast is used but when the wind is blowing upstream, a single Spey cast is used. For more information about Spey casting techniques, see the following websites:




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