I don’t know have you noticed but the birds have got very noisy in the past week, it has to be a sign of something. My guess is spring is on the way. Still no news of the first salmon of the year yet but the fishing season opens on the Moy next Wednesday and things are not looking too bad. Water levels from Foxford downstream will still be very high but further upstream it should be quite fishable. This morning its at 0.9m at Ballylahan bridge and judging by the weather forecast it should still be in good condition on Wednesday. This time last year we had low water levels and I was hoping for some rain, it came 😊.
In reality the chances of hooking a fresh run springer this early are very low but its nice to know that when conditions suit or we just want to get out of the house for an hour we can grab the rod and head to the river, of course a fish would be a welcome bonus.
A few tips for spring fishing that might be worth remembering:
Travel light: Early season salmon fishing calls for a mobile approach, cast and move, cast and move. You’re searching for a resting fish so the more water you can effectively cover the better.
Pick your spot: In most cases salmon “Lies” do not change from season to season, unless of course something has altered the bed of the river. Target pools and specific places where you have caught or seen fish caught previously. There will be plenty of time in summer for searching out “New” spots.
Time: It could be a complicated equation related to the effect water temperature has on the movement of fish and the warming effect of the sun during the day, or just the fact that I don’t like getting up early, who knows but my favourite time of day for a springer is the evening and especially that last hour. Of course, if you do spot a fish showing in a pool late in the evening make sure you are the first angler to “Cover” that fish the following morning.
Slow and Low: Probably no need to say this but in cold conditions a salmon is less likely to move to intercept our bait. We need to swing our fly, spinner or whatever we choose to use as close to its snout as possible. The real key to success is to hang our bait there for a few seconds. That sounds easy to do but it takes a considerable degree of skill and knowledge to succeed.
Size matters? It’s debatable, I have seen Springers taken on baits as small as size 14 salmon flies and as large as 11cm Rapalas. I would say though that overall, I have seen more taken on larger baits. The reason for this is quite possibly that they fish a little lower in the water which brings us back to slow and low. Another school of thought is that the larger bait is more visible and intimidating and is more likely to evoke a reaction.
Colour : Again there’s a few schools of thought. My own experience is that for fresh run fish bright colours seem to work best. On the Moy you will never go wrong with Black, Yellow, Blue, Silver, Copper. Whether it’s a hair wing fly pattern or a Flying C, some combination of the above will work.
Theres probably lots more you could add to this but I think if we fish with these few things in mind, at some point the line will tighten and the rod will double, something to look forward to.
For anyone that is going to “Wet a line” through February, Good Luck. Please remember there will be lots of Kelts heading downstream. Try to give them a chance. For anyone new to Spring fishing I’m going to re-share a little piece I done a few years ago regarding the differences between Fresh run Springers and Kelts. It’s no harm to have a quick read of it and if you like please share it.
Kelts/Slats: Are salmon which have spawned and are making their way back to the ocean. If this Journey is successful the Kelt which is worn out and emaciated after several hard months in fresh water can once again feed, regain strength and condition and perhaps make a second return to its river, only this time as a Larger Salmon. Identified by the thin shape, distended vent and presence of “gill maggots” on the gill filaments, Kelts are frequently encountered by anglers in spring when they regain a silvery appearance and can be mistaken for fresh run Springers. On the Moy it is not uncommon to hook a Kelt as late as the end of April. It’s easy to get excited when we catch a Salmon but let’s not get too excited before we first determine that it is a fresh run Springer. By Law Kelts must be returned unharmed to the water.
Fresh-Run Salmon: Recognised by the pristine condition, bright silver flanks and thick girth. A Salmon straight from the Ocean will have loose, easily detached scales and many carry sea lice which drop off within a few days. Spring Salmon rarely “show” themselves, on most occasions they make a boil in the water without jumping. Kelts on the other hand jump frequently and tail walk across the surface. During the Spring period if you see a fish jumping several times or splashing on the surface its most likely a Kelt, move on and leave it alone. When hooked a Spring Salmon fights hard, will make several runs and will stay deep in the water. A kelt may attempt to fight but after a few minutes and a couple of half-hearted runs will come to the surface.
Look Out For
Salmon that has Spawned “Kelt”.
Erratic Jumping (Tail walking).
Frequently follows Bait/spinner to the bank.
Short Fight, loses strength easily.
Can be Silver.
Normally thin with a flat belly.
Fins and tail are ragged.
Often scared or marked.
Gills are pale colour with maggots.
Fresh run Spring Salmon “Springer”
Rarely Jumps or “Shows” (unless hooked :)).
Hard Fight with long runs.
Bright Red Gills .