What you need to understand before you cast the fly

Earlier I already did attempts to organize mistakes of anglers that threw me in the eye during the 10-15 years of my work on the rivers of the Kola Peninsula. Unfortunately we can not always be appropriate to engage in a radical therapy or even surgery in the treatment or correction of mistakes and tactically wrong decisions when fishing for salmon. It happens quite difficult to explicitly state the need for change the stereotypes of fishing. It is easier to help the angler, who has not yet sustainable habits and views on how to be and how to fish salmon. Most of this lability depends on the success of fishing.

So I think it is very useful short but informative article by Paddy McDonnell about the tactics of salmon fishing.

You can click on the link and see the original or read it here.


Or you can look at the forum


Dumb Distance - or Casting without Thinking

Paddy McDonnell When we first start we are keen to cast as far and as well as possible. For most men the emphasis is on the far before the well. The problem is that we are so focused on the casting that we forget that its purpose is to put the fly in front of the salmon, at the right depth and moving realistically. There's a full explanation in the Fast Food and Broad Beans post, but to recap briefly, realistic means;

· In the right direction - generally obliquely across the flow, with the fly facing somewhere in the range 10 - 70 degrees to the current. Salmon are less likely to be stimulated by objects coming straight at them or heading directly away.

· At a sensible speed - the things the salmon's brain recognises as food - nymphs, flies on the surface and small fish - do not travel at warp speed.

But if we cast without thinking, then realism goes out the window and our chances of catching a fish head the same way. Let's look at a practical example of this sin.

This is the House Pool at Tomatin at +12" on a perfect day in mid-September. There are plenty of fish in the river and at this level they run freely (indeed they were when this photo was taken - we caught nearly 30 that week). They enter through rough fast water at the far left. Just out of shot to the right is shallow water that will cause them to check, pause and think, which is just what you want - nice alert fish in short halt lies. You're fishing from the bank in a grass meadow. Your natural urge is to fish all the water in front of you: after all, covering more water creates more chances, doesn't it? So off you go, determined to reach 30 yards and more, as marked by the red line.

Then what happens? You put out a lovely cast to A and feel really pleased with yourself. Oh dear! The line swings round nicely until it checks in the dead water around the big rock in the middle. The nearer half of your line carries on downstream. Your fly (1) now starts to accelerate upstream, wasting the far 10 yards of the cast completely. You put in an upstream mend to compensate, but as the fly passes below the rock it starts to accelerate downstream (2), wasting the middle 10 yards. By the time it's sorted itself out and you've regained control, you're almost at the dangle. Out of a 30 yard cast you've had no more than 6-8 yards of effective fly movement.

Let's start again. Look at the surface of the water. You will see more movement and standing waves suggesting lies this side of the rock than beyond. Indeed, the majority of the salmon are right in front of you: I've marked 2 good lies in yellow. A series of 12-15 yard casts will cover over 60% of the fish in this picture, with your fly under control and working effectively throughout. Mathematically that gives you 8 times greater chance of catching a fish than casting 30 yards.

The bottom line is that the biggest fish taken in this pool in recent years was lying about 6-8 yards out, so please engage brain and read the water before casting!

Far Bank Fixation - or Standing on Fish

As novices our attention is magnetically drawn to the far bank. The water there unfailingly looks darker, deeper and more promising. If the far bank is lined with interesting rocks and features, the attraction grows even stronger. For men, the fact that it's a long way away makes it almost irresistible: why commit just one sin when you can do two? Or even more? So off we go, happy sinners, casting to our maximum and beyond, tempted to wade ever deeper to reach the salmon nirvana under the far bank. But despite our best efforts and the expenditure of enough testosterone to make every hen fish in the river have a hot flush, we don't get so much as a take. Our failures spur us on to even greater efforts: if we try harder, put on a stranger fly and cast more often, we shall surely succeed. Sadly, we don't. Why not?

Here's a good example of a magnetic far bank, the highly productive Garden Pool at Tomatin House. The main flow runs down the far bank for most of its length, past an array of interesting boulders until it reaches the shade of the wood on the left. The water under the far bank is deeper, darker and far more attractive than the shallower clearer foreground. The middle is just plain boring. For years I assiduously cast my fly to land as close as possible to the attractions on the far side, whilst wading down a line 1/4 to 1/3 of the way across.

Trying too hard

In his long-running and outstanding Spey casting DVD, Michael Evans uses a phrase - "if you're working hard, you're working too hard". Simon Gawesworth calls it 'bashing'. If things aren't going right we tend to apply more effort and energy in the sincere belief that if we work harder, they'll come right in the end. I suppose it's a a man thing and the product of testosterone and our Anglo-Saxon work ethic: these are good things in many areas, but in salmon fishing excess effort and aggression usually leads to things getting worse, not better. The salmon are unimpressed by our exertions and cannot be beaten into submission. They take when they feel like it, not when we've earned it.

Please don't confuse effort and persistence. We need persistence to overcome the inevitable disappointments and frustrations of salmon fishing. It took me 4 season to catch my first Scottish fish - small, stale and weedy in the darkness of the last evening of the week in the 4th year. There were many lonely times when I felt pretty despairing about the whole thing: when contemplating the results of yet another dire cast; when trudging back to the lodge empty handed; when celebrating my friends' successes; and when paying the bills (and justifying them). But persistence is the foundation of experience, and if nothing else, in those early years I learned that muscular effort was a very poor substitute for sound technique and calm thought. Low morale is bad enough, but it sinks further and faster when combined with physical exhaustion, aches and pains. The purpose of this post is to help you avoid that condition.


This article is not a casting tutorial: the written word is no substitute for properly qualified practical instruction on a river. I took lessons when I started and I still take them today in order to iron out bad habits and to improve. However, it's in casting that trying too hard is immediately apparent, happens most often and generates the most frustration. When casts persistently go wrong, your line is telling you to seek help and coaching. When they go right it adds huge pleasure to your fishing.

Does your cast look something like this? The mid-section hits the water too soon; the end-section runs out of steam; and the tip collapses in a heap. I still do these, and it's usually as a result of trying too hard and applying undue physical effort. Unfortunately our immediate reaction is to try even harder and to apply more power to the forward cast, which makes things even worse. Before we do, let's stop for a moment's thought. Did we feel resistance in the forward stroke or did it feel a bit li