Salmon Fishing, something I have never felt particularly motivated to do. My membership/season ticket for the Carron actually allows me to fish for Salmon and Sea Trout…. I haven’t bothered, up to now it just hasn’t grabbed me.

I know I would struggle with double handed rods, with my arthritis, so maybe that’s part of the issue, though to be honest you certainly don’t need one on the Carron.  I also read once in one of the popular fly fishing magazines that related a story of a guy who had fished for salmon for something like 15 years without success, and finally got one on the Helmsdale in his 16th year of trying. I couldn’t motivate myself to try for that long without success. How could I even justify the time and dare I add, the expense of everything from special tackle to permits on a salmon river to have nothing to show for it for that length of time? Nope, life is too short!

Three of the group fishing on the Upper Laggan, in Islay

And before someone suggests that 16 years is extreme to go without success if it can happen at all it will happen to this angler…17 years plus would probably be the timeframe for me to get a fish. 

So this week here in Islay with Fly Fish Islay, some of the party are keen salmon anglers, and the possibility of good conditions on the river that runs through the Lossit Estate, the offer of a day’s Salmon fishing was put up. I was asked if I fancied it, and while it’s not been my thing, I thought it might be as good a way to earn an introduction to this particular branch of the sport. I have tried Tarpon fishing and Large Mouth Bass this year, so another branch of the sport to chalk off.

The night before was horrendously wet, up to nearly midnight with strong winds, but this seemed to settle overnight, and by 7 in the morning the river was deemed to be in near perfect condition.  Like the Carron the River Laggan is not much size being on average I would estimate, about 20 feet or so across. Put it this way, I opted to use my 10 foot, HM3 7/8 weight and the tip of the rod was reaching the midpoint of the river. It felt to me a bit like using an Artillery Gun as a Sniper Rifle. Casting a fairly heavy salmon fly is easier with a heavy rod but really there wasn’t much chance of loading a 10 foot rod with the short line needed to get the fly to the far bank.

The set up was a 6ft sinking poly leader attached to a floating line, then another 6 foot of 12lb flurocarbon. At the start my fly was an orange thing with  double barbs, I think it was called a flamethrower or a fire cracker or something like that. You can tell I know what I am talking about.

Early on, literally first cast, I had a couple of tweaks to the fly, I suspect it was a small Brown, but then a couple of casts later I turned a fish that at the time I was sure was a Brown having a slash at the fly as it landed but then based on the fish some of the group had later I am less sure that was the case, as both were pretty brown.

The water was pretty coloured but as the day progressed the river gradually dropped as the sunnier conditions persisted. The guide for our group up on Beat three was Dougie and he was a mine of good advice and a good help to this novice, also lending me my flies for the day. The “science” of Salmon fly selection eludes me, I am not sure matching the hatch has much traction in this game.

Paul with a Grilse from River Laggan
Paul with his Grilse, initially we thought Sea Trout but the Interwebs soon put us right.

As the day progressed and various members of the group had fish on other beats it became apparent that a dropper was a key to chances of success. One of the lads, Paul managed a 3lb coloured up grilse on a fly called “The Medicine”

In fact, I think every fish caught today, there were several Browns too, was caught on this fly though most I think had something like a Cascade on the point. ( he says like he knows his salmon flies…..)

As the day progressed and various members of the group had fish on other beats it became apparent that a dropper was a key to chances of success. One of the lads, Paul managed a 3lb coloured up grilse on a fly called “The Medicine”

A tiny trout on the Medicine
Shauns smallest fish….on The Medicine

Most of the casting (It wasn’t really casting really just rolling and swinging) was simply a case of roll casting the fly over to just under the far bank, trying to avoid actually hitting the gorse, grass, small trees (delete as appropriate). If you were unfortunate enough to hit a snag, all I will say is,  there is 12lb line…. though I did manage to lose a dropper at one point on a far snag.

Something to Look Forward To

Bruachladdich Bere Barley 2008
Bruachladdich Bere Barley 2008, a local Islay Malt

A Post -Fishing Dram
This evenings post fishing nip was Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008, a whisky from here on the Isle of Islay.
Tasting Notes from David Wood of Distilled Events and Fly Fish Islay
A really fresh and flowery nose, with loads of vanilla and citrus fruits on the palate, with a very long finish.

Swap Over

In the afternoon our two groups swapped over, between beats three and two and Shaun, one of our group had success netting a coloured up six and a half pound cock fish his first Atlantic Salmon.

The weather improved as the day wore on, becoming quite bright and sunny at times with dare I say it some heat in the air

Shaun’s 6 and a half pound Cock Salmon.

Speaking for me, I, like quite a few others,  had a wee Brown Trout on the dropper but never managed to get anywhere near a real live salmon on a river.

So, Is It For Me?

Shaun had a great day

It was a lovely wee river, a new experience, and clearly, there were some fish about. Fly Fish Islay had done a great job arranging the beat with Lossit Estates on a near perfect day for this kind of fishing, and the guiding by Dougie and the gamekeeper/Ghillie from the estate Alan, was very friendly and welcoming, but give me a 4 weight, a klink and dink and some humble Trout or better still Grayling, I think it is more my style.

In many ways a river like the Upper Laggan is ideal for a Salmon Novice, there is a definite chance of a fish on a day like we had with a wee bit water in, and it’s not so big you need really specialized tackle or skills.

Shaun, our top angler today said a Salmon is a fish of a thousand casts. For me personally, it was 999 too many!