Salmon Lies, Fact and Fantasy

ABK

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Salmon Lies, Fact and Fantasy


The Atlantic salmon can be caught on a multitudinous variety of lures and flies, not to mention baits such as shrimps, prawn and worms, and the angler who successfully hooks and lands a fish will tell you that it took his (or her) offering due to aggression, curiosity or any other of the reasons commonly given for the taking of a fish. Each angler has their own beliefs on this subject and will defend it fervently. Regardless of each individuals reason why a salmon takes a lure or bait, one thing which cannot be argued, is that, if it was not a running fish, it was taken from a lie. Whether it was a known lie or not, the fact remains that it was a spot where the salmon had decided to rest during its upstream migration to the spawning grounds. These lies can be divided into three main types, short stay, medium stay and long stay.

The short stay ones are frequented only by running fish having a short breather before pushing on upstream., The medium stay, the lie I believe which is of most interest to anglers, are tenanted by fish in between rises in water height. In some cases this might be as short as a few hours, or in times of drought several weeks. Long stay lies are occupied only by resident fish, which for some reason have decided to stay put in one pool, and will only move on later in the year when their sexual urge becomes too great. Some of these fish tenanting a lie for many months. In some of the larger rivers such as the classic east rivers of Scotland it is difficult to tell which type of a lie a fish came from, but since most rivers are of a somewhat lesser stature the identification of a particular lie type is somewhat easier. Running fish will generally tuck themselves in behind stones and boulders, in fast rough water, or just above the lip of a weir, at times, with no more than a few inches of water covering their backs. By contrast the resident fish in a pool will take up a lie in the quieter deeper water out of the main flow. Fish that are steadily moving upstream and spending only a short period of time in each lie are of most interest to the angler, because these fish will take up medium stay lies, while awaiting an increase in water height to continue their journey. These fish will generally choose a lie in water 4 to 6 feet deep, taking up position either upstream or downstream from some underwater obstruction to the flow, so as to allow them to maintain their position with the minimum effort.

Having almost 50 years salmon angling experience I am convinced that the majority of fish which get caught on any river system is from these medium stay lies. The lies tenanted by these fish will also depend on the time of year, water height and temperature as well as the level of diffused oxygen available at any one time, however, the fish will still take up one of the three types of lies outlined previously.

What makes a good lie ? The answer to this question is quite simple, no one really knows, but if any of the readers were salmon in a previous life, and if they can remember the experience I am only too willing to listen. As far as the angler is concerned there is only two types of lie that is of any interest to him, the productive lie, and the lie that produces nothing. The lie which is unproductive is only of interest so as not to waste time fishing over water which is unlikely to give sport. Productive lies however are very different, because the angler will now be fishing over water knowing that he is in with a chance of a fish. It may be a spot where he has taken a fish before, or has seen someone else take a fish, but he will be fishing with confidence knowing that he will be covering water that has produced fish in the past. I appreciate as conditions change due to the time of the year or water height etc., the taking lies will change depending on the prevailing conditions at the time. However the fact remains that any fish which are caught will come from a taking lie. Why a particular salmon lie produces fish time and time again under similar conditions is not fully known, but I am certain that it is the lie itself and not the salmon which accounts for this. How often have you heard or read of an angler taking salmon one after the other from the same spot within a few hours or over a period of days, while other anglers fishing only yards away are catching nothing. The reason for this as far as I am concerned must be something to do with the comfort factor associated with that particular lie under a particular set of conditions. A good taking lie will keep the salmon restless, and on the fin, i.e. it cannot get its head down and switch of to its surroundings. I consider that these lies are the equivalent to sitting on a hard wooden bench. You cannot get comfortable, and keep moving from one cheek to the other trying to find the most favourable position. Whereas the lies which are less productive must be the equivalent of a good comfortable armchair beside a roaring fire. Just the right place for a nap. If the lie is a comfortable one then it stands to reason that the fish will have it's head down and switched off. Only the pitter patter of the rain clock reawakening them, telling that it is once again time to continue their journey upstream. It is for this reason that I have no doubt that the majority of salmon which are caught come from an uncomfortable medium stay lie, while the lies that produce the least fish are tenanted by very comfortable resident fish. The short stay lies are occupied by fish actually engaged in running upstream at that time, and therefore unlikely to be looking for a place to get their heads down. Anyway these short stay lies used by running fish are not usually ideally situated for a long term stay, i.e. in fast rough water with little depth at the head or tail of a pool. An unlikely place for a fish to have a nap. This is why a running fish in a short stay lie can be caught , the fish is permanently restless and wants to be pushing on , and for this reason it is fully alert and conscious of what is going on around it. The fish are therefore more likely to be aware of a lure, bait or fly passing in front of them.

A short term lie must therefore have a very low comfort factor as far as the fish is concerned. It is for this reason that most of the fish which I or anyone else has caught must have come from a lie where the fish have been unable to become comfortable. This is what I believe and until someone comes up a more plausible reason why fish are taken from specific lies it shall be the one I continue to develop. I suppose that some will argue that the fish took my offering out of irritation, but what about the fish that took the first time it was covered ! They may be partially correct, because if it was irritation that caused the fish to take my offering then surely it must have been irritation brought about by the lie itself and not by the angler presenting the fish with a lure, bait or fly of their choice. The lure more than likely could have been the final straw. This is because I believe that the fish was already irritated by the lack of comfort in its chosen lie.

"Just as the fly had almost completed its swing through the small area of calm water on the nearside edge of the central channel I had that unmistakable pull at end of the line telling me a fish had taken hold of my fly". The initial assumption made by many salmon anglers reading this is that the salmon which took the fly must have been taking up a lie close to "the nearside edge of the central channel". This may indeed have been the case, but unless one knows the water intimately this is a most unfavourable premise, as far as any future sport from the same pool is concerned, especially when the same stretch of water is being fished with the same prevailing conditions. In order to show a salmon our fly we must know precisely where within the pool we should be presenting it. This I have to say is a problem which does not occur when we know the water intimately, however when visiting a stretch of river we have not fished before, or a particular pool where winter floods have changed the characteristics of the river bed the exact location of the occupational lies for the prevailing conditions cannot be located simply by looking at the flow of the water. Although it maybe possible on occasions through collectively gained previous experiences to determine some of the lies, by viewing the contours of the flow etc. it is an extremely inaccurate and imprecise practise. Much as previous experience may well enable us to identify likely looking lie areas, there is no way we can tell for absolute certain, if any of them would effect a lie to a salmon at the time of viewing. If a fish happens to show itself by jumping or rolling through the surface this is fine, as we can use the sighting to mark the spot and use it to good advantage. This is all very well provided fish show themselves, but there are numerous occasions when there are prolonged periods of complete inactivity. What must also be understood though is that not all fish show in their chosen lies. Salmon will invariably from time to time go for a swim around the pool and as such show anywhere along their chosen course. When an angler is "new" to a stretch of water there is no way he can positively identify the exact location of existing "bona fide" lies, or recently created winter flood lies. These new lies cannot be identified without the knowledge of the beats ghillie. An alternative, if there is no beat ghillie is to ask someone who has spent an extensive amount of post flood time fishing the beat. In some cases where a drastic change of the river bed has taken place throughout the close season the ghillie, or local doyen come the start of the season may be totally ignorant of the location of the new lies. Even after a full season their knowledge of the whereabouts of the majority of the new lies within the effectuated stretch will still be somewhat patchy.

In is not my intention to talk further about the factors which determine whether or not a lie will be tenanted by fish, or even what makes a particular lie attractive to a salmon, it is now time to talk about fishing productive lies which are occupied. All occupied salmon lies can be divided into two categories, productive and non productive, regardless of the height of the water, and as such for the angler to maximise his or her chances of catching fish the fecundity of each lie for the prevailing conditions must be known. Lies can be productive at one height of water, yet be totally unproductive at another. For this very reason it pays have intimate knowledge of a beat. I recollect the following incident which will hopefully bring my point across. On the occasion in question, although I had fished the river before, I had not fished this particular section for some time. Since I had some knowledge of the river I ascertained the likely looking areas for the conditions. Although I had seen fish, come lunch time I had advanced no interest. While having lunch the ghillie arrived to see how things were going. While having lunch we watched another angler fish down the pool downstream of the hut. "That looks a nice section of water". To this the ghillie replied "It might look nice, but all he's doing is wasting his time". On hearing this I asked "why doesn't it hold fish more". "Och aye it holds plenty fish all right, but since that bloody big flood we had a few years back there are now only two lies in it which produce fish at this height." Not to look a gift horse in the mouth as well as not being backward at coming forward I asked where they were. After the other angler had fished down the pool the ghillie walked me down to the waters edge and pointed them out. After the ghillie left I resumed my fishing. Although I started in at the head of the pool in the normal way, I must say I did not delay fishing it down as I wanted to try out my new found knowledge. To cut the story short the information the ghillie provided proved to be absolutely correct, with each of the two lies giving me a fish. I have to say the lies did not produce their fish quickly. Although the first lie produced its fish relatively fast the second lie had to be laid siege to and covered a number of times, in fact the second fish only coming after about sixty minutes of hard continuous effort, after the other rods had moved down river and I had been left the pool to myself.

Much as it is absolutely crucial that we present our fly, or lure as close to the lie as possible I must stress that the actual place the fish takes our fly may well be all in all totally different to where the lie is actually located. It is perfectly possible for a fish on seeing a fly moving towards it from upstream advance forward from its lie and take it. Likewise salmon will frequently move sideways out their lie to take a fly. The distance moved usually depends on the water temperature, but even when the water temperature is warm enough to provide the fish with some wasteful birr, the distance moved from the initial sighting of the fly and the point of actual interception can be anything from few feet to many yards, i.e. the full width of a pool. On many occasions, especially during the summer and autumn salmon will do the latter, i.e. follow a fly round and at take it right at the end of its travel, on the dangle. It goes without saying that if the fly is presented downstream of the lie, or at a location which does not permit the fish to see it then all we will be doing is wasting our time. Although salmon have excellent eyesight and can see the smallest of flies in the roughest of water, the fly must be presented within the salmons viewing radius. Very often when an angler hooks a fish in a particular place, he assumes the place where he experienced the offer is the same locus of the lie. When this happens the angler when commencing fishing the same stretch of water, as a rule concentrates most of his effort towards the said taking section. His efforts, regardless of his persistence usually ends with no further success. This is because the cast which brought him the fish in the first instance generally has not been repeated. If the water is running at normal height and no fish migration is taking place then all efforts from the angler will be lost, as the lie will almost certainly remain vacant until the next rise in water occurs, when very likely another fish, may on entering the pool decide to use it. If the water is of such a height which permits fish to run, the lie in question may be the only taking lie in the pool at that particular height. If this is the case the angler will go home with a fish, but he may well, if he knows the water have had the opportunity of taking more fish, by concentrating his efforts in covering the taking lie and not the taking area. A scenario similar to the previous once happened to myself. I had taken a fish from a stretch of water I did not at the time know very well. I had assumed the fish had taken the fly close to its lie, and since the water was of an excellent migrational height I further fished what I thought was going to the productive section of water. As it happened I wasted a lot of valuable fishing time, as the taking lie from which the fish come from happened to be a good distance away. In fact it was a very short distance out from the opposite bank. It was not until I stood aside and let another angler fish the pool that I realised my mistake. While watching the other angler fish the pool I noticed a small, but quite distinct bow wave appear behind his fly. The bow wave appeared almost as soon as the fly landed near the opposite bank and as such I could quite clearly track its progress across the pool. As the fly came close to where I had hooked my own fish, i.e. about two-thirds of the way across the pool from the opposite bank, a depression appeared on the surface as the following fish took and turned away with his fly. If his fish had left no surface indication of its course of interception I would have sworn both fish came from a lie in the taking area. Further sharing of the pool resulted in another fish for the other angler and myself. Now when fishing the pool in question with the same flow characteristics I purposely concentrate my efforts, not in the fish taking section, but on the lie under the far bank.
 

vampire

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lovely

u are a thinker.not to many anglers put enough thought into what they are doing.fair play.don t agree with one or two of your opinions but can see how they are valid at the same time .keep it coming , i like it .
 

25lbs

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u are a thinker.not to many anglers put enough thought into what they are doing.fair play.don t agree with one or two of your opinions but can see how they are valid at the same time .keep it coming , i like it .
Hi VAMP, what don't you agree with in my fellow Ayrshire man's post ?
 

titanium

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excellent

excellent stuff. 25lbs, I can't find much to disagree with there.;) A great read for the salmon fly angler:) ABK, would like your opinion on the link between lies and angling methods, say fly, spin, shrimp. Some lies seem to produce fish with most any method whereas others say favour bait? Also, in low water conditions do you think fish cruise around a lot?

fantastic read and your considerable experience is evident throughout
 

vampire

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what is wrote here is sacred.why?
because this guy has tried looking inside the world of the salmons habbits which i am fasinated by.and , most importantly it is his own experience on the river he makes his analysis from.i just read through it again and would love to add my own bits in throughout as i am reading through.things like water clarity,water/air temps,air pressure and height in water the fish stand in relation to the lies and the type of fish it is [grilse,springers and autumn run fish]in the particular lies.competition for lies depending on fish numbers.i always believe that the hard running fish take the best if u can find them taking a short break,and that the less running involved the less likely it is for a take [when u cover them in their various lies,short ,medium or long stop offs.] it s not that i don t agree with what he is saying ,its that i think there is more to it that is all.abk is a guy i would love to spend a WEEK fishing with and would love to hear more of what he has to say.i would like minitube to read this ,he would also enjoy it.
 

clydesider

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Abk

Thank you for sharing yet more pearls of wisdom in our search for contact with the elusive king of fish, the Atlantic salmon.
Your insight is appreciated.
Mike
 

ABK

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In relation to water clarity affecting a salmon's lie . There may be instances where it could affect a particular lie, but I cannot really think why water clarity would make a lie uncomfortable and keep a fish restless...The only suggestion I can think of is that perhaps if there happens to be strong light shinning on flashing on the lie from a particular angle. I am open to suggestions. It is true salmon from some lies are more susceptable to a fly, while others are best spun or baited. I tend to think that in these cases the dynamics of the water through the lies tend not to favour a fly, but instead will deliver a particular lure or bait better. Why I cannot say, but perhaps the fly in these cases just cannot create the right stimulus for the fish in residence at the time. Water height I believe plays the greatest single aspect of whether a lie is going to allow a fish to settle into a lie. The increase in height has an increase in water pressure over and around the bottom terrain and as such the hydrodynamics of the lie will be different for various flow conditions. As such this is why we get different lies in different locations of a pool for varying heights of water. Where there are too many fish for the number of lies available in a pool I have always found the fishing difficult. The fish which have a tenancy seem reluctant to move to take anything, while the roamers are too busy trying to dislodge, or shuffle fish out of their lies. During the backend I have no doubt that the majority of salmon that take or lures or flies is due to increasing sexual agression, but at this time of the year salmon migration is very much at a maximum. Fish are becoming more and more restless to get on with natures business and as a result will be taking up more lies over a shorter period of time than they did previous in the year.
 

titanium

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SOund logic

ABK,

sound logic once again and indeed very little to disagree with there, at least from my own limited experiences. It was very decent of you to share your knwowledge.

t.
 

Gralaks

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ABK.Nice read. Quality post. I read all your post and had a particular lie in mind that I know.A medium stay lie. It all made a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing.
 

Gamlingen

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ABK.Nice read. Quality post. I read all your post and had a particular lie in mind that I know.A medium stay lie. It all made a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing.
As another "dinosaure" (sorry ABK, but with 50 or more years of salmon fishing, we are indeed an endangered specy! :D) I would certainly second what has been said above on the quality of your remarks!
If I were to add something, it would be that we sometimes underestimate the role played by light. I tend to believe that light does affect the fish behaviour at different times of the day, specially on the medium and long term lies you are rightly referring to. If one can observe salmon's behaviour from a high point (tree or rock), one will notice different behaviours at different times of the day, from the "sleepy" to the very "agitated" fellow, which I would attribute to the impact of light on the water surface and (importantly) not only on very sunny days. I have observed the same patterns in different parts of the world (Iceland, Russia) where the density of fish in the pools makes such observations easier.
But beyond this small add on remark, I would totally agree with your observations! :)
 

titanium

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Observing salmon

I wonder how many anglers take the time to really observe the salmon and stop fishing. I guess this is an area where ghillies have an advantage as so much of the time they are watching and not fishing!

Vamp, I wont make any mention of climing trees:D, just a joke between ourselves:)
 

Levenlad

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Just to add to your most interesting thread ABK,do you think it's possible to predict what lies will produce the bigger fish and what lies the smaller fish.For example,faster stream ,larger fish...
 

titanium

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Me Too

Just to add to your most interesting thread ABK,do you think it's possible to predict what lies will produce the bigger fish and what lies the smaller fish.For example,faster stream ,larger fish...
Levenlad,

was also interested in this. I remember once reading a fascinating article by Robert (Minitube) on this. I suspect ABK will give a similar account for us.
 

ABK

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I can only go from my own experiences from the rivers and beats I fish. During the day I have found that the larger fish tend mostly to take up lies in the slower deeper sections of water, i.e. in the belly of the pools. Come last light however I have found that the bigger fish, will, for a short period of time, leave the deeper sections and move into faster streamier water at the head of the pool. The smaller fish however seem more willing to take up lies in faster streamier water at any time. Perhaps the smaller fish due to their size can tuck themselves in behind smaller boulders etc and be able to keep station in behind the obstruction with very little effort. The larger fish on the other hand in the same lies would need to be constantly adjusting themselves due to the buffeted of the flow. Not the ideal place to be conserving energy. What I am certain of though is this, that particular lies always seem to produce the biggest fish from the pool. Predicting which lies are going to produce the biggest fish........Now theres a question. An expereinced angler might be able to identify a section of water which could possibly hold a large fish, but to identify such a place with certainty would be very difficult.
 

mcminnow

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Well I for one found this both interesting and educational. Having fished for salmon for 52 years, it just shows there are always some new thoughts and opinions to consider and implement if you've got a bit stale and repetative.

Especially when fishing the same beat every year, which I do, it's food for thought and has got me thinking again. I think I know where a lot of my fish lay up and I know this does change at varying river levels.

If it doesn't work I know who to blame at the end of the season.:eek:

Anyway, I've printed this off to read again at my leisure, along with the thread we had some time ago about viscosity (?) , I think it was.
 
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goosander

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As i am a "youngster" with40/45 years salmon fishing behind me i find A.B.K. posts very intresting. They make me stop and ask myself what am i doing things this way for.
With regard to light this is something i am convinced makes the diffrence between fish and no fish. Have sat on the bank and watched others fishing knowing they would get nothing with the leaden look of the water.
Am convinced that there is something that we humans are unaware of that bring the fish on. Have spent to many days at the fall, three of us trying every thing to get a fish. Fish splashing all around you some even under the rod and then suddenly the three of us are all playing fish at the same time on diffrent sizes of flies.
As i have said before you have a better chance of understanding your wife than you have of salmon and long may it be like that.
 

clydesider

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Disagree!

As i have said before you have a better chance of understanding your wife than you have of salmon and long may it be like that.
Nope....have to disagree after 36 years married! Think the salmon is a bit easier to understand than my better half!:D
Mike
 

logan

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very interesting ABK on what you say about the movements of salmon before they take , i have been luck to observe salmon take a fly on several occasions and as you say where the fish took was not necessarly where the fish was lieing .
i thought you might intrested in one fish i saw my father catch , i was in a position to watch every movement this fish made , the fly (a black waddington) past in front of the fish , then over its head , then over the middle of its back , then over its tail and the fish made no movement at all , in fact you would think that the salmon had'nt even see the fly , only when the fly passed about 1/2 meter behind it did the fish drop back and come around behind the fly and take it , 14lb bar of silver fresh of the tide .
 

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very interesting ABK on what you say about the movements of salmon before they take , i have been luck to observe salmon take a fly on several occasions and as you say where the fish took was not necessarly where the fish was lieing .
i thought you might intrested in one fish i saw my father catch , i was in a position to watch every movement this fish made , the fly (a black waddington) past in front of the fish , then over its head , then over the middle of its back , then over its tail and the fish made no movement at all , in fact you would think that the salmon had'nt even see the fly , only when the fly passed about 1/2 meter behind it did the fish drop back and come around behind the fly and take it , 14lb bar of silver fresh of the tide .
Interesting observation about the fish dropping back to take the fly. It's eyes are in the side of it's head so does this mean it has an element of rear vision?

I don't think I've ever actually observed a salmon's movements immediately before it took my fly, but on several occasions I've watched a salmon follow a devon minnow out of fast water and into slack water before taking the devon.
 

ABK

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An interesting obsevation Logan, which gives plenty of food for thought. I am not sure, if salmon have some element of rear peripheral vision. Since however these creatures are extensively preyed upon they have evolved with their eyes on the side of their heads. As such it would stand to reason that some rear vision is present in order to observe and avoid an attack coming from the rear. (Top predators like cats have their eyes forward facing while rabbits have them on the side). Even although the fly had probably passed beyond the salmon's main field of vision, the fish through some rear peripheral vision, plus through its lateral line was probably still well aware of the fly's presence. There have been a few recorded instances of blind trout and salmon taking an anglers fly. Since the fly in the cases of the blind fish could not have be detected through visual means, it has been suggested, by fishery scientists responding in fishing magazines to such events, the sensitivity of lateral line was a possible means by which the fish detected the flies.
 
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ABK

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There are some pools I fish where in order to get a fish from a productive lie the fly needs to be presented from the opposite bank. Was wondering how many other anglers have experienced the same.
 

FaughanPurple

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ABK

Another great post:cool:

There are some pools I fish where in order to get a fish from a productive lie the fly needs to be presented from the opposite bank. Was wondering how many other anglers have experienced the same.
Yes

There is a lie in a pool i fish that can be covered from 3 different angles.

1. On the same side directly upstream
2. On the opposite bank directly upstream
3. On the opposite bank directly square of the fish

The lie can be covered and the flies swam through the lie from all 3 posistions but Only the last possition will get a repsonse from the fish in the lie:confused:

Ive tried different fly sizes at different depths and speeds but still can only get a response from the last posistion fishing the flies in a certain way.

It also only produces at certain water heights, light conditions and wind direction;)
 

seeking

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As ever ABK, a very interesting and thought provoking read.:)

Just a couple of thoughts about Logan's interesting observation:

1. Perhaps the sight of the leader/fly line in front scared the salmon out of it's lie, stirring it up enough for it to then take the fly?

2. Salmon do have a blind spot directly behind them (the cone of which is larger than the cone of binocular vision in front of them, and it get's bigger going further away from the fish). If the fish is content to sit tight as the fly tracks through its vision before it, and to the side of it and then just behind it, perhaps as it gets further away, the fish has "forgotten" something has left it's vision on one side and so when it re-appears from it's blind spot onto the other side of it's vision; crunch!

Funny things, fish.
 

silverleapers

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They'll do it on wet and dry flies and swim as far down stream as 30+ feet to take it. Just another feeding behaviour. Maddening on big fish with dry flies as one never knows when to stop the dead drift.
 
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