The Turning Fly

ABK

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THE TURNING FLY

By

A.B.K (Protected by Copyright)


Salmon fly fishing in its most basic form is really very simple, all it consists of is a down and across cast followed by a step or two downstream before the next cast is made. Throughout any season this approach will indubitably account for most of the salmon caught in any Scottish salmon river I could bring to name. For the majority of the time the aforementioned approach will, provided we are fishing an aptly coloured and correctly sized fly for the conditions and present it through the lies as slowly as possible will be all that is required to catch Salmo Salar on the fly. It must be understood though that although the downstream cast at an angle of approx 45 degrees across a pool and stream and consequent swing of the fly across their width will not always work. There are fish, places and times when a fly presented out of the norm will be the only way of tempting a fish.

Some fish, regardless of their newness into a lie, or into the river will refuse to rise to a standard down and across presented fly, or any other style for that matter. Why I have no real idea, but I am fairly certain that the majority of salmon on their return to the river tend to ignore everything shown to them. If I could answer this question, then I would probably know the reason why some salmon will take flies and all sorts of other assorted lures into their mouths when they do not actively feed on their return to freshwater. In addition to what I mentioned earlier I am personally inclined to think that not all "taking" salmon can be tempted to take a fly. Some fish will only succumb to a spinner or a bait, regardless of how well we put a fly across their noses. Salmon which have the frame of mind to take a fly will only be triggered into taking hold of it if it is presented with the suiting stimuli. As such I am sure the necessary triggering aspect will almost certainly vary from fish to fish. The necessary stimuli may on some occasions be quite specific, and this is why I think that there are days when the water conditions look perfect, but the fish are totally unwilling to co-operate. Likewise I am sure some fish require a number of triggering factors before they move to a fly. Having said this though I tend on the whole to think that most salmon which are potentially movable to a fly may be attracted by a group of triggering stimuli's which, even if only one is correct for these fish will bring about a response. Although salmon are gregarious creatures they are not mechanomorphic, i.e. they are not machines. As a result they will, even taking fish respond differently to the same internal and external stimuli and as such there is certainly potential for individuality. Some salmon will looking for some specific stimulus in the way the fly behaves. Of course it could be argued that the pattern or colour of the fly may well be the deciding factor. This I am quite sure is true, for who is to say otherwise that a glint of colour, a wink of jungle cock eye, or all-around colour combination and image of the fly has not enticed a fish to take it. Another aspect which must be considered, especially in relation to water temperatures and the differential between the air and water is the speed of the fly through the lies. Having said all the previous the one aspect of a fly's triggering appeal to the majority of fly taking salmon I believe is its overall movement through the water.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the action of the fly through the water in many instances needs to be no more than a slow steady paced, leisurely affair when moving from one side of a pool to the other, i.e. down and across. At other times the sudden increase of speed in a "pulled" fly through the fishes zone of vision will some times bring about a response from a fish which has ignored a conventional presentation. In fact this technique of suddenly bringing a fly to life at the end of its swing, i.e. when it has come to the dangle will frequently entice a following fish to dart forward and take a firm hold. Some anglers when they "pull" the fly like to give it a series of short sharp jerks, by taking hold of the fly line between the reel and the bottom ring on the rod and pulling in 12 to 18 inch lengths of line, three or four times in quick succession. This technique does of course work, but in my experience one long quick draw seems to work much better. When the fly is nearing the dangle take hold of the fly line with your left hand (if you are right handed) as far above the handle of the rod as you possibly can, then with one long, quick, backwards sweep of your arm pull the fly line back behind your back as far as you can reach. If you think a fish is interested and keeping station behind your fly try repeating the process, very often a fish which has followed a fly round in the current and refused the fly on the first pull will take hold solidly on the second.

Another technique which is worth practising, especially during the summer, when fish have been held up in the slower holding pools, or hard fished pools on association or club stretches is the "turning fly". Although I have mentioned that the turning fly is especially a good method to try during the summer months, it can be used to good effect through the season provided the air temperature is at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the water. It can also be very effective when used during those periods of time when fish are running hard. A good place to try at such times is the tail of pools instead of the middle slower holding sections. This technique of turning the fly when used on the Tay is known as the "Tay Tummy", while on the Stinchar it is locally called the "Stinchar Stomach". Although the "turning fly" is a technique which is practised on many rivers it has for whatever the reason to become known universally as the "Beauly Belly". Unlike most forms of fly presentation where a down and across is initially employed the "Beauly Belly" starts by casting our line, usually a floater (but it depends on the water conditions) straight across the current. Initially our fly will sitting at right angles to the current, but this will only be brief, because as soon as the current starts to belly the line the fly will be turned so that it is pulled head first downstream and at a slight angle back towards the bank we have cast from. As the belly in the line passes its maximum the fly will be kicked round in the current, so that for a small period of time it will once again be fishing at right angles to the current. As the belly in the line starts to decay the fly will now be kicked round so that it starts to face the flow. Fish needless to say can take our fly anywhere during its travel, but the most likely time I have observed for a take to occur is on the two occasions when the fly "kicks" round and changes direction. Long tailed flies such as pot bellied pigs are especially good for this type of presentation. In a slow current we may have to make a downstream mend. Sometimes a small mend will do, but if the current is very slow a large downstream mend must be made. This action allows what little current there is to start and work a belly into the line much sooner than if the line was merely cast straight across and left to its own devises. Contra to the previous, if the central current down the middle of the pool. happens to be strong we may have to put an upstream mend into the line in order to stop our fly from skating round on the surface. An alternative method to using an upstream mend is to use either a heavier fly, or change over from a floating to a sinking line. If we wish to present our fly to fish lying in water 5 ft or deeper a suitable density sinking line must be used. In some circumstances, if the flow is particularly strong and the fish are lying deep we may even have to initially cast our line slightly upstream in order to allow our fly and line to sink before the current takes hold of it. Although the method is primarily used to fish the water, with a little practise, by varying the length of line we cast we can also utilise the method and use it to fish individual lies. The choice of rod, single, or double handed depends mainly on the stature of the pool being fished and where in relation to the fish are lying. Additionally the water conditions will also dictate the rod we must use, i.e. small fly in low water a single hander, and a larger fly in high water a double hander. Regardless of which is used the technique is still the same. As for flies I find it best to use ones which have a long flowing wing, or tail, i.e. Ally's Shrimp for example tied on low water doubles or trebles. Additionally flies tied on plastic, aluminium, or copper tubes with long flowing wings tied Collie Dog fashion or pot bellied pig style flies can also be very effective. The long tails in my opinion help to eventuate the change of direction of the fly, which I believe provokes the fish to take. The reason why I think this technique is so successful is that the fish sees the fly coming towards it and then as a precautionary measure this life form changes direction and heads away from the fish. An exhibited escaping action to most predators usually invokes a predatory response.

When conditions are far from ideal, or the fish in the pool have become stuffy it often pays to try a different approach. The Beauly Belly, Stinchar Stomach, Tay Tummy, or whatever you want to call it is one approach which can often turn the prospect of a blank day into a successful one.
 

macd

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Thanks ABK, i enjoyed that.

really liked section on the long tails, well put.
 
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Lancsflyman

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Thanks for sharing these tactics with us, it's post like these that we learn off and help us out when the fish are'nt playing.
I like reading up on stuff like this, because i want to learn how to take salmon on the fly and maybe one day get rid of all spinning and bait rods, as i get a lot more satisfaction catching fish on the fly.
 

longchuck

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cracking informative article,have also tried these methods with some success,my school of thought being just to show show the fly to the fish at a completely diffrent angle and speed rather then the usual cast and mend
i can remember 2 years ago on the nith college pool taking my turn down the pool and landing 4 salmon before 9 oclock in the morning.nobody else touched a fish. my tactics were simular except i was going further up the pool to start fishing,into what can be described as dead water casting slightly upstream letting what current there was catch the belly of the line then retrieving with a slow figure of eight when it sped up these were mostly stale fish but give them something diffrent and it can sometimes work a treat
 

splash

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Thanks for a comprehensive and thoughtful article ABK, I remember someone did an article on the turning flee relating to loch style fishing for wild brown trout in T&S a few years ago which actually attracted a bit of controversy due to its connotation with "trolling" as the fly was fished round with another angler manning the oars

Obviously in salmon fishing, a similar concept applies but there are no trolling connotations (although the same effect often occurs when you are fishing from a boat and harl a fly over the lies) and I think a fly presented in this fashion can be very attractive to a salmon, a sort of induced take. I think the key is being able to maintain the correct depth that the fly fishes when it sweeps past the fish
 
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macd

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its far from obvious to those that dont know culbuie.

not every member has your long experience of salmon fishing.
 

macd

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i dont read it that way, perhaps because the article has been posted in rookie's corner.

nonethless, what you learned in the 60s is still news to many people, particularly the younger guys; in that respect the article is welcome.
 
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Sloggi

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Time Well Spent

Thanks ABK - I appreciate the time you've taken to present your post and that you've chosen to post it on this forum.
 

wilbert

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I thought it was a good read but not necessarily ground breaking stuff. Most of us will fish this way at times anyway but I find that I tend to do them sub consciously on water that I know quite well. It pays to watch others and think about what you are doing but for a fair chunk of the time I am in auto pilot when fishing.
 

tweedbunnet

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ABK

Many thanks for your article. I am sure that many will find it of great interest to them.

However, there are a couple of points where, if I was just starting my Salmon Fishing career, I would be scratching my head a wee bit at what you state in the article.

1. Why do you use 45 degrees as the starting point for a "normal cast" across a pool? I would venture to suggest that many anglers (rightly or wrongly) also cast at up to 60 degrees (or even higher) or so these days when making their first cast and tend to drop back to 45 degrees as they fish down a pool. That is what I actually see happening in practice on a variety of waters but it tends to happens more when fishing from the bank as opposed to anglers who are wading a pool.

2. I agree that Salmon are gregarious creatures - up to a point. I think it more accurate to say they are gregarious in the Sea or Tidal water. However, once they reach fresh water, the tendency to shoal diminishes with every upward movement of the run. By the time they reach pools with fast flowing streams, Salmon fight each other when attempting to find a comfortable lie with biggest fish taking best lie and so on downwards. The point being that this is a great opportunity to catch a salmon when it "protects" its lie from threats etc. it's every Salmon for itself as they fight for and protect their lies until the point when they pair off for purposes of spawning etc and the pheromones take over.

3. I would have liked a bit more coverage on the issue of what I would describe as the three stages of possible presentation: ie Head First, Side On and Tail Last. In other words, the basis of your Turning Fly proposition. Other, much more experienced anglers have queried this before over the years and debated about the merits of a 90 degree or 45 degree cast in presenting a fly to a Salmon. As you so rightly point out, salmon are not machines - hence they are not totally predictable all of they time. We are talking percentage fishing where if we do what worked before, it is likely to work again at a particular time on a particular river at a particular height etc.

However, what we anglers are all basically trying to find is the most effective method for presenting a fly to a Salmon which is like to either provoke an immediate grab or an inspection of the fly and then a later decision to examine more closely (hopefully by using its mouth!!)

I hope you can agree that there are takes 1. within moments of the fly touching down, 2. takes anywhere as the cast travels on it path, 3. takes just as the line straightens - with the fly presumably changing direction - and 4. takes on the dangle. That's what I think happens most of the time and covers most of the takes by salmon.

Do you agree that number 3 is the area of major interest in the Turning Fly proposition? If so, then that must be when the image of the fly changes/flashes/shimmers - whatever it does to attract a particular salmon's interests at that point in the cast. I would suggest that is likely to be why Long tailed/Winged flies are so popular at present and why the Classical sizes are not as relevant today as they were in the age described as Greased Line fishing.

I would also suggest one of the reason why PBP style flies are so effective is that the turbulence they create "on the dangle" is more easily detected by the fish who then investigate the new sound- but I probably stand to be shot down by forum members on this who will doubtless report of the many salmon that they have caught on PBP's the moment it hit the water!!

As I say, it's just my best stab as to why long tailed flies and PBP type flies are so much more effective than the older classics (e.g. Size 6 and smaller LW style Greased line flies) and why we all tend to use the modern flies more often. As far as I can understand, Michael Frodin seems pretty adamant that a turbo disc which creates sound is a vey important feature in a fly these days - who am I to disagree with him? And to be frank, are the cones we tie on our flies these days not also creating a bit of underwater sound? I think they do but can't prove it with engaging some of my daughter's University friends who have access to the equipment needed to run tests.

You had me reaching for the dictionary with the use of the word "eventuate" which is very precise and suitable. I would suggest that previous authors on Salmon angling could have used the word "actuate" when writing about "giving the fly the illusion of ilfe as it travels through a pool. That, surely, is our major objective - to convince a salmon that what we have on the end of our cast is a living creature (and not a bit of river debris) and something to be eaten or attacked

Great article all round for me but why the "copywrite" notice in a public forum? I don't understand this - is it your sense of humour? Or are you in the course of having this published? I would be glad to hear your reasons on this as it suggested I could not hit my reply button without fear of some future action being taken by you against me for quoting/reproducing your post.

Best wishes and hoping you do not sue me

tweedbunnet
 
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longchuck

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i dont think any posts put on the forum should be mocked .this forum is meant to be informative, and for fellow anglers to share their knowledge and skills.
abk put his post across in a very precise and informative manner,and although some members could have put it simpler im sure a lot of members enjoyed reading it.
members should be encouraged to submit posts in whatever format they see as best to describe their article
keep the posts coming as this is meant to be what the forum is all about.
PUT THEM IN LAYMANS TERMS OR SCIENTIFFIC TERMS IT DOESNT MATTER.
 

Greenalert

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Another piece of research from the university of the bleeding obvious.
When you read this article closely what it is saying is that you need to slow flies down in fast water, and speed them up in slow water, oh, and by the way, if you give the line a pull at the end of a cast, you may hook a fish.
Well, I'll be knocked down with a feather, is that what I've been doing wrong all these years!
Is there anyone left who thinks about fishing a fly and still casts at 45deg and lets it come round? Did Falkus, Ogelsbey, Ashley Cooper et al live and die in vain?
Of course you watch the line, and adjust the speed, of course you think about the size of the fly and the depth you are fishing at. If you don't your purpose in life is paying the rent to let the rest of us fish nice water.


What a silly reply:confused: not everything is as obvious to the rest of us as it appears to be to you, a very informative article ABK
 

ABK

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In response to Tweedbunnet. Thanks for your comments. I agree that number 3 is the area of major interest in the Turning Fly. The reason why it is copyrighted is that it was a reworked section from my first book "Salmon fishing on River and Stream" which was published on 1995.
 

ACW

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ABK
as someone who has been there and done that I still apreciate your generous effort in putting into words that can be easily understood.
Helps those like me that are not gifted in a litery (sp) manner to use those words to share with son and friends !
 

goosander

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Just been looking though the forum and found this thread.
A.B.K. has gone to some time and effort to put this on and i for one enjoyed reading the article. What i liked about it was that it makes me think what i am/have been doing.
It is now sixty years since i caught my first fish and are glad that i am still a learner and not an expert.
 

salar35

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It is now sixty years since i caught my first fish and are glad that i am still a learner and not an expert.
Who on earth taught you to catch fish at 2 years of age? I enjoyed this article a great deal and as stated by goosander, MacD and several, it's aimed at rookies and not those who have nothing more to learn.
 

Ally G

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I just realised who ABK is!!

I have both your books, any more I don't know about?

Thank you for helping my father and I fall in love with salmon fishing and its many wonders.

very good article. I think for all rookies the most important area is getting the line out which just takes practice practice practice.
 

witherby

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.....Did Falkus, Ogelsbey, Ashley Cooper et al live and die in vain?......

Having fished with both Falkus and Ashley-Cooper (and edited their books), I doubt that they would have disagreed much with what ABK has written here although Hugh Falkus might have moved a little less often. He tended to cover a pool much more slowly by a gradual increase of line length before taking a step or two downstream for the next series of casts.

I have seen him hook a fish on his first cast, 3 yards from his feet.

John Ashley-Cooper used similar tactics but would often move upstream, rather than down as he maintained it disturbed the fish less.
 

witherby

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Stuffy fish

Just read ABK's article again. One way to wake-up stuffy fish, according to Falkus, is to heave a small rock into the middle of the pool! He swore it worked as he maintained that a really stroppy salmon was the easiest to catch. Really piss them off, then you can catch them. Whilst you could easily dismay a sea-trout, salmon are more obdurate.
 
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witherby

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I only ever fished with him, never behind but I suspect that a following fisherman would find a pool seething with anger and have no need to lob in a rock or two!
 
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