Adam Royter pores out 20 years of salmon smashing knowledge.
Being a Victorian has its moments. The weather is up and down to say the least, and so the fishing can be on and off just the same. Not having much to target on the winter, that’s going to tug a little line from you leaves us chasing salmon more often than not.
It’s all happy days when they’re on top crashing through bait schools and birds are working them, because they’re not only easy to see but they're obviously eating as well – therefor easy to catch!
Like most fish, if there is no opportunity to feed because of lack of food or bad conditions the salmon will sulk and do as little as possible until the food turns back on. This sulking can be as simple as swimming around in a circle slowly, using as little energy as possible and sitting in a slow section of current. This is a common thing that nearly all fish do from time to time. Fish can’t afford to swim around like lunatics wasting energy if there’s nothing to eat to replace the energy lost. The idea of being a fish is to get as big as you can, as quick as you can. This way you avoid being eaten by predators and you get to own the school a lot faster as well!! Let’s face it, big fish win because they’re big.
So when you find a school of fish on the sounder or you sight them roaming around in a circle or in the tide, here’s what you should do;
Whether you’re in a boat or on land, approach carefully and quietly. Although the fish don't sleep, they’re not in the most heightened sense of awareness so they can be spooked very easily. If you can see the fish from the surface then you can bet that they will see your lures from the surface, so this is the best place to start. For god’s sake don't tie on a metal slice or slug and hurl that at them; they're too aggressive on landing and they sink too quickly and can spook the fish. So your best bet is to fish a surface lure. This could be a top water walker like a Sammy or Scum Dog, or an unweighted soft plastic. If you want my 2 cents worth… I’d go the plastic every time! Reason? You can work them at the greatest range of speeds and if your surface presentation doesn't work, you can let it sink and bingo....ON!!
Casting these light weights means using light line. I like 4lb or 6lb fused braid like FireLine or MicroFuse. For a further cast try new FireLine Exceed. These lines are skinny, yes; but salmon fight clean so there is very little risk of them running you into anything intentionally. The skinny line is just as important as the lures, rods and reels you use for this fishing.
You'll need to cast well over the school if you can. Then with a quick retrieve across the top you should get a reaction from one or 20 fish. Sometimes they take a little while to wake up to what’s going on, so persist. If your catching and releasing these fish – and I would think that you would, because they taste like a gumboot sandwich with the lot - then you'll quite often find something a little strange starts to happen! The fish will become aware of the particular lure you’re using, and stop chasing it. It happens very slowly, but cast after cast they seem to get used to the same thing coming over them and get bored or used to it and stop dead in their tracks when they see it. So, all you need to do is change shape, colour or size. I like to do all of the above – and let me tell you, as soon as you do, it’s game on!!!
Some of my favourite plastics for this work are 3" to 5" long minnow or stick bait shapes. I definitely don't like any plastic with in-built action such as T Tails, Paddle Tail or Curl Tails. The bait these salmon eat don't move much when swimming, so your plastic shouldn't either!
At times the fish won’t come up for the high speed retrieve and you might get a little sick and tired of catching them subsurface, so when this is the case try a slow walk the dog retrieve with a 'stop' in it. This will give the fish time to see the lure, and a computation bite between fish will normally result in one coming up to eat it.
Fishing this sneaky type of luring can keep you in the mix for hours and keep your rod bent with hard pulling salmon on the end of it, until you get a good dose of Muppet Arms (or Thunderbird Arms). Shaun Clancy and I have sat on the same school of fish for 4 hours and caught 25 fish each! That’s some good fishing fun that wouldn't have happened had we rushed into it and were all heavy handed. Sometimes it pays to be sneaky!