17th March

The lure of salmon keeps the angler returning time after time after time…

Brendan Connolly

Salmon are the regal rulers of the river. Streamlined bars of shimmering silver that mysteriously appear from the sea, they ascend the rivers, slicing effortlessly through rapids and vaulting over waterfalls.

The lure to land a salmon can mean hours on the river bank.

The lure to land a salmon can mean hours on the river bank

These exotic fish lay their bright orange eggs in gravel, where they hatch and feed for two to three years. During this time, they can grow to 20-70 grams. In late winter/early spring, salmon parr turn silver and instead of swimming against the current they turn to swim with the flow and out to sea. In the sea their growth rate increases dramatically, growing from 3-15 lbs or more in the same time it took to grow to 30-40g in the river. Transformed into big adult salmon, they then navigate their way back to their spawning river.

Thrill of the chase

For many anglers, salmon are the ultimate catch, the greatest challenge, the pinnacle of angling. This is one angler’s story on a West of Ireland river.

The river was low, exposing a gravel bed in the middle and a flow of water on either side entering a deep pool. The angler carefully waded to the gravel bed and cast into the pool. As the water level was low, he selected two trout flies rather than larger salmon flies: a Connemara Black on the tail and a Coachman on the dropper.


He cast into the end of the current in the pool and waited for the sinking tip of his fly-line to drop down before retrieving.  After 10 minutes fishing he cast and started to retrieve, and on the second draw of the line, it tightened…

The angler raised his rod and paused for a couple of seconds. He then drew his rod back and tightened the line and immediately felt a surge of power. A salmon had taken one of the flies and at first just moved about in the depths of the pool. Then, suddenly, it made a dash to the far end of the pool. The angler feared for a moment that the salmon would run down some rapids and enter the pool below.

But to his relief, the fish turned and came back, going deep once again. The salmon moved about some more, but did not come near the surface. Keeping pressure on the rod, the angler did not allow the salmon to rest. Gradually, it came closer to the gravel bank – at first turning back to the deep but finally allowing itself to be drawn up closer to the surface.

After about 15 minutes, the angler could see the broad back of a 10.45 lb spring salmon at the surface, and netted the fish with some relief. The salmon had taken the small Connemara Black.

Bank casting
Two days later the angler fished a rapid entering a pool – this time casting from the bank. The river was still low and he was using the same two flies as before.  After some casts he again hooked a salmon, just at the end of the current running into the pool.

This time it was a small 3.lb grilse and the fish dashed from one side of the pool to the other. The line zipped through the water as the salmon splashed in shallow water near the edge, to then rush back to the middle of the pool again.

After a hectic 10 minutes the salmon came to the net. Having admired its fine form the angler positioned himself once again to fish the end of the current; cast in; watched the fly sink in the water; retrieved once, and immediately hooked another grilse!

This time it was a bigger fish of over 6lb. This salmon also dashed about the pool from bank to bank, jumping clear of the water. Suddenly, it dashed towards the far bank, jumped, and landed on a flat slab of rock!

The fly-line hung like a washing line across the river, with the rod at one end and the salmon, high and dry, at the other. The salmon leapt around on the rock ledge, jerking the line; the angler had to be careful not to pull the fly out of its mouth. By applying gentle pressure, the angler eased the thrashing salmon towards the water and eventually it leaped back in, only to continue its break-neck tour of the pool.

Having played two salmon for the best part of half an hour, the angler was tiring but eventually the 6 pounder also tired and could be guided to the net. Interestingly both salmon took the Coachman trout fly on the dropper.

…..These events took place 10 years ago, and the angler has not landed a salmon since. That is salmon fishing: not for instant gratification, but nonetheless its lure draws the angler back year after year.

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