A great way to stretch your lines
Do you have kinks and coils in your fly line? Well this post is all about a fish that will help you straighten them. Only kidding, but it is true the humble Aussie Salmon or Sambo as they are affectionately known, will certainly put a bend in your fly rod and stretch your arms and your line! They have to be one of the hardest pulling fish available to southern anglers and fight right to the boat / shore.
Considered a pest fish by some anglers, the sambo is one of my all time favourite fish to chase. They are not always an easy target either so don’t be fooled when you see and acre wide school of them chasing bait to the surface. Sometimes I chuckle at watching some fly and especially lure anglers chucking large flies or slices into the frothing mass only to get rejected each and every time. Now I am by no means perfect I have been frustrated as hell after fishing big schools and getting turned down on everything I threw at ’em. Experience certainly helps turn the odds in your favour and I will share some of mine here.
Let’s first of all run through the gear I use. The rod I use most of the time is a 9 weight – not because the fish are necessarily big, but because you want to reduce the fight time as much as possible to give the fish the best chance when released. I know people that have caught them on a 5 weight, but it can take a while to get the fish to hand, so keep that in mind. The line is a clear intermediate or a clear tip. Salmon can be easily spooked so the stealthier the approach the better the chances of a hook up. Leader is pretty much your choice, but I go for a hand tied tapered leader with a tippet of around 10 – 12lb depending on the size of the fish in the school. If it’s a mixed school with kingfish you may consider upgrading to a slightly heavier tippet – just saying.
The reel is actually an important piece of the set up. Many times you will get down to the reel and therefore it’s important to have a solid drag system. Some reels have very litle drag adjustment and you end up having to use your hand to control the tension on the line. This is o.k. but can also lead to some great knuckle bruises when the fish take one of their deep fast runs.
Now on to the all important choice of fly. With sambos, match the hatch really comes into play. Sometimes the fish are fixated on what we call eye, which is the early stage of the anchovy with the bait being about 2cm long and all you can really see is an eye. When they are on these they will ignore almost anything else you throw their way. This is the time that he lure guys get zilch and us fly guys have bent rods at regular intervals. The secret is an eyes fly. Yep a fly about an inch long where the main trigger is the eye. So flies like the fuzzle fish or snot-a-fly. The Gummy Minnow or tiny candies on a number 8 hook. Anything much bigger and you are wasting your time, unless you enjoy casting practice.
As the anchovies / white bait get bigger through the season then you go up in size with your flies, again matching the hatch. By the peak of the season I go up to a 1/0 candy that I call a silverside and it gets eaten fast and often. I have done a video on how to tie these if you wish to create some of your own, or Brett from BWC Flies also does this pattern called the Bay Anchovy or the Saltwater Fly Workshop Eye Fly would also be a good choice if you wish to buy a few. Chris Beech’s (FlyMax) surf candies are another killer pattern if you are in the market for some flies.
Don’t be afraid to experiment if you are fining the fish fussy. Sometimes the biggest fly in your box will work on days when the fishing is hard. Salmon have a varied diet. They will take the smallest baitfish through to 6 inch plus yellowtail, so it pays to have a variety of flies and sizes in your box.
An often over looked part of salmon fishing is technique. Many people, myself included, start off thinking that the fly has to be stripped back as fast as you can strip it. Think again of what the fish are actually eating. when they are on the really small bait they don’t have to move fast as the bait fish are only moving very slowly – so you strip needs to match. Long slow draws is all you need and quite often if you don’t hook up in two or three strips then recast. When the bait is bigger and you see sprays of anchovies then a faster retrieve might be required, but again, vary your speed to find what works on the day. Some times a dead drift will do the trick. Just cast and let your fly fall through the school like a dead or injured fish and wait for the line to move.
Now a little about actually approaching the fish. Many people get all gun-ho and rush into the school at full pelt only to find they get so close that it sends the school down. Others actually drive through the middle of the school with the same result. Best advice is to fish the edges of the school. That is here the most active feeders are likely to be anyway. Salmon tend to feed into the wind like most pelagic fish, so get in front of the school and wait for the fish to come to you. You will get far more hookups than trying to keep up with the school and / or driving into or close to them.
You never stop learning when fishing for these fish and they are always full of surprises, so don’t forget to experiment when things get tough. You might end up with a donut on the day, but you probably learned a few things to try next time. That’s what makes us go back time and time again. Tight – stretched lines 🙂