Saturday, September 1, 2007

Low Water Salmon Fishing 101

It looks like we're going to have a fall of low water conditions. For us being fly fishermen, Salmon fishing in low water is not a big deal. All we need to do is adjust to the conditions.
A big part of this adjustment is our equipment. Starting with rods. For one-handed rods I prefer a 10-foot eight-weight rod set up with a matching weight forward fly line and 10-foot leader. For two-handed rods, 12 1/2 to 14 foot eight and nine-weight rods set up with matching floating lines and leaders 12 to 14 feet long. Remember, we are fishing in low water conditions and most of the salmon that we'll be fishing to will be in less than 3 feet of water. We will find ourselves fishing a lot of pocket water. This is where a standard weight floating fly line and leader works the best. Leave the heavy sink tips behind for now.

Reels: this piece of equipment does not change much. We still need a dependable reel. What I look for in reels is a good solid drag system and a solid frame. In reel capacity, I'm looking for enough capacity to hold the appropriate fly line and approximately 150 yards of 30 pound backing.

Fly selection also needs to be adjusted for the low water conditions. In normal conditions, standard salmon wet flies in twos and fours are about the ideal size. During low water, fly sizes generally need to be brought down to size 6 and 8. The size for egg flies will stay the same. Low water conditions are always accompanied with bright clear days, so earth tone colored flies are the way to go. The water may not be deep, but when you are fishing pocket water a fly needs to get down quickly. Ironically, because we find ourselves fishing pocket water more than normal. Bead-head flies and flies tied with beadchain eyes, such as comets are now more productive.

Other considerations; concentrate your fishing efforts on early mornings and evenings. At these times of the day, the salmon are more active and in better biting mood. Mid-day is generally not all that productive unless there is good cloud cover. If the Salmon are not active, take a break.

Pick the spots and Salmon that you intend to fish to carefully. This may sound silly but, put yourself in the salmon's situation. You have just left the security of the lake where you had several hundred feet of water under your belly and 100 feet over your head. You are now in a river where you're back is often out of the water. You have no cover, you are exposed, you feel vulnerable for the first-time since leaving the rivers as a pare. Are you getting the picture? Spooky! Most of the salmon you will be seeing in the pools and flat water are not going to be good biters. That pocket water that I have been talking about earlier is where we will find most of our biters. Low water means less cover for the salmon, and cover means security and comfort. Good pocket water will always have some sort of broken surface to it. This is cover that Salmon are seeking. More now, than in any other conditions, we need to be concentrate our fishing efforts in spots where there is sufficient current to cause a riffle effect on the surface. These spots become more important to us as the morning light becomes more intense on the water surface.

This is one of the biggest mistakes committed while fishing in these low water conditions. That is standing too close to the fish. Stay back and cast to the Salmon. In low water conditions, I generally try to stay at least two and half to three fly rod lengths away from the Salmon. At this distance, I can move all I want and not disturb the salmon. Keep in mind that a Chinook Salmon's first line of defense is to use camouflage to hide, make like a rock. This means you can have salmon all around you and they can be so spooked that they will not bite. Just because they're sitting there does not mean they have been spooked.

Presentation, hey, come on, I’ve got to keep something for myself. Just like the rest of the fishing we do and how we present the fly. This is more important than the fly that we tie on the end of our tippet. When you are struggling to get a bite, do what I do. First, consider how well you are presenting the fly to the fish. Then, consider the fish themselves. Are they in a biting mood? Have the fish been put down by fishing pressure, or they just plain shutdown for the day? Keep in mind with tributary fishing, sometimes you need to leave fish to find fish that are willing to bite. Only after this, do I consider the flies that I am using.

Keep these few tips in mind and you'll quickly learn, that for us fly fishermen, low water conditions are no big deal.


  1. For us being fly fishermen, Salmon fishing in low water is not a big deal. All we need to do is adjust to the conditions. Justin

  2. Thanks for the Tips. I have fishing with a spincast closed faced reel all of my life and I have been wanting to try fly fishing. Fisherman

  3. Nice, by the way thanks for your tips, I love fishign and Always try to go every year fishing in december time. fishing Reels

  4. The pits that were excavated back in the fifties and sixties are now, deep, spring fed havens for catfish, bass and crappie. The shallows in the backwaters attract duck in large numbers each year. Why not try these out

  5. The Pflueger Endeavor: The Endeavor is one of the best, ease reels available today. best baitcasting reel

  6. Any time as a fishing guide you can get great salmon fishing every day, it will make your job much easier. A fish lost will be replaced by the next one that bites a few minutes later.

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