Choose the correct wading route!
In terms of the discussions around fishing strategy it's always mostly about flies, fly lines, and casting techniques, and it is rare to hear discussions around the importance of wading correctly in terms of how you want to fish the various spots in a pool. If wading is ever mentioned it is mostly to do with the safety, and sometimes to not scare the fish by being too noisy, and these are of course important things to consider. But it is actually possible to increase your catches by wading correctly in terms of how you fish your fly in different spots. In this article I will write about my experiences around choosing the correct wading route!
The different runs and pools in a river will have different characters, some places will be shallow with a swift surface current, whereas other spots will be deeper with a slower surface current, and this vary all the way through the river valley. One hot spot can be positioned behind a rock in a fast run, another might be in the seam between the fast and slow flow of a pool. In other words; the hot spots are located in different spots, as the character of the river will influence the salmon to rest here and there, and it is these "resting areas" which make up the best hot spots. In addition this varies with the water levels when you fish, sometimes I want to fish the fly faster than the current, whereas other times it is best to let the fly hang for as long as possible just where the salmon is holding in order to try and provoke a take.
The key here is local knowledge, I have written about this many times, as this is perhaps the most important factor of them all. If you know where the salmon is stopping at different water levels you will increase the chances of experiencing exciting salmon fights.
The wading route, or the angle at which you chose to wade, is very important to consider, in terms of the direction of the current and not least how the hot spots are positioned in relation to the direction of the current. Far too often I see fly fishermen manage to display the fly line before the fly itself, and of course this will spook the salmon. At this point you should also use aerial mends in the correct way, if not the result will often be that you spook the fish. Here is some initial general advice on wading a river.
Wading in terms of safety.
Be careful when wading, if you don't know the place and you are a bit too eager you might end up in the river. My advice is: don't wade deeper than to your hips. Then it is better to spend some time on fly casting so that you can cast the extra few metres instead of wading and risking your life.
Wading which scares the salmon during low-water conditions.
It is a shame to see how many people who forget this, many people have spooked the fish long before the fly is in the water. When the river is low, a lot of gravel beds and rocks will appear, and it is very important to move carefully across such areas before you get to the river edge. The problem is the sound it makes when you step on lose rock and gravel. These will move and create noise in the ground and this noise will travel to the river bed as well, and this sound is more easily heard by the salmon when the river is low, simply because the river itself will be less noisy. The fish can both see and hear us more easily when the speed of the current is lower. Thus it is important to wade very carefully. Walk slowly, do not step on large rocks, they can move and create noise. Walk on the gravel, but walk slowly and controlled on the gravel too of course!
My advice is: move carefully towards the river, stand there for a while before starting fishing, this will calm the pool. Remember to keep a low profile if you fish a spot where you will be very close to the hot spot, then you will increase your chances considerably!
This is naturally something that is very important to consider, you will just have to alter your own behaviour in terms of fishing strategy, choice of equipment, and also wading when the river is so low that the salmon become spooky and easy to scare. Remember that the salmon have changed their behaviour radically when the river becomes very low, then there are many things challenging the salmon's natural need of safety, comfort and normal behaviour in terms of its actual reason to be in the river.
One very important point in terms of the wading route is the occasional need to fish the fly slower than the current, or sometimes you want to let the fly drift faster than the current. Many people change this by using either upstream or downstream mends (aerial), and that's great if you are aware of the mending theories. Just to be clear: an upstream aerial mend will decrease the speed of the fly, and a downstream of will increase it.
I will recommend that you practise the aerial mends, rather than using the "old" way of mending. The "old" way is performed after the fly line is on the water, and this is much noisier than an aerial mend. If you use an aerial mend the fly is ready for action as it touches down on the water – this is a big advantage.
Correct wading route and active use of aerial mends in order to vary the speed of the fly in terms of the current are actually some of the most important factors for me and my fishing, only the choice of fly line is more important for me!
Many places, when the river is low, gravel bars and rocks such as this will appear, here it is important to wade carefully.
Often it is important to keep a low profile.
The hot spot.
What can be more exciting than to slowly approach the river to cast to a salmon you've just seen splashing on the surface, you place the fly perfectly in the current just where you know the salmon is holding at this water level. The fly is approaching the hot spot and your legs are shaking when the fly is right above the fish because you know the fish can see your fly right now. But the fish did not take your fly this time either. Why not, what could have happened?
Why did it not take the fly? Well, there might be several reason. But one important point to consider is for the fisherman to notice whether it was the fly or the fly line drifting into the salmon's vision first. Far too often do I see fishermen miscalculate this because the angle of the cast and the mend in terms of currents and their direction around the holding spot of the fish makes the fly fish poorly.
Read the river.
It's important to read the river before starting fishing, it doesn't take much change in water levels before the currents change. It is completely normal for a hot spot to be effective at a certain water level, and become less effective when the river rises or sinks. The reason for this is often that the currents surrounding the hot spot changes so that the fly has to be fished in a different way than during the favourite water level at this spot. The fish iften use the same spot during different water levels. The fly will just have to be fished differently and this is where the choice of wading routes becomes an important part of the fishing strategy. So when you read the river you should study the currents closely, try to see if there are any currents which could ruin the drift of the fly line, in terms of the goal of displaying the fly to the salmon first. Back eddies, currents, rocks grabbing the line and destroying the natural movement of the fly towards the hot spot.
Get familiarised with these terms: "the inside current" and "the outside current". I always try to see if there are several currents around the hot spot where the salmon might be holding. If there is a hot spot behind a rock it will be affected by the water levels in terms of whether the rock is above or below the surface. And the river has to be pretty high and the rock must be fairly deep below the surface before you get only one current behind the rock. If the river drops you will see that pretty soon there will be two currents behind the rock. Then it gets exciting I think, be aware of salmon holding in both these currents. And then you have to think before starting to fish, and now the planning of the wading is extremely important. Rule number 1 is as usual: walk/wade carefully, rule number 2 is: pick the correct wading route – then the fishing can commence.
Read the river and study the wading route before starting fishing.
The wading routes.
Here are two new terms I've established: "wading route 1" and "wading route 2". And "wading route 1" is the one always fishing the "inside current", and "wading route 2" is the route of choice for the "outside stream". I always start with "wading route 1", thus I challenge the "inside current" before I challenge the "outside current". By doing this you will fish both these currents effectively. "Wading route 1" represents a degree of angle in terms of casting of between 90-60 degrees, this will vary with how fast you want to fish the fly, in other words which aerial mend direction you use. "Wading route 1" is the one happening closest to the bank, and very often from the bank itself.
"Wading route 2" represents a degree of angle in terms of casting of between 60-30 degrees. This means that with this route I move further out in the current so that I achieve a smaller angle towards the hot spot. This route often gives me the opportunity to let the fly hang in front of the fish, here you can combine it with an upstream aerial mend. This is often very effective, as the salmon is provoked by the fly never disappearing, I have caught plenty of fish using this strategy. If I, for the next cast, want to fish the fly faster, in order to constantly vary my fishing in order to provoke a strike, I mend downstream. Remember that it is important to wade carefully when using the "wading route 2" as it is easier to spook the fish with this route. I use this strategy for all my different hot spots I know in the river, regardless of how they are positioned in the current.
Wading route 1.
Wading route 2.
Notice that there are two distinct currents behind this rock.
Notice the back eddy between the currents. This will ruin the fly line drift towards the inside current if you begin fishing the outside current.
Notice the inside current, this is the one I will fish first!
Notice the outside current; I fish this after I fish the inside current. Then I will also have to use the wading route 2. Alternatively I can wait to fish the outside current until my next go down the river, this means that I will spend less time around this hot spot and as such I can avoid spooking the fish holding there.