Salmon fishing is all about being there at the right time ideally the river dropping away after a spate with water the colour of beer. After weeks of spates I was keen to get onto the Torridge and send my fly through the lies asking the question.
It was my mothers 78th birthday so fortunately the sun was shining and a picnic beside the river would not be too outrageous a suggestion. Of course ideally the sun should be just leaving the water so 17:30 would be a good time to commence fishing.
A trip to Rosemoor Garden tearoom and shop on route would also fit in well with the tedium of shopping surely adding to the eventual pleasure of casting the line into flowing water.
The first decision is what fly? I tied on a stoats tail variant that I had succeeded on earlier in the season. I then waded out into the top of a favourite run and commenced to cast across the river allowing the fly to swim tantalizingly across the current.
There is often a taking point in each pool and on this particular pool I have taken all my salmon within one or two yards of a particular spot. Ideally it takes about twenty casts to reach this spot. My routine is to make a step downstream after each cast is fished out.
This allows time to settle into the surroundings and the flow of the river before battle commences. Having painted a picture of expectation it is still a surprise when the line tightens and a salmon is gyrating on the line.
The contest between salmon and angler is always tense. In this case the river is high and the flow strong. I am using a single-handed 7/8-weight rod matched with a 12lb fluorocarbon tippet. At first the salmon has the upper hand surging to and fro in the current.
The key is to keep calm and encourage the salmon to forge upstream against the current. When the salmon is above he will have to fight both the bent rod and the current. For ten minutes the salmon fights until constant pressure begins to tell and eventually I am able to safely draw the still lively salmon into the net.
I quickly slip out the hook and measure the salmon at 29” (10lb 8oz on the sturdy scale – I settle for 9lb 8oz as I feel the calculation is a little over). Fortunately Pauline is present and captures the battle and gets a quick snap before I hold the fish in the water allowing it to fully recover before letting it swim safely away.