It never ceases to amaze me that, on the small Northern England rivers I fish, the most ardent of salmon fishers will leave the river when the height drops anywhere near back to its summer levels. I can only assume this is due to the fact that the fly (our preferred method up here generally, on the clubs I fish) become much less enjoyable to fish, the swing is slower and you may have to work the line a little.
To be fair, I get that. I definitely enjoy fishing a river with an additional 12-18 inches of water for the pleasure of the cast.
But looking back at my catch records (which I am busily putting into the Finygo prototype at the moment) I can see that the vast majority of fish I have hooked have actually been when the river has been around 1-3 inches up and dropping steadily. So looking a little further, I also start to see some other patterns developing, which I will share with you now:
Without doubt, this seems to be the magical time in low water, and perhaps even when the river is up. I have not found the same of the early mornings, but I have seen entire pools come alive one hour before dark.
#2 Small, I mean TINY
I now fish exclusively size 18 shrimp patterns. Yes, size 18 on 8lbs test lines. They are minute, but the salmon love them!
#3 The Rod Angle / Mend
When the flow is slow, make your cast, but immediately end the cast with your rod upstream. And hold it there. This will accelerate the fly, if you need a little more speed then do the same, but place a downstream mend in the line.
This is a bit tougher. I know where there are 3 taking holes at low water on my beats. Spend some time on each hole you know has taking fish in good water. If they have depth, they will likely hold a taking fish when the river is low. I often find the salmon will move into the shallower water at the head of the hole as you head towards dark.
I hope these tips help you! Please let me know if you find these useful, oh and share your own tips too!
Tight lines, Chris