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Bucket List Salmon

It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve been working away a fair bit of late, so fishing time has been a bit thin on the ground. I stole a couple of hours one evening and had a look for a mullet on one of my local estuaries, but saw nothing at all, and it’s usually alive with them. The weather had been wet at times mind, so there was some colour in the water, and it was very windy, so not conducive to mullet fishing really. The trout fishing has been hard too. A short session on my local lake gave not a touch on the fly. I felt a little better when I found out only one of some five anglers fishing that day with bait had actually caught one. It was one of those still, flat, oppressively warm evenings and not much seemed to be stirring. Even the swallows dipping on the surface water were absent. Nice to be out though!

In the meantime I’d also lost a couple of boat trips that got blown off with the bad weather, which seems to be the pattern so far this year. Things just weren’t working out!

I’ve also wanted to try and catch a salmon for some time, it’s a bucket list thing. I have a season ticket for my local river, but every time there’s been a rise of water after rain so far, yep, sods law, I’ve been working away, so I’ve missed the opportunity to try. I was beginning to think my bucket list salmon was not going to come my way this year. But you never know what life is about to throw at you.

Out of the blue I got an invitation to fish a beat on the lower River Wye not far from Llandoga. The weather wasn’t ideal being hot and sunny, and the water was running lower than I would have liked and was gin clear, but it was a once in a blue moon chance and I aimed to make the most of it. I was to fish one beat in the morning, then a different one in the afternoon.

I’m new to double handed spey casting, but at least wanted to have a go as I’d like to catch a salmon on the fly at some stage, but I’m not a purist and was happy to switch to lures if need be. My spey casting left a lot to be desired, but I was starting to get the hang of it and much like when I learned the pendulum cast for shore fishing, it’s given me the interest and motivation to learn it as best I can in the future. I’m in the throes now of sorting out a two-handed rod and will aim to get some practice in over the winter so I’m ready for the new season next year.


The beat I fished in the morning certainly had fish showing. I kept looking round as splash after noisy splash interrupted my concentration. These were fish that were leaping trying to shake sea lice off as they held in the pools. Some were big fish too! It was not too be, and though my friend Roger lost a salmon after a brief few seconds of contact, it was the only action of the morning.

The afternoon put me on a completely different looking stretch of water. This was a long pool heading up river with a weed bed in the middle, a deeper channel, then weed and rocks just in front of me. There was a continual flow of leaping salmon again, and though I persisted with the fly, I could not get a take. They just did not seem interested, and no one else seemed to be catching either.

In mid afternoon, on the advice of a friend, I switched over to spinning gear. I was actually using my long range bassing gear comprising a 9ft ABU Volatile Bass rod, a 4000 sized ABU REVO Premier reel and 15lb braid with a short Fluorocarbon leader of 15lbs. I chose a small plug, the Sebile Puncher. Though smallish in size, with the braid, it casts very well to range and was something new for the salmon to consider as it would fish slightly deeper.

The salmon were still leaping pretty much one or two every minute. I made a cast towards the weed bed in the middle of the river aiming to get the plug to work off the edge of the weed and swing round in to the deeper channel. After each cast I took a couple of steps in a downriver direction to cover as much ground as possible. I made a fourth cast, and as the plug came round as it swung with the flow, the plug stopped dead. For a second I thought the plug was snagged…then the snag moved and started ripping line off the reel at a rapid rate.  I had a concrete croy just to my left. I was in near waist deep water and having trouble keeping the rod high enough, even at a vertical full arms length. I could see the salmon was heading for some submerged rocks, and needed to get on to the croy as fast as possible to gain some height and try to steer the fish in to safer water. As I did this I felt the salmon go round the rock and the line pass under a stone.

I was in real trouble now. I could see the salmon smash the surface below the stones, but the line was trapped and at a completely wrong angle to where the fish was. I eased the pressure on the rod to slacken the line slightly. I had no option. Thankfully this easing of pressure convinced the salmon to head back out in to the middle of the pool and I saw the line come out and straighten to the fish. Phhhew!

It ripped line off the reel and was now at the tail of the pool, leapt twice, and bored off dragging more line. I had to apply more pressure, yet was unsure if my line had been damaged under the rock. It was a case of hope and pray. Gradually I played the salmon back towards me, but when just visible in the water, it turned and took off back for the middle of the pool. I used all the pressure I could and by keeping the rod high brought the salmon in over the rocks in to a quiet bay where a friend was able to wrist grip the tail.

I got in the water and took hold of the fish myself. I was shaking with excitement, and frankly was in a state of not really believing the fish I had in my hands. I held the fish, a male, in the water while a tape measure was found and we measured the fish at exactly 33-inches in length, which equates to 13lbs. A salmon of any size was my bucket list aim, but to get a fish of this size was just amazing. Keeping him in the water, and with my normal SLR camera up in the van some way away, we elected to get a quick photo on the mobile phone. My priority was to give the fish his freedom as quickly as possible.


I’ve always enjoyed the moment of releasing a fish, but this was extra special. Still gripping the tail, and with his head facing in to the flow of water, I felt the fish settle, begin to move with more confidence, then felt power return to the tail. I gently let him slip from my grip, and without hesitation it disappeared at speed off into the pool. A memory that will last my lifetime!

I have another bucket list project coming up, one I’ve wanted to do since I was 8-years old, but I’ll tell you about that hopefully in my next blog!