To many people Brian Fratel is the epitome of ‘Mr Farlow’ and he has been at the heart of Farlows for nearly 50 years, dispensing wisdom on everything from salmon rods to bonefish flies. Here he takes a look at early season salmon tactics on the Tweed – both past and present!
Picture Above: Brian has fished for salmon throughout the world, not just at home, here he is seen attached to a big fish in the Atlantic Salmon Reserve
My first introduction to fly fishing for spring salmon was over forty years ago on the Tweed at Coldstream.
Back in those days my early season fly tackle consisted of a Farlow 15ft Farlight glass rod and a Farlow 4in. Serpent reel, which had a variable check ratchet. The line was Wet Cel 2 double tapered sinker with a leader of Kroic nylon and I carried a selection of Waddington shank flies in 2 and 1.5 inches.
Today's spring salmon fisherman really has no excuse for not covering the water and the last decade has changed the way we fish for salmon almost beyond recognition. Rods are lighter and have more power, reels are also lightweight and most have large arbors and strong drag systems. Fly lines have evolved too: Scandi Versi Tips, Skagit iFlight and Guideline Power Taper Shooting Heads to name but a few - and all are quite excellent.
To optimise your choice of rod you need to consider the type of casting style you will mostly be using: traditional Speycasting, Scandinavian / Shooting Head or Skagit casting. It is always worth booking a lesson from a qualified instructor to cover the relevant casting techniques to make sure you are fishing effectively and efficiently and we have special Spey casting courses available.
The selection of tackle available for the spring salmon angler these days is vast and my wish list for springers on the Tweed would be:
A 15ft Sage Method double handed rod. These ultra-fast rods deliver the highest line speed of the Sage range and they punch tight loops through the wind to get your fly out to the fish, with the feel and accuracy that comes from Sage’s innovative Konnetic technology.
At the business end I would employ Seaguar fluorocarbon in 23lb or Maxima in 20lb and a selection of the very best Jimmy and Gloria Younger salmon tubes in 2 and 1.5 inch brass and aluminium, with patterns such as Tosh, Willie Gunn, Tadpole and Stoats Tail all very reliable.
As far as key advice is concerned I still recall the words of the then head boatman at Cornhill, Bill Cockburn.
“Mr Fratel,” he said, “fish the fly deep and slow.”
After all of the years, and all of the incredible advances in tackle technology, this advice still applies to the early opening weeks.