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Spring Salmon Fishing - Tips for Catching a Springer

Spring Salmon Fishing
Posted in: Salmon Fishing

For many salmon anglers a ‘springer’ is the ultimate prize - a large, early running, prime-conditioned, bright silver fish caught in the chilly early months of spring. Does it get any better than that? Spring salmon fishing however is not for the faint-hearted, particularly in the early part of the season (Jan - April) and it can really test your resolve, your tackle, your technique and your clothing! In this short guide we aim to outline the kit and the skills you’ll need to learn how to fish for salmon and make the most of this exciting time of the season.

Where to Fish for Spring Salmon

Here in the UK we have salmon rivers which open as early as January, with many of our ‘well-known’ rivers opening up shortly after in February. The quest for that first salmon of the year always captures the imagination, but where should you go to give yourself the best chance? As the river you’re fishing will have relatively few salmon running at this early stage of the season, there are a couple of things to consider which might improve your chances of locating fish.

If the winter has been wet and mild, and rivers are running at a good height, spring fish will often head far upriver and way up into the tributaries, making as much headway on their journey as they can. If the water temperature is in the high single figures or even low double figures, there’s a good chance your fish are getting a serious move on! On the other hand, an icy cold spring with water temperatures in the sub-5C range usually means that salmon are moving upriver much more slowly, and you might find them holding in pools in the middle and lower reaches of your river.

Spring Salmon Fishing Temperature BarriersSpring Salmon Fishing Temperature Barriers

Temperature Barriers

An important consideration when selecting a location to fish is the presence of temperature barriers. What do we mean by that? Essentially this is a feature in the river that salmon have to navigate through or past, such as a waterfall or extended section of rapids, which they will not negotiate unless the water is above a specific temperature. Fishing on beats which have a temperature barrier can often be a good way to improve your chances of landing a springer - focus your efforts below this feature and you might just be rewarded.

Spring Salmon Fishing Tackle

Generally speaking, spring fishing calls for a more heavy duty approach when compared to fishing later on in the season. This is because rivers are often running high and cold, meaning we have to cast larger, heavier flies on sinking lines or tips. Here’s a rough guideline to help you kit yourself out with the right salmon fishing tackle and gear. We’ll start with flies and then move up:

Spring Salmon Fly PatternsSpring Salmon Fly Patterns

Spring Salmon Fly Patterns

Black and yellow have long been regarded as effective spring fly colours, but don’t discount the usual suspects too - i.e Cascade, Willie Gunn etc. Don’t be afraid to fish a big fly at this time of year. Springers aren’t known to be shy takers, it’s finding one that is the challenge!

Tube flies are essential in the spring so make sure you’re equipped with tubes in plenty of different weights and sizes. Scandinavian-style salmon flies with long wings are a great choice at this time too, having plenty of shape and movement in fast-flowing rivers. The key, as ever, is presenting your fly at the correct depth and speed. Make sure you get those flies fishing nice and deep whilst keeping enough movement in the swing.

Here are some patterns you shouldn’t be without:

Leader and Tippet

Don’t be afraid to tackle up with stronger leader than you normally would. Springers are powerful fish and the chance of hooking a big one at this time of the season is always a possibility.

Seguar Ace Hard tippet is a great choice in 19lb, 23lb and 25.5lb.

If you prefer monofilament leader, Gigafish Ultra Power Monofilament in 19.6lb is a good option.

Springer SalmonSpringer Salmon

Leader and Tippet

Don’t be afraid to tackle up with stronger leader than you normally would. Springers are powerful fish and the chance of hooking a big one at this time of the season is always a possibility.

Seguar Ace Hard tippet is a great choice in 19lb, 23lb and 25.5lb.

If you prefer monofilament leader, Gigafish Ultra Power Monofilament in 19.6lb is a good option.

Fly Lines and Sink Tips / Poly Leaders

Often in the spring, a standard full floating line just won’t cut it. You might find your fly fishing far too quickly and far too high in the water to be down near the taking zone. By equipping yourself with a range of front loaded, multiple-density Scandi or Skagit style fly lines, you’ll not only be able to cast weighty flies more easily but you’ll be able to control your line swing much more effectively too. Alternatively, a ‘multi-tip’ kit which comes with a range of sinking tips is a great way to fine tune your presentation. Here are a few you lines you might want to consider:

Fly Rods and Fly Reels

The length of salmon rod you’ll need depends on the size of the river you’ll be fishing, but also consider the water conditions, the size of flies you’ll be using and whether you’ll need to cast heavy lines and sink tips.

There’s also the possibility of hooking a really big fish at this time of year, so make sure your rod has plenty of backbone and that your reel is loaded with plenty of good quality backing line. A strong, smooth, reliable drag system is a must too.

A great value setup would be:

Fly Rods and Fly ReelsFly Rods and Fly Reels

Spring Salmon Fishing Clothing

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all when fishing in tough spring conditions is staying warm, dry and, comfortable all day long. The longer you can stick it out and keep your fly in the water, the better your chance is of catching that dream fish.

Layer-up with base layers and mid layers underneath your waders, and don’t forget to pack warm gloves and a hat. Here are some of our favourite items of clothing for cold weather salmon fishing:

Find our full range of base layers and under wader wear here.

Tight lines for the start of your season! Stay warm, stay dry and keep those flies swinging!


Itching to get back on the river? Our friends at FishPal can make it happen! With access to some of the best beats available, you can also find out information about water levels and the latest catch reports.

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2022-01-05 13:57:00
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Aaron Wallace
Very helpful. What I would say is in cold water it is important to slow down your swing to allow the salmon to go for your fly. A sinking shooting head is the best way to achieve this. Also, as there are much more Kelts and unspawned fish about than Springers, I would advise using single or double hooks with small or no barbs as to reduce damage to these fish. Catch with care.
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