After the way February finished I was determined to hit March hard and carry on my silver success. The only problem we have to deal with mid-system on the Tyne, is that being situated where we are is the volume of fish we have to target, for example, this Feb, a total of 26 fish passed through the fish pass at Riding mill, so trying to find one of these fish in a 12 mile stretch above is near enough impossible, but it can be done as I found out on the last day of the previous month. Not only do we have to deal with the lack of fish, but we also have to deal with winter conditions that include a lot of rain and snow and a constantly changing river.

March started with unsettled weather and a lot of rain that meant we couldn’t actually get onto the river to cast a line, but also it would stop any fish trying to run the fish pass further downstream due to the temperature and height, all was not lost tho. After what felt like a lifetime but was actually only a week, I got a call and offered some fishing from a good friend of mine Eugene, who is very well traveled and absolute fly fishing fanatic, incredibly he had only gone and booked 3 days fishing on the river Tyne’s prime spring beat – Bywell estate. This was an offer myself and Robson couldn’t refuse, but we would have task to decide between ourselves who would fish what day, unfortunately, this wouldn’t even matter, as again the rain gods decided to play foul and the river rose to an unfishable colour and height, Eugene being the absolute gentleman he is offered up his rod for the day so myself and the Green can both fish together. We arrived to conditions that we wouldn’t usually think about even wetting a fly in, with the river running at 3 foot and a good amount of colour, this wasn’t going to stop us trying our luck tho especially having the chance to fish the famous fish pass pool. We both fished the morning really hard, covering some incredible looking water with different flies and density tips, to no avail, but that element of hope was always there, especially the fact of where we were fishing. After Lunch, we changed locations with another group of anglers to cover some new water, this always gives me a new sense of optimism and if anything puts me back into proper fishing mode. Again we fished some great water, and fished it well, both covering the pools differently to give us the best chance, a few hours passed and Gary the ghillie decided to take us to the last chance saloon – The fish pass pool. Now the fish pass pool is a phenomenal place to fish, due to its placement below the actual fish pass, it creates a great holding area while fish decide to run, for a rest and also a temperature barrier, this was definitely going to give us the best chance of a fish. As always, I let the Green fish the pool first, mainly due to the fact he’s always away galavanting around the world, once he had worked his way through it, I hopped in the water behind him and started fishing, I was just working my way down to a likely looking lie off the current, with some huge boils from some serious structure when my line went tight, it was such a gentle take, almost as if it was a small trout or parr, I gave it a couple of seconds then lifted into it slowly, instantly I knew this was no small trout and the battle began. As soon as the fish realised it was hooked he woke up and went ballistic, headbanging like it was at a rock concert, but never moving too far into the fast current, the fist came to the surface on a couple of occasions to show us his stunning mirrored chrome flanks before heading back to the depths to try all manner of tricks to try and throw my hook, after a good 10 minutes of fighting I could feel we were winning, one last show of his silver side and Gary slipped the net under him, we went absolutely crazy, screaming like kids, I was shaking like never before, I knew we had something special in the net. Once lifted from the net I couldn’t believe the size of the fish, but not just his size, how perfect he was, like an absolute slab of silver perfection, covered in sea lice and smelling of the sea, this was by far my greatest salmon of all time. After a few quick photos and some time to recover I sent him on his way, along with thanking him for giving me a feeling that only a salmon of his stature can give.

Absolute perfection of a spring salmon
They don’t get much fresher

Unfortunately, the rest of March was an absolute washout, we managed to get out on the water a couple of times but conditions were far from good, this matched with the fact only 18 salmon had ran through the fish pass at Riding mill in March meant that we would have more luck playing the lottery. Let’s all hope that April brings some more settled weather and plenty silver – Tight lines guys…

Over the last few seasons June has always been a ridiculously hot month with water temperatures reaching up to 23 degrees, when the water reaches these temperatures both the salmon and sea trout start to struggle due to low dissolved oxygen levels often causing multiple fatalities of fish.  We do however have one god send on our river system, kielder reservoir at the top of the north tyne, built in 1982 and spans a colossal 2000 acres making it northern Europe’s largest man made lake and dam that holds a huge volume of water.  They are very fish orientated and strategically release throughout the hotter months to help keep the fish alive and get them throughout the system as recent June’s have seen the second highest runs of fish during the year, up to a crazy 7500!

Not a rainbow over the Tyne but in it!!

Another great day guiding Simon on the south Tyne in search of silver and bronze, we caught a couple of corking brownies but the shock of the day turned out to be silver but not the right type. Fishing with sea trout tactics we hooked into a good fish on light gear and thought we’d done it, it was going to be the first sea trout from the south Tyne this season. After a good scrap and a flash of pink we couldn’t believe it, another escapee, but a bonny rainbow to say the least.

An escape rainbow trout from the Tyne

Luck of the Irish!

I’m lucky enough in my career to come across some great guests and this occasion was no exception, Andy and Stanley have travelled across the water from Belfast to fish the mighty Tyne and be guided by myself. With water conditions and weather against us it was always going to be a little harder, but as I always say low water only condenses the fish into certain areas, you just need to know where to look 😉!

After the birthday boy Andy thought he’d struck silver straight away, which unfortunately turned out to be a good chub we thought it was going to be one of those days.

The Boys fished their hearts out for the next 4 hours in bright/hot conditions and we covered at least another 6 pools up and down the beats, it was Stan the man that struck silver, and what a fish it was. After creeping to one of the deep runs and putting out a short cast a fish took literally a yard from the bank and gave him a run around he’ll never forget. 10 minutes later our prize was in the net, 15.5lb of her and an absolute stunning fish, it was not only Stanleys first salmon from the Tyne, his first in 5 years but his biggest yet.

With a combination of apocalyptic wind, sunshine and low water conditions it was always going to be a tough second day on the water for my Irish duo! But as the previous days nothing was going to stop Andy and Stanley getting on the water! Again the lads fished like troopers in horrendous conditions and eventually Andy got his long awaited prize , his first ever salmon (8lb) and I know for sure I won’t be his last. It’s been an absolute pleasure guiding these 2 lads and I’m going to be gutted when they leave on the plane tomorrow

 

Stan with his biggest salmon yet

The Dream team

World fishing day smashed!

Well this was a monumental day for not only myself but fishing in general! It was the official first live 24 hour World Fishing day which saw Anglers and celebrities from around the world participating in this incredible day live on Fishing TV! I was lucky enough to present live in the studio in the prime time slot of 7-9 with the amazing Michelle Orpe and Damon Valentine AKA the London Flyfisher, it was a surreal feeling knowing that thousands of people around the world were watching us live and taking part in this special day!

A huge congratulations to everyone involved for making it such a successful event and the next one can’t come soon enough!

Live Tv with Michelle

Bring on the silver and water next month………!

One of the hardest things in life to find is a job you actually enjoy, something that makes you spring out of bed in the morning and puts a smile on your face, luckily for me i found it last year in the form of being a salmon fishing guide.  Guiding had always been something id thought of and dreamed of doing but never had the balls to do it mainly down it being seasonal and also the thought of your job taking away the enjoyment of what you love doing as a hobby, this year i took the step and tested the water with my first season as a guide and it turned out to be the greatest and most satisfying job I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with.

Vittorio with a good July salmon

One thing i didn’t prepare myself for was how mentally challenging it can be, all anglers know how frustrating fishing can be for yourself when the fish aren’t playing game but as a guide the pressure is even greater as the reliance is on your toes to put guests on the fish, pick the right fly, line and retrieve.  I always keep cool externally when things are quiet but my mind is always going 100 miles an hour trying to keep 2 steps ahead of these fish, at the end of the day this is why salmon are the king of fish and at the top of most anglers lists to catch due to them being so hard to.  Each and every day is totally different wether it being temperature, water colour, water height, air pressure and not to mention that each and ever fish is different from the next, this for me is the exciting part as it creates a new challenge each day, where 1 day a certain fly is a killer the next you wont touch a thing, this is where a good guide comes into his own.

The dream team and an incredible day at countess park

The greatest satisfaction of any guiding is getting someone their prize, for me its as close as you can get to landing one yourself being present and experiencing the joys, emotion, screaming and sometimes crying, its crazy how these fish can make someone feel, even to the point of reducing grown men into a teary messes.  This season i experienced the ups and downs of being a guide thankfully more up’s than downs but at one point i thought the bad luck was never going to end as guests had somehow lost 7 out of 8 fish in a row, this was heart breaking and crazy but new it had to change at some point, it did in dramatic fashion with a run of first time salmon anglers landing their first silver and bronze prizes.

Ryan with the biggest guests fish of the season a salmon around 22lb

In total my guests caught a mix of 31 salmon and sea trout in 53 days fishing, including an incredible 14 Firsts on their first day ever fishing for migratory fish, in total this averaged out at a fish every 1.70 days fishing, in my eyes that is bloody good going especially targeting a fish which doesn’t actually feed and something people spend a lifetime fishing for.  My personal numbers for the season were unfortunately down on the previous year mainly due to days taken up by guiding, but i still managed a good 19 fish to the net including 2 20lb plus fish on the fly and my first ever Tyne treble. As always the fly of the year for me was my good old Stokoe shrimp in red and orange, with the orange fished most the season on full floaters and intermediate tips and switching to the red in September fished on fast tips and always a figure of eight retrieve, these fly’s are just collective bits of material tied to a hook, you’ve got to bring them to life somehow and movement is always the key.

One of the 20lb plus salmon landed

Due to this years guiding success i am now taking bookings for 2018 and with more water available now than ever its looking like a huge one, guiding fee’s are priced at £120 per day with the price of fishing varying from £30 – £75 depending on location and time of year.  Any enquiries can be made through james@jamesstokoefishing.com and i look forward to seeing you guys next year!

 

As with any type of fishing the most important factor is understanding your quarry, and due to the salmon’s life cycle being very complex there is a lot to learn about these magnificent fish. In the last issue I gave a brief description of what these fish actually go through, and this time I’ll explain it in a bit more detail which will then help us to choose the correct and suitable equipment and locations to catch these silver tourists.

Once hatched from an egg high up the river system in the spawning grounds the salmon go through numerous stages of change before heading back to sea. Initially hatching as an alevin they gradually turn to a fry, then after a year into a salmon parr which resembles a small brown trout but can be identified by what looks like 4 finger prints on the side of them. After another 2-3 years of aggressively feeding a dramatic change of colour occurs turning them bright silver and into a salmon smolt, still very small fish of around 6 inches long. Something tells these smolt to go back to sea and a phenomenal migration towards the oceans and the rich feeding grounds of the Atlantic waters near Greenland begins.

After being at sea for between 1-3 years gorging on prawns, shrimps and small fish, instinct and an incredibly strong urge to return to their spawning grounds take hold and the incredible journey starts again – not only do the fish return to the same country and river of birth, but the same stream they were actually born in. It’s as if they have a built in sat nav, that allows them to actually smell their way back to water that they came from.

After migrating thousands of miles back to their river of birth they start a treacherous journey upstream avoiding seals, otters, cormorants and other threats whilst battling strong currents, rapids and weirs. During this time the salmon enter a fasted state by not feeding at all once in fresh water. The run of fish on most rivers is greater in the months ranging from June – October, and these months also see the greatest increase of anglers targeting these fish. The salmon fishing season varies thought different rivers within the UK, with some opening in January and finishing in November but the majority staring February 1st running until the October 31st. Once the season ends, the break over the winter is very important as it allows the fish to spawn in peace high up the river system, before heading back out to sea for the cycle to start all over again.

Now that we understand these fish, their lifestyle and their habits a little bit more it will hopefully help us towards our prize trophy, a stunning Atlantic salmon.

Before jumping in with two feet and buying any equipment it’s always important to do your homework and decide where you’re going to be fishing, particularly on which river as they differ so much in the size, colour and the runs of fish they see. Local knowledge is key to any river fishing and even after 20 years of salmon angling I still learn something new every time by reading the river as the water conditions and fish are never the same twice.

The equipment needed for salmon fishing can just about be covered by 2 set ups, first (and my favourite) a double handed salmon rod ranging from 13’-15’ depending on the river you’re looking to fish. A 14’ foot would cover most situations and my preference for this would be Grey’s, any of the GR models because you get fantastic build quality with a great action for reasonable money anywhere from £250 – £400 for a good quality rod. Second, you may think the reel is the most important part of the set up but it’s actually the line, and this is a mistake made by many as Spey casting involves no weights or heavy lures just the weight of the head of the fly line, so matching the weight of the line (#8,#9,#10 etc) is critical. For lines I personally use either a Cortland Spey or Rio outbound which vary between £50-£100, and for Spring time and back end fishing I also add a Rio sinking poly tip to help me get down to the fish, and this also saves on buying a whole new line. As for reels, as long as they have a good smooth drag and enough room for a few hundred yards of backing line you’re sorted and you definitely won’t break the bank with one. Lure fishing is also a very popular way of targeting these fish, especially when the water is high or fishing deep slow-running water, and for that I personally use a Rovex lure pro with a 22-50g casting rating matched with a medium sized fixed spool reel and 30lb braid. Again you don’t need to break the bank with spinning gear, I think mine totals £100 for the lot, light or medium pike rods would suffice.

One of the biggest decisions a salmon angler has to make by the river is what to put on at the business end, and the biggest problem we face is the characteristics of these fish, as they don’t feed in fresh water we have to get a reaction from them in some other way. I personally think there are a few reasons why the fish take a fly or lure, the first being that when you’re using an imitation shrimp/prawn fly or fish lure it reminds them of what they were feeding on at sea, and as their instinct takes over for a split second and they grab it. Another is annoyance and agitation – imagine travelling all those thousands of miles then finding a nice lye (resting spot) and all of a sudden your personal space is being invaded, they may even see it as competition and their natural aggression is triggered and in a instant they snatch at the fly. Last is that they are just inquisitive and being that they don’t have hands they use their mouth, which happens a lot of the time. Sometimes the slightest of tweaks, literally the lightest of pulls on a fly is salmon just mouthing it, how they don’t get hooked I will never know.

My preference for flies are always shrimp imitations, it’s advisable to have a good range of patterns and colours as like trout fishing one day it could be orange the next red and so on. Certain colours do fish better at different times of the year with greens and yellows working in Spring, oranges throughout most the year and red is a must in the back end as studies suggest that salmon can actually see red easier when it’s close to their spawning time. As for lures I love to use Rapalas, mainly floating ones ranging from 7cm – 11cm in bright colours as it’s only when the waters high and coloured, and age old favourites like Flying C’s and Toby’s still have their place and can be deadly.

Now that we are ready and set to target these fish we need to find them, and to do so it’s important to search out and find characteristics in the river like rapids, obstructions, rocks, pools and water seems. Fish will always have their favourite lies, holding pools and runs and in different heights of water these will change – in the Summer when oxygen and water is low they will sit high up in pools near the white water, and in higher water they will sit just off the fast water looking for the easiest route possible up stream. Always remember that local knowledge is key, you could spend hours and even days trying to find these fish so always get as much info as possible when fishing new water and always take advantage of a guide, it’s these guys’ jobs to know the water like the back of their hands and put you on silver.

Lastly. be patient and enjoy your fishing, it will happen and when it does you will never look back.

Tight lines.