Well September was always going to be a hard one to follow, mainly due to the fact of water temperatures dropping, unsettled weather patterns and the fish having tendencies to switch off later in the month due to spawning time getting closer, but as always changing your tactics to suit the water will always give you a greater chance of silver.

The month started with a great lift of water which was perfect for my first guests, absolute fishing fanatical couple Gay and Lucinda as they went in search of Gary’s first fly caught salmon.  The days location of choice was Lambley, situated way up the south Tyne, I knew we had one hell of a chance connecting with a fish I just didn’t realise it would happen so quickly, 10 minutes to be precise.  After putting Gary in the lower section of the pool I walked Lucinda up to the head of it to get her in place and spent a few minutes changing poly tips and making sure she was happy with her casting (which was epic), we literally hadn’t got going and we heard a cry of “Fish on”, he’d only gone and hooked straight into fish that went ballistic, charging round the pool like a fish possessed.  After running down to him like a mad man, a good 8 minute battle I slipped the net under his prize, his first ever fly caught salmon on belive it or not a Red Stokoe shrimp. Lucinda also managed to connect with a nice grilse but unfortunately lost it at the rim of the net, she did however catch an incredible wild brown in the best condition I’ve seen on our river.  

 

Gary with his prize

Lucina with the nicest Wild Tyne brown trout i’ve ever seen

The salmon squad strikes again!!

It was Great to finally get out for a cast with the Boys (Phil and Robson) after a busy start to the month for us all, as always we decided to fish slightly different tactics, density tip’s and fly’s to maximise our chances of striking silver.  I let the lads go through first seeing that I fish the river way more than them, or in my words let them stir the pools up first.  It just so happened my tactics paid off and i scored first, connecting with a nice hen fish that fell to a quarter inch cone head francis fished on and intermediate tip and small paused short strip retrieves.  After putting up a great fight Phil netted her for me, she was not only a beautiful hen fish but an important one for me – my 20th fish of the season.  I knew for a fact that the lads wouldn’t be far behind me with the conditions looking right, it was the Green machine that hit the jackpot next again fishing down behind phil, i actually joked on when he hooked the fish and started playing it that was it just a trout due to the lack of fight it was giving, Id eat my words seconds later as the fish woke up charging around the pool being a proper head banger shaking its head as if it was at a rock concert, minutes later after playing the fish perfect I safely netted it and the green went into meltdown mode as he does dancing around like and excited kid at Christmas.  There was only the master left to connect with a fish, but he’d have to wait until the next day to strike silver, and what a fish it was another cracking hen fish and the biggest of the 2 days weighing 15.5lb.

The francis does the damage

Robson wasn’t far behind

Phil with the biggest of the 2 day’s

After the great 2 day’s me and the boys had i decided to stick it out and try and add to my tally for the season as condition were pretty banging, after having good success days earlier with a small francis, the pool was absolutely rammed with fish, probably the most id seen this year, but for love nor money i could not get a reaction from them to save my life.  The decision was made to change tactic’s, I decided to put a fast tip on and literally dredge the bottom with the biggest francis in my box.  The francis is always a good reaction fly to use especially when all else fails but especially fished with a draw and stop (5 seconds pause), the salmon will often take on the pause, again it was the right decision to change tactics but the fish actually took on my last cast and while i was winding in, to my amazement the fish cart wheeling around the pool like a lunatic wasn’t a salmon but turned out to be a big sea trout.  After a short but very active battle i had a bruit of a cock fish nestled safely by my side, a couple of quick photos and back he went to finish of his journey, i did also manage to hit a hat-trick for the week a day later with another hen salmon around 8lb in horrendous weather conditions that Robson kindly netted for me.

The Francis does the job

Letting the big man rest before his return

Another day another hen

One thing I really love is introducing people from different areas of angling to salmon fishing and I think I may have turned carp fishing England international Ryan from the dark side as i had him back for another 2 days in search of silver.  It was always going to be hard to top his previous visit last season,  due to the fact he landed the biggest guest fish of the year, weighing in at a staggering 22.5lb on his first day ever salmon fishing.  It literally took him 5 minutes to start spey casting again even after a year, to the point of casting off his left shoulder – what a bloke!  It was getting late in the day and I was gutted for him that he hadn’t connected yet as he was fishing his socks off, I shouldn’t of worried however, as minutes later that high pitched scream of fish on and a rod bent was the sight and sound i was waiting for, although the fish wasn’t a shade of last years capture it was still an absolute stunner and kept his 100 percent record in tact.

Cap fishing England international Ryan with another salmon

The season seemed to come to an end faster than I’ve ever experienced but collectively we still managed a cracking last week, landing 6 fish including 2 fish for Phil, 2 for my guests one being a first uk sea trout for Barry.  One of my guest’s Adams landed his second ever salmon, christening his rod he had received 17 years ago as a birthday present that he had promised to take the plastic off once he had caught a salmon on it.  Both myself Robson and Gibson had a hectic last 2 day’s hooking 5 fish but only managing to land 2 between us but it was still an epic team effort and I managed my 25th fish of the season on the 31st on the that killer fly again – The Stokoe shrimp.

Adam christens his rod

Adam and his Prize

The dream team Barry and the Green

Robson and a chunky hen fish

This sea trout couldn’t resist a Stokoe shrimp

Last day fish for the team

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone that has helped and supported me but also to all guests and friends who have fished with me, I couldn’t do this without you all!  Bring on 2019……..!

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!

 

After an incredible August and September we had high hopes for October but we had no clue of what lay in sore for us.  The 1st of October couldn’t of started any better with both myself and phil getting into fish within the first 30 minutes, Phil managed a nice 8lb hen fish and i chipped in with a hard fighting 13lb hen fish caught on you guessed it, a red Stokoe shrimp.  Unfortunately i missed half the day as had to fly off to play football but i managed to get back to the water just in time to see phil land 2 fish in succession and complete his first Tyne treble.  The next day followed suit with Phil absolutely kicking my arse, not only  did he mange a fish within 5 minutes he smashed another hat-trick of fish in, including a 20lb cock salmon and a brute of a sea trout.  Day 3 seemed to come around far to quick as it always seems to do when fishing and having fun, it was our last day fishing together and i was determined to get on the score board, as the previous days within 30 minutes i had a fish in the net, not just any fish tho, an absolute monster of a cock fish tipping the scales at 23lb, my biggest of the season and second biggest i’ve ever landed.  Once the adrenaline, screaming and hugging had finished we took a a few seconds to marvel at the king of fish as he lay calmly in the water beside us, as always we got our photos and set him on his way shortly after.  That was our day made and anything else would be a bonus, we were on an incredible 8 fish between us in 3 days, it didn’t finish there tho as we both managed a fish each later that day bring us to the grand total of 10 fish in 3 days fishing, even tho phil totally cleaned up we always agree its a team effort.

 

Salmon number 1

My first fish of the 3 days

The king of fish and my second biggest salmon

Phil’s 20lb beast of a tyne salmon

Phil makes it 10 fish with this stunning 16lb hen fish

My other Big fish buddy Ripon decided to venture up north to try his luck again after successful trip last season, of course the inevitable happened again and we got far to drunk the evening before the fishing, we woke up late and only managed to fish 2 or 3 hours but when he’s on a mission theres nothing stopping Rip.   Even tho other anglers had fished the pool through with no luck i still decided to put rip straight in the hot zone, it literally took him 30 minutes and he was into a fish, even tho he was as ceased and solid as an old engine playing the fish, he got it to the net like a pro.  As always a few quick photos and he released her to carry on her journey to carry on her legacy.

Ripon with his prize

As my last blog i had the great pleasure of meeting and becoming great friends with the one and only Robson green, as all of us alike his passion and love for fishing is true and second to none, after having some great success with Neil lobban ( a spectacular fly casting instructor) not only catching fish but becoming a master caster i had the joy of taking Robson onto some of my local stretches with Phil.  Unfortunately the fish we managed to connect with managed to do a Houdini on us and throw the hook after 5 minutes, a funny thing was myself and Phil were more disappointed than Robson, although i can imagine it hit home later on and he shed a tear.  We did however mange to score a steak dinner from him on the day so not all was lost – Cheers buddy!

The dream team (part2)

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My next guest and great friend was Damon AKA the London fly fisher, i only met Damon this year at the London Fly Fishing Fair where we hit it off immediately and became good friends and fellow ambassadors for fishing organisations.  After his long journey up north and being washed of 2 separate rivers it was my turn to get him on the mighty Tyne, as soon as he saw the water his eyes lit up like a kid at christmas, id always told him we had incredible fly water but its always hard to believe until you see it with your own eyes.  The morning we must have seen 30/40 fish on 1 of the beats but they literally wouldn’t look at a thing, this tends to happen a lot in October as the fish have other things on their mind.  In the afternoon we rotated to the other beat we had booked, the first run through the pool he hooked a fish which had its mind set on going back to sea, he played it like an absolute boss and 10 minutes later Damon had his prize, a PB salmon safely in the net which fell as always to a red Stokoe shrimp.  After both calming down we got carefully took her from the net got our photos and returned her, this is one of the highlights for me as it helps to secure the future of this incredible species.

Damon with his PB salmon

I managed a few days myself to get out the second half of October as the beats were fully booked so i couldn’t get guests on, i did manage to get amongst some nice fish tho, it doesn’t pay the bills but it’s a great feeling to land these exceptional creatures.  One day that stands out is when we experienced horrendous wind and rain to the point that we had a severe weather warning, this was never going to stop me and phil tho, we managed to find a few spots that were sort of sheltered now when i say sort of i mean the wind was only hitting us at 40 not 80mph ha ha.  The whole day we never saw a soul well apart from the 2 stunners i managed to land, one a sea trout about 4lb and the other my last salmon of the season that we estimated around 12lb, this just shows you that no matter the conditions theres always a chance especially if you fish a Stokoe shrimp.

Sea trout caught in shocking conditions

My last salmon of an incredible season

The last few days of the season for me didn’t produce much but for Robson it proved to be the perfect ending to a great season for him, well when i say season i mean 3 months.  Not only did he manage his biggest Tyne salmon from Lambley a fish of around 16lb, the last day of the season on what he said was his last couple of casts he accomplished something most of us can only dream of, the biggest sea trout i’ve seen or heard of from the Tyne, a monster fish estimated at around 15lb.  Unfortunately i wasn’t present to witness the fish mostly to see his reaction but to be in the presence of the create (the fish) itself.

 

Robson with his biggest Tyne salmon

The fish of a lifetime

I just wanted to personally thank each and everyone of you that i’ve not only guided or fished with but who’s helped me to get to where i am today, i cant wait to see some new faces by the water next year and hopefully get some bucket list fish.  In the mean time tight lines guys!

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.

Sometimes in fishing we come across a fly or a lure which totally changes our season and the way we fish, or even think.  It may be by mistake or even by our own hard work, but either way when it happens it’s life changing.

Personally I’m the type of angler who tries to make things happen and I’m always on the hunt for new fly patterns, materials and ideas to test but it’s not always just the future we need to look at, it also pays to look back.  So one evening sitting at the vice and looking for inspiration I decided to look through some old knackered fly boxes that were laying about under the stairs, where the lasting remains of previously used flies live, and while I unfortunately found nothing but bare hooks it got me thinking about a monstrosity of a fly I used to tie when I first started my life sentence of salmon fishing, and some how it used to catch fish.

The idea behind the fly is in some eyes pretty simple and revolves around the different materials used, and more specifically the colour change between them which, when in the water, looks mesmerising.  Well to me it does but you might say I’m easily pleased!

It all starts with using hot orange thread down to the bend of the treble, then you’re ready to tie in the tail section which, and to some people this may sound strange, is the centre section of an orange buck tail.  This centre section isn’t orange due to it naturally being the dark part of the tail but when dyed it actually goes a really dark brown/maroon colour.  Now the reason for using buck tail is that it’s really rigid and holds it’s shape, and that allows it to replicate a shrimp/prawn’s feelers or antenna and I actually like the colour, it works really well with the others on the finished product.

I then tie in a strip of holographic copper tinsel with a strand of silver wire – I always varnish the hook before laying the copper tinsel just to give that extra bit of security.  Then once tied off I rib the body with the silver wire (from AMC Fly Tying), then secure at the eye.

Stokoe Shrimp

The third part is to get a section of ginger shadow fox tail (from Foxy Tails), that I measure so that it matches the length of the tip of the tail, and tie in just behind the eye.  Now this material acts totally different in and out the water compared to the buck tail, as it actually pulsates and moves freely in the water and has a mind of it’s own which works really well when you move and work the fly.

The last section and the finishing touch is to use the tip of a feather from an orange cock cape, to use as a hackle which after about 3 turns should be enough obviously depending on the size of the fly.  I personally like to make them stand out and be prominent, so tie it off then slightly brush it back and hold with a few turns of thread just to allow more movement when worked through the water, so it pulsates.  Building the head up with more turns of hot orange thread gives the front of the fly a bit more bulk, which seems to balance the fly out well.

Stokoe Shrimp

I am by far no where near the best at tying flies and can happily say I’m still at a novice level, but sometimes the fly catches the fisherman and not the fish and I feel like what I’ve put together – the materials which individually work differently but also as one, and the merging colours that are subtle and also bright – is doing me proud! It’s catching me more fish than ever before, even when following people through a run or pool using all manner of flies it still seems to come out top, and I’m happy to share it with you as the next best thing for me is seeing others catch fish….!

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Tight lines guys.