Virtual Salmon Guide
A series of tips for fishing the Alness, covering tackle, tactics and pools:
002 - Water Levels & SEPA Graphs - 2. Taking Behaviour
by SalmonQuest - 12:49 on 24 April 2012
The taking behaviour of salmon is known to vary with water level, particularly through different phases of a spate. In general terms, on the River Alness water levels in the range of 0.6-0.8m (+ 8in to 1ft 4in) are the most favourable, but whether levels are rising or falling, and at what rate, are also an influence.
The sketch below, adapted from Hugh Falkus' superb book 'Salmon Fishing', shows taking chances through the course of a spate.
This sketch best decribes a spate on a river running through an alluvial plain, which colours up easily with suspended silt when in spate. On the Alness, this does happen occasionally, but is a rare event and generally only lasts a few hours. When the water does colour to 'milky coffee' it is hopeless, but unless it's your last day fishing, smile, because this generally means there's some good fishing to come very soon. Most of our spates run clear (black tea colour at most!), which means there is a chance of a fish even at the peak of a spate, as long as the water level (flow rate) is not too high (i.e. below 1.3m, + 3ft).
We often hear phrases such as 'you can't catch fish on a rising river'. As this phase is quite short, statistically many more are caught as the river drops, but the rise is certainly worth fishing. The minimum water level on the Alness for salmon migration to start is around 0.5 to 0.55m (+ 4-6in), dependent on the starting background level, and a rise in the river will often stimulate a run of fish. Fresh running fish are generally good takers, though fish that have been in the river a while can sometimes run through and are 'untouchable'. The fish will 'tuck in' at some point as the water level rises, but as long as the peak is not too high and the water running clear, fish can be caught, though you will need to search the slack water at the sides and tails of the pools.
As the water level drops, salmon will start to migrate again, and taking chances will improve, particularly as they slow and start to settle, and take up new lies - the tails of the pools will be the best spots to find a fish. Falling river levels in the range of 0.6-0.8m (+ 8in to 1ft 4in), usually provide the best sport, which depending on the scale of the spate may last a few hours to a few days.
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