Westcountry Angling Passport
Salmon - Fishing Information

The Westcountry has some of the best salmon fishing in the UK, and there is a huge choice of great fishing on offer through the Westcountry Angling Passport, angling clubs & associations and hotel waters. From the Exe to the Camel, Torridge to the Tamar, many rivers boast a good run of salmon during their season, making it possible to fish for the ‘king of fish’ throughout much of the year.

Salmon fishing techniques and timing vary from river to river with a strong reliance on good water conditions. The Tamar, Taw/Torridge and Exe do offer some early season sport during March/April, however the best of the Westcountry fishing comes through May/June and again in late August/September (although summer spates will bring fresh fish into the rivers). One of the great features of the Westcountry is the diversity of rivers on offer. Although the small wooded valleys of the Teign, Lyn, Dart and Lynher can initially be challenging for those used to rolling out a 30 yard cast, they are amongst the real gems of the region and should be on every anglers list. By September, given good water, most rivers will hold salmon and this can be a fantastic time of the season although there is plenty of fishing still available through to November and, in the case of the Camel and Fowey, December.

On larger main river beats a 12ft double handed fly rod 8-9 wt will be required, but on the smaller rivers a single handed 9-10ft, 7-8 wt will be quite adequate. River levels and water temperature will denote what lines to use, although a floating line and a range of sink tips should cover most conditions. For flies, aim to carry standard patterns (singles/doubles) in a range of sizes, including sizes 4-8 and 1.5 - 3inch tubes which work well in spring/autumn and sizes 10-12 in summer.

Whilst it can be easier to identify holding areas in normal flows, during low, summer water you have to search the fish out. A good way of doing this is to focus on the faster water, fishing through the pots where salmon will hold in the tightest of spaces. Using light tackle (9-10ft rod, 6-8wt), fish with either a sink-tip, or apply sinkant to your leader and wash your fly through the pots and calmer areas on the edge of white water.

Spinning for salmon can be very productive, again subject to good water conditions, where an 8-10ft spinning rod with 12-15lb line and rated for lures 15-30 grams will suit the use of Devon minnows, Mepps (size 2-5), Flying ‘C’s (10,15,20gm) and Rapalas. Where bait fishing is permitted we strongly encourage the use of circle hooks to prevent deep hooking and aid catch and release. Please ensure that salmon are played and landed firmly, and carefully unhooked without being removed from the water to minimise distress.

All the salmon fishing in the scheme is water dependent. On a falling spate at the right time of year it can be very good but during a drought you may doubt the streams even have a run of fish. The Torridge, Okement and Lynher have a spring run with beats 4, 5, 19, 25 and 26 offering a chance of a fish from March to June. The Okement, Inny, Lyd, Lynher and Camel can be very good in August, September and October but do need good water levels which was poor in 2002/3 but good last year.

Fly Fishing tips for Salmon - from Bob Wellard
A few anglers cut their teeth with salmon but for most of us it’s a natural progression following on from fishing for smaller trout and sea trout and then on to the ‘King of Fish’. Salmon fishing in the Westcountry is very much dependant on rainfall, unlike trout, adult salmon only enter our rivers to spawn and their migration upstream largely coincides with our rivers being in ‘spate’.
A rising, falling and clearing river offers the best chance of a salmon as this is when the fish are most active, it’s therefore imperative to get on the river before the fish settle. That said it is possible to catch resident salmon even when rivers are at their lowest but it does require more skill, more patience and just a little more luck.

Adult salmon do not feed in freshwater, it’s a wonder they take our flies at all. Having the knowledge of what fly to use and what depth and speed to fish is something we can generally only glean from years of experience of fishing the same river at various heights and during the various seasons. The most practical way to learn to catch a salmon is to accompany an accomplished salmon angler and study his/her methods. You’ll learn more when you fish with a professional guide than you can possibly take in with just one visit but more importantly you know you will be safe. Safe in the knowledge that what you’re doing is effective and safe whilst you fish in what can be a potentially dangerous environment.
As a general guide Westcountry salmon rivers can be fished with rods 12ft #6/7 to14ft #9/10 during spate conditions and with single handed 9ft #6/7 to 10ft #7/8 rods during low water. My preferred flies include Willie Gunn, Yellow Torrish, Ally Shrimp, Stoats Tail, General Practitioner and of course my own ‘Bobby Dazzler’.

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