I've been a member of a wonderful salmon club that has access to some superb stretches of the river Tyne, for 17 years now. A dear friend of mine, Richard, introduced me to the club back in the mid 90's. I fished as his guest on a few occasions & was then lucky enough to become a member in my own right. Richard provided me with the most amazing detailed insight into how to fish various marks on the river. It was watercraft second to none. His intimate knowledge would be so beneficial to me over the years that I have fished for salmon. But never in my wildest expectations did I ever think that I would get 2 red letter days on the Tyne the likes of which I have just returned from.
Despite a long drive from the south east of England, I arrived back in my town of birth late in the evening. The drive had been not too stressful but the roads always seem busy no matter what time of day you drive. A quick chat with my parents & I hit the sack for a few hours kip. My friend Kevin had assured me that conditions on the Tyne would be ideal. A small flood earlier in the week had brought some much needed water into the system & fish would be moving. Weather conditions looked favorable as well so things were looking good. Reels had been checked, clutches set, rods ready and the all important trebles sharpened on my lures. My preferred lure of choice is the traditional IW blair spoon in 16gm & 22gm sizes.
I cursed the alarm at 5:15am-but not half as much as the thoughtless drunken scum that were shouting outside my parents house at 1:30am that night. Clearly the single celled pond life that had been on the lash at some local watering hole, had no regard for anyone who might have been sleeping that night. So I was not too impressed when the alarm clock woke me up at 5:15am having only had a few hours sleep-thanks to the anonymous pond life a few hours earlier. A quick coffee and a wash & I was ready to drive up to the Tyne. I decided to put my waders on to save me a few minutes once I got there. Note to self-it's not much fun driving in waders! The sun was just popping up from behind me and the sky looked clear & starting to get colour. The temperature was a numbing 5 degrees-which is pretty tropical for the North east! I arrived at the club hut at just before 7am and 2 anglers were already set up & about to start. Greetings shared, we went our separate ways. They went up river, I chose to go to my usual haunts down stream. The river did indeed look good. It had been a year since I last fished that river & last time I fished it it was in partial flood & the colour of drinking chocolate. This time, the river was the colour of tea without milk-the perfect conditions for salmon fishing in my opinion. It was also a perfect height as far as my own preference was concerned. Some people like the river a bit higher, some prefer a bit lower, but for me, it was perfect. The 'Goldilocks' syndrome!
I had already decided to start my days fishing at what has been quite a productive mark for me. It's a small overgrown outcrop opposite a big rock that lies almost in the middle of the river. It has been thought that at some point way back in the past, this rock served as support for a bridge that once crossed this part of the river. There was a slight mist coming off the river & it was very calm & settled. I unfurled my landing net in readiness and sorted out my tailer just in case I hooked something very large. Some years ago I was caught out by this and lost a very very big salmon through my own stupidity at the net when I should have used the tailer. I wouldn't make that same mistake ever again. The anticipation of that first cast was building and I had already clipped my favorite blair spoon model (22gm) onto the snap link swivel. I was using 17lb invisibraid and an 11 foot abu zeus spinnig rod. The blair spoon soon whizzed across the Tyne on it's first speculative trawl. A large fresh fish splashed behind the rock just to my right. It's a good holding spot but a real bugger to get a good run past with the spinner-the current always brings it on too fast a swing past. But I tried a few chucks in the direction of the fish but to no avail. A few small sea trout also lept about for good measure and I'd only been there 10 minutes. I kept spinning away & despite a few fish moving, nothing took an interest in the blair spoon. It was time for me to move on down to my second favorite mark.
It's a very deep pool- a long straight stretch of inky dark water which is a holding area once the salmon have run up the fast flowing stretches. In places it must be 15-20 feet deep & there are some really big boulders on the bottom. I have found it is best to spin quite deep here-slow & deep. Net was unfurled & tailer was laid next to it & the first cast went out to the far bank. A slow retrieve produced nothing but the second cast was half way in on it's retrieve when it was suddenly stopped with a very determined thump. This was followed by a good nod, indicating a fish had taken the lure. What followed next was a very boring, very unsalmon like fight lasting about 2 minutes. The net slipped under the fish & my first salmon was landed. A nice fish too at about 10.5lbs & very silver. Good start to the day.
Just as I landed the fish, I noticed a good fish move to my right. Having dispatched my first 'keeper', I decided to try for the fish showing to my left. As this was a holding area, the fish don't tend to move too quickly. Good job as well as the undergrowth was wild & it took a good 5 minutes to crawl & pick my way through the brambles, holly & folliage. As I was wearing breathables, I didn't want to have a stray bramble or rose thorn sneak through the waders & create a nasty leak so I took great care to make sure I pushed anything that looked like it had a thorn on it, out of the way. Of course, nets don't like being dragged through the undergrowth & it took several attempts to get the net past all the fauna. My target was a slightly submerged rock which has just enough showing to get a foothold on-about 6 feet out from the bank. I stood on it & then had to work out how to get a cast out as the tree branches had grown a lot more since I last fished this spot. I had to manufacture a cast slightly to the right which was duly hammered by the fish I had seen. A good scrap ensued & another low double figure salmon was in the net, unhooked & then released. It was a fresh fish but having had one fish on the bank already, and the time was not yet 8am, I felt confident of more fish, so I returned the fish unharmed.
I then moved back to the mark I landed my first fish from, and then moved up about 30 yards left to another of my favorite spots. It's tricky on the old feet because it's a very angled rock just in the water. Your feet end up pointing at about 45 degrees downwards so you need to be sure you have a good foot hold. Half a dozen casts here and then right under the rod tip as I was bringing the lure out of the water, another salmon grabbed the blair spoon & took off. Wow. That fish was netted & returned-again around the 10lb mark. This was turning out to be one hell of a day. It was time to move again and off to my favorite mark.
This was a mark down a very steep bank & a relatively short wade out to a rock that in ideal river height conditions, is just showing above the surface. Today, it was ever so slightly submerged but it's location was given away by a tell tale riffle of the surface. The wade however short, is not an easy one & the large stones & mini boulders on the river bed make wading difficult. A wading staff acts as a great 3rd leg but it is still a bit of a chore wading out with net, tailer, rod & wading stick. The way to fish this particular mark is to aim for some over hanging tree branches on the far bank which is quite shallow-about 4-6 feet & then slopes away quite steeply t o about 12-15 feet. The area is strewn with huge rocks & boulders & it takes a lot of water craft knowledge to know where these rocks are & to cast & retrieve between them. I have had many good salmon from this mark & also lost my biggest ever salmon which easily went 30lb, because I tried to bet it instead of tailing it. I've lost many fish in my angling life, but none have hurt as much as that fish did. I had battled it for almost an hour & my arms were shaking like a nervous jelly. Having finally got the brute into the shallower water behind me, I lost my concentration, stabbed at it with the net & made a complete goof of it, netting the spinner & allowing the mighty salmon to swim free. To be fair, the salmon had earned it's freedom but that fish would have been the club record & still haunts me to this day. And so I stood in the river, eagerly looking at the far bank & wondering, just wondering if there was another zoo creature sitting there?
The short answer was no. Not today. 15 minutes of casting blair spoons produced nothing-but far from being despondent about that, I remained positive & waded out of the river, back to the bank & then a short walk to what is probably the best spot on the entire beat. It looks like something out of the Canadian rockies doesn't it.
Once I'd got to this mark, I decided to take stock for a few minutes, have a cup of hot chicken noodle soup & just observe the surroundings. You can learn so much just from sitting & watching. And so I sat quietly, listening to the birds & enjoying the beautiful late summer sun and even had chance to take off a few layers of clothing. It was now a t-shirt day! The net was made ready & placed strategically on a nearby rock that I knew I could get to if I got a fish on. The tailer was placed next to it. I then waded out to the rock & slowly climbed on top of it. I'm not as young as I used to be & I'm not as steady on my feet now as I was when I first joined the salmon club so I'm a bit more nervous when I fish this mark. I continued to stick with the 22gm blair spoon & searched the waters hoping to find a running fish. There were fish showing all over the place. They were coming up in pulses-about 20 minutes between pulses. There would be alot of activity for about 10 minutes, then a lull & then the next batch of fish would start showing. Fish began to show almost instantly & I felt really confident. It wasn't long before the slow constant retrieve was stopped in mid retrieve by something. The line tightened & the rod bucked. The clutch began to give line as the fish started to realise it was hooked & a good fight began. I had to get off the rock in order to even think about landing the fish so that was the first job on my mind. Having done that & still maintaining contact with the fish, I made my way slowly bank wards & got my net handy. After about 10 minutes, the fish slid over the net-another fine fish of about 9lbs & this was returned to the river.
I returned to the fishing & was soon into another fish-which turned out to be a good sea trout that gave a great account of itself before leaping well clear of the water & then spitting the spinner out back at me-that was the end of that. I fished on & had several more 'bump offs' from other fish before latching into another good salmon at lunchtime. I actually saw the take-it came right up behind the spinner-fins breaking the water before positively taking the lure at the end of it's swing and then tore off. Once more I had to wade back to the bank & get the net ready & a superb silver salmon slipped into the net. I decided to keep this fish as my second & limit fish for the day & this knocked the scales round to 11.5lb.
A fine mornings fishing by any standards & now I had a pleasant walk back to the car to meet up with my good friend Kevin where we shared a pork pie & a chat on the mornings fishing. Kevin had enjoyed his own battles on the fly earlier but had unfortunately lost the fish.
Having satisfied our hunger & quenched our thirst, we both headed back off to the river to see what the afternoon would bring. It was now glorioulsy sunny, and quite warm indeed. We started at a pretty little run which Kevin likes to cover with the fly-and a fine fluff chucker he is too. Having covered the water superbly, Kev worked his way down to a large rock that is a favoured lie of salmon. And then, as he was covering the water expertly, Kev began to loose his footing & then for some strange reason, everything began to happen in slow water. Kevin slowly sank up to his armpits & bobbed back up to the surface again. Soaked, he waded out & I couldn't believe what I had just seen. Luckily, Kevin had brought some spare clothes (he'd fallen in on previous trips usually when I'm there!) and once he had got dry clothes on, we fished on into the afternoon. The very odd fish was showing but no where near as prolific as the mornings activity. And so at around 4pm we decided to call it a day and go back home for a well deserved rest & reflection on the days fishing. I spent a good few hours later that night at my parents, filletting the salmon & my mother then bagged & tagged the filletts up ready to bring back down to my home. I was going to spend the next day back on the Tyne again-I was not expecting to have a similar experience as the previous day.
I had enjoyed a reasonable nights kip & thankfully there was no repeat of the drunken scum that had selfishly woken up the neighbourhood the previous night. The alarm clock went off again at 5:15 & I was up & at it again & on the river at 6:45am. I had the river all to my self this time & it was cloudy & cooler than the previous day. My dilemma was where to start. Should I start at the same place I did the previous day, or do I go straight down to the 'Candian' mark & see whether the fish were still running. It was a no-brainer. I decided to go down to the Candian mark & it was surprisingly quiet. I fished until 8am when almost as if someone had flicked a switch, the salmon began to show and I started to feel confident. At about 8:30am, the blair spoon was nailed by an agressive fish & that turned out to be a nice sea trout of around 5.5lbs. I hadn't had a sea trout for a good few years so that was a grateful addition to my tally. I continued fishing & got several more bump-offs which frustrated me. Then I hooked a good fish- a very good fish & it had a big tail pattern. It was a strong fish & belted off down stream-which is not a good sign as it was heading towards the rapids. It wasn't on long before the hook was thrown. I hadn't done anything wrong but it's just one of those things with fishing. But I carried on regardless & my efforts were duly rewarded at just after 10am when the spinner was stopped again by a very angry fish. It was a very determined fish that ran me all over the river for a good 10 minutes before I finally got the net under it. It was a cracker of a salmon and at 10.5 lbs, another double.
I then decided to do something completely alien & completly against every fishing sinuse in my body. I looked at the water, looked at the fish I'd just landed & decided to call it a day! I stopped fishing. I've never done that before in my life. But you know-I just felt that things couldn't get any better. I'd landed a good many salmon in the last 48 hours & now taken my 4th fish out. Fishing on would, in my opinion, only spoil things & I wanted to remember my trip with my last catch.You don't get many sessions where you can end successfully on a fish-especially a double figure salmon, and so having convinced myself that it was the right thing to do, I packed up my stuff & walked the half mile walk with a smile wider than the Tyne itself. It was such a fantastic achievement & one I will remember for the rest of my life. It's going to take some beating & although it's a long drive for me to get from my home in East Anglia to the Tyne, it's sessions like this that make it all the more worthwhile. For me, that is likley to be my one & only salmon trip of the year & I look forward to next years trip & wonder if I can get the conditions right for that trip too.