Salmon Kiss

It was like yesterday when I caught my first salmon at the Lambley Beat on the South Tyne. That yesterday was some seven years ago. Ever since me and a group of Bulgarian and international friends have been visiting the beat in the second part of October for a 6 day fishing trip that we started to call the “Bulgarian week”.

This year was no exception. Four of us flew from Sofia to Manchester where we met the other part of the group coming from Iceland to continue their salmon adventure in the UK. Total of six. Five true friends and my fianc?.

In the late afternoon we were picked up by our beloved host – Jim. He took us to what we think is paradise for salmon fishermen or any UK countryside fan– Lambley Holiday Cottages. We had six days of fishing ahead of us.

I was lucky enough to hook and land a fish the very first day. A splendid cock fish of about 12-13 pounds. What a great start! Then the second day the weather was really windy and so many leaves were floating on the surface of the water it turned the fishing into leaf catching.

Really bad phone picture but the fish had to go quick.

Then Hurricane Ophelia passed in the late afternoon. Quite far from us, but we still felt it. On the third day, after the storm, I felt ill and I didn`t have the strength to go fishing so I decided to stay home, eat soup and try to recover as soon as possible. When the guys came back for lunch they said the conditions were rough. In the late afternoon they came back and I won`t forget the smile on their faces. Rosen Velev, who hadn`t fished the river before hooked his first salmon – and what a specimen! The fish measured 103 cm in length and according to the experts we consulted with was weighting between 26- 28 pound. One of the biggest fish caught in UK in 2017. Caught on small tube silver stoat tail size 14 treble hook. They fought the fish for a good half hour and safely landed it on the river bank. After a quick picture session it was carefully returned in the pool.  That first salmon for Rosen was the fish of a lifetime that many old salmon anglers would have dream of. I`m only sorry that I wasn`t there to witness the size of that hen.

George decided to have a picture with the fish as well.

The next day I was feeling much better and woke up early, really eager to immerse myself in the fishing. My fianc? Pavlina and I were working a pool late afternoon when I felt that slight pull at the end of my line. I slowly lifted the rod and the fish started running downstream. It all happened when Jim and his kids were passing behind us going on their way to the upper pool. I ended up fighting that fish in front of quite a big audience. I hooked the fish on one of Stoyan`s shrimp so it was logical to ask him to help me with the net. The fish was in and I heard the cheers around. What a perfect moment of happiness. It was about 12 pound, a hen fish that couldn`t resist to Stoyan`s shrimp pattern.

The next day I hooked another fish at the very same place. This time the fish was really smart and it went behind a rock where the leader stuck in and eventually broke. Couldn`t really do much. Rosen and Boril also lost one fish each.

Then the rain came and made the river way over two feet. The last day we really tried hard to catch another fish. I was lucky again at the end of the day to have a take and fight one… almost net it. That`s the way it goes sometimes as we all know or we will find out. The most important was that we had that monster hen fish this time which broke all the records! This really made the trip.

We are all looking forward for the next “Bulgarian salmon week“ on the South Tyne. If you want to join a bunch of foreigners and fish with us or just want to fish the South Tyne at the Lambley and Alston Beats – staying at the finest Lambley cottage accommodation please do not hesitate to contact me with all your questions.

And a gallery with some more pictures from the trip.

Thanks for all the photos to Rosen Velev and Pavlina.

Here is the Trailer of a movie Rosen was so kind to made…

In the mean time here is some tackle and fly recommendations.
The river is best to fish with 8 to 10 wt switch or double handed rods from 11 to 13 ft long. Floating line or shooting head is great in most cases combined with a poly leader with different sinking rate according to the water level. I consider this important so please prepare yourself with at least three different ones- intermediate, medium and fast sinking poly leader. Tippet is relatively short and vary from 0,28 if you dare to 0,35 mm.
Best Flies that have worked out for us during the last 7 years.
Allies Shrimp, Irish Shrimp, Cascade, Willie Gun, Stoyan`s Shrimp variations, MFF Fire Tiger Zonker, Silver/Gold/Copper Stoat Tail. All of those flies works great as well as a couple of Claret variations and a few top secret patterns shown to us by the master himself – Colin.
Tactic and Strategy
We have most of the fish caught on the swing. No stripping. Maybe it is worth a try in a slow and low water, but only once in a while. Otherwise cast across the current, mend, mend, mend and let the fly slowly move to the side of the main current where the fish usually stay. This is an advice for normal water conditions about 9 inch to 1 ft 2 inch. When water is lower we have had takes and caught salmon in the fastest part of the water or in deeper holes. When it is really high, over a foot and a half the fish certainly goes on the sides and you have to expect the take right where you have been staying on the bank when low water conditions. The take is usually very gentle and striking is not recommended. For me as a trout and grayling angler the technique I use when salmon fishing reminds me most of long nymphing.
Side Effects:
Catching a salmon can lead to serious addiction. You might try it only once and then you can never go back. You will want to catch more salmon, tie more flies buy more materials, more equipment, visit more places worldwide… it will never end. The risk is all yours !