Snell`s Window: 3D animation by Mikkel Strøbech...
Bill Bryden from Newfoundland on advice and practical details that help you hook up with salmon and trout on dry fly
We as anglers can benefit from the knowledge of Snell`s Widow and place the fly as close to the window as possible – The sudden appearance of the fly in the area of decision may often be followed by an immediate strike… The edge or rim of Snell`s Window seems to be a hot area to put a fly – something worth calling to mind next time you see a salmon or trout on the river bed or visit a place where you normally would expect to find them.
Fishmadman angler Per Fischer positioning the dry fly with precision in Snell`s Window – on Atlantic salmon lying in shallow water. At this spot, the cone of Snell`s Window is very small
Get into the groove!
Salmon dry fly pioneer: George M.L. La Branche wrote in his book The Salmon And The Dry Fly (1924) about his observations and thoughts on where in the river to hook up with dry fly salmon.
La Branche saw the salmon pools with the eye of a trout-fisherman and advocated that the angler should seek out places in the river that would be similar to the area where the resident trout would take a position to intercept the flow of food. He named these places where the current would deliver the insects: grooves and was sure that one would only connect with salmon if one were able to deliver the fly very accurate in these grooves.
Years of fishing has shown me and other anglers that it is not merely down to a perfect cast to Snell’s Window ... to hook up with salmon on a dry fly – The salmon is simply not on-line all the time – as I would like to explain it.
Sometimes he will rise to a well presented dry fly within a few casts – another day he might rise unexpectedly to the fly presented in Snell`s Window the 50`th times…with the attitude of a starved trout rushing for the only meal of the day.
Read more about La Branche and his ideas and fishing here
Pushing the fly in Snell`s Window
Rarely caught on film – The take of an Atlantic salmon on a dry fly – I was lucky to get it in the box last season and is happy to show you this special video in relation to our newsletter on Snell`s Window… The salmon on the film does actually not bite over the fly – it merely pushes the fly. If you look close you will see the fly surfing in front of the fish. Many of the dry fly caught I had this summer was hooked on the nose or forehead etc. as seen on some of the pictures in the slide section: Why? – Can`t tell you…some years they work like that .. the spot I film: 3-foot leader out of guides…Wham!
What do fish see?
How do salmon and trout actually detect and see things underwater and in Snell`s Window? As regular anglers, we know very little about this and we often look at the roaring river and wonder if the fish will have any chance of seeing a small fly on the surface – Salmon and trout have absolutely no problems detecting pray sitting or moving in the surface they have trained these skills for 100 million years and have become true experts.
Things like: contrast, light and colours will probably reveal the insect to the fish and it will gather this information in its tiny brain and decide if it wants to make a move for the pray
When the insect enters the Area of Snell`s Window the fish will automatically know how much, or how little it has to turn its fins to eclipse with the drifting insect… But the fish would often have noticed the insect or fly before it enters Snell`s Window – and one must assume that this information also will be part of the decisions on whether it should use precious energy to rise to the fly
Salmon and trout have absolutely no problems detecting pray in the surface they have trained these skills for 100 ↑ million years. Here absurdly small dry flies and flymf’s tied for selective trout in the Montana River system
Back to Basics with guide Bill Bryden
It has been well said that dry fly Atlantic salmon fishing is the pinnacle of freshwater fly fishing. The shocks and warm rushes of adrenaline it provides are not easily had in any other form of fishing. The level of skill and patience required often prove too much for even seasoned fly anglers, but for those that persevere the rewards are truly breath-taking. It is my hope that some of this discourse will encourage those that have not tried this pursuit to pick up the torch while also helping to enlighten the way for those that are stumbling on first hurdles. Perhaps even the most advanced dry fly salmon angling masters may find a morsel in these pages; as may the trout purist.
Stealth & Accuracy
We could summon it up this way: Leaders are part of presentation and one obviously want to present the fly with stealth and accuracy especially near Snell`s Window – A leader that can transform the movement from the fly line to the fly is important.
Correcting the fly – and Snell’s Window
Very basic wet fly presentations can be accomplished by novice anglers by correcting a presentation after the fly lands. Similarly, correcting an inaccurately positioned dry fly can be done by simply dragged the fly to the exact inch that it needs to be on to allow for the correct drift into Snell`s Window. However, this dragging of the fly must be done very slowly and ideally outside of Snell’s Window except in particular circumstances. Once the fly is near Snell’s Window no quick movements should be done when initially attempting to coax a salmon from its lair. We d not want to convince out quarry that the fly can move quickly and thus escape any attempt it may make to capture it. We want to make a nice easy target.
Fish are experts at being fish
Fish rarely “miss” anything they truly want to eat. Often they inspect a dry fly several times before committing to taking it into their mouth, commit further by closing their mouth completely, and finally abandon all worry while holding it for submersion to their lay. This bodes well for the dry fly neophyte as the most solid take is often the second to fourth rise, by which time the adrenaline has the angler cocked and ready like a rattlesnake.
The roughly 45-degree angle from the fish to the edge of Snell’s Window makes it relatively easy to work out where the edge of Snell’s Window is situated. For example, at a water depth of 6 feet, the edge is 6 feet upstream of where the fish is laying. One always wants to make sure one’s leader is long enough to keep the end of the fly line out of Snell`s Window, so fishing deep lays requires longer leaders.
Once some skill in casting accuracy is acquired, the first target is the very edge of Snell’s window. Even in the rippled water, many salmon hide under, the fish will see larger dry flies travelling through the air and then land exactly in their drift line for feeding. This is why lazy gentle casts are made by many Newfoundland dry fly anglers. The fly is cast in such a way as to have it flying along very close to the surface once in Snell’s window. An underpowered slightly sidearm cast is used by most Newfoundland dry fly anglers with the fly within a foot or two or the surface for its entire travel within Snell’s window.
Keep Pushing the button
This is the bog-standard approach for dry fly angling and has the best chance of working on all fish in any condition. Patience is the name of the game, and 20 minutes is not too long to work a fish. Imagine regularly catching a salmon every 20 minutes. Often, the dry fly salmon angler catches more salmon than a wet fly angler (by far).Positioning the fly with accuracy near Snell’s Window – a bit like playing with a string in the dart-arrow
If casting accurately is the most critical part of dry fly fishing for Atlantic salmon, then consistency is the second.
Often, when in deep water that has variable current speeds between the river bottom and the surface, a lazy relaxed salmon will start to rise towards Snell’s Window before the fly even touches down on the surface. This is accomplished by consistently timed presentations. If an angler can convince a salmon that a hatch has started, by repeated casting, then they have a much better chance of inducing a feeding response. Timing the presentations consistently will allow fish to get excited about the anticipation of the next offering. Those inlays that have faster surface currents must do one of two things: rise up closer to the surface and stay suspended or use their tail power to reach the fast-moving target in Snell`s Window. This is because the water speed that they are laying in is not enough to lift them to the surface naturally by using only their pectoral fins. An angle that presents their dry fly consistently will take more of these fish than one that makes inconsistently timed casts. This can be observed in clear rivers with fish laying in the slack water behind ledges, rocks, and quickly deepening pools.
It is often these two reason, accuracy and consistency, that hamper the effort of the beginner.
Low water on the Majestic Repparfjord River in the far North of Norway 1000’s of opportunity’s on Snell’s Window waits below
Delivery to the door
Lazy fish such as stale fish, large fish, and those in warm water will want the fly to drift to exactly where the current will naturally lift them without any sideways movement of their body or trusting from their tail. They will want to bob up like a waterlogged deadhead to take the fly with a lazy head and tail rise in Snell’s Window. With this approach of super-accurate casting and perfectly lined-up dead drifting, the angler is trying to induce a natural relaxed feeding response.
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