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REEL TIME: Fishing for salmon for the first time

Carroll Randall’s friend Andrew James fishing the Margaree River.
Carroll Randall’s friend Andrew James fishing the Margaree River. - Carroll Randall

Fishing, fishing, salmon fishing! In my opinion, Atlantic salmon are the number one game fish in the world. We were very fortunate back in the ’70s,’80s and ’90s as the rivers along the South Shore were some of the best salmon fishing in Nova Scotia. This is not the case anymore, but there are still opportunities to fish for Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia.

If you are new to salmon fishing, the next few articles will help you get started. We will talk about the gear you will need, the rivers that are still open to salmon fishing, how to access the rivers and any regulations that you may need to be made aware of.

Other than the Margaree River in Cape Breton, salmon season does not start before Sept. 1, so you still have some time to get set up with gear and a plan to fish. Gear is the most important aspect of salmon fishing. If and when you go fishing for salmon, the provincial regulations state that you can only fish for salmon by fly fishing. It goes on to say you can only use “single hook, barbless or pinched barb artificial flies.”

Salmon are a very powerful fish, so you will need a strong rod to be able to bring the fish in quickly and release them quickly. I would suggest an 8 1/2 to nine-foot fly rod that takes a number eight or nine weight line. This will give you a rod with enough backbone to fight a salmon.

Next, you will need a fly reel that has the capacity to hold 100 to 150 metres of backing, plus your fly line. Your reel will also need a good drag system to be able to handle the long runs that a salmon is capable of after it is hooked. Sometimes salmon will run up to 100 plus metres.

Earlier on in my columns, I had mentioned that when buying gear, go to tackle stores. These are the stores that specialize in fishing tackle and have knowledgeable staff to help you with your purchases. These speciality stores can supply you with the tackle you need and match the equipment so you have a balanced system.

What I mean by that is the reel you buy needs to have the capacity to hold enough line for the fish you are pursuing and that is the right size for your rod. Also, the line needs to be the right weight for the rod. Remember that you will never be disappointed with quality. I still have and use the salmon rod and reel that I bought 40 years ago.

Next, I will talk about the leaders you will need, and that is a science all on its own. Ten fishermen would probably give you 10 different answers when asked what type of leader they use. There are many types of leaders from tapered leaders, to special braids and you can also make or build your own leaders. I prefer to use a piece of eight-pound test leader which is the same length as the rod you are using. I will talk about flies you will need for each river I profile in future columns.

Margaree River Notice

Please be advised that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has issued an order closing a portion of the Margaree River to angling for all species of fish, which was effective Saturday, Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. and until further notice.

The waters affected by the closure are Margaree River from the highway bridge in East Margaree upstream to the Forks, and excluding tributaries, states the DFO.

The temporary closure has been decided due to the high water temperatures monitored by the DFO in this portion of the river. DFO will monitor conditions on a daily basis and will issue a notice to recreational anglers to inform the public when this restriction is lifted.

Please see the notice to recreational anglers posted on the DFO Gulf Region’s website at

Next week, I will talk about flies and what different types can be used and where you use them. My wife always likes the story about Same Thing Murray. Stay tuned for the answer!

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