Flossing is a technique that involves attempting to swing your leader through the drift to allow the leader to enter the open mouth of a salmon attempting to swim upstream. The flosser will then notice a difference in line movement or “feel” the fish and attempt to set the hook on the unsuspecting fish. Do some searching in fishing forums and you will find every bit of controversy on this technique. To be clear, some of the fish taken with this technique are actually biting the terminal gear, but most are not.
Is flossing snagging?
Snagging An effort to take fish with a hook
and line in a manner that the fish does not
take the hook or hooks voluntarily in its mouth.
The above excerpt is from the 2019-2020 WDFW regulations pamphlet. Snagging is an illegal way to fish for Salmon and according to this definition, flossing is technically snagging. Yes, I’m sure this pisses some folks off, but keep in mind, I’m not judging, just pointing out facts to educate anyone who’s just starting off fishing in the river for salmon, or wants to add some new techniques to their game.
Ask anyone this question on the river, and you will get a much different answer. The term “snagger” is usually associated with someone who uses a very short leader, weighted hook or large treble, and attempts to yank it through the drift, hoping to “snag” a salmon.
The flosser is attempting to hook a fish in the mouth, and would be just as happy if the fish bit, but is generally happy to call that nuance something which can never really be known. Did the fish really bite? How can you tell? Please refer to the section on drift fishing in the river fishing for salmon article
Having participated in both approaches, I will say, that if you have only primarily flossed or even just only leveraged the drift fishing technique, you are missing out on some of the best aspects of salmon fishing in the rivers.
Generally, you must choose which path you will follow in learning how to river fish for salmon. There’s a vast difference between learning how to get a salmon to bite in the rivers and learning how to floss a salmon (both require skill!). The principles are all different and the parts of the river you fish are also usually different. Nobody likes to address this topic, but it’s terribly confusing to any beginner. In fact, I would hazard a guess that 50% (maybe more) of the fisherman who floss don’t even know that’s what they are doing. They are convinced, because it’s how the knowledge was handed down to them, that the flossed fish are biting. They also don’t like being told that their fish aren’t biting. Call one of these fisherman a snagger? Them’s fightin’ words!
Salmon, absolutely will bite on a river and it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. I’m not here to judge, but to just layout the facts. In many situations, expert salmon anglers targeting a bite, will out fish the flossers 10 to 1. There are also “professional flossers”, who know exactly what they are doing and can hook a fish on almost every cast.
I may extend this article further addressing “how to floss for salmon” at some point (probably not!). Or maybe how to floss for salmon while looking like you are attempting to get a bite? OK, now I’m just poking fun!