Salmon Tails Up The Water polka

Also known as Andy Irvine’s, Artesania, The Banks Of Envernes, The Banks Of Inverness, The Salmon Tailing Up The River, Salmon Tails Up The River, Siege Of Ennis.

There are 15 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

Salmon Tails Up The Water appears in 1 other tune collection.

Salmon Tails Up The Water has been added to 21 tune sets.

Salmon Tails Up The Water has been added to 211 tunebooks.

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Five settings

X: 1
T: Salmon Tails Up The Water
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
GE DE|GG/G/ GA|Bd AB/A/|1 (G2 G2):|2 (G2 G>)A||
(3Bdd d>B|(3cee e>e|dB AB/A/|GE D2|
Bd d>B|ce e>f|gf ed|e/f/g BA|
(3Bdd d>B|(3cee e>e|dB AB/A/|GE D2|
GE DE|GG/G/ GA|Bd/d/ AB/A/|cc c2||
# Added by Grack .
X: 2
T: Salmon Tails Up The Water
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:B/A/|G>E DE|G2- GA|Bd AB/A/|GE cE|
G>E DD/E/|G2- GA|B/c/d AB|G2- G:|
G/A/|Bd- dB|ce ed/c/|Bd AB/A/|GE D2|
B/c/d dB|ce- e>f|g/f/e f/g/f/d/|e2- ed/c/|
Bd B/c/d|ce c/d/e|d>B AF|G/A/G/F/ ED|
GG/E/ DE|G>F GA|Bd A/G/F|G2- G||
X: 3
T: Salmon Tails Up The Water
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:GE DE|G2 G>A|Bd AB/A/|GE D2|
GE DE|G2 G>A|Bd AB/A/|G2- G2:|
|:Bd d2|ce e>g|dB/4c/4B/ AB/A/|GE D2|
[1 Bd d2|ce e>f|gf ed|e2 g2:|
[2 GE DE|G2 G>A|Bd AB/A/|G2- G2||
X: 4
T: Salmon Tails Up The Water
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:GE DE|G2 G>A|Bd AB/A/|GE D>E|
GE DE|Gz G>A|Bd AB/A/|G2- G2:|
|:Bd d2|ce e2|dB AB/A/|
[1 GE D2|Bd d2|ce e>f|gf ed|ef g2:|
[2 GE D>E|GE DE|G2 G>A|Bd AB/A/|G2- G2||
X: 5
T: Salmon Tails Up The Water
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
D>E DB,|DE GA|Bd AB/A/|G2 G2:|
{A}Bd d>B|ce e>B|Bd AB/A/|GE cE|
{A}Bd d>B|ce e>f|ge (3)fed|ef g>A|
Bd d>B|ce e>A|Bd AB/A/|GE cE|
D>E DB,|DE GA|Bd AB/A/|G2 G2||

Twenty-five comments

Andy Irvine’s

This is practically the same tune as Andy Irvine’s, or the Siege of Ennis Polka. One of my favourites.

Makes a good set to follow the Knocknaboul polkas as in the Greenfire recording.

I think this comes from the Northeast of England - at least, it is a standard anong Northumbrian pipers.

We call it “Salmon Tails Up The Water” (don’t they swim upriver?)
Sorry about “Salmon” in the other names section - I pressed return by accident.

I’ve just remembered, this is the first tune I learnt - I got it off my woodwork teacher at school back in 1989 or 1990. He used to make himself things like mandolins, citterns and Appalachian dulcimers during breaks and dinner times. I thought that was really cool, so I took up the mandolin.

The Pogues used this tune for the ‘instrumental section’ at the end of their version of “South Australia” (on the “If I Should Fall from Grace… album).

A good tune.

Posted by .

Salmon Tails

This is a Northumbrian standard. Everyone plays it up here. Strictly speaking its not a polka but a rant, the characteristic dance indiginous to the North-east of England (they rant elsewhere but in a heavy, downbeat polkary sort of way, Northumbrian Ranting is very light and special).

The tune is reputedly composed by James Allen - piper, gypsy, rogue and hero who was hanged for sheep steeling around the turn of the 18th century. Jimmy (or Jamie) Allen is another classic Northumbrian rant that goes wellwith Salmon Tails

Salmon Tails Up the Water

I know it as the “UP” title. It is Northumbrian, and is certainly a rant! I had this explained to me sweetly back in 1981.

I’d been visiting friends in the NE of England, John and Elsie Nettleton, and the Morpeth Gathering was happening. My friends coaxed me into entering the miscellaneous instruments competition, (first time I ever played a comp!) the rules being to play 2 tunes, one of which had to be Northumbrian…so I played an Irish Slow Air, An Buachaill Caol Dubh, followed by Salmon Tails. I was playing against some wizards, Robin Dunn, Neil Smith, George Welsh, amongst others but somehow I was awarded first prize.

HOWEVER, (the late) Foster Charlton’s comments, read out by Phil Ransome went something like this…
“Beautiful Slow Air, beautifully played, best piece of music on the day and what won you the competition…but Brian, please note that Salmon Tails Up the Water is a Northumbrian Rant and not a bl..dy Irish Polka!”

I was suitably chastised!


Salmon Tails Up the Water

An early Scottish version went under the name “The Banks of Inverness” and it can be found in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection as “The Banks of Enverness”.

Salmon Tails, and Jimmy Allen

Jimmy Allen, the c18 piper mentioned in the thread above, was had up for some offence, stealing a horse I think, in his old age. He was put in a prison under Elvet Bridge in Durham City where he died - he was not hanged.
The name “Salmon Tails Up The Water” puts me in mind of something I saw when I used to fish; in what remained of the rapids in a stretch of river I used to fish, when the water was very low, the tails of the salmon there would sometimes appear waving half-out of the water, looking a bit like cabbage leaves except for the colour - I did some double-takes at first.
I love this tune. On a D/G melodeon with D-scale notes on the lowest buttons, as opposed to (or as well as) chromatic ones, one can cross the rows and make all kinds of chords and sonorous noises.


I Knew it as a reel not as a polka.

“Salmon Tails Up The River”

X: 2
T: Salmon Tails Up The River
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
R: polka
K: Gmaj
|: F/E/ |\
D>E DE | G>F GA | Bd AB/A/ | GE GE |
D>E DE | G>F GA | Bd AB/A/ | G2 G :|
A |\
Bd dB | ce ec | Bd AB/A/ | GE ED |
B/c/d dB | ce e>f | g/f/e fd | e2 ef |
ge fd | e/f/e/d/ BA | Bd AB/A/ | GE G/F/E |
D>E DE | G>F GA | Bd AB/A/ | G2 G |]

X: 3

From the playing of Northumbrian piper Colin Caisley, transposed up from F to G…

X: 4 “Salmon Tails Up the Water”

From the tune book “Chorley Traditional Music Sessions: Slow and Steady Workshop Volume 1”
Changed from 4/4 to 2/4, this is the third and last tune in a set of three on page 2:
“The Winster Gallop” / “Jamie Allen” / “Salmon Tails Up the Water”

“The Winster Gallop”
# Added by CreadurMawnOrganig - September 20th, 2004

“Jamie Allen”
# Added by nicholas - November 11th, 2008

“From the playing of Northumbrian piper Colin Caisley, transposed up from F to G…”

Hah! I played in a band with his grandson at university.

🙂 Nice CMO, wish I’d been there…

Re: Salmon Tails Up The Water

Is there more than one tune by this name? A friend has come up with a photocopy of a tune from a book of tunes in mandolin tab (no 86 - but no idea which book!) It appears to be a reel in A modal, and is absolutely nothing like the tune we all know and love! (Or has the creator of the book got the name wrong?) An internet search has not shed any light on this other tune.

Re: Salmon Tails Up The Water

Hi Trish. Yes, more than one tune of that name. The reel (which can be found in Kerr’s Merry Melodies as a Strathspey) starts | Aeed eA c2 |.

Re: Salmon Tails Up The Water

Thanks Nigel: think that fits the one I was handed! Mystery solved, maybe!
Hope you’re doing well now!

Re: Salmon Tails Up The Water

I would love to hear more about how to play a Northumbrian Rant. How does it differ from an Irish polka? Lightness was mentioned. What is a good tempo? What about stressed beats? Is there something about phrasing, and/or the ends of phrases?

We know two tunes but this name. They seem to be related, but one is perhaps an Irish version. The other one is the Northumbrian tune that is discussed in this thread. A skilled Irish traditional player says they’re slides, but I question this–at least for the the Northumbrian rant we’re discussing. It’s a great tune, and I’d like to play it in a more traditional way.

Thank you!