I had experienced some very good dry fly fishing back home in Norway since my return from the Kola peninsula in Russia, catching a big 2,4 kg trout and many nice ones over 1 kg on dry flies. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have headed back to civilization and work by now. But after quitting my job before Christmas, I am now a fully blown trout bum with all the free time in the world. And I was not heading back to civilization any time soon. Instead, I headed out into the wild in search of more hatches. There were still fish to be caught and lessons to be learned.
After catching some nice fish my shoulders felt considerably lighter and I was ready to explore some more distant locations around on the tundra. After a long hike, I arrived at the stream I had been dreaming about for several years. The stream was not very big, but it was connected to lakes both upstream and downstream. I knew one of the lakes held big trout and hoped there would be some fish feeding in the small stream as well. The stream had some small pools and I began stalking the first one out. After about an hour I had seen no rising fish there so I decided to head downstream to the next pool. Small mayflies in size 16-18 were hatching there and I saw a fish rise steadily at the tail of the pool. It was a peculiar location to feed and not the best place at all. The best place was further up in the pool, but I did not see any fish there. The rising fish looked like it was around 1 kg. No biggie, but a nice fish to catch in such small water. Thankfully I had brought my #3 weight with me and I started to get it ready for casting. That is when I think I saw something else in the pool. It thought it might have been a mirage, but I think I saw the head of a much larger fish take something off the surface going downstream. I observed the pool intensely for at least another 30 minutes, but only spotted the smaller fish doing its thing further downstream. Maybe my mind had dreamed up the big head? My #3 weight was ready to take on the small fish and I decided to give it a go. But somehow, I started to cast further up, just in case there was a fish there after all. On the first cast nothing happened, so I presented the fly a little bit further down to where I knew the small fish was positioned. Something moved in the pool, headed downstream and grabbed my fly. A fish was on and it felt quite strong on my lightweight tackle, but I was not sure of the size. After a while I saw the fish and it looked quite good, perhaps larger than 1 kg. I had to work it quite hard with the #3 weight and after a while it was in the net. It was definitively not the small fish I had seen rising several times, because that one was still rising a couple of meters upstream. Instead, the fish in the net was an absolute beauty weighing in at 2,2 kg! I could not believe my luck. The day before I had caught another big one weighing in at 2,4 kg and now this?
I am not the only person fly fishing up north these days, some other people I know were also trying their luck but had not had quite the same results as me. One of these individuals had been fishing a lot in one particular river where I had also wet my flies on a couple of occasions. He had been fishing his “secret river” together with a friend from down south, but complained about bad conditions. This is not something that is unusual coming from him. He normally tries his best to talk things down, spreading rumors of locals having set nets and taking out massive amounts of fish from the river in question. As usual I had sent him pictures of all my catches, and although I did not get any pictures in return at least I got a “Wow, nice catch” or something similar. But after sending pictures of the recent big ones I did not get any replies. I thought he might be in an area without coverage, and kept sending him pictures of beautiful trout. A wise man once told me: “There are two kinds of fly fishermen in this world. The ones that enjoy it when other people catch fish and the ones that don’t.” This is something I was told early on in my fly fishing career and I decided then and there that I would never fall into the latter category. The fact that I am now able to enjoy other people catching fish has given me a lot of happiness. Fly fishing is not a competition. Unfortunately, my “friend” up north did not seem to find much joy in the pictures I continued to send him. The next morning, I woke up to some strange messages on my phone. My “friend” suggested that I should stop posting so many “bragging” pictures of fish and that I should stop tagging the pictures with “Sàpmi”. He had apparently been talking to a host of other unnamed people that allegedly felt the same way too.
First of all, if you ever disagree with something I do, please pick up the phone and talk to me. Especially before talking about me behind my back. At least if you want me to take you seriously and perhaps change my mind.
The idea that tagging my pictures with Sàpmi will reveal his special little river is rather far-fetched. Sàpmi covers an area of roughly 400.000 km2 across the countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. As a comparison both islands of New Zealand only cover an area of 268.000 km2. In addition, very few of my catches had been from this particular river he guards like it was his own. Instead of staying in one place I move about a lot and have probably found more nice locations than he could ever dream of. I believe firmly that nature belongs to everyone, and especially to those that treat it with respect and practice catch & release when fly fishing. I will therefore continue to post pictures of the fish I catch, so that others can see the beauty of nature and perhaps get interested in fly fishing as well. It has nothing to do with bragging. Fly fishers that practice careful catch & release have a low impact on the eco systems and contribute to the local economies they travel through. New Zealand is a good example where fly fishing is now contributing more to the local economies than many other industries. I am sure the enormous fishery up north in Sàpmi can handle more dedicated fly fishers than today.
After setting the record straight I continued my fishing adventure and was about to experience some of the most insane dry fly fishing of my life. As I made my way down to a location I had visited before, I hoped that the hatch was on. It had definitively not been on during my previous visits this year, most likely because the water levels were too high. Now the water level looked better and I could see both caddis and mayflies hatching out of the lake above and into the current below. There were several fish rising and I saw that they were quite big! My mind drifted to an experience I had at this very place about 5 years ago. Then I caught 10 big trout in a couple of hours, the largest weighing in at 2,5 kg. Instead of charging out in the river to cast at the first fish I waited and observed. I wanted to identify where the largest fish was positioned. After a while it was clear that the largest one was positioned right in the lower parts of a big V in the river. The fish was making big splashes and moved about left and right to pick off the various insects that now poured downstream. The food factory was now definitively on and the rising increased in intensity. There was some smaller fish rising around the big one and I had to be precise with my casting or risk hooking one of them instead. I managed to present the fly right in the middle of the V and the fish rose to take my fly. I set the hook and it was on. The fish moved upstream and I managed to land it without much difficulty. The fish was a beautiful brownie with a yellow belly and some red dots, weighing in at 2 kg. I always keep the fish wet in the net while arranging my tripod and camera. After a quick photoshoot using a self-timer I released the fish and looked out for the next one. It was standing only a little bit further out and appeared to be about the same size. A couple of casts and 10 minutes later it was in the net, also weighing in at 2 kg! This was almost too good to be true, but it was true and more big ones kept on rising out in the current. I fished for another hour and ended up with several more nice fish weighing in at 1,8 kg – 1,7 kg, 1,5 kg etc. After a while I had to take a break. It was almost too much to handle. I made my way further downstream and found myself in a particularly good mood. The kind of mood where you don’t even cast to fish you don’t think is above 1,5 kg. I observed many more decent fish that day, but enjoyed viewing them doing their business without casting at them. After a slow start to the season back home and my winter holiday on the Kola peninsula, my universe was once again in balance.
There has been a lot of rain this week and many of the rivers are once again flooded. But with a lot of free time it will get better sooner or later. Now I will meet up with my friend Anders who I first encountered on my fly fishing travels in New Zealand earlier this year. Together we will explore some new places and hopefully catch some nice fish up in the wonderful land of Sàpmi. Tight lines to all of you!