After returning to Norway from the sweaty adventure on the Kola peninsula, I headed out towards the coast to check out some of the north-eastern salmon-rivers. The extreme hot weather continued, and I spent some relaxing days just watching the sea and enjoying the fresh ocean breeze. I was also waiting for a sign to kick off my salmon season. A jumping salmon or two would do the trick for me, but there was only whales, reindeer and sheep to be seen. After I had gotten my dose of fresh air, I finally got going and scouted several of the rivers along the coast. With the nice weather, a lot more people were out fishing than in the previous season when the weather was not so nice. Most of the rivers were low and although there were some salmon in them, I thought it was best to leave those poor fish alone for a while more. I continued my journey around the eastern parts of Finnmark and finally found some rivers with a different watershed that had plenty of water in them. I got myself a fishing licence, rigged my #8 G-Loomis NRX rod sporting a custom “Black Salmon” designed Able Super 8 loaded with the Rio Dart fly-line and headed down towards the river.
It didn’t take more than 10 minutes before I hooked the first fish, a fresh silvery 2,5 kg fat grilse, on a sparsely dressed single hook orange fly. I considered releasing the fish, but since I don’t eat farmed salmon anymore I decided to keep it for dinner. It was a decision I would not regret as it provided 4 succulent meals of wild salmon meat. I continued fishing my way down the river using both the previously successful orange fly, but also bomber dry flies. I had several contacts with fish, but they just wouldn’t stick. This continued for several days as I explored different parts of the river. If I didn’t have a lot of contacts I would have probably moved on, but there was fresh fish on the river and only a matter of time before I hooked another one, or so I thought. It was then I met up with my buddy Preben and his amazingly cool fishing-dog. Ludvig, a 13-year-old Staffordshire terrier, loves to go fishing with his owner and sits and waits patiently while Preben fish. Preben know these rivers very well and use a #7 Orvis Helios one-hander rigged with a Rio Spey fly-line. He prefers visual fishing and has perfected his unique hitching technique, but also throws some bombers dead-drifting them over the salmon on sunny days. We fished together for some time and I learned a lot about these rivers and the techniques that had proved highly successful for Preben over many years. After spending some time just watching the ocean by myself, it was very nice with some great company as we enjoyed this precious time along the river on the hunt for the Atlantic salmon.
After a couple of days, we started spotting some fresh larger specimens in the 10 kg plus range. Those big fish had positioned themselves in some unbelievable positions, often in very small pockets or in quite fast currents. This was a completely different ballgame compared to the trout fishing I am more familiar with. The size of the rivers we fished were often much smaller than the trout rivers I usually frequent. The unique combination of large salmon in such small rivers, possible to catch on a dry fly will really get your heart pumping! Even though you don’t necessarily catch that many, just seeing one jump will give you enough energy to keep going for many hours.
It was the hitchmeister Preben who finally managed to hook one of these big monster salmon. We went down to a couple of small pools and split up to fish one each. Only minutes afterwards I heard Preben scream from upstream, “Fish on!”. We immediately saw that it was a big one, and Preben started running downstream across the boulders on the river edge trying to manoeuvre the fish into one of the small backwaters. The fish wouldn’t have any of it and raced further downstream with Preben running after it. He finally managed to pull the fish into a small eddy about 200 meters further downstream and I got a hold of the tail of the fish. The amazing hen salmon measured 109 cm which translates to roughly 13 kg. Quite a catch on a #7 weight one-handed fly-rod! Some days later we stalked another big fish and since Preben had caught I big one it was my turn to give it a try first. I swung my fly over the fish several times, but there was no reaction. We were supposed to move further downstream, but Preben decided to give it a go with his magic hitch-fly. He worked it brilliantly towards the fish and suddenly it leaved forward to it. An epic battle ensued as the big fish tried to dislodge the hook with several leaps and swirls, before racing downstream at full speed. This was not new to Preben and he raced on after it, with me and Ludvig in close pursuit on land. The fly-line got stuck between some big rocks in the middle of the river and we thought that was it, but thankfully Preben managed to free the line to find out the fish was still on. There was only one problem, Preben now had to cross the river in very fast water to continue fighting and hopefully land the beast. He made it across but only after taking a couple of humorous dips in the water, soaking him completely. Maybe that was enough to make the salmon friendlier, as Preben continued to land the fish in the pool below. It was a wonderful specimen measuring 97 cm and around 10 kg. We kept the fish submerged in oxygenated cold water before finally releasing it back to continue its spawning efforts.
With some very nice fish under his belt, Preben decided to take it a bit easier and relax while I continued fishing heavily on my own. On one of the last days before the river closed for the season I hooked a big fish on my own. None of the pools had delivered so I decided to fish small pocket-waters instead. That was a good decision as I had several takes, before the big one suddenly leaped at my hitched fly. After hooking the fish, it just stayed put in the middle of the river, then moved slowly up and down for a while. I tried to put side-pressure on it, but the fish would have none of it! After about 5 minutes of hard pulling the fish moved behind a rock and the fly was dislodged. I stood still for a while pondering what I could have done wrong, before shaking it off and continuing fishing the rest of the pockets below. A couple of casts later and I hooked another fish. This was a considerably smaller fish as it responded to side pressure and came in quickly. The fish was a another small one weighing in at 4,1 kg, and it would be my last salmon of the season.
Although I didn’t manage to land more than a couple of smaller fish I had really enjoyed the hunt for atlantic salmon. I had many chances and learned a lot, especially when fishing together with my highly skilled friend Preben. My mind is already reeling about next season, which will definitely include more time for salmon and a bit less for trout. The chance to catch those big fish on light rods and dry flies really gets the adrenaline pumping. See you next season salmon!