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Artistic view of a Male Pteronarcys californica (Pteronarcyidae) (Giant Salmonfly) Stonefly Adult from the Gallatin River in Montana
Pteronarcys californica

The giant Salmonflies of the Western mountains are legendary for their proclivity to elicit consistent dry-fly action and ferocious strikes.

27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

Report at a Glance

General RegionNorthern Russia
Specific LocationNorth-eastern Kola Peninsula
Dates FishedMay - September
Fish CaughtAtlantic Salmon
Conditions & HatchesVarious

Details and Discussion

Scotland / Russia

Posts: 9
Boerie on Feb 9, 2008February 9th, 2008, 12:00 pm EST
Fly-fishing Russia’s Kola Peninsula – 2007
The Atlantic Salmon Reserve

Spring 2007 was late coming to the Russian Tundra. Bitterly cold winds born in the arctic howled their way up the northern river valleys, turning near-frozen waters into hostile uninviting torrents. Fishing proved extremely tough in such unforgiving conditions as water temperatures hovered just above zero and the wind chill threatened even the hardiest spring fishing veterans. Casting? Well, that’s another story. Enough said! Despite what you think, have read or heard, until you have experienced numbed hands, frozen line guides and a sense of utter hopelessness- you should not comment! Speak to those who come back year in and year out, one week…. Two weeks – they just can’t get enough. This past season after getting out their myself – and having discussed the topic in depth with two well know Rynda spring Veterans – Simon and Tony – I now think I understand what its all about. Perhaps it derives from our age old primal instincts and the satisfaction of survival and success in the face of adversity. Ultimately, at the end of it all you leave with a craving for more! For those who exhibit this attitude, the rewards are hugely fulfilling. Having experienced this first hand, I can now relate to why there exists a small fraternity who crave early season fishing for big bright Salar. Up in the far north, each day is different and the air temperature has been known to rise 5 degrees in any given day. Sure, spring out on the northern Kola Peninsula isn’t for the floating line fair weather brigade. However having said this, don’t for one minute be cajoled into thinking that early season fishing requires the highest degree of casting proficiency, combined with the hardiness of an elite Special Forces Commando unit. Thankfully, advances in tackle technology, coupled with the vast range of extreme outdoor clothing from which to choose – spring fishing has become a far sight easier than in the days of oiled canvas wraps and full sinking lines. Nowadays, it’s all about line control. Control the speed and depth at which your fly fishes and you’re ninety-nine percent of the way there! These early fish very often hold close to the bank and most fish are caught on short lines. It’s certainly not about what fly at this time of year. More importantly, the secret lies in undercutting the current and slowing the fly down as much as possible. With the introduction Guideline’s new shooting head system – spring fisherman have never had it so good!

Despite the unseasonably late spring which came to the Kola this year, the early rods accounted for some unbelievable fish caught and as in all forms of this sport – there where stories of some unbelievable fish hooked and lost. The story of the opening week at Kharlovka has to go to Laurence who was dragged several hundred yards downstream by a colossal fish which appeared hell-bent on returning to the sea. Cranking the drag down as they ran downstream in hot pursuit of this silver dream, his Russian guide Kola decided it was far too risky - with all the snow-ice along the river-bank - to follow the great salmon further. Directing Lawrence up onto the reindeer trails, suddenly they found themselves some 75 feet above the right bank of the Island pool. With the other fisherman in awe on the opposite bank, Lawrence tried his best to keep up the chase. Out-of-control - his dream was clearly on a one way mission when the inevitable finally happened! Lawrence's gel spun backing – precariously angled over the ice sheets – eventually parted several hundred yards downstream. While Lawrence might not have agreed, his story was a clear reminder to us all about the 'Unlandable Fish' that frequent these rivers! Despite the unseasonably cold start coupled with unusually high flows and abundance of snow packs, the fishing was undeniably good with several great fish up to 38 pounds caught in the opening week! Weekly catches were 15-20 % up on the five year average – a sure sign that Peter Power’s fortitude while enduring many tough years of “political minefields” and bureaucratic malevolence, is beginning to reap the rewards he deserves.

Summer did eventually make an appearance – towards the end of July – bringing with it warm sunshine, big blue skies and generally a big sigh of relief all round. High pressures became the norm – and with this change a call for different tactics on the piscatorial front. Clear water, bright skies and little wind to boot – a dry fly fishers dream! For many, this is Atlantic salmon fishing at its best! To watch a 30 lb bar of silver repeatedly roll onto a free-drifted bomber before actually taking it takes some beating and is certainly not for the feint hearted! This is without a doubt my favorite form of the sport as it takes me back to the days of my misspent youth, fervently pursuing feisty rainbows with bushy dry flies on the mighty Umzimkulu in Underberg where I grew up. The only difference being 29 pounds!

During any given hour of the day, the surface action begins and may last up to several hours on end! The beauty of fishing dry flies and riffled hitches is the visual aspect of enticing huge fish up onto the surface. A single drift may produce several violent takes before any contact is made! One has to be patient and wait until the line goes tight, and to do this requires a steady hand and a strong heart! The ‘riffle king’ Palmi from Iceland – fishing his deadly skated black sheep micro-tube – in just one afternoon and morning session – landed 11 great fish up to 20 lb, with equally as many hooked and lost. Having witnessed Palmi’s unbelievable display of line control, nerves of steel and lightning reactions – I remain in complete awe. Needless to say, I now rarely resort to any other method at this time of year.

The combination of cooler weather and heavier ice packs in the catchment areas throughout the summer months saw river levels well augmented throughout most of the season. This benefited late season flows which persisted well into August. The implications of higher flows meant that fish were more evenly spread throughout the system and not as confined to the deeper pools as has been evident in the past. Contrary to popular belief, autumn is a time when many of the largest fish of the season are caught. Towards September – as the water temperature begins to fall – the large cock salmon become particularly territorial and will attack almost anything which ventures into their comfort zone. Several of the largest fish taken during 2007 – including a 45 pounder and several 30 + pounders – were taken at the ‘back-end’ of the season. Furthermore, autumn heralds the arrival of the mighty ‘Osenka’ – bulging with extra muscle nourished from spending and extra summer at sea – which should rank highly on every serious salmon fishers list. The 2007 fall period produced several exceptional fish up to 30 pounds.

As my colleague Justin aptly sums up the ASR experience: “There are undeniably many special rivers scattered around the world, however very few are truly as unpredictable as ours. Thankfully, these great Northern Rivers run through our lives and shape our thoughts. This is a place for believers only, where your skill and imagination set the limit on your big silver possibilities.

Until the ice melts and the northern rivers flow once again…


Piscator Non Solum Piscator

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