The one thing that is certain about a week on the Atlantic Salmon Reserve in August is the total unpredictability of what to expect. What is certain is that on any normal season at some stage in August or September the summer high’s will give way to cold fronts that will bring much needed rain to the rivers and steady the river temperatures from what can be approaching 20 C to something more regular in the region of 6-12 C. Spring and summer run fish that will have settled into their lies and were becoming tricky to entice are given a new burst of life. Previously dormant salmon are awakened and the large cock salmon become aggressive and territorial. Added to this mix are tide bright silver Osenka salmon, making their way upstream and stirring up the pools. Get the timing right and you can expect to be in for some very serious fishing!!
A last minute schedule change meant that Peter asked that I come to Rynda and assist with the small team of rods who were fishing on this mid August week. Significant quantities of rain earlier in the month and progressively cold winds not only revitalised the whole river system but meant that by the time of the groups arrival, two exceptionally convivial teams from Iceland and Russia, conditions were close to perfect (although I did not dare mention the fateful words until weeks end) with good water height and a stable water temperature of 7-8C – and what a great week it turned out to be.
Leading the Icelandic team was guide Yura who had to work about as hard as he has ever done. With almost 50% of the Rynda to fish each day the Icelandic trio consisting of Ele, Ole & Chris did their best to cover every square inch of water…with fantastic results. More used to tackling the lively grilse that are prolific to Icelandic waters with single-handed rods and light nylon the step up required to tackle the much bigger fish that run the Rynda is a significant challenge. Despite loosing significant numbers of fish they managed to land a very reasonable tally of 38 salmon with a high proportion over 10lbs.
Although the really big fish proved difficult to tame ‘Young Elvar’ notched up a personal best with a 22lb hen fish from 2nd waterfall after a 40 minute fight on his delicate single-handed rod. Horseshoe pool was the scene of encounter after encounter with large fish taking on the lip of the pool before careering off down the rapids, some of which were chased done successfully, others destined to be ‘if only….’. Kristjan showed Ole how to ‘seal the deal’ who repeated his down river marathon of a few days earlier landing a strong 18 pounder. For the record Ole would like it known that his battle was with "a much bigger fish". Not to be beaten however Ole then landed a 16 pounder, also from Horseshoe with the drag well screwed down. It was not ascertained if this was to keep the fish in the pool or to prevent another down rapids ‘puffing and panting’ chase!
Colonel Vlad who acted as Russian ambassador, interpreter and team leader for the trio of Russian’s from the Moscow Fly-Fishers Club kept everyone entertained both on and off the riverbank all week. Along with Eugeniy and Sergey on one memorable day they notched up a tally of seven fresh salmon on a Zolotoya expedition. As well as covering the regular salmon water they ventured far upstream in search of Trout and returned with not just some big Trout but stories of a huge fish they had sighted as well as a couple of salmon which fell to Woolly Buggers.
The fly of the week must unquestionably be the Snaelda. An Icelandic impostor that has staked its claim as being, in my view, as being one of the all time great Kola flies, early mid or late season. This was not a week where one success led to a dogmatic use of a single fly but where every fly was given a fair showing. But where others failed the Snaelda whether it be the regular, Pot Bellied Pig, Krinkle variety, Willie Gunn, German Flag, or other colour was a consistent performer and attributable to more than a few late night toasts and bursts of song.
As for myself well I could hardly sit and watch all the action from the sidelines. I had one wonderful day with 8 fish, 5 standing on the ‘casting stone’ at 2nd Waterfall with all the fish rising like Trout to a tiny 1/4 inch tube which created a sliver of V wake as it pulled across the water surface film. But my real line searing memories will be of the two leviathans which I lost in Rebecca and Surprise - none more so than myself!! They are the dreams that will tantalize and haunt me. Two huge fish that once hooked showed themselves clean out of the water before settling into battles where the winners gracefully returned my fly after just a hint that success could be won. Size? As fishermen statistically we are culpable of adding 20% to the size of all our fish so I will not demean my memories by giving weights that will never be quantified however I do know that they would make themselves proud as carvings on any wall.
Rynda has such a seductive selection of attractive pools that it is impossible not to be immersed in the beauty, potential and the challenges that the river holds in store. As autumn settles onto the Kola the tundra transforms from the vibrant green of summer to that of mixed reds and burnt orange. In places the ground is awash with fields of red berries whilst in others black berries hold sway. (On close inspection you might find a good number of the camp staff with purple stained fingers having been sampling the fruits of the tundra). If the beauty is not represented in the photographs it is because greyish skies prevailed all week, wonderful for fishing but not for photography.
Despite this beauty, for all anglers and especially salmon fishermen, a river that does not give up their prizes can be frustrating in equal measures. But when they do, they are moments to be treasured. On our August week the Rynda excelled itself out of all proportion to the time of the season. With salmon fishing in general it holds true that "what you pays is what you gets". The prime weeks from mid June to July are typically unquestionably outstanding and I would not trade an opportunity to fish then given half a chance. But on what might be considered one of the ‘shoulder’ weeks I always feel that successes are earned with double points and when fortune favours it is twice as rewarding. Are August weeks on the Kola for the mad or is the madness that felt by those who missed such an opportunity? Whatever conclusions you may reach I know that I speak for all out team in saying that it was a superb week with the river positively overflowing with potential and matched by the high spirits and good humour of the guests and camp staff.
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