Autumn is in full swing! In less than a week, the tundra has in been covered in a full golden cloth. It’s a beautiful time of the year in this very special place. In only a few short weeks, nature here changes from its lush green summer appearance into an ice-covered surface that seems hardly inhabitable. Salmon anglers worldwide strive to visit this far-off land to target the infamous “Osenka” salmon – the fall-running fish that are famous for their incredible strength and condition as they are prepared to stay in the river for an incredible 18 months. This week’s group was a mix of seasoned salmon anglers and complete beginners, all who were keen to see what the Kola Reserve Fisheries might hold for them this fall week. 8 rods to take on this challenge and hopefully to be rewarded with the silvery treasures of our rivers.
WEATHER & WATER CONDITIONS
The weather was beautiful starting into the week. The arctic tundra showed its golden wardrobe from its most beautiful side. Red, Yellow and brown hues paired with the azure blue sky that is reflected in the glassy pools of our rivers is a picture only the fall season can present. With the sunny days came frosty cold and clear nights. Stunning star-lit night skies and the chances to see the amazing aurora borealis. However, these very cold nights also meant cold water temperatures heading into each day. The Tundra was still frozen and puddles along the banks iced up. During the first couple of fishing hours, the water measured not more than 4 °C, that slowly climbed up to 5-6 degrees in the afternoon. Only the warm morning sun slowly melted this frozen land.
(Image: Cold mornings after freezing nights)
This clear weather prevailed for 4 days until clouds started to push in and covered the sky for the remainder of the week. With much warmer nights above zero, the water did not cool down as much. On the last day we measured 7 °C in the morning, 8 °C in the afternoon. Very promising conditions for this time of the year.
As we headed into the week, the water was at roughly -20 cm low compared to our early summer normal, very steadily dropping another -15-20 cm along the week, as there was no rain at all. Despite the rather low water, most pools were still very well fishable and provided a decent swing – especially in the head and towards the tail of each pool. Some larger bits slowed down so that the fly needed to be moved by stripping it. A steady roly-poly retrieve worked quite well and provided a good number of fish.
After a successful preceding week with the first large Osenkas landed in both systems, all of us were quite eager to see how the rivers would perform as the autumn progressed. With the first real pushes of fresh fish entering the system, we expected the run to continue in both watersheds, pushing more new fish into the system and shuffling the already holding fish around.
The cold nights rendered the early morning fishing on some days slower, it needed some warm sun rays to warm the water up a bit towards the second half of the day. But to each rule there is an exception, and in our case even two on the first morning. Pavel was able to kick of his week with a spanking fresh, sea-liced fish in lower homepool on his single-handed rod. And so was Stephan, after he had a boil behind his fly, he changed to a big sunray on a floating line and got the fish to eat on the surface with only 4 °C of water temperature. A stunning 14 lbs fresh Osenka that could not be in better conditions.
For the second day, Paulo took Christof and Stephan out to Kachkovka for two nights. Good conditions paired with rested fish resulted in 10 hooked fish, and seven of them landed, all fresh and some sea-liced. The quality and condition of these fish was just amazing. Boris, who joined the team on Kachkovka, had all reason to celebrate. On his second day ever fly fishing, he managed to catch his very first salmon, and soon after added another fresh fish to his bank. The night ended with a stunning display of Northern Lights above the satellite camp at Kachkovka. More fish would follow over the next couple of days. Our expectations were validated on both rivers in the form of girthy chrome bright fish with long-tail sea-lice still attached to them.
(Image: Beautiful Autumn evening views onto Kachkovka Canyon)
(Image: Long-tail sea-lice. Fresh from the Ocean)
(Image: Northern Lights above Kachkovka Camp)
For Pavel, his streak continued as he was consistently adding good fish to the catchbook. Amongst them a chunky 85 cm spanking fresh fish for him in lower Lumbovka. Artem had his big day on Thursday: In Eric’s Run, an incredible fish of 87 cm, super fat and straight from the sea, decided to opt for his olive Frances and put on quite the dance show across the pool. With a girth of stunning 50 cm, that fish tipped the scale at around 18 lbs. But also Slava, Andrey and Aleksander added some numbers to the mix. Amongst them a super fresh 14 pounder from Pool 6.
(Image: Artem with his 18 lbs lea-liced cracker from just below Lumbovka Main Camp)
(Image: The reward for a big fish, sharing the joy around the dinner table)
Christof waited until the very last day for his big show. After catching a fair amount of smaller fresh and colored fish, he finished the week on the last day with a proper cherry on top. An amazing 19,5 lbs, incredibly healthy Osenka that pulled his line straight in Pool 7 and took him on a good right up and down the pool. A stunning specimen of a fall-run Atlantic Salmon. Boris finally crowned his trip with a stunning 14 lbs Crocodile from the infamous Colosseum Pool on the last day. A proper finish to his week as well.
All in all, the group worked hard to put these numbers on the board. The weather played along, even though cold at night, the days were pleasant, and the Arctic Tundra showed herself from her prettiest side. The fishing was not easy as the water was dropping quite low, but it was incredibly rewarding! And always knowing to be fishing over large, fresh fish at this time of the year is something truly special.
(Image: A girthy 19,5 lbs stunner for Christof)
Best flies: Allister Tube, Cascade, Yokanga Gold, Ally’s Shrimp, Copper Willy Gun Tube
APPROACH & FISHING TACTICS
The cold water in the beginning of the week slowed down the fish a bit and even though the water was rather low, we opted for slightly faster sinking tips or weighted flies on long leaders to bring the fly down in the current and generally fish slightly deeper. Especially for the stale fish, this tactic worked very well. For the fresh running fish that had just entered the system, faster fished flies were the preferred approach. Big, bright flies colored in combinations of black, red, orange and yellow worked well and especially in the slower bits of each pool, speeding the fly up a bit by stripping it oftentimes did the trick.
As the fish enter the system from the very cold ocean, the cool river water does not affect their activity too much. Even a stripped sunray shadow on a full floating line would trigger them in some occasions.
The low & cold water did however slow the fresh fish down a bit on their way upriver. Every now and then they would show themselves on their move, but they were not running quite as fast. That gave us a bit more time to find and intercept them in each beat.
The stale fish reacted to slower and deeper fished flies much better. They are a very welcomed addition to the fresh runners and especially the older cock fish will still put on quite the great fight.