Atlantic salmon fishing in cold water, Kola Peninsula, October 2019. End of the season
Chavanga river October 2019
It was always interesting to deal with Atlantic salmon fishing in cold water on Kola Peninsula. So it turns out that the highest concentration of fresh salmon in the river is observed precisely at the very end of the season, in October. Usually, a decrease in water temperature is associated with a decrease in the activity of salmon and its sluggish reaction to flies. This is probably true.
And yet, in recent years I have the impression that the deterioration of fishing results in cold water is primarily due to our lack of understanding of the situation and the inability to quickly rebuild fishing tactics and techniques.
But there are several options. I think that it is possible to exclude from this discussion a situation that is really critical when the water temperature drops to 0.5 C degrees or lower. In such thick and viscous water, ice begins to form and it’s almost technically impossible to fly fish. But the water temperature of 1.5 - 3 degrees is quite suitable for productive fishing.
The most difficult period of fishing is the period of lowering the temperature from 6 C degrees to 4 and then to 2-3. It was at this time that we noticed sharp changes in the behavior of salmon in the river. Fish can move intensively from the sea to the river, there can be a lot of them, but it ceases to respond to our fly. The colder – the less jumping and fewer bites. If the water cooling occurs quickly, within 1 or 2 days, it can significantly affect the results of fishing.
Stabilization of temperature leads to some activation of fish behavior. A warming and a rise in temperature of 2-2.5 degrees led to a sharp activation of salmon throughout the river. This warming period in October is the most productive in the late fishing season.
First of all, I want to draw your attention to the change in the most productive hours of fishing. Morning time was the most unproductive. In mid-October, the sun rises at about 7 in the morning and from 8am you possibly start fishing. At 18.00 the sun is already setting, so you have to return home at dusk at about 17.00. The length of the day from 1pm to 4pm was the most productive during the very last days of the season. How to explain this? Of course, the illumination has an effect, although sunny days alternated with cloudy and rainy ones. But the influence of water temperature is not ruled out. At 2-3 degrees, even minimal daily fluctuations of 0.5 degrees probably led to salmon activation. The daily temperature fluctuations can be measured with a thermometer, you can just notice how the snow and ice on the grass melt by the middle of the day.
Secondly, you have to change the place of fishing. Most often, we empirically find and visit productive pools and stop fishing in areas where there are no results. It happens. It’s impossible to understand the change in the performance of the fishing pools. In each season, some pools remain stably productive, others stop working, and others we discover again. It is possible that with a drop in water temperature, salmon begin to prefer places with good shelters in the main flow or just wide, but rather deep pools. Very often we observe moving fish does not bite, but it is aggressive when he took position.
But it is likely that the matter is not only in salmon movement, but in changing its reaction to the fly. We successfully fish on a floating line throughout September. We use surface flies or flies on light tubes. With the onset of cold weather in many pools, salmon stops to be interested in such flies. It stops to rise to the surface of the water, especially in deep pools with a strong current. There are many options, since we do not know all the aspects of the bottom and the current. But many pools stop working. We have to either change pools, or change the fishing technique. The first option is more understandable and simple. We have the opportunity to choose another productive pool with active fish in it.
But here we still have to amend the fishing technique. That is, the choice of fishing location requires a suitable fly presentation technique. You can approach the solution in the reverse order as well - if you have a floating line and, for example, a Sunray Shadow fly, then you can catch effectively only on open deep pools with a slow flow. The colder the water, the less movement across the current of the fly and so on. I specifically do not dwell on the characteristics of the flies themselves, since there are a lot of working options within the Sunray Shadow only.
But most often, even in extremely cold water, we try to fish places where salmon regularly came across throughout the autumn season. These are shelters on the main stream of the river, these are the best places and we must adapt the presentation of the fly and our tackle to fishing in such places. I described some of the options in a previous article, but now I just want to remind about fishing at the bottom, an extreme but effective technique for cold water. At first glance, this is a logical decision, there are no secrets that you can and should lower the fly to the bottom. But in practice, it turns out that fishing with a heavy fly in autumn is very different from fishing in cold but high water in the spring. The difference is that in the fall we are forced to fish really at the very bottom and in a limited area. Therefore, the requirements for presentation and fly control are very high. Usually, problems with casting a heavy fly are mainly on the loss of control over it. This leads to a chaotic drift or uncontrolled movement of the fly in the water column. What is acceptable and works in the spring, in the fall does not bring results.
So this is not an easy technique, it will work only when you really maintain contact with the fly and know where it is. Then you feel the touch of the bottom and the bite of salmon.
Some experienced anglers use very heavy salmon flies; they literally tap every 10 cm of the river bottom. This is a really good method for places with powerful currents and depths.
There is another option, this is fishing on a nymph. This is also not a new method, but somehow it receded into the background under the pressure of a mass of new lines, two-handed rods and so on. The technique, by the way, is effective both in spring high water and in autumn. At the end of the season. When the water level is relatively low, nymph fishing is quite comfortable. The main problem of the nymph is a small area. Which we can catch. In high water periods, a lot of time is spent searching for salmon. There is no such problem in the fall, each pool is accessible and the salmon pools are obvious.
In my opinion, the main advantage of the nymph in cold water is its small size, slow and deep presentation. This is what we miss when fishing with regular salmon tackle. The small size of the nymph - fly relieves all problems with the choice of color, silhouette and other qualities of a regular salmon fly. The nymph on the N12-14 hook can be quite stingy in their details. I once wrote a large article on the non-traditional salmon fishing for grayling and trout flies. These flies are great for salmon. A tungsten head and a long tippet help hold the nymph deeply and slowly at the very bottom.
Rule: a big fly means a big fish, does not always work in late autumn. Here you can build a different sequence: a large fish is the most sluggish fish - which means the smallest fly.
Of course, nymph fishing involves the use of a one-handed rod. The harder the tackle, the worse the presentation of the fly. Therefore - a one-handed rod. The casting technique and the composition of the gear corresponding to it depends largely on the place of fishing. Here options are possible from Short nymph (Polish Nymph) to Long Nymph (Czech or French Nymph) equipment. Knowing the river or a guide tip will help you choose the right option.
Last season, in the coldest week of the beginning of October, it was the nymph fishing that made me think again about the true amount of fish in the river and what we mean by salmon activity.
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