Chavanga river, week 09-16 June 2021
All anglers are looking forward to the start of Atlantic salmon season on Kola Peninsula. What to expect - no one knows. But its main features are known. Usually this time is characterized by high and cold water in the rivers, which determines the behavior of salmon and fishing technique. Difficulties begin to arise when the arrival of spring and summer does not fit into the usual seasonal norms. It may be late spring, when even at the beginning of June you have to make your way to the river through a flooded forest and fishing while standing in the snowy banks. The opposite picture also happens, and in the middle of May a real hot summer begins. Such fluctuations occur 2-3 times every decade, so it is useful to prepare for weather surprises.
One of the most unfavorable combinations at the beginning of the season, in my opinion, is the combination of the high water level in the river with its high temperature. This happens when in May or early June melt water warmed up by the sun enters the river from the tundra. On a polar day, the sun shines for days non-stop, warming up the tundra and the lakes that feed the rivers. River water temperatures can rise surprisingly quickly. If hot weather is set for 5-6 days, then the water temperature can rapidly rise by 1-2C degrees per day. This is usually accompanied by drying out of the area and a drop in the water level later.
That is, the opposite dynamics is observed in changing the water level and its temperature. The same picture is observed in summer, and this usually does not cause special problems in salmon fishing. Salmon is able to adapt to such fluctuations in the situation on the river, we also adapt to catching it.
But at the beginning of the season, the situation is complicated by the difficult adaptation of salmon, which has stood in the cold water during the winter, to sudden and rapid changes in water quality. In May and early June, up to 90% of salmon caught is from the autumn group, which enters the river in autumn and winter. Therefore, rapid heating of relatively cold water to 18 -20 degrees leads to a sharp decrease in the activity of this group of salmon.
Since the second decade of June, a new group of salmon has entered the rivers of the White Sea, but at the beginning of the season we catch cold-loving fish that have overwintered in the river or in the estuary. Usually they are silver fish in good condition, some with traces of wintering in the river and a purple tint on the back. With an increase in the temperature of the water in the river, this fish gradually loses its activity and reacts weaker to a fly. The faster the temperature rises, the faster the salmon loses its aggressiveness and curiosity, while losing its silvery marine coloration. Large fish change their behavior especially quickly, which, apparently, find it more difficult to adapt to such rapid changes. Therefore, on hot spring days, the usual catch consists of small salmon weighing 3-3.5 kg.
A summer group of salmon or so called Springers which are adapted to warm water, aggressive and usually do not cause problems in catching, can be expected to appear in the river. It is necessary to come up with special methods of catching the numerous, but already passive autumn-winter fish.
Common tactics for catching salmon in warm water are to reduce the size of the fly, tone down its color, and use a floating line. That is, you need to fish and present fly more delicately. Everything is correct here for fishing in summer low water levels in the river. But what if the water is still high in spring and no traces of activity are visible on the surface? In such weather anomalies, salmon practically does not rise to the surface, and we see no signs of fish movement upstream, no "social" jumps, no salmon coming out to the fly.
In addition, popular wintering or holding pools gradually stop working. The best places on deep wide stretches seem to be empty. Judging by the number of salmon pulls, salmon in the warm water shifts to stretches with a fast current. But it is possible that salmon remain active only in such places. The problem is that such places on powerful rifts and in the rocks are not easily accessible for fishing in spring during high water levels. It is difficult to wander here and it is difficult to present the fly correctly. Therefore, the idea of "summer" fishing with a small fly near the surface is not always correct.
The point is that we have little choice in such a situation.
You can present a small fly deep on the sinking line, counting on the interest of the sleepy pasive fish. In this case, you need to choose the correct, convenient pool and take the correct position. Only then will it be possible to correctly guide the fly at the very bottom. It is also necessary to take into account that the fly in this position is clearly visible to the salmon. Like other fish, salmon can see an object in every detail and refuse contact. Perhaps the choice of the fly plays a role in this fishing tactic. But how do you make the right choice? In practice, we often get occasional bites on completely different flies. Sometimes the state of the river changes during the day, and salmon from different pools behave differently. Therefore, the task of choosing an effective fly is difficult to solve individually, the best decision will be made by the whole group of anglers following the results of one or two days of fishing.
The second option is less difficult to use, this is fishing with an aggressive, large, bright fly, counting on the reaction of a faint-hearted fish. Basically, this fishing method allows you to fish for salmon all season. In a group of fish, there is often an individual that does not stand up and reacts to a fly. What attracts salmon to it - size, movement, color? Or all together? BUT this method works, not always and everywhere effectively, but as an option it is applicable during the period of weather anomalies too.
Working with such a fly allows you to check a large area and find active fish. But this method of fishing requires frequent changes of pools and significant movements along the river. There is a wide range of gear to choose from, floating or neutral lines are best. They are "faster" to use than sinking ones, and make it possible to quickly check the next pool. It is best to select leaders on the spot, depending on the nature of the fishing area.
At the beginning of June 2021 on Chavanga River, we had to face "abnormal" situation on the river. Winter with surprisingly little snow and early spring led to rapid ice melting and abundant high water. A week of hot sunny weather 05-10.06 led to a rise in water temperature from a comfortable 8-10 degrees to 18 and up to 21 degrees by 15.06. Good aeration of the water in the river allows the fish to endure this temperature without any problems, but, of course, the weather has a negative effect on fishing. Rather, it is not the very fact of high temperature that negatively affects the activity of fish, but the fact of untimely and rapid temperature change. The rate of change appears to be more important than the absolute numbers.
Given the high water level, we were initially inclined towards fishing with sinking lines and large flies. When it turned out that wintering pools were not working as usual at this time of year, we were divided in our choice of tactics.
I advised the first tactic: choose faster-flowing areas on the main riverbed and use neutral / sinking gear and summer flies. Among them were small variants of Cascade, Shrimp flies in colors from orange to claret, blue charm, T&L, red butt and the like.
George (head guide) recommended large area work and aggressive search tactics with a "spring" fly. Including cascades of spring sizes, fantasy flies with an orange fox wing, willy gun, a favorite of recent years - Sun Ray Shadow in various versions and other flies.
Apparently, my proposal turned out to be quite difficult to implement. The result was extremely irregular. Even on the best pools, I had to sort out flies without any confidence in the result. We had salmon bites and caught fish on completely different flies and in the end we did not come to a single decision. Statistically, the Cascade fly on hook # 8, with a predominance of yellow feathers, performed best. Although, we caught salmon sometimes on very modest flies like Undertaker. We may not have been able to work well enough with small flies in high water conditions. We may have missed the moment of switching to fully floating surface fishing tactics, although we noticed a constant drop in the water level in the river by 1 to 2 cm per day. A possible confirmation of this conjecture is the active reaction of the salmon to the fall of the fly on the water. Some of the fish leaping out of the water attacked the fly on the surface. But there were only a few such episodes at the very end of the week, when a cold wind cooled the water to the usual 16 degrees in mid-June.
In the second group, the situation was better. Aggressive fishing tactics consistently performed good results. But it was interesting to note the fact that good catches in the first half of the day gave way to silence in the evening. Perhaps this was due to the change in the position of the sun, the choice of the fishing bank, etc. But it seems to me that a more likely explanation is that in each pool, the most adapted and more aggressive fish react to the first appearance of the fly. Then there is a pause, the rest of the fish in the group are in no hurry to rush to the fly. Therefore, running from place to place gives a result, in the new group of fish there are 1-2 active ones.
This method was also effective for fishing fresh salmon, which began to appear in the river from the second decade of June. Summer salmon (these are not grils, but mainly large females of 4-5-6 kg in weight) have time to adapt to river water, therefore they are usually active when they appear in the river. It is believed that they run from the sea to the estuary, waiting for the convenient state of the river to continue its way up. When the temperature difference between the sea and the river is small, summer salmon enters the river. Perhaps this is the most coveted target for us in mid-June, because there is practically no hope of catching the autumn giants in the heat.
The well-known advice is to change your daily fishing to the night hours, counting on the coolness, did not justify themselves. The northern sun hardly sets and begins to melt the tundra and forest above the river from 1 am. Therefore, it was pointless to tire yourself at night.
We used an all-terrain vehicle to visit the upper parts of the Chavanga river. Usually the river is cooler among rocks in steep slopes, under the shade of a tall forest. The water temperature in summer can be 2 degrees lower than in its lower area. But, apparently, this observation is true for the summer period and "native water". Now, in the river flows with melt water from the surrounding territories clearly prevailed, it determined the same temperature for all sections of the river. Perhaps that is why, according to the results of fishing, we did not notice a difference in the behavior of salmon in the upper and lower reaches of the river. Although we had certain hopes, given that some of the salmon left the wintering pools in the lower reaches of the river.
In general, we can say that on Kola Peninsula the transition from spring to summer is always critical for both fish and anglers. If this transition happens outside of the usual seasonal framework, especially if it happens quickly and unpredictably, its ultimately affect our catch records in June.
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