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Ronan's report

Saturday December 15th, 2007

I think to be a fly fisherman, you have to be a masochist. I mean, let's face it: we take something that is hard to begin with (fishing) and purposefully make it even harder by using a buggy whip and a collection of animal fur or feathers on a little hook. There are certainly different levels of masochism. If you're really interested in self torture, you might pursue permit on a fly in the Keys. But at least the weather is nice.

Taking the good weather out of it, you could fish for atlantic salmon on the Northern Coast of the Kola Peninsula right after the ice melts. You would be fishing perhaps the last unspoiled and wild anadromous run of Atlantic salmon left in the world, 150 miles above the Arctic Circle, centrally located hundreds of miles away from anywhere. You would be fishing for Baltic salmon that share the same feeding grounds as the mighty fish of the Alta. As a matter of fact, probably more 40+ pound fish are landed from the North Kola than in Norway...

But to increase the number of masochistic difficulty points, you would put up with cold (the air temperature is between 32 and 45 degrees F, the water between 34 and 42 degrees F over two weeks), wind (always, from different directions, and it feels like it can peel your skin off), rain (sideways), snow, gnarly wading (if you fall in, you have about 3-5 minutes before the hypothermia gets you), and lots of hiking and scrambling up and down (only 400 feet of elevation but up and down over several miles each day). If you luck out and it is unseasonably warm, you can look forward to clouds of mossies. They especially like fatty Chinese-Korean-American food, as it turns out. Of course, you wouldn't deign to take the helicopter, because it is after all an exercise in masochism. Oh, did I mention the water is high? And Atlantic salmon being, in general quite a bit less reasonable than steelhead, will like in fast water next to boulders, or in deep pools... and then, of course, it is fundamentally quite expensive to torture yourself this way.

Over the past ten years, I've learned quite a lot on how to make some of this worthwhile. I've learned mostly from painful trial and error, figuring out a new fishery, but have also picked up a lot by watching great fishermen and casters like Per Stadigh, and my buddy Steve Choate. A lot of people don't learn by watching, I love watching great fisherman work water. I've also learned by trying to think like an atlantic salmon - this no doubt to the everlasting joy of my parents, who subsidized decades worth of expensive schooling so I could try to think like an animal with a brain the size of a pebble (and fail). So, what I've learned is this:

- Fish hard and well. It doesn't matter how many casts you make, if you're not presenting the fly in a manner the fish like, your efforts will be futile.

Atlantic Salmon, like Steelhead, like to play with your head. You might get lucky by just having your fly in the water. Especially in the early season, however, the better casters and fishermen will average well above "pure luck" by several multiples - skill and perseverance DO pay off.

To access all the lies, you have to be able to throw the bomb. If you can't cast long with a double hander using a serious sink tip all day long, (120+ consistently off both shoulders, with a strong wind blowing any direction, with no backcast clearance), you will not catch as many (or any) fish. PERIOD.

You have to wade aggressively, if the swing demands it. Pussies and people afraid of water need not apply.

The Rynda is harder to fish than the Litza, Zolotaya, or Kharlovka. Sounds like the Yokanga and Kola are awesome too.

Swing speed is critical. It seems like the fish will key on a particular swing speed depending on water temperature and flow. You have to figure out what that swing speed is on any given day. What fly you use is of secondary concern.

You can skate up fish when both the water and air is 38 degrees, but don't count on it.

Good tackle is imperative. One weak item in your whole kit, fishing gear or clothing, may mean losing the fish of a lifetime. Don't skimp. If it can be broken, it will break in Russia in the early season. Masochism is expensive.

Scandinavians fish some water more effectively than swing fishermen, and vice versa. Know your techniques and apply to the right water.

The Russian stereotype propagated by self-involved idiots like Fen Montaigne is not what you will find on the North Kola. Harder working, tougher, nicer and more loyal people you will not find anywhere.

Since Zoran set me up for this... I will get even!


Tomorrow on Sexyloops: Hurricane Bob.

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