Alta - A tale from salmon heaven.
Having had time to come down a little from the high of fishing the most amazing salmon fishing river in the world, I feel I need to write. My god, even on a harder than normal season, this place is simply, well, awesome!
To say I had a ball is the biggest understatement ever, and although they seem to have a lack of fish this year too, those fish for which this river is famed certainly didn’t disappoint.
The river itself is a seriously big one, with most of the fish being done from a boat. Well, certainly in high water, which again we had this year, 3 feet, dropping to 2.5 during the week. Lovely clear water lets fish see the fly from a long way off and looking at the pools on the lower Beat, which are gravel pools, not dissimilar in character to the lower Tay or Spey, but just bigger, and, with a much heavier flow. This really is a strong river.
However, the fish presiding in it are more than capable of handling the fast current, something that makes playing a salmon here different from anything anyone would experience in the UK. Again the closest would be the Tay, but still only flowing at half the speed. In fact, many of the pools one fishes here, at the height I’ve seen it, we never would back home, they are moving that fast. So, Big wide pools of generally 3 meters deep but with much deeper holes, are home to some of the worlds biggest and most powerful salmon. Given this strong current one would think, slow the fly down, well, in fact, quite the opposite. The guides here are forever telling us to speed the fly up and I have to say, when fishing in this way, when a take comes, suffice to say, you better be holding on! Away from one of the group landing a 54 pounder and another his first Alta salmon, one of the most amazing, and memorable thing for me personally was my boat partner and host being given the run around by a fish in the mid to high 40 lb bracket. Initially the fish played normally, although, having caught a 24 pounder and seeing how he’s dealt with that, when I saw the shape of the rod as the fish came up past him, I thought, and commented, this looks like a fair fish Andy! I was just about to get my camera running when, from the guides, there’s always two to a boat on Alta, the call came for Andy to step into the boat in preparation of the fish running downstream, they seemed to know what was about to happen, and when it happened, holy shit, this fish took of downstream like he had hooked a torpedo fired by a submarine!! Later the guides said, they’d never seen a fish move as quickly as this. I filmed a lively fish, seen by many online a few days later, it made this one look like a snail! What happened next I will never forget as long as I live. The most amazing run from a fish I’ve ever seen. Now this is a guy who’s landed umpteen 40 pounders and a couple of 50s. His reel simply emptied! 300 meters in around 10 seconds. Fortunately he had the boat, all happened so quickly My fiddling with my camera meant I didn’t go with them, such a shame for this was to be an epic battle. The fish went down through two pools, with Andy and the two guides following. Finally the fish came to rest in a big deep one where, from my 200 meters away, but now shaking with excitement and panting like an old cow through being a trifle unfit,, I could see Andy had him under control again. The guides had done a fabulous job of dropping the boat down and was now waiting with the net. A bit like myself, the fish, was now really tired with giving up so much energy to run the ¾ mile downstream at great pace, was now rolling in front of the net. A tricky time for such a big fish (they’re dead weight) particularly when the leader had gone over so many stones. This is the part of the fight the leader needs to be strong. Agonisingly, not one meter from the net, “Ping” and the beast was free. The tapered leader had snapped! Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, from the boat, all I could hear was the sound of laughter, no F***, or Oh, bloody hell. I though, what! Jesus, I be distraught, suicidal! I’d certainly not be laughing if that happened to me! However, like the good sportsman he is, Andys take on it was, hae, I had an amazing run, was putting it back anyway, I had all the fight and the fish won. Just! As he said himself, had it been me that hooked such a fish and lost it in such a manner, he’d have been gutted. I learned a lesson! Did the fish really get away? Physically, yes. However, the only thing missing in this particular case, was a picture. As Andy said himself, “Ian, the fish and memory are in my head”, I’ll never forget it!. One of the greatest joys of salmon fishing is that of the story created in one’s own mind. This comes in many guises.. Of the many memories from this weeks fishing, meeting, and talking salmon fishing with Dick Bronks was fantastic, because I know for a fact this will have a positive effect on salmon moving forward. Sitting next to and sharing a dram with Nikita, who was still like a rabbit in headlights after catching a 54pounder was unforgettable. As was the mood of the whole camp at this, even for Alta, this momentous event. To be a small part of this, well, so lucky! This river really is simply the Zenith of what god created with regard salmon fishing. To actually have the chance to pit my wits against and catch a salmon in this mega special place, well, a privilege Is all I can say! Thanks Andy.