It never ceases to amaze me the mental turmoil salmon fishing can get you into. When I first picked up a rod when I was around 8 years old, having the opportunity to fish on a world class river such as the Tay at that time was only a distant dream. Fishing on famous beats such as Taymount, Stobhall and Islamouth amongst others back in the day would yield impressive results in the spring let alone the autumn. As such the fishing was in full demand and unfortunately, my pocket money was no match for the price tag. Alas, maybe one day!
Now, fast forward well over 20 years to 2012. Fishing the like of these afore mentioned beats can now be day to day fishing. Unlike the good (or bad) old days of big numbers and dead mens shoes, the regular big catches on the Tay are for the most part now a memory, one for which I hope will come back one day. When I listen to the ghillies tales from the likes of Geordie Stewart of what the Tay used to be like, it made me feel that I had missed out on the hey day. Having worked hard to be able to fish on the Tay and the likes of, I could not help feeling a little short changed given the dwindling catches.
It was then that I knew that I wanted to experience this gold rush in salmon fishing first hand, to experience what it used to be like, to completely immerse myself in catching salmon time after time in order to satisfy this childhood dream. I wanted to see and experience what the good old days used to be like. There was only one place where I wanted to look, one place that could relight that intense childhood excitement, Russia!
Last year I finally realised my dream and fished the Lower Varzuga & Kitza rivers on the Kola Peninsula in the late Spring. Now the Varzuga system is arguably to most prolific spring (atlantic) salmon river on the planet. The runs of salmon in this river are serious.
Now I can go into great detail again about the quantity and quality of the fishing, however i won’t because this is not the point of this post. I will summarise though. The worst day on the Varzuga was 13 and best day 26, the fishing was truly magical. Some say the fishing is too easy in Russia, I beg to differ and to be honest, I don’t care. I work hard for my fish here in Scotland on a weekly basis so to have a bonanza now and again in my eyes is well earned.
So, lots and lots of fresh run spring salmon, fantastic food, drink, wild scenery & fantastic company. Surely the zenith for any avid angler. Well there the problem lies! Where do I go from here?
Back home to Scotland with fishing booked on the Dee, Tay & Spey, surely this is great, more fishing! The problem was that how can anywhere in Scotland compete on catches such as what I had just experienced? Yes we have the scenery, we have the craic and we have the rivers, however, the expectation was flat, the excitement was just not there.
This mental disposition towards salmon fishing caused me real problems, I felt that I had ruined myself and did not quite know where to turn. I gave this issue a lot of thought and decided not to visit to the usual haunts on the Tay etc but to go right back to where it all started. To go to the places that used to ignite that childhood excitement. And so I did……
On the following Saturday on returning from Russia, the 5 weight single hander was packed along with a few boxes of flies and my back pack. I set of on the short drive up to Drumore Loch. Drumore is a small loch of around 25 acres that is beautifully nestled in-between Glen Isla and Glen Shee. Off all the times I fished Drumore I have never bumped into anyone else fishing- which I just love.
I arrived at the loch to perfect conditions, slightly over cast and a gentle ripple on the water. There was only one thing for it, the dry fly. On with a duo of hoppers for some top of the water action. 3 Hours later, 14 lovely wild brown trout landed up to 2lb with most around the 14oz mark along with a big smile on my face.
After the fishing, sitting on the bank enjoying the solitude, it become very clear to me. You don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth and pay a small fortune to enjoy catching fish. There is as much pleasure to be had catching wild brown trout on a quiet hill loch or river where you spent your youth. Fishing for me is about being at one with nature, having the excuse to go places you would not otherwise visit, catching the fish is merely the catalyst to get you there.
Needless to say, on a regular basis, I always make a point to spare some time and visit the locations that helped develop my passion. It’s now very important for me to get back to the roots of the whole thing. I think it’s important for all avid anglers to do this, it keeps you grounded. Next season, I challenge any of you that spend most of your time fishing globally for the big boys, to spare a day or two, pick up your old rod even dig some worms, and go back to basics to where it all began. You might just give yourself a pleasant surprise.
If you do, I would love to hear your story.
Until next time
Salmo International runs hosted trips to Russia every year along with other locations, Click here for the full Varzuga report. Alternatively click on the links above to visit our main website for full details of what we have on offer in 2013.