I had the good fortune to manage the camp in Umba during the last week of August 2010 and further on. That was something! Now, some of you may have the preconception that August is a summer month, replenished with mosquitoes, subtropical weather and swimming in a lukewarm river. Not so. Being so far north and east the summers on the Kola Peninsula are extremely short, and even though one might suffocate in a freak heat wave in July, as was indeed the case last year, August already marks the beginning of autumn in Umba and the surrounding area. The salmon presumably know this by instinct, and they know they have to enter the river before the harsh Russian winter sets in, which is very quickly in these regions. And an autumn run is no different than a ‘classical’ spring run – the big ones tend to arrive first!
When I was there in August there were hardly any mosquitoes, the weather was mostly slightly overcast with a few drizzles and a pleasant temperature of 12-15 degrees Celsius. We even had a couple of nights with below zero temperatures. The water temperature was between 10 – 14 degrees, absolutely perfect for salmon fishing! And the fish came – big ones.
Most of you experienced junkies have learned that salmon fishing in reality is a fine balance between stress and pleasant relaxation. That certainly applies to me. And more so when I am in a place, where anything can and will happen – like Umba! One lovely afternoon I was sitting by the bank at the Home Pool just enjoying the view and smoking one of my hand rolled Norwegian tobacco cigarettes. The day had already been great with guests landing salmon all along the river. Nobody was fishing the Home Pool and it was almost time to go for the hearty dinner meal at the lodge. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted two large salmon head and tailing in the middle of the pool. The fish were clearly on the move. It only took one cast to hook a big salmon that took the fly right towards the bank and raced downstream towards the ocean. 22 pounds fresh, silver salmon, which is now immortalized in my picture album.
This short account is really a description of much of this wonderful August week. The salmon came in pods all week. Not constantly but at nature’s own mysterious pace. Sometimes nothing was moving for hours and we’d mostly hook and land stationary fish. Other times the river was alive with aggressive, sea-liced salmon display brutish force and energy. Most fish were between 11 and 20 pounds, awesome fat and strong Umba salmon that would fight us to the brink of their and our exhaustion. Bigger ones were lost in titanic battles. The fragile balance between adrenaline induced stress and excitement and zen-like meditative relaxation was locked in a thrilling and life-affirming challenge, which only a true salmon junkie could appreciate.
Need I say more? August in Umba is just awesome!
Jan Delaporte, camp manger for Salmon Junkies