Lessons from the Baltic – Flylords Mag

I remember the first time I heard about Baltic salmon. Juan Salgado, my fishing friend, was sunk in one of his messy loops after seeing a short fishing movie. It was around 2016, one of the largest salmon tracks since it has data on the Torne River, with more than 100,000 salmon climbing into this large river basin that separates Sweden from Finland. Unprecedented numbers associated with fishing restrictions in the Baltic Sea and areas around the Baltic River estuary, which led to an almost exponential increase in Baltic salmon populations. That film perfectly reflected the two key ingredients that made two young salmon fishermen jump out of bed: the adventure and the big salmon.

Of course at that time we did not know anything else about this destination, but we would soon find out. The articles we found spoke of wild, immense and powerful rivers. One of the largest and most powerful salons on Earth, hypertrophized by a diet rich in the Baltic Sea Hanger, where they migrate and where they were isolated from their brothers in the Atlantic after the last ice age. The fishermen told stories of lost battles, hundreds of meters of support exploding at full speed, and hooks bent like mud. They also told of their special character, more shy and more apathetic than their peers on the other side of the Skagerrak Strait. And most of all, those items were a source of inspiration for getting lost in a land without borders, where there are miles of unpaved rivers. Of course, three years later, Juan and I packed our bags.

There we were, with a shooting project in mind and ready to hit the Baltic rivers. Conditions were favorable and Sanna was waiting for us at a small local grocery store to get what we needed for 24 hours of “non-stop” fishing. An hour later from the gravel path between the pines and the deer, we arrived at the chosen place.

From the top of a clear rock, the view was great. The river, protected and powerful, had carved the wall in which we found ourselves and beneath which the dark waters like peat, surely housed one of the precious Baltics we dreamed of. As we assembled our equipment and lit a small fire, a cocktail of sand flies and mosquitoes played with us. Soon, the sound of a first dance told us we were right: the Baltic were there.

Sanna drove with the strength and safety of a person learned for such a task. As we were crossing the river with that generously flowing boat, we put it under a good interrogation. Sanna had been fishing for for nearly a month in Lapland and the first of the season was still resisting. She was in one of those crises where success takes you away. She told us about lost battles, bent hooks, broken tops, sleepless nights with no sign of fish and others where the running was intense but, for some reason, the fish did not want to cooperate.

“Believe me, the Baltic salmon is different from the Atlantic salmon. You will end up proving to me that I am right. ”

Barely half an hour later, the same despairing voice erupted from emotion as she tried to control a fish running downstream. Minutes later, Juan and I were thinking about one of the greatest bursts of happiness we had ever experienced. After all, it was not for less. All that effort, all those repressed feelings, was finally released having that fish in her hands.
As it could not have happened otherwise and according to tradition, it had to be celebrated. The night was young, but it was already getting cold. A good fire, sausages, beer and occasionally whiskey to take away the serenity and enjoy the moment.

The fire was still creaking and that sense of success and friendship pervaded us, but my ears could not stop hearing the salmon dancing. In the pool, behind us, the fish looked jealous of our little party. I apologized to Juan and Sana, who were still enjoying their last drink, and went down the hill to try my luck. A few minutes later, they were both running down the hill to help me. Juan did me the honor and skillfully tail a beautiful 103 cm female who inaugurated a magical night to remember.

Two more salmon would follow and with the whole group with a salmon in the market, we decided to end the day at one of those Lapland sunrises where the fog covers the river and the activity ceases completely. It was time to let them rest.

That night, when we still had a hard time sleeping in the tent because of the adrenaline and cold that went into our sleeping bags, we could not imagine that the next day, the sun would wake us up and not leave. us for the rest of our trip. The following day, water has already reached temperatures about 20 degrees Celsius. Game over.

Strange as it may seem, in recent years, this kind of episode has occurred at these latitudes with a frequency, perhaps indicating that something is changing on our planet. In Lapland, these heat waves have a strong impact on rivers. The sun shines for almost 24 hours and it does not take long for temperatures to make fishing unworkable, both for the chances of success and for the well-being and recovery of potential catches.

Despite everything, a year later, Juan and I returned to finish what had started. We still did not completely agree with Sanna about the fact that the Baltic countries were special and blamed the weather for last year’s result. Thus, from the lessons learned, we waited for the ideal weather forecast and jumped on a last minute flight to Luleå.

We were there again, ready to explore the vastness of the boreal forest and its rivers in search of elusive Baltic salmon. Ten days and nine nights later, after we had given our best, exhausted, with little sleep and countless mosquito bites, we returned home with our tails between our legs. What had happened? We did not understand. Everything seemed favorable and we had even found some areas with plenty of fish, but we had barely gotten any feedback and when we did, we lost them in the war. Was Sanna right?

Back in Lapland, this time in the prime time for a Guideline project in the early stages of the season. Cold water, high levels, but some of the largest salmon you can imagine running the Baltic rivers. Crazy dreams require crazy efforts and, of course, I was ready to discover it.

After three days of hardly any sleep, hundreds of miles on those tracks and muddy tracks through the endless woods, and more caste than I could count, I had a breakthrough. In the form of a Baltic salmon, of course.

In the middle of a perfect “V” tail, a slow-moving head and tail made me turn off the stove where I was brewing a coffee to prepare for another night of work. Such a sight always makes you tremble. If salmon is one of the greatest you have ever seen, fighting with yourself to make a proper cast is a tough fight. I knew my line band could cover the pool well, but I needed a very long cast, almost to the limit of my range. What has been fluent in half an hour ago, became a crazy exercise.

The fish appeared once more. May be there for a few more minutes. Or maybe not. No one knows for sure about these fish. I focused on my goal and finally, the cast came out. The movement was great and the fly jumped at every inch of the tail. When my fly reached the center of the tail, the fish appeared again. Maybe excited by my Phatagorva? I repeated the cast and it happened again. So he did five times as much. Five. Five heart attacks.

The sixth was an impact. A shock and then chaos. A fish set off straight from where it came from: the Baltic Sea. Before he could take the first step to find the shore, the fish was already on his back. Five hundred yards down and after fifteen minutes of following him, I finally got the pulse of the battle. I finally saw my head shooting, I finally saw it. Magnificent and strong, stirring all its silver in the reddish waters of the stream. A vision that can be worth the life behind it.

I remember it perfectly, as things that could have been and were not are remembered perfectly. Seconds later, the hook just broke. And along with it, five more fish next week. Five. No so big, no so special, but each of them defeated me in body to body fighting. Each with a unique story, but security had begun to take shape in my head: “Sanna was right.”

I have always thought that in fishing and in life, everything is to be in the right place at the right time. Work hard to achieve those magical moments when everything matches and learn during the process. This time, at the end of last season, we seemed to have it all. Lapland and Baltic Salmon were ultimately favorable again to us, as on that magical night of welcome with Juan and Sanna, but this time with a farewell scent. A magical week, together with my friend David Fernández Miguelez, with numbers closer to the imagination than the reality of the Baltic rivers.

It seemed as if these rivers wanted to give us back all the hours, all the effort and energy we have invested to understand them. Had they known that my three seasons after Baltic salmon were over and in the process, Lapland and its salmon had changed me forever.

That morning, soaked to the bone, holding that fish, I felt the same as three years ago when I caught my first Baltic salmon, only this time I realized the value of what had just happened. RICH FISH!

Watch the full BALTICS movie below:

Article by varlvaro G. Santillán for more content on Alvaro’s killer photos and fly fishing stories across Europe, you can give him a follow up on @Focusontheflymedia. Or check out his website http://www.focusonthefly.com/.

Fishermen featured in photo and text, @leifstavm, @sannakoljonen
@ juansalgado13, @jawsproofcustomflies.

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