I guess that many of you have heard of Alta. After all, it is famous for its huge salmon but unless you have been to a place it is hard to imagine the size and power of the river and moreover,unless you have seen one, it is impossible to even vaguely sense the power of one of Alta’s residents .Choosing the right equipment is important on any salmon river but on Alta it takes on heightened importance. Rods need to be powerful enough to cast long distances and to control a big, angry fish fighting for its life in a mighty flow. With Reaction 14.8’’ class 10/11, I have a powerful rod that handles long casts and heavy lines with ease. In my opinion, this is the pick of the Guideline range of rods for Alta because of Reaction’s huge casting capabilities coupled with the unique action that extends deep down the blank: a rod that bends down to the handle is infinitely superior to a stiff poker when it comes to playing huge fish. The Reaction, coupled with the Triple-D shooting heads, is in my opinion the perfect combination of rod and line for this type of fishing.
On the first run down the pool, I decided to use a Triple-D s2/s4/s6 and a small orange tube. Often, this type of strategy with heavy line and small fly works very well. The first cast towards the “Water pipe” resulted in a solid pull that failed to produce a hook-up. After three days without a take to get one on the first cast took me by complete surprise! One more cast on the same spot and the fish came again: another pull with the same end result leaving me puzzled and slightly frustrated. After a few rounds with the heavy line without further result, I decided that the best chance was to change tactics completely and to use the ‘element of surprise.’ Removing shooting heads is painless and easy and it took me less than a minute to take off the heavy sinking line and replace it with a Float/Hover/Intermediate (another triple D line). The idea behind using this line was to create faster line speed in the water and give the fish less time to see the fly and less time to decide whether to take it. I coupled the line with a big fly. With this set-up I chose to fish in complete contrast to my opening gambit having gone from a small fly fished deep and slow to a huge fly fished high and fast. At seven o’clock in the morning it was my turn to fish again and my only outstanding task was to choose a big fly to partner the Triple-D, F/H/I. After some deliberation I decided to go for a proven winner and I picked out the largest Sunray-Shadow I had in my fly box.
Sunrays often fish best when cast square. Fortunately, with the triple D range of lines, casting square is not difficult because all of them, including the sinkers, are easy to pick off the water, making it easy to change to angle of the cast. Casting with a line that is easy to use gets you into a smooth rhythm and because I like the Triple D lines so much I find that I can fire out long casts with good accuracy. Pretty soon I was into the groove and fishing with anticipation…
When I came to the position I had been in when I had been ‘pulled’ by the fish, I sent out a long ninety-degree cast, lowered the rod tip and pulled it towards the bank for maximum speed on the huge Sunray and then I held my breath..
After the cast hit the water, the current took hold of the line and a great furrow appeared behind the fly (which was just an inch below the surface), followed by a huge boil and finally a solid powerful take. What follows is hard to describe in words: a violent run and several spectacular jumps in what was the most brutal fight I have ever experienced. After 10 minutes of spool-melting runs, the fish broke my heart by going through the neck of the pool and into the rapids. I had no choice but to run after the fish which was, by now, a hundred meters away. To compound the drama, the fish had taken a direction that caused my backing to go underneath a log. At such times, fishing friends prove their worth and this was one of those occasions: with quick thinking, my friend jumped into the river and was able to free the line.
After that, while the fight was certainly not over, the most dramatic and critical part of the battle had been won and I was able to play the fish across the rapids until, finally exhausted, it rolled over on to its flank and I was able to beach it. The hook was set in the rearmost gill and the salmon was almost dead after blood loss. Looking down on a fish that was 131cm long and weighed 24.1 kilos was truly astonishing. To crown the glory, it was a bar of silver, a freshly smelted platinum bar with a scattering of sea lice. This fish, lying at my feet, represents every salmon fisher’s dream and it was mine!
As salmon fishers we often look back on what we could have done when things go wrong and I think it is equally important to learn from our successes. I’m pleased to say that on this occasion I made some good choices by firstly choosing the higher floating line and increasing the line speed: when a fish gets to see the fly for a long time before it arrives it can often pay off to give it less time and to present it with a fly that is more ‘illusionary.’ The salmon’s decision to grab the sunray was purely instinctive and the speed of the fly was, I am sure, a key trigger.
I must also give credit to the equipment. I’ll admit here and now that there have been occasions in the past when I have used light tackle and paid a price. I can honestly say, having played the salmon of a lifetime in a very powerful current that if there is a chance of a big fish I will never make the same mistake again. I am convinced that had I used inferior, weaker equipment I would have lost my dream fish. There must be no weak link in the chain: a rod that can cast the distance you require and control a big fish; lines that you do not have to struggle to fish with and are capable of long, effortless casts; a reel with a drag that will not falter when it asked to spin at speeds it has never had to cope with before; backing that will withstand being dragged across stones (and logs!); a leader that will not break or fray and finally, hooks that will not open out at the critical moment. And oh yes, I almost forgot, a fly that the fish wants to eat!
- A huge Sunray Shadow
At the end of the day; it’s all about the experience.
Tight lines fra Arne Viste, Guideline Power Team