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Happy Holidays

Some years back I managed to land quite a large Atlantic Salmon from northern Norway. When I got back to the bank, it was measured 129 cm in length and we weighted it in a C&R sack. This kind of sack is very good, because it weights almost nothing, even when it gets wet. It is very easy to pack to the fishing bag and it doesn’t hurt the fish. The salmon was a female, bright one with a marks from the sea lice. I was totally amazed because I never believed, that female of that size can even be true.
Anyway, I had a Salter´s spring scale up to 20 kg, which is very sharp and a good scale. When we lift the salmon up with a bag, the Salter went down to the bottom, and didn’t move at all. It was totally at bottom. Fortunately my very good fishing pal Aki had his digital scale in the car. That one was able to operate up to 25 kg. We lifted up the salmon with Aki´s scale, and scale showed figures from 20,6 to 21.7 kg´s. We decide to go with the lowest weight and let fish go back in to the river. I can tell you, it was really big female salmon…
Of course it is still my personal best, and in this life, there must be all the odds with me, if I´m going to break that record. Since the salmon was released I decided to order the reconstruction of it. We had a very good pictures and very precise measurements, and here in Finland was one guy who works with these. He promised to make a trophy for me.
 When this guy called me, and told that my fish was ready and shipped, I started to tease my wife about the hanging the fish on our living room. My wife doesn’t understand at all why someone would hang animals on their wall, so I was decide to play with her in this case. One morning I received another message this time from the shipping company, that my fish has arrived. I jumped to the car and drove to the their office to pick up my trophy. It was packed in to a large cardboard box, and it was filled with a newspaper and the bubble plastic. I carried the box to my car and it was so big, that I had to fall back the back seats. I drove back home where my wife and a son were sitting on the terrace having a breakfast. I jumped out of the car, and like a little kid with his new toy, started to rip out the fills.
I took this huge trophy to my arms and with mighty proudness I showed it to my wife. She looked at me with a very strange look in her face, stood up from the chair, opened the front door and said: ”Never”. She then stepped in to the house and closed the door behind. My son looked at me with a question mark on his face and I just stood there and felt very stupid. As you may have guessed I never placed the trophy in our living room. Instead, it hangs on the wall of a Finnish fly fishing shop Helsinki Spey Clave.
Just arrived to Helsinki Spey Clave
Just arrived to Helsinki Spey Clave
With this odd story I´d like to wish Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone. And remember:  we must save the salmon, nobody else will save it for us.
Yours, Truly
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Which lines should I use?

Now that´s a question having as many right answers as there are salmon fishermen.

I’ve been fishing salmon with a fly rod for quite a long time. During the past years I’ve tested hundreds of lines, both factory made and custom made, and from time to time people ask my opinion about which lines I prefer and why? Well, I think these things are never straight forward but with the following words I will share my thoughts about the lines I prefer to use during the salmon season.

The golden rule, that I have followed all these years, is: Choose your line to find a good ”pull” in different pools. When you find the ”pull” you can offer the fly to the salmon with a right angle and right speed. The swing speed. In other words, depth of the pool is not as important as is the strength or speed of the current.

The Tools

In june, when the rivers are large due to melting snow and when the water is cold, it is good to slow down the speed of the fly. In most of the cases, we look for pools where the current is slow. Spots where those big first running salmons most of the times stay only for a little while. You need to be very lucky to meet them. In early season conditions I prefer to use full sinking lines. Sure, many times a line with a floating belly and a sinking tip is the right choice. Especially when you want to let the fly stay, or hover, at the same position a little longer. But if you want to control the speed of the fly and get it deeper it’s best to go with a full sinking line.

My favourite sinkers are from Triple-D fly line family made by Guideline. These lines are very easy to cast and with them I’m able to offer my fly to a salmon the way I want. In a pools where the current is strong and “thick” I prefer to use  I-S2-S4 and S1-S3-S5 heads. I use these heads with my Loomis 15 footer and cut them to about 11,5 meters in length. This length equals to about 40-42 grams in weight. Also, a bit older shooting head family from GuideLine, Power Taper, has a few very good members such as S3-S4 and S5-S6 heads. Pools where I prefer a little more speed I like Triple-D heads such as like H-S1-S3 and F-I-S2. Another very good sinking line is RIO AFS S3-S5. It is very easy to cast and I haven’t cut it at all. It works very well in full length.

Choose your line to find a good ”pull” in different pools

When the water gets warmer during the season, I use mostly a floating belly line with a clear intermediate tip. My absolute favourite F/I shooting head is Vision Ace, the older model more precisely, which is not in the market anymore. The discontinued ACE had a mono core and in my opinion, it is still one of the best fishing lines I’ve used during the “normal” summer conditions. I have discussed with some fly line manufactures about the mono core lines and, as far as I understand, the problem seems to be how to make a line with an good casting features with around monofilament core. Sad… Different kinds of polyleaders are also good alternatives to be used at the very end of the fly line. I was in Norway few weeks ago and used clear intermediate tip line with an intermediate polyleader. I think it was a good combination. Floating belly with a clear long intermediate part is very easy to cast and carries the flies nicely just under the surface.

I hardly ever use a full floater. Well, actually, because I don’t like so much dry fly fishing for salmon, I simply don’t have any use for full floating lines. I use mostly tube flies. I don’t want to weight my flies so using sinking lines with light tube flies, more sensitive to the current, with an longer leader makes me a happy angler. This has been my  way to catch those nice chrome coloured Atlantic salmons.

Loading the rod
Loading the rod. Photo: Erno Mäkinen

If I look back on this season here’s what I used: two of my rods, both 15 footers, only a few lines, Triple-Ds which I mentioned earlier, Vision Ace F/I, and one custom fly line made by my dear friend Pepe Linden. A very good line. That line is special… The body of the line is from old Loop or GuideLine intermediate followed by a short section of sink 4 and I use a S2/S3 tip at the end. The line sort of goes deeper and moves slower from the mid part of the line. With this line I can slow down the speed of the fly really nicely without loosing it.

I strongly believe that it’s more important and more productive to chance your fly line than changing your fly. Of course, sometimes, it’s the other way around but I personally use only few models of flies during the season and change my fly line more often.

Have a nice upcoming winter…

Sinking line
Sinking line and a Scandinavian tube fly – job done. Photo: Harri Hilden