The fall time offers magical times for salmon anglers up north. The surrounding colors of the nature are starting to get the shades of orange and red and the nights are getting cold. There's the special feeling also. Every angler casting on the last days of the season knows that it will take almost a year when they can do it again.
We headed up north in the last days of August. The season was about to close and it hadn't been any good at all. Super heatwaves and extremely low water had made it impossible in July. This time we knew that there was fish in the river and they might be willing to bite.
It's always a long drive. 14 hours to be precise. But once you pass the arctic circle and see the fall nature of the North, all the signs of fatigue fade away. You just breathe deep and slow and adapt to the slow moving rhythm of north.
We take a look at the river and it looks great. Slightly high water and but everything looks fishable. This is our first time here so the first runs through the pools are little clumsy. When the dusk arrives we see some fish activate and splash around. But they do not wan't to bite. The cold night settles in and we decide to call it a day and crawl inside a sleeping back.
On the second day we slowly adapt to the fishing rhythm. Fly and line choices are obvious and after the regular experiments we rely on the ones we almost always do. Salmon is salmon, no matter where you fish for it. Right? My buddy closes the day with a colored grilse after working hard through the day.
It's the last day of the weekend and I decide to have a early start in the break of dawn. The water has risen a little after the night time rains. I flip a Sunray to a fast moving head of the pool and almost immediately feel a double tap. More head shakes and she's off. After a moment of desperation I switch my thoughts to the positive side. They are here and it seems that they are more active. The same scenario happens again at the end of the pool and after this I'm starting doubt my self.
The day passes and it's almost time to start the long drive back home. I've got time to do one final run. I'm convinced that there's fish but they are not jumping to any fly. Which might do the trick? I was told that no one hasn't got a fish here with a Red Frances. I feel both stubborn and confident when I dig out the T-tip from my bag and tie a classic Red Frances from my fly box. The old faithful hardy ever let's me down.
The clock is ticking. I've got less than half an hour to go. I enter the are of the pool where I've seen the most fish jump. The deep swinging fly slices through the pool with a slow speed and I feel it. Heavy tug and solid shakes. This one ain't no grilse. More head shakes and short runs. Then he unbuttons. I just stare at the slack line in the water. How the hell this can be so difficult this time. I spike myself up with confidence and decide that it ain't over until the fat lady sings. I speed up and take extra steps between the casts.
I see the tail of the pool just a few meter below me. I know that the next cast will be last one of the season and it's not looking good for me. Just as I'm about to make the final cast I see a silvery grilse jump just at the tailwater. I get my hopes up, it's now or never. I launch the skagit line across the pools and let it swing faster this time. And just where it should be, the swing stops in to solid pull and an immediate run ending with a somersault. He's on for good and shows the power of fresh run salmon. He's a grilse but I treat him with all the respect and excitement that I would have playing with a large salmon. As I land him on the sand banks of the pool, I couldn't be happier. I just stare at the fish and pick few sea lices of his back.
I take a look of the great surroundings and can't help smiling like a idiot. Fall run fish with the last cast of the season. I couldn't be more happier and even the soon starting long drive back can't make my smile go away.
It's not often that salmon anglers are faced with high, warm water conditions in the latter part of the season.
I have experienced this twice now in Norway, and this situation is most common on rivers with a lake above their system that has a big enough catchment to collect localized rainfall, and or rivers that are fed via glacial melt water.