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Iceland

STORA LAXA South America

PEACOCK BASS Mexico

BAJA ROOSTER FISH Kamchatka

SPEYCASTING SCIENTISTS

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WELCOME...

Christmas is just around the corner. It’s the time of year for giving, and this is our gift to you: 200+ pages of FREE fly fishing journalism and photography that we’ve spent the past few months comprising, editing and laying out. Happy Holidays! Giving, luckily, doesn’t necessarily involve buying and consuming. Giving can take on many forms and expressions, and in these times where the climate is threatened by – amongst other things – excessive consumption, we encourage all our fellow fly fishermen to fish more and consume less. However, if you’re in a giving mood, consider supporting some of our green partners. Like us, they are driven by a love for our sports, for our precious indigenous fish stocks and for the rivers, lakes and oceans that they call their home. Our green partners operate on a non-profit basis – influencing political decision making and doing practical work, which enhances the quality and sustainability of our fisheries. Their engagement and passion alone go a long way but with financial support they are capable of making a bigger impact. Join, follow and consider making a donation. You’ll find a complete overview of our green partners on the last few pages of this magazine, or by visiting our website: https://intheloopmag.com/conservation/ Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Tight Lines// The In the Loop Crew


#INTHELOOPMAG Presents

A Jungle Slam Adventure Pt.3 by Stephan Gian Dombaj Journey to the End of the World by Jonathon Muir The Speycasting Scientists by Matt Harris Fly Fishing for Punks by Katka Svagrova A One-Way ticket to Monsterville by Matt Harris Stora Laxa by Rasmus Ovesen & Martin Ejler Olsen And much much more...

JUNGLE SLAM

RIO IRIGOYEN

KAMCHATKA

BAJA ROOSTER

MONSTERVILLE

STORA LAXA


Contributors RASMUS OVESEN

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FRONT COVER

By The Flyfishing Nation

VISIT US ON

Oslo-resident, Rasmus Ovesen, was handed his first fly rod at the tender age of eight, and he has been a borderline fluff chucking fanatic ever since. Rasmus has written articles for some of the world’s most renowned fishing magazines, and his travels take him to remote areas across the globe in search for fish that will test and challenge his skills to the maximum. He has seen his fair share of exposed backing in the tropics, but his heart truly belongs to the soulful realm of trout and salmon fishing.

STEPHAN GIAN DOMBAJ

is one of the most influential fly fishing journalists and photographers in the new Millennium. Stephan is extremely dedicated to the sport, and he splits his time between guiding and travelling. Having written for a myriad of renowned magazines across the globe, Stephan has become a household fly fishing name, and he continues to amaze with his spectacular photography and adventurous mindset.

MATT HARRIS

We choose not to print this magazine and we are happy not to use paper and harmful inks as used in a conventional printing process. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher.

Matt Harris has been shooting fly-fishing images since 1999 and has been commissioned to shoot images and write articles all over the world. He has shot in Argentina, Alaska, Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Cuba, England, Guatemala, Iceland, Ireland, India, Mongolia, New Zealand, Russia, the Seychelles, Scotland, the USA and Zambia. Matt loves any type of fly-fishing with a passion and is happy to fish for everything from trout to sailfish, but his favourite quarries are big Atlantic salmon and Permit. See more of Matt’s images at: http://www.mattharrisflyfishing.com/


MARTIN EJLER OLSEN

Danish fly fisherman and photo journalist, Martin Ejler Olsen, has years of experience fishing for the many and varied freshand saltwater species in the Danish rivers, lakes, and fjords. He has landed some truly massive sea trout on the fly, and he has a certain gift for hooking up with the biggest fish in the schools. Martin is also a keen tropical fly fisherman. His expeditions abroad has seen him battle bonefish, permit, barracuda, tarpon, GT and sailfish – and being a gifted photographer, these trips have resulted in some great footage.

JONATHON MUIR

Jonathon grew up salmon fishing on the rivers of Scotland and Atlantic salmon are still his main passion. Working for Farlows Travel in London, Jonathon now organises bespoke fishing trips and hosts salmon fishing groups in Norway and Russia, as well as sea trout fishing trips to Tierra del Fuego. Jonathon is never far from his camera and drone and also produces photo and film content to promote overseas fishing destinations. Contact Jonathon at: jonathon.muir@farlows.co.uk

KATKA SVAGROVA

Czech-resident, fly fishing journalist and brand ambassador, Katka Svagrova, has burst onto the scene and grown a reputation for herself as a gifted and versatile fly fisher. Throughout the last five years, she has travelled extensively across the globe in search for exciting and challenging fish species, and she now calls Iceland her second home during the summers. Here, she guides for salmon on the Laxa I Kjos. For more info: https://www.instagram.com/katka_svagrova/

MATT TRIPET

A long-time New South Wales, Australia, resident, Matt Tripet works as a fly fishing guide and targets everything from trout to local saltwater species. Matt is an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, and he is the founder of the Fly Program, a non-profit organization, which promotes mental health and life quality through fly fishing: https://flyprogram.org.au/

WANNA CONTRIBUTE? Do you have any great fly fishing photos, videos, or stories that you would like to share with our readers? If so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always looking for quality material for In the Loop Magazine, and we look forward to reviewing your material.

info@intheloopmag.com


SOUTH AMERICA:

A Jungle Slam Adventure PART 3

By STEPHAN GIAN DOMBAJ


Stephan Dombaj and Paulo Hoffmann from Fly Fishing Nation spent the better part of the last two months, fishing for Dorado, Peacock Bass, Arapaima, and more exotic jungle fish. Here’s pt III of a three-piece adventure trip.


The big question is: What exactly makes Peacock Bass one of the coolest fish to throw a fly at? And that is exactly why we ventured off to Manaus… to find answers. 17500 American anglers pilgrim every year to the capital of the Amazon-state to disperse into the many fisheries of Rio Negro, Rio Blanco, the mighty Amazon and literally every imaginable body of flowing water to chase the colorful predators – and why? Well, rumor has it that the similarity to fishing for Peacock bass amongst (mainly) American anglers is that ‘Bass’ fishing dominates the fishing industry in the states. Almost 3,5 million US anglers fish almost exclusively for – a mass phenomenon with hype potential. Here’s the downside of it: Whilst the pursuit for Bass with all kinds of wild flies and lures has a certain allure to it, it’s the fish itself that is massively overrated as a fish. Yes, I know, it’s an unpopular (personal) opinion but it doesn’t mean that I am wrong.


Any saltwater fish regardless of the size will make them look like a snail on crutches. Period! It had to be something else. And we were keen enough to find out what. The two peacock bass stages of our journey should be able to lift the fog clouding the rumors around the deified Cichla Temensis; the Peacock Bass – the largest species of the peacock bass family. Our first stage: the hallowed waters of the Rio Marie, catered for by the good guys from Untamed Angling. Whilst the outfitting company behind this undertaking has made a name on its own, Rio Marie has recently filled the pages of angling tabloids around the planet. Why? Because it has produced world record size Peacock Bass and still is home of the official conventional gear world record with a cracking 32lb fish as well as the unofficial fly world record (28lb on 50lb tippet – the tippet requirements for an IGFA fly record will limit the breaking strength to the weakest link of the leader to max. 20lb). Talk is cheap, we all know that.

Here’s the actual impressive part. It’s the way the lodge is operated… A painstaking level of attention to the little details renders this operation into a wholesome experience that’s hard to come by in the world of destination angling. The “Untamed Amazon” Mothership is fully equipped with solar panels that supply enough output electricity to power a state of the art 5-step reversed osmosis filtration system on top of powering the whole operation without the extra use of fuel consuming generators. The idea to leave nothing but footprints is taken to another level here, not only when it comes to the mothership operations but with regards to lodging in general. The profits are shared 50/50 with the indigenous council of the region – over its 5 years in existence, the fly anglers’ contribution and indigenous fees have helped to improve the indigenous infrastructure and sovereignty to benefit their self-sustenance immensely.


From Manaus, it is a long way up the Rio Negro, entering the Rio Marie just before reaching the jungle town “São Gabriel da”. It would burn a lot of time going up there by boat. From São Gabriel alone, it would take you half a day to finally reach the mothership. Instead of taking this long route, Untamed Angling charters a water plane to bring clients from Manaus straight to the mothership in less than two hours on an exciting route over the most remote and virgin jungle of the Amazon, landing literally meters next to the “Untamed Amazon”. On the Rio Marie, the mothership is free to operate exclusively on an incredible sector of 600 miles, enabling the boat to move up and down the river on a daily basis. No area will be fished twice in the same week and long resting periods are guaranteed throughout the season, to minimize the fishing pressure that peacock bass react so sensitively to. Due to its higher acidity, the jun-

gle around the Rio Marié is a very friendly one. Almost no mosquitos and generally less insect life. There is hardly ever the necessity for bug repellent. The only hazardous aspect of this journey can be the heat and sun. Staying hydrated and covered from the direct sun is key to be able to do this for a week. From the mothership, custom skiffs take you out to your fishing area for the day where both fishing partners are able to cast at the same time from two spacious platforms (one in the front, one in the back), to make your quest for a giant P. even more successful. In many cases, bringing these elusive predators to the boat is a team effort, and a boat with two active fishermen is more likely to deliver. A lot of times, a fish might get teased out of the cover or starts to chase a fly, but it demands a different pattern to make it eat. It happened to us every single day. A big NYAP popper in the front for the show, and a colorful pattern like Dougie’s Roach for the dough!


For us, having no preconceptions about this fish or fishery at the time, it was a true revelation. It combined a lot of cool aspects from different fisheries into one. The different ways you could fish for them, the behavior of the fish in the water and during the fight. In one situation, you would stalk a shallow sandbar with its lamella-like structure, and if you were lucky, the peacocks would sit close to the bank in the small crevices of sand or dominantly patrolling the sandy shoreline. In another one, you would find yourself drifting along the banks of a lagoon, shooting a cast into a dense structure of logs and branches, hoping to lure out a fish and then praying not to lose it in that very same obstacles. The peacock bass is a dirty and hard fighter, not the most enduring one, but pound for pound one of the strongest fish you will encounter in freshwater. Breaking 50 lb test tippets seemed impossible until it happened‌ and not only once.


Thanks to their extreme territorial behavior, they are always fighting on home turf – they know every log and every submerged root, and the sandpaper-like surface acts to their favor when rubbing a leader or line against it. You do find a lot of resemblance to saltwater fly fishing for large snapper or jack species. Temensis Peacocks not only look mean, they have seriously bad intentions and the vehemence in how they destroy bait – or your fly – is unparalleled in freshwater. So double checking your equipment after every fish is paramount. Check your leader, the connections of your red and the point of your hook. Just like fishing for Golden Dorado or Arapaima, using a good iron on your hook is as important as a proper strip-strike. Luckily, many of the Fulling Mil Predator Flies are tied on our preferred hook for this kind of tasks: Tiemco’s SP600 or Gamakatsu’s SL12S – you may have a different taste, but trusting in your own equipment is the first step in any demanding fishing situation. Although the water can make it harder to see the fish, we encountered many sight casting oppor-

tunities every day, for both Butterfly Peacocks and the larger Temensis. Two weeks later, impressed by these fish and hungry for more, we found ourselves on board another plane, taking us deep into the Amazon, this time to the infamous Agua Boa Amazon Lodge, located roughly two hours north of Manaus. The lodge has its own landing strip and the way you circle in on the premises is breathtaking. The water here seems much clearer than in Rio Marié – the visibility is similar, though the water is much lighter in color and less acidic. Less acidity = more biomass = more baitfish and more biodiversity. At least that was our first impression. But it is hard to really compare both operations, as their main assets are very different ones. Historically, larger fish are caught in Rio Marié, producing 20 lbs fish almost every week. Agua Boa, on the other hand, has an impressive density of good size fish, mostly owing to the incredible biomass of the system. During our week there we caught 14 different fish species on the fly, amongst them large peacocks, arapaima, wolffish and more.


You will encounter more sight fishing opportunities here as the water is generally shallower and the fish are easier to spot due to the water color. After getting the truly big fish out of the way in Rio Marié, this was the perfect playground for us to experiment. Tossing small mylar poppers on an 8wt, articulated flies like “The Roamer” into heavy cover or taking the “Clydesdale Gold Perch” for a ride in some of the small tributaries. Due to the good amount of biomass, the abundance of small baitfish is incredible. And in the clear shallow waters, the opportunistic peacock will prey on the large schools of baitfish like a flock of GT on the flats. More often than not, we would find schools of larger peacock bass marauding the edged of the sandbanks. These fish are on the prowl but not to be mistaken for an easy target. Smaller baitfish patterns to intercept these hungry predators or even a bigger popper with a longer lead to entice an aggressive surface take. Countless fish between 8-15lb and some fair size Arapaima fell for Dougie’s Roach on this trip. Agua Boa, an institution amongst Peacock Anglers, has been good to us and we cannot wait to return next season.


Beyond Next Level.


Rio Irigoyen:

Journey to the End of the World

By JONATHON MUIR, TRAVEL AND MARKETING ASSISTANT AT FARLOWS AND FARLOWS TRAVEL


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Nothing is ever certain in fly fishing, that’s for sure. Is there any other form of angling that is at the mercy of Mother Nature as much as ours? I’m not sure there is, especially when it comes to fishing for migratory salmonids. As such, there’s always a degree of apprehension before a long-haul fishing trip, particularly as this one involved a journey of 14,000km or nearly 9,000 miles from our home base in London.


Destination: the aptly named World’s End Lodge on Tierra del Fuego’s secretive Rio Irigoyen. Tierra del Fuego needs no introduction as a world-class fly fishing destination. Its huge runs of trophy sea trout have been attracting anglers from all over the world for decades, all hoping to hook into the fish of a lifetime. There were rivers however that, at least for me, had slipped under the radar unnoticed. One such river was the Rio Irigoyen. When the chance arose for my good fishing buddy John and I to make the long journey south in March 2019 on a Farlows Travel exploratory trip, we grabbed the opportunity and committed to the adventure. After an overnight flight from London to Buenos Aires, we shuffled off the plane blurry-eyed straight into the Argentine heat and hustle-and-bustle of the country’s capital. It feels quite strange when the first stage of your trip takes you to a humid, sub-tropical climate, considering your luggage is packed full with down jackets, fleeces, base lay-

ers, and even gloves. After making our way by taxi through the Buenos Aires traffic, we arrived at our hotel in Recoleta, dumped our bags and headed straight back out, not wanting to waste a single moment. We spent the rest of the day sight-seeing, visiting the Casa Rosada, the spectacular Recoleta Cemetery, (I never thought cemeteries could be spectacular until I saw this one!), and travelled through tropical thunderstorms to Palermo for the obligatory steak dinner. It was tempting to sit there sipping Malbec into the early hours, but we had an early flight to catch the next morning and, hopefully, some sea trout too. The next morning, we were back at the airport boarding our flight down to Ushuaia, the southernmost city on planet earth. As we came down through the clouds past snow-capped peaks, the feeling of anticipation was building. It felt almost as if a fishing trip was about to start, but oh no my friend, you’re going to the end of the world! Don’t think you’re there just yet…


We were met in arrivals by one of the World’s End Lodge fishing guides, Toby, and settled into the pickup truck for the 5-hour car journey ahead, passing through dramatic mountain scenery before this gave way to the vast expanse of Tierra del Fuego - the Land of Fire. ‘How’s the fishing been?’ I asked. Toby replied, ‘The river is full of fish amigo, BIG fish.’ That was enough for now… Eventually, we arrived at the lodge and were greeted by our first sunset over the Rio Irigoyen and what a sight it was! Every fly fisher will know the feeling I describe when you first get a glimpse of a new river. What lies beneath the surface? What is lurking in its pools? Will I do battle with the sea trout of a lifetime? As I drifted off to sleep to the distant sounds of wild cattle and horses, I wondered whether we would find the answers to these questions in the days that lay ahead. The Rio Irigoyen is best described as ‘intimate’ and is perfectly suited to fishing with a single-handed fly rod such as a 9’ 8wt or 10’ 7wt. Unlike its famous cousins, the Rio Grande and Rio Gallegos, the Irigoyen is a narrow river which winds its way through deep, dense forest, helping to mitigate the effects of the strong winds which the area can be known for.


This forest was unlike anything I’d ever seen, notably because many of the trees near the lower end of the river were dead, taking on an eerie bone-like appearance to match the many horns and skulls of deceased wild cattle and horses which are scattered around the place. According to head guide Diego Castillo, a huge, devastating storm had swept through the area in the mid 1990s, uprooting a large part of the forest giving its trees this unique sun-bleached appearance. However, as is often the case in nature, with death comes life. The many logs, fallen trees and exposed roots found their way into the river, creating amazing runs, pools and fish-holding structure, contributing to the incredible numbers of Irigoyen sea trout we see today. We awoke the next day with an enormous sense of anticipation and set out on foot from the lodge to see what this place was all about.


Casting floating fly lines with heavy, aggressive front tapers to carry our sink tips and weighted flies out into the stream, we made our way through the first pool and immediately started pulling fish. It’s probably true to say that our excitement got the better of us and we failed to set the hook properly in the first couple of hours. It was time to calm down, concentrate, breath in some fresh South Atlantic air and make the next hits count. We headed upriver to a new spot and that’s when we first came face-toface with our prey. My buddy, John, quickly made amends for our failure to hook-up in the first pool and put four incredible fish on the bank that afternoon: sea trout of 8lbs, 9lbs, 10lbs and 14lbs. John had broken his sea trout PB three times in the space of about an hour. Not to be completely outdone, I followed down behind him and was rewarded with a beautiful fish of about 7lbs, fresh off the tide and gleaming chrome. This is what we came all this way for, we were already living the sea trout dream! For the rest of the week we gradual-

ly became more and more tuned-in to the soul of the Irigoyen. Our casting accuracy improved, we began to read the water more efficiently and our hook-up ratio continued to rise. There was hardly a pool we fished all week where we didn’t at least pull a fish. Bursting with a sense of growing confidence, we each went on to land a couple of fish every session, with the fish continuing to average an astonishing 8-9lbs, with the chance of a double-figure fish around every bend. It was day three when we headed down to a pool called Arbolito or ‘Little Tree’, one of the most productive holding pools on the river and only a short walk from the lodge. John cast his rubber-legged Prince Nymph perfectly past a log jam and suddenly all hell broke loose. ‘Big one!’ shouted our guide Nehuen Perez, as we ran down the pool to catch up with it. The fish broke the surface and we caught our first look at it; a gleaming silver bar and every bit of 1617lbs. Just as John nearly had the fish beached in the shallows, the hook


pulled loose and the fish was gone. We sat there in silence for a few moments dreaming of what might have been. That’s fishing.

lodge. Despite another great day, we couldn’t shake that lost fish from our minds. Still, tomorrow was another day.

‘Let’s rest the pool. We’ll come back tomorrow’, said Nehuen, as we trekked upriver to fish a different spot. It was my turn to go first and, taking inspiration from John’s fly choice, I tied on a Prince Nymph and swung it through a likely looking lie. Bang! Instantly, a fish was on! The aggression of Irigoyen sea trout can’t be understated. There are no ‘slow draws’ or ‘nips at the fly’ here. These fish mean business and hit every fly with pure anger, jacked-up on protein from their months spent feeding in the wild Atlantic Ocean.

Shortly after sunrise on day four we were back at Arbolito ready for round two. Out came the Prince Nymph and into the river it went. If flies had feelings, this one had every right to be terrified. John’s line went tight as it swung through the same lie and it was ‘fishon!’ again. After a dogged fight and several runs up and down the pool, I watched from a distance as John brought the fish into the shallows. That’s when we truly got a sense of how big this fish was. This time, it all came good and Nehuen pounced on the monster trout, all 18lbs of it.

I brought the fish to shore, a chunk of around 10lbs, and Nehuen aptly referred to it as the ‘rugby ball’. The condition of these sea trout was astounding, each one a prime specimen of pure muscle. We snapped a few photos and sent her on her way, landing a couple more smaller fish before making our way back to the

Neither John nor myself had ever seen a trout this big in our lives and we sat there gobsmacked while Nehuen took some measurements, all the while keeping the huge fish calm and wet at the edge of the water. We hugged, we high-fived, we took some glory shots and released the fish back into the Irigoyen to pass on its genes.


That’s why you travel to the end of the world, that was what we came all this way for. For my buddy, John, it was the sea trout of a lifetime and sweet, sweet redemption for the previous day’s lost fish. Mission accomplished. Over the next couple of days, we continued to land fish consistently and each night was capped off with the clinking of wine glasses and another round of celebrations. Head guide Diego asked us before our penultimate day, ‘Shall we go on an adventure tomorrow? We can take the ATV and check out the upper pools. It’s a long way to go but no one has fished there for weeks.’ The answer was of course ‘yes’. The next afternoon, after fishing some of the pools closest to the lodge we jumped in the pickup and journeyed as far as we could get through the forest before Diego revealed his ATV, stashed away in a small shed, waiting for its next mission. We clambered aboard for the bumpy 1-hour journey upstream, aiming for the upper limits of the vast estancia. We reached our destination just before sunset, that magical time of day when

everything starts to feel just right. John quickly pulled out a 13-pounder in the first spot, another sea trout of a lifetime by most standards, but by now one of the many double-figure fish he had chalked-up during the week. It was now my turn for a big one… As the light started to fade, I slowly figure-of-eighted my fly through a deep channel running along the far bank, before my line was ripped from my hands and the reel started screaming. This was it: This was my ‘big one’ and I knew it straight away. I bent hard into the fish, trying to exert as much control as I could, but this fish had other ideas. Eventually the fish began to tire and, as I pulled it towards the bank, Diego calmly grabbed hold of its tail. ‘What a fish, amigo!’. I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life. In those spilt seconds I was overcome with emotions, above all feeling an enormous sense of gratitude to be lucky enough to experience this incredible, remote, wild part of our world with such great people. I held my prize in my hands, a 15lb lump of Argentine sea trout, before she powered off back into the river.


By the time the celebrations were over it was dark. We climbed aboard the ATV for the long journey back to the lodge, head torches guiding us through the eerie blackness towards our reward - several much-needed ice-cold beers. Our trip to World’s End Lodge was quite simply phenomenal. Aside from the wonderful fishing, Diego and his team of guides are first-class, the food, drink and lodge hospitality is utterly fantastic and it is a total privilege to experience the nature and environment that surrounds you. I’m not sure there’s much in this life that can beat an openair asado of wild, organic beef and a fine glass of red after a morning catching double-figure sea trout, all the while surrounded by Tierra del Fuego’s amazing wildlife. After a final night of wine and celebrations, it was time to say our goodbyes and head home, back to reality. Sea trout PBs had been smashed and new lifelong fishing friendships were made. We journeyed home totally exhausted, not quite sure how we would describe this experience to our friends. A couple of weeks after we returned to London, I dropped Diego an email. ‘Book us in for next year, we’re coming back.’ For more information and to find out how you can plan a trip to World’s End Lodge visit: www.farlowstravel.com or contact info@farlowstravel.com


KAMCHATKAN STEELHEAD:

The Speycasting Scientists Wedged between the Sea of Okhotsk and the North Pacific Ocean, Kamchatka is one of the world’s last great wilderness regions. The remote peninsula clings precariously to the remote Eastern seaboard of the creaking Russian empire. It is a wild land of volcanoes, bears and a million tumbling streams full of salmon, trout and char. The Kamchatkan peninsular is fully 780 miles long, yet apart from the main hub of Petropavlosk, very few people live here. No roads connect Kamchatka with the outside world. By: MATT HARRIS


The steelhead of Western Kamchatka come straight off of the Sea of Okhotsk into the tiny streams that drain this vast volcanic wilderness. They are iridescent, chrome-bright berserkers that any passionate speycaster would surely give their eye teeth to tangle with. Unfortunately, fishing for steelhead in Kamchatka – indeed anywhere in Russia - is illegal. As my friend Kyrill will tell you, steelhead are listed in the “Krasny Kniga”, the celebrated ‘little red book’, an inventory of all the protected species of Russia’s innumerable fisheries. This is a shame! Yet despite the rules and the little red book, I have just returned from this pristine wonderland, having caught a clutch of its stunning silver steelhead. Every one fought like a tiger, crashing around the tiny Kvachina and Snatolvayam Rivers with a wild, unfettered rage that few anadromous fish can hope to match. Was I poaching? No. You see, my friend Kyrill is a scientist. And, at least when I’m fishing for

steelhead in western Kamchatka, as a member of the Kamchatka Steelhead Project, so am I. Let me tell you more: The Kamchatkan Steelhead Project is the brainchild of a visionary American angler, Pete Soverel. In days past, Pete traveled far and wide as a sailor in the US navy. Back in the early 90’s, whilst visiting Russia’s far Eastern seaboard, he stumbled across a little gem: “The noble trout of Kamchatka “ a book by an eminent Russian scientist, Ksenya Savvaitova’s (a professor of Ichthyology at Moscow State University). Amongst other things, the book described the steelhead of Kamchatka. The fish were suffering from endemic poaching, and Pete’s idea was that anglers might contribute to scientific study and also provide an anti-poaching presence on the river. Pete contacted Ksenya, and with the help of the Russian and US governments, The Kamchatka Steelhead Project was born.


This not-for-profit organisation required that interested anglers make donations to fund the data collection and the policing of the steelhead rivers of Western Kamchatka. It started collecting data in 1994. Every fish the anglers catch is treated with the utmost care. It is carefully measured and tagged, and a selection of scale samples are carefully taken for analysis. The fish is then carefully released. The project aims to ensure the long-term sustainability of these precious fish, and so far results have been hugely encouraging. Fishing is with single barbless hooks only and – I repeat - all fish are carefully returned to the river to continue on their journey upstream to spawn. The program has helped head scientist Kyrill and his team start to understand the complicated life cycles of the Kamchatkan steelhead, and with knowledge, we are empowered to help these fragile but increasingly robust stocks to flourish.


Pete’s plan has been remarkably successful. On the rivers that I fished, the Kvachina and the Snotalvyam, the runs have burgeoned from around 3000 Fish each per annum to around 10,000 and 7,000 respectively. Another similarly diminutive river overseen by the KSP, the Utkholok now has runs in excess of 20,000 fish. The fly-fishing community might learn a lot from the KSP. If we want to pass on sport fisheries worthy of the name to our children, we have to find ways to make those fisheries sustainable. The KSP redefines the role of the sport fisherman and formalises our position as a positive force for good. If we want others to stop harming these precious resources, we have to lead by example. ABOUT THE FISHING The KSP camps on the Kvachina, Snotalvayam and Uktholok Rivers are are all you could want from a remote steelhead camp. Simple cabins or tents provide

warmth and shelter, and the main tent is a home from home with a lively, informal atmosphere. Operations manager Justin Miller is everything that a camp manager and head guide should be - full of relentless enthusiasm, humour and sparkling optimism. It’s simply impossible to be despondent in his company. Local Koryak folks Tanya, Pasha and Val run the camp immaculately, and they are disarmingly warm and friendly. The food, accommodation and service are all excellent. As far as fishing technique goes, it’s important to understand that the rivers are fairly slow-flowing, and flies with lots of inherent movement are king. My favourite was a pattern known as a Hoser, a simple but lovely tie featuring palmered marabou, Flashabou and ostrich, that comes seductively alive in the water. Fishing it with a simple intermediate or light MOW tip was absolutely effortless, and the little Sage Igniter 12’6 7 weight rod I used was perfect - an incisive little scalpel of a rod that allows you to fish quietly and accurately.


As a bonus, it’s so light that you barely know that you are holding it. The fishing is exactly as good steelhead fishing should be: yes, there are long periods of quiet, spent hunting up and down the wild little rivers, utilizing jet boats and ATVs. But then, occasionally, there are those special moments of utter mayhem, when the anglers run into a pod of these extraordinary fish. Then the fireworks begin, and on my trip at least, we experienced some spectacular sessions of exhilarating, knuckle-busting violence. MY FAVOURITE SESSION WAS THE LAST ONE. Fishing with my good friend, the celebrated US Olympic show jumper Brian Walker, we were in the last chance saloon. After a slow day on the Snotalvayam, we had headed back to the Kvachina. Our guide, Sasa, had somehow capitulated and allowed us one last run through our favourite pool, the Dentist’s Chair, despite the fact that we were well over time, and the sun was sinking low into the west.


I’d had a lovely fish already that afternoon, and so I offered first run through the pool to my friend. Brian fished it down beautifully. I can’t deny I felt a shameful pang of jealousy when I watched his line come up tight and a big silver buck exploded into the air. It jumped again, and then it was away, greyhounding off downstream in a wild tour de force of high-flying chaos. After an epic scrap, Sasa finally managed to put his hands on the fish and he eased it gently up onto the soft, wet grass. Eighteen pounds. We gazed down at this perfect steelhead, fresh from the wilds of the Pacific Ocean. Its flanks were iridescent and utterly chrome, and the sea-lice clinging to them were testament to the fact that this fish had only been in the river for a few short hours. I grabbed a quick picture of Brian cradling his prize, and then helped out as Sasa clipped the fish’s fin and collected the scale sample. “You are good scientist, Brian” laughed Sasa. Then I was into the pool, trying not to rush it as I made my way down to the “bucket”, despite the fact that Sasa was looking theatrically at his watch. I too wanted to be a good scientist.


The Kvachina is tiny, and a 12’6 7 weight rod is all you need to cover it. I flexed the rod sharply, and sent the lithe little fly whistling across the stream and tight against the far bank, where the fish like to hold. I made a smart upstream mend, and then eased the fly slowly across the current. The suns started to slide towards the ancient hills, far to the west, and the autumn landscape lit up in an unforgettable fire of rich, golden magic. I was momentarily lost in the bittersweet emotion of knowing that tonight was my last evening on this beguiling, enchanted little river. And then, there it was. That magical moment when a big silver steelhead comes from nowhere, and is suddenly cartwheeling in the last dying embers of the day. My reel sang, and I watched the fish skyrocketing around the pool with a fierce abandon emblematic of this wild, elemental place.

We went at it for a fair while, but the little barbless hook held fast, and finally, after a million more cartwheels and what seemed like an eternity, I eased the fish into the shallows, and Brian shoved her up into the grassy margins. I’m 53 years old, but I can’t deny that I was shaking with elation as we took in the perfect, sleek lines of this heroic creature. Steelhead can do that to you. Like Brian’s fish before it, everything about the fish, from its translucent, steelblue fins and tail to its sparkling diamond-bright fuselage and the barely perceptible magenta flush of its gill plates told us that it was a wild thing, straight from the sea. At a shade over 17 pounds, it was a fraction smaller than Brian’s fish, but I felt nothing but euphoria and the simple unalloyed happiness of having caught a very special fish, right at the last. “You too are good scientist” grinned Sasa, as he shook my hand and then carefully took the scale samples.


For a few special moments, I held the beautiful creature in the icy current, and watched it find its equilibrium once more. Then, suddenly, it gave one last angry flourish of its big square shovel of a tail, sending up a huge roostertail of spray that left us soaking wet and laughing like idiots, and in an instant it was gone. Back into the crystal waters of the Kvachina and onwards up the river on its epic journey to spawn. We stumbled back to the raft, babbling and happy, looking forward to one last nip of Tullamore Dew from the hipflask, and yes, perhaps one or two vodkas under the stars later that evening to celebrate the perfect end to an unforgettable adventure. As we clambered into the raft, I noticed two sparkling steelhead scales stuck to the back of my hand, their pearlescent sheen catching my eye in the last guttering rays of the sunset. I didn’t wash them off.


Contact: Matt Harris is hoping to return to Kamchatka in 2019. If you are interested in becoming a KSP scientist, contact him via: matt.harris3333@gmail.com The Kamchatka Steelhead Project can be contacted via The Fly Shop. Speak to Justin Miller at: justin@theflyshop.com Doug Brutacao’s Aqua flies are some of the best commercially tied steelhead flies I have ever seen. They are utterly seductive to both anglers and steelhead alike.


p: Mark Welsh


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FLY FISHING FOR PUNKS:

Rooster Fishing on the Baja California Peninsula Baja California, is the second-longest peninsula on the planet, extending out into the Pacific Ocean from the southern end of the US state of California. Baja offers you beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal clear water, breath-taking landscapes, Mexican culture accompanied by typical Mexican cuisine and best of all the epic Rooster fish! By: KATKA SVAGROVA Photography by: KATKA SVAGROVA and VEBJØRN KJELLAND


Rooster fish, locally known as Pez Gallo, is a member of the Jack family and are indigenous to the waters of the eastern Pacific, from Baja California to Costa Rica and Peru. You can catch fish ranging from 1lb to 100 lbs. The Rooster fish is known in the fly-fishing world as one of the most unique and most rewarding fish species to catch. The body is marked with zebra-like stripes, which - along with the spectacular dorsal fin make them look incredible. The prime time for roosterfish at Baja California is from the end of May until mid-July when the big fish are cruising the shallow beaches in search of bait. Most of the people who venture there to fish for them drive the beaches on their ATV’s trying to spot that fish of a lifetime. My good friend, Vebjørn, and I were lucky enough to experience an extraordinary trip to Baja California last May where we had a successful week on the east coast of the Baja Peninsula and I would like to share some tips with all of you, which I strongly recommend if you’d like to try to follow in our footsteps;


Find your own spot far away from other people. Don’t listen to other people about the usual ‘famous spots’. We tried to do just that on our first day, ending up in the first beach bar, drinking the local Pacifico beer as the hoards roamed the beeches on their ATV’s. Sometimes it felt as if we were fishing at Disneyland. Try something new! Roosterfish feed on sardines, needlefish, and mullet which school up along the beaches. Most people use the common mullet- or sardine patterns in sizes ranging from 1/0 to 4/0 , depending on the size of the target fish. The most useful colours are light tan and white, light blue and white, or light olive and white. Almost all the fish that we cast the regular flies to, ignored all our efforts. It was time for a change! So we tried the Fulling Mill Softy Minnow Blue Water 4/0 flies - and miracles happened. 80% of the fish we caught that week were caught on these gummy flies. The other ones were caught on Beechy’s Garfish 2/0. I think that the Gym Sock mullet pattern in 4/0 size would also be a killer pattern here, and certainly worth a go if you’re heading to Baja.


Treat them with respect! When you get a chance to play with the roosterfish, do not forget to handle them with respect. Over the last couple of years, the fishing pressure along Baja’s beaches has rapidly increased. It´s a must for all of you to keep the roosters in the water as much as possible. A quick shot with the camera is alright for sure, but don’t be silly and bring the fish ashore. You should know that roosterfish have a unique swim bladder going all the way up into the inner ear, which makes them able to amplify sound when they hunt their prey. It messes them up really badly when the bladder is filled up with unwanted air. Before releasing your fish make sure they’re balanced and that they can swim away without any problems. Sometimes, especially with bigger fish, it can take longer before they are capable handling themselves. Just keep them constantly in the water and gently support them so they are allowed to catch their breath again.


Hire a guide No one will know better places than the local guides. And in my opinion, it is always worth spending a few additional dollars to get some serious shots at some serious roosterfish. Do not share the exact spots you found on social media! It will help to protect the roosterfish populations for generations to come.

Enjoy your time on the beach! Driving ATVs on white sand beaches with your friends, drinking local Pacifico beer with squeezed lime or Mexican Margarita with tequila, eating fish tacos with guacamole on every corner and the most beautiful sunsets will make for such an extraordinary experience, no matter if you get your first rooster fish or not!


XL FLIES FOR XL FISH:

A One-Way ticket to Monsterville Even when fished at ultra slow speed, the fly had a sinuous, erratic living action that was unlike any fly that my friends the guides had ever seen. Bill, a likeable veteran American angler, was also looking on. He laughed infectiously and pronounced with a grin: “You got yourself a one way ticket to Monsterville right there! By: MATT HARRIS


PART 1


In a two part article, Matt Harris looks at how fly-tying pioneers like Bob Popovics, Blane Chocklett, Paolo Pacchiarini, Charlie Bisharat, Tomasz Bogdanowicz Alex Rook and Rupert Harvey have changed what we can do – and what we can catch – with a fly rod.

into the water. I tied on a four-inch streamer, a big, brassy orange & yellow eyeful on a 3/0 pike hook that had worked well for me on my first foray into the Amazon, catching small “fogo” peacock bass at Thaimacu Lodge, far to the South. Netto frowned, clearly unimpressed. I asked if the fly was too big and had to laugh out loud at my guide’s poker-faced response: “No, no, my fren’, eees too SMALL”

Ten years ago, I was lucky enough to fish at Agua Boa Amazon Lodge, deep in the Amazon Jungle. On my first morning at Agua Boa, I learned a lesson that has stayed with me ever since. After tearing up the river for close on two hours in the skiff, my guide, Netto, finally brought us to a gentle stop and motioned for me to grab my rod. Netto asked if I’d just make a cast or two into the shadows of a large and broken-down old tree that had slumped

I tied on the biggest Deceiver we could find in my box, a seven-inch pink and white monster constructed from the best part of half a chicken. Netto nodded with approval as I sent it skimming low in under the dead and dying branches and into the shadowy lair beyond. As the fly came pulsing out into the sunlit waters, ten pounds or so of red, green and gold came dashing out from the darkness to inhale it. I set the hook and was savagely re-acquainted with the astonishing power of Cichla temensis, as my rod was wrenched round into a frighteningly contorted horseshoe.


Road to Damascus moment... Matt’s guide Netto holds up the first of many huge peacock bass caught at Agua Boa in 2009


Peacock Bass have a BIG mouth and can eat BIG flies


A box full of heavy duty artillery - Big flies rarely catch small fish


A fabulous flamboyant rush of colours fresh from a child’s paint-box lit up the shadowy canvas of the jungle as my foe flipped up into the air and went crashing back into the water. “Big one!” I shouted excitedly to Netto, and was intrigued by his less than enthusiastic response:

t-boned the fish that I was attached to. There was a brief and violent tussle and then the leviathan was gone. I was struck dumb, and into the intervening silence, Netto explained helpfully and with emphasis:

“Eees Ok, but no eees BEEEEEG one”

Now I understood Netto’s eagerness to tie on the biggest fly in the box.

We went at it for a while and my eightweight rod buckled and groaned, proclaiming itself wretchedly inadequate for the week ahead. Finally, the pugnacious tucunaré was under control. As it skulked a few inches beneath the surface, clearly not willing to come to the hand of my guide, I admired the handsome creature, shimmering in the morning sunshine. Despite catching a million little “fogo” Peacocks at Thaimacu Lodge, this first fish of the trip was by some distance the biggest I had encountered to date. My reverie was suddenly shattered: an impossibly large peacock ambled out of the shadows, hovered theatrically for a moment or two and then opened its vast jaws and unceremoniously

“THEEES EEES BEEEG ONE!”

If I was going to catch the really big boys, I needed something REALLY substantial to offer them. I suddenly remembered the wallet of Giant Trevally flies that I’d thrown into my tackle bag at the last minute. They hardly mimicked a ten-pound fish, but they certainly represented a serious mouthful. While Netto revived the badly shaken up ten-pounder, I fished them out - huge, 10-inch flashy profile flies tied from non-absorbent synthetic materials on 6/0 hooks. When I showed one to my guide, Netto murmured his approval and stroked the giant lure with something approaching reverence. This was clearly the talisman he had been looking for.


Young Guide Caboco proudly shows off Matt’s first twenty pound Peacock Bass from Cobra Lagoon, Rio Agua Boa, 2009


Twenty minutes later, Netto was cradling an eighteen and a half pounder for the camera. “BEEEG ONE!!!” he grinned, as I composed a quick picture. We took the Agua Boa to bits that week, fishing monster flies on a ten, and then, when I finally smelt the coffee, a twelve weight rod. I landed two spectacular peacocks of over 20 pounds, and any number between 15 and 19 pounds. It was an unforgettable week, but it was also a fly-fishing lesson that has stood me in good stead ever since. Put simply, on the whole, BIG fish like to eat BIG stuff – that’s how they get BIG. Now, obviously, this is a huge generalisation - trophy fish don’t ALWAYS eat big stuff. Just as cows eat grass and whales eat plankton, big predators will sometimes gorge on tiny baifish, shrimps and even daphnia. However, it’s frequently the case that big fish – especially REALLY big fish - eat quarry that is as big or bigger than the very largest flies that we can hope to cast. This presents the fly fisherman with a few conundrums.


Matt and his guide show off a huge Peacock caught at Untamed Angling’s Rio Marie operation on a big articulated fly


Surubi catfish can be regularly duped with Blane Chocklett’s brilliant Gamechanger Fly


The obvious dilemma is how to design flies that are five to twelve inches long that can be cast with a fly rod. This means creating flies that give the impression of volume but that are actually light enough to cast. That is actually the easy part – hollow-ties and synthetic materials that shed water help a great deal, and if you can master double-haul techniques to create high line speed and fine-tune the length and make-up of your leader, then modern steely, fast-actioned rods, combined with aggressive short head lines like the RIO Outbound Short can cast almost anything. Almost‌


Using powerful rods and short-head lines, big flies can be thrown even when deep wading. This beautiful pike was caught at Rugen, on Germany’s Baltic Coast


Contrary to popular opinion, Redtail catfish CAN be caught on fly, using big, water-pushing flies that have tons of life and that can be fished ultra-slowly, like Blane Chocklett’s Gamechanger


This magnificent twelve pound brown trout fell for a tiny nymph, having refused bigger patterns for over an hour. New Zealand, 2016. Another of 11.5 pounds took the same fly an hour later.


This opens up a whole new world of possibilities, but, as I say, casting these big flies is actually the easy part. The BIG problem is this…. The bigger the fly, the easier it is for your quarry to get a good look at it… and recognise that it’s not the real thing. Think about it like this – if your life depended on it, what you would rather imitate with fluff and feathers– a mosquito or an elephant? It’s simply much easier to pass off something small than something big – in a small imitation, it’s impossible to study the detail, and thus a simple impression of what you are imitating is often good enough. There is simply less to find wrong with the fly. For instance, New Zealand trophy trout will often take a size 18 nymph when they have rejected a size 12.


A smaller fly can come out of nowhere and become hard to find. Permit, as many of us know from bitter experience, are often almost impossible to catch, but if you have a fly that is virtually invisible – like a small Flexo crab or a Squimp – then the permit often lose it against the background of the seafloor. In the moment when they find it, they are in danger – they are relieved they’ve found their prey, and also very keen not to lose it again. So, they eat it!

Finding a fly that permit can only just see is crucial. The flexo crab is semi-transparent, and shows the background through its carapace, thus blending into its surroundings.


This is also great in terms of presentation – small flies are easy to cast and land quietly. Unfortunately, BIG is often BEAUTIFUL. Big fish often won’t expend their energy on a small morsel – they want something substantial. Big flies are often also selective – small fish are often intimidated by big flies. – and big fish will often muscle their smaller brethren out of the way if the reward is worth the trouble. The Peacocks of the Agua Boa are a classic example. So, in a nutshell, use the smallest fly you can, to disguise the imperfections of your imitation, and to improve stealth and presentation. But if your quarry DO want a big fly, get out the big guns - you need to show that fish what it wants. Tigerfish LOVE big flies like large Gamechangers, but often grab a big fly in the middle, not at the head - design your pattern accordingly.


There’s a caveat to this because it’s easier to recognize that a big fly is NOT the real deal, you need to SHOW your quarry the fly without allowing them to get a good LOOK at it. If they get a good look at your fly, they’ll know - it just a bunch of fluff and feathers… So how do you achieve this goal? In fast currents, the stream will do the work for you. The big Payara of Beto Mejia’s FishColombia operation on the mighty Orinocco will smash a big fly with savage abandon because if they don’t, its gone, whisked away in a second by the powerful currents. However, fish rarely hold in such heavy, fast-flowing water.

If you can cast them, the big Payara of the Orinocco River are suckers for ultra-large 10” flies like Alex Rook’s brilliant Flashy Profile Tube designs, and hit them incredibly hard. Check those knots and be ready...


Tomasz Bogdanowicz of Pike Terror Flies created this tarpon mullet, and as well as megalops, it is great for a variety of large species like Arapaima, GTs and Roosterfish


In slower and still water, one way to induce a fish to take an ultra-large imitation is to move the fly super-fast yourself. If you do, the fly becomes a blur, and the fish doesn’t get that chance to really examine it. If you can put the rod under your arm and fish hand over hand, you can move that fly REALLY fast, and you may then fool the fish, but you DO need a fly design that tracks perfectly and doesn’t skate on its side. When the freakishly large tarpon at Tapam Lodge in Nicaragua are busting up on the mullet, they are vulnerable. If they jump six feet into the air and FAIL to catch the mullet that they are intent on eating, they are momentarily enraged, and in that state, for a few short seconds, they WILL eat a fly. However, these are big, wise old fish, and if the fly is presented too slowly, or doesn’t track straight but skates onto its side, they will almost certainly reject it. My great friend Tomasz Bogdanawicz at Pike Terror Flies has evolved a perfectly consistent method of tying. His “Tarpon Mullet” tracks straight, no matter how fast that I fish them. And they work!

Roosterfish too like a fast-moving fly, and this means that if you can master the ultra-fast retrieve, you really are in the game with these incredible fish. My friend, all-round killer fly angler Alex Rook’s killer take on the Gym Sock pattern is perfect for roosters, and once again, crucially, it doesn’t skate on its side However, sometimes the fish that you are targeting prefer a slower presentation, and now you have a problem. If the fish can follow a slow-moving fly and take their time to examine it, they will most likely reject it. So how do you fish the fly slowly but still prevent the fish from examining it? One way is to create erratic movement in your fly: one second it’s here and now it’s over there. Erratic movement can drive fish nuts, because they can’t get a fix on the fly. If you have ever teased a cat with a spot of sunlight reflected off of your watch face, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Once you create that frustration and subsequent rage, you are well on the way to inducing a take.


Matt Harris and his guide Bismark with a monster Nicaraguan Tarpon at Tapam Lodge. This fish took Tomasz Bogdanowicz’s Tarpon Mullet fished ultra- fast hand over hand.


Weighting the fly head, jig-style, is a proven way to break up the predictable, straight-line travel of a fly, but how to make the fly move side-to-side, in the classic, wounded-fish, “Zara Spook” motion, which I believe is often much more attractive to the fish. Erratic movement is easy to create with spinning lures but until recently was considered impossible with flies, apart from simply weighting the head of the fly. Then, a handful of pioneers started to find ways to make really big flies that were castable, and that move side-to-side, with that all-important erratic movement.

It is no exaggeration to say that Bob Popovics has redefined what we can do - and what we can catch - with a fly rod.

In the next issue of In The Loop, I will look at how Bob and other brilliant pioneering fly-tyers, including Blane Chocklett, Paolo Pacchiarini Charlie Bisharat Tomasz Bogdanowicz Alex Rook and Rupert Harvey have influenced a generation of fly-fishermen, and have helped us target monster fish that were almost uncatchable on fly a few short decades ago.

Bob Popovics is one of the great innovators in fly design, and has come up with many revolutionary ideas and patterns. His book “Pop Fleyes” is essential reading for any progressive fly-tyer. Bob realised that big fish often want - insist – on BIG prey, and he set about creating functional flies that could fit the bill. Bob’s Poplips fly was one of the first patterns to create undulating, side-to side movement, and it changed the way that many of us think about fly-tying.

Bob Popovics’ brilliant book Pop Fleyes is essential reading for the aspiring fly designer


Big Gts crush big popper flies - read all about fishing them in the second part of this article in the next “In the Loop� Magazine.


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New Saltwater Stick: SCOTT SECTOR Sector rods advance on Scott’s award-winning Meridian series to bring you a new level of performance and reliability in saltwater fly rods. Scott combined all the proven technologies in their Meridian rods with new tapers, new components and their all new Carbon Web technology, which is said to increase torsional stability and durability by encasing unidirectional fibers in a web of ultra-light multi-directional carbon fiber. We’ve test-cast the 9’ 12 and 8,6 #8 and what can we say?! We love the Meridians to death, but these Sector sticks are even more powerful – but with enhanced feel. They command the line at great distances, and especially for those who sight-fish in saltwater, these rods will be the BOMB! The series features rod weights ranging from 6-13 and 15 in 2-, 3-, and 4-piece versions. For more information and RRP’s: www.flyfisheurope.com/scott/


Reel News: WWL SPEEDSTER S-SERIES Waterworks-Lamson have always believed that the Holy Grail of fly reel design is an architecture which yields the lightest structure possible for a given diameter, without sacrificing reliability and durability. Enter the completely re-designed Speedster reels. They feature an enhanced spool machining technique, focusing material only where it’s needed - the reason why both are significantly lighter and higher performing than their predecessors. But importantly, the form, the styling of each, clearly flows from the same place; allowing the dimensions of structure and function to inspire beauty. Speedster S-Series comes both as av regular- and full frame (HD) version ranging in sizes from -3+ to -9+. For more information, please visit: www.flyfisheurope.com/ww-l/

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Products in focus

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New Horizons: MAPTHEXPERIENCE If you’re in a new area and you’re not quite sure where to get your fishing license, where there’s a boat ramp, a lodge or – quite simply, a good fishing spot, you should check out MaptheXPerience. They do everything with maps – including microfiber bandana maps, paper folding maps, and digital maps for smartphones. For more information: www.mapthexperience.com


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PAUL PUCKETT:

Caricatures, Art, and Giant Trevally US artist and fly fisherman, Paul Puckett, is making a name for himself as a talented artist with an astute sense of detail, a style of his own and quirky sense of humor that results in crossover art that fuses fly fishing motives with popular culture references. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been fortunate enough to have a word with Paul about his art, his obsession with fly fishing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and a pretty remarkable experience he had while fly fishing for giant trevally in the Seychelles. Bio// Full Name: Paul Lawrence Puckett Born: 06-03-1975 Home Turf: Charleston, SC - Born/Raised Dallas, TX Occupation: Artist/Owner Flood Tide Co Website: www.PaulPuckettArt.com Social Media: @paulpuckettart


How did you get started fly fishing and why? The main reason I got into fly fishing is because I would be so enamored watching my Grandfather casting the fly rod all over the bass pond while he had me dunking worms. I was just totally interested in why he was doing that and I was not. He said that one day when I mastered a bait-caster he would teach me how to fly fish. That day never came because of his death, so we took my Grandmother on a trip to the Ozarks and I head there was a trout river in the area, Lake Taneycomo (Actually a moving body of water between dams) which had a huge abundance of trout. I took along his old fly rods and figured I would learn on my own… I was terrible! The fact that I couldn’t cast that rod 30

feet in a somewhat straight line was very frustrating to me. After that day, however, I was hooked and obsessed. And nothing has changed in the last 31 years! Being an artist what is it about fly fishing and fish in general that intrigues you? I think there is a certain mystery to fishing in general. Great paintings create mystery and don’t always give what it’s about away too easily. I think the harder fishing is the more we get into it and the same goes for art. The fact that every fish is different and can be so different every time you paint them, no fishing story or fish is the same, and that plays out in my art quite a bit. I think my favorite thing to paint are leaping Tarpon. You can never make the same piece twice, it’s always so different!


Can you tell us a little bit about your art, what it means to you and how it ties up with your passion for fly fishing? The thing about my artwork is that it is kind of all over the map really. I like to do detailed watercolor studies of species, but I also like doing looser landscape fishing scenes. Lately I have been doing pretty realistic landscape pieces where a fish may be in the foreground or a boat and pretty much destroying the piece with splashes of water. It is watercolor, so I am using the watercolor splashes to more or less remind you this is a wet environment and those splashes can tend to put you right in the moment. I also very much enjoy the illustration side of things. Typically, that is taking a photo or reference that already exists and recreating it in your own style. I do this in pen/pencil first then bring in the color element sometimes but very often I keep things black and white. Has fly fishing helped you become a better artist or vice versa? I think painting has made me become a better outdoorsman really. Probably not so much a better fisherman but it has helped me slow down when I am out there: To notice the little things going on that you actually miss when you are staring at a dry fly all day. My favorite part of the day is when I am

the guy sitting on the cooler and not fishing, and looking around at the critters and animals doing their thing. It really is very cool to see nature and know you are part of it when you remember to take it all in. I guess fly fishing has made me a better artist in the sense that it has taken me to some beautiful places that I may never have gone to if I wasn’t a fisherman. The world is a beautiful place and fish live in those beautiful places. Lucky us! What are your dreams and aspirations as an artist – and as a fly fisherman? My dreams and aspirations of an artist are honestly just to get better every day I create something. I want to find the simple way of painting something complicated and not thinking everything has to be in there. I think that’s what I struggle with the most. All the great artists gave you what you needed to see and nothing else... Simplify, simplify, simplify! You have recently fly fished the Seychelles for GTs. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience? (We hear there was a really special catch). The Seychelles are an amazing place, and I was very lucky to find that out. To say it’s a trip of a lifetime is truly and understatement. I went with some friends out of Houston and knew little about what we were getting into, but like any new destination, there is so much more to be found out on your own.


We took the long travel from Houston to Dubai...then Dubai to Mahe... Mahe to Alphonse to Astove - then a boat to Cosmoledo. When we finally got there, we started rigging up. Everyone was so excited to actually get some fishing in that afternoon after traveling and talking about it for about 30 hours. The first day was my big one. I was paired up with a buddy from Scotland, Simon Barr and our guide Cameron Musgrave, who ended up being the hero of the day. We set out around 8:30 am and after a few failed attempts at a couple fish that were in casting distance, Cameron told me to cast at about 2 oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock as he saw something from eye water level as he was pulling the boat with his right arm while wading us across the flat. I made the cast, as it was not too challenging: A 50-foot cast with a 12 weight. I stripped the longest and hardest I have ever stripped a fly as the monster fish swam out of the dark-colored turtle grass patch and onto the white sand bottom, as to be seen from a mile away. As it was lazily chasing the fly, it gained ground pretty quick as it neared the boat. As soon as something needed to happen, he took a small swipe at the fly and turned and headed back from where he came. Seeing that this situation had just about expired, I cast back to the turtle grass area with diminished hopes. He was about to be just a fish story, but then he turned on the fly and repeated the same lazy, half body out

of the water chase of the fly as before. He finally made a bad decision and ate the fly about 15 feet from the boat; an eat I will never forget. As he ran, he started the fight for his life. He was burning off a good amount of backing in the likes of which I had only seen a Tarpon pull off. We followed the fish from the boat for a good amount of time, pulling, tugging, pulling. After about what was probably 20 minutes, he finally started to give back some backing and line. It was definitely a tug-of-war going on â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but whatever he would take, we would take back over and over. When we had about 50-60 feet of fly line still out, he was pretty much done. We cranked up to him and the line went dead, as it felt like we were hung on something and maybe no fish. Looking down you could see a Coralhead and we knew something had to be done. Cameron, without even hesitation, took it all off to his shorts and jumped in. Following the line down, he uncoiled the line around the coral head and came back up. The line started moving until the same thing repeatedâ&#x20AC;Ś stuck again. Cameron swam over to the second tangle (As the boat was anchored at this point) and dove down in the same manner to free the line wrapped around the coral. At this point I am having extreme doubts as to this line being able to take this abuse. We were using 100lb mono but still there were no guarantees!


The fish was suddenly back to life after Cameron did his magic. I started making ground on him as he became glued to another structure, this had to be the end, right? Cam swam over to the spot, about another 50 feet from the last spot. He took a big breath, was gone for about 30 seconds and came up empty handed. Another dive repeated the same result; nothing. He said, “One more time mate.” This time he stayed down a little longer and came up breathing the most gaspy breaths I had ever heard. He turned towards us and slowly pulled from the water the biggest thing I had ever seen anyone raise above their arms while treading water: a 129 cm Giant Trevally. Cameron was my hero! He swam back to the boat with the fish in hand and fly still in the mouth of the monster. He had swam down trying to uncoil the line, opened his eyes and the fish was 10 inches away staring him in the face. He grabbed the fish, the mono broke like it was paper and there it was, victory. We got our pictures as quick as we could and let ‘er go. It was my first GT and the first GT of the trip. I’m glad GT fishing wasn’t quite like that the rest of the week, because that was more work than it was fun for the most part - but of course I would do it all again in a heartbeat!! Is there anything in particular that makes a GT worth traversing the globe to catch? I think the all-out machines they are real-

ly. Getting up in the surf and waiting for them to show up in the time window you are expecting, then seeing it all happen. A few come in blitzing in the waves and eating anything that is somewhat in the area. I was blown away by how they hear/see a fly that is thrown in a general area then strike so aggressively for it from any distance. I truly think they use their eyes differently from any other fish because a lot of the time their eyes are out of the water and are actually seeing what’s going on. It really was crazy. When you would be holding them about to release the fish, their eyes would move and follow what the guy taking pictures was doing, it was very cool and strange. Any upcoming fly fishing trips that we should know of? I am going to Apalachicola, FL going to look for some tarpon. I have never done this region for tarpon as I am pretty excited. I have done the Keys quite a bit but just decided to do something a little different. My buddy Doug Roland and I are going Father’s Day weekend to honor both of our dads. Hopefully the Tarpon feel like doing the same! If any of our readers would like to get their hands on some of your art, where do they start? I think the best way is to check www.PaulPuckettArt.com. There are past originals, drawing, illustrations and prints of course.


THE

EDITOR’S

CHOSEN

VIDEO

”IGLOO - FLY FISHING FOR TROPHY BROOK TROUT” By IN THE LOOP MEDIA

Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the world’s biggest brook trout - and Igloo Lake Lodge is THE place for the trophy hunter. The lodge offers spectacular fishing throughout the summer months with plenty of feeder streams and ponds to fish in addition to Igloo Lake itself. For more info: www.igloolake.com


The door to Dream Waters DREAM WATERS:

The Henrys Fork The Henrys Fork meanders some 200 kilometers through beautiful highland meadows in the northeastern corner of Idaho, USA, before merging with the Snake River. Its upper drainage near Big Spring and Henrys Lake â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and especially the area around Island Park, is the source of not only key individuals in fly fishing history, but also strains of thought and theory, nymphing and dry fly technique innovations, game-changing fly patterns, and timeless fly fishing literature.


THE HENRYS FORK is a near-mythical Idaho prairie river, which has come to take on an aura of its own and slowly but surely found its well-deserved place in international fly fishing lore. Having been fished by American presidents, literary icons such as Jack and Ernest Hemingway – and fly fishing industry legends such as John Gierach and René Harrop, few rivers on the face of this earth has attracted as much attention as the Henrys Fork. Additionally, the whole area surrounding the river has come to evolve so heavily around fly fishing that it is now completely engrained in the local culture and mentality. To many dry fly fishermen, the Henrys Fork is like a Mecca or a Graceland, and it has evolved into one of those destinations that is commonly referred to as a bucket-list-river. And to have caught a Henrys River trout during one of the complex blanket hatches that come off the river throughout the summer months is considered a truly meriting feat. If there is a dry fly exam to be taken anywhere on the face of this earth, it’s on the Henry’s Fork. The river is quite shallow, slow flowing, and nutrient rich. The bottom structure varies from silty to gravelly with scattered rocks and myriads of swirling weed patches. It’s the perfect habitat, not only for trout,

but also for a rich variety of aquatic insects (and terrestrials) that provide an abundant food source for the dominant species in the river – the rainbow trout. Catching these fish can be a testing experience, however. The dense hatches, their complexity, and the fact that the trout key in on certain hatch stages and become extremely selective, make it a challenge to hook up. Several other factors contribute as well. The trout, for some reason, oftentimes prefer to feed on the smallest of all insects in the river – like midges and blue duns in sizes ranging from 20 – 26, which can only be dead-drifted with success using long and ultra-thin tippets (something that makes landing a decent-sized rainbow trout in the weed-littered river risky business). Getting the drifts right, in return, requires not only skillful casting. Because of the amount of weed patches and the many cross currents and current spins, great mending skills are required to get the drifts right. Fishing during the fall and winter hatches, like we’ve done on a few occasions, tends to make things even more challenging on the Henrys Fork. At this time of year, you could be struggling with ice in the guides and, not least, powerful winds that sweep chillingly downstream though the unprotected meadows and prairies, where very little lee can be found.


At this time of year, however, there might be some big migratory brown trout around, and – although Henrys Fork is mainly about dry fly purism, it is a great opportunity to mix things up and try a big articulated streamer. We could spend lots of time talking about the gear, techniques, and flies used on the Henrys Fork. But, seeing as we’re no experts, it might be better to leave this with some of the legends that fish Henrys Fork on a regular basis – people like, for instance, René Harrop, which has become synonym with Henrys Fork. It’s people like him - and the many fly fishing pioneers that have spent countless hours along the river’s banks observing, theorizing, and fishing – that know about how to successfully target its trout. The primary native fish in Henrys Fork, aside from mountain whitefish, is Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Rainbow trout and brook trout were introduced in the late 1800s and during the 1980s brown trout followed. The dominant species in the river these days is rainbow trout, which – unfortunately, has almost completely outcompeted the native cutthroat trout.


While visiting the Henry’s Fork one shouldn’t miss out on visiting the mythical Trouthunter Lodge, browse through its fly shop and eat a bison burger at the restaurant and bar. For variation, Henrys Lake and Hebgen Lake provide spectacular stillwater fly fishing for cutthroat

trout, brook trout and rainbow trout. Furthermore, the otherworldly and spectacularly beautiful Yellowstone National Park, which is situated in the bordering state of Wyoming, should not be missed. It’s less than an hours’ drive from Island Park.


RI

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AMS DIVIDE

Š Amel Emric

IVERS UNITE

21,387 existing hydropower plants are blocking fish migration in European rivers. Despite EU regulation to curb new hydropower, 8,785 projects are in the pipeline, threatening every little creek. More than a quarter of these are planned in protected areas. Considering that global freshwater populations have declined by 83% since 1970, this is unacceptable. We at Riverwatch are fighting for the preservation of the last unimpaired rivers as well as the restoration of those already canalized or dammed. We are particularly committed to preventing new hydropower projects. Rivers are so much  more than just water! www.riverwatch.eu | facebook.com/riverwatchAUT www.balkanrivers.net | facebook.com/balkanrivers instagram.com/blueheartrivers


FLY TYING:

RPO MAIN STREAMER By RASMUS OVESEN

Streamers are real big fish snacks, and they aren’t necessary difficult to tie – as long as you have the right materials. The RPO Main Streamer is such a fly: A convincing and super-effective streamer that is done in 10 simple steps. FRY AND BAITFISH IMITATIONS have saved my day on numerous occasions. They seem to have an almost irresistible allure on big predatory fish no matter how finicky or lethargic they might seem. Oftentimes, the combination of size and a fast retrieve is what makes a predatory fish loose its temper. Sometimes, however, they spend some time investigating the prey before the pivotal strike. Whenever this is the case, it’s good to have a streamer that looks the part – one that can tolerate some inspection without being dismissed. There might be other streamers out there that look more convincing than the RPO Main Streamer, but very few

of them are easier to tie. The RPO Main Streamer takes less than five minutes to tie and it looks quite edible despite the minimal tying efforts: it has a great profile in the water, a nice flashing belly, and a pulsating movement pattern. It is one of those patterns that will pick up fish under most circumstances – as long as there’s hungry predatory fish around.


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ESTANCIA LAS BUITRERAS | PATAGONIA | ARGENTINA

â&#x20AC;?Experience World Class fly fishing and lodging in beautiful Patagoniaâ&#x20AC;?

Come visit us in Argentina and find out why anglers from all over the world call Las Buitreras one of the best and most dynamic searun brown trout destinations on the planet. For more information please visit our website www.solidadventures.com or contact us at info@solidadventures.com. For news and updates on our latest scouting adventures and more please follow us on Facebook and Instagram


STORA LAXA:

World Class Icelandic Salmon Fishing Iceland boasts some of Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most beautiful and productive salmon rivers, and Stora Laxa is among the very finest.

By RASMUS OVESEN Photography by RASMUS OVESEN and MARTIN EJLER OLSEN


I SEND ANOTHER EXPECTANT CAST across the river’s fluttering and glass-like film. The small #14 Sun Ray Shadow lands with a discrete ‘plop’ near the opposite bank and weighs itself down into the water column, before the current and the first retrieves hitch it up and make it rear towards the surface. The river valley’s steep and lushgreen expanses mirror themselves subduingly in the water and flickers in competition with the skies’ abysmal blue. Meanwhile, the volcanic landscape’s majestic and dramatic surroundings sort of intrude – welcomingly, hypnotic and reconciling. It is heart-rendingly beautiful place, but I don’t have the peace of mind to fully appreciate it – not yet at least. My ailing salmon fly fishing career, that has never really gotten off to any kind of fair start, requires my full dedication, and every fateful cast with the light #5 single handed fly rod is charged with the greatest of concentration and the most in-

tense hopes imaginable. After several fruitless trips to more or less doubtful Norwegian and Swedish salmon rivers, I have ventured to the river, Stora Laxa, in Southern Iceland to realise my chrome salmon fly fishing dreams. It is still rather early in the season but, already, impressive amounts of fish are heading up river – amounts so massive that I can hardly believe that they are going to intensify. They undoubtedly will, however, especially later this month and all through September. By then every pool will be teeming with activity. A couple of days ahead of my arrival, two local Icelandic fly fishermen have caught several shiny chrome fish – many of them with sea lice, so everything seems promising enough. The fact that I’m still a slave to my feelings; marked by too many salmon fishing trips without a trace of salmon and a thinly worn sense of self-confidence is an entirely different matter. As fate will have it, I will overcome all of this in due time…


A CROSS-CURRENT CAST followed by a quick line mend now guides the fly through a riffle, where the water is being accelerated over big and defiantly resting boulders. My gaze is firmly fixed on the end of the line, and even before I feel the cathartic pull, I see how it suddenly holds back a bit - defying the water’s gushing flight downstream. Slightly mechanic, I lift the rod and instantly feel the weight of a fish that has just clamped its jaws around the minute fly. Hectic flashes of silver in the surface follow as the salmon attempts to throw off the hook with ill-tempered slaps of the tail and violent rolls. It doesn’t help much, though. The fish is solidly hooked, and several tumultuous airborne leaps with abrupt, collision-like landings won’t alter the outcome of the battle, which is soon to be over. As if driven by an invisible force, the fish is reluctantly guided into the rocky shallows where it finally capsizes. Here, it lies defeated for a short while with quivering muscles under a chrome skin overstrewn with contrasting black spots. Split seconds later, I manage a good grip around the root of its tail. It is no monster fish, but the euphoria is unmistakable. My first Icelandic salmon is a reality: a compact Stora Laxa fish of about three beautifully proportioned kilos, which – like a combat-ready knight - has adorned it most shiny armour. A more stylish and elegant fish is hard to imagine!


The indignant fish is carefully released with plenty of raw muscle power to spare for the on-going migration upstream – and with a roaring warmth in my body, renewed self-confidence and lots of adjusted drive I start ripping line off the reel and preparing for new casts. Five days of fishing on the river’s four different beats await, I have just started warming up, and I still have no clue about the extent to which this river will end up spoiling me. THE NEXT FIVE DAYS, my buddy Martin and I fish some of the most spectacularly beautiful rivers, we have ever seen – and we catch more salmon than even the most persistent Scandinavian salmon fisherman is likely to catch in a full season. Furthermore, we make close encounters with some indomitably fighting and hypnotically beautiful brown trout and arctic char in full-grown sizes – fish that throw themselves at our flies, when we least expect it.


From Beat I & IIâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s numerous gentlemen pools - where everything from the river access to the wading and fishing is unproblematic and convenient we now journey further upstream. By now, we have become relatively experienced in controlled drifts with small hitch- and standard tube flies, and we are ready to try some of the more challenging pools on Beat III and IV. Up here, the amounts of salmon are more moderate, and as a result, the pending work will not limit itself to climbing steep cliffs and canyons, hike through rolling terrain and wade in heavy currents. It will also involve tireless efforts in terms of locating the fish and actually inducing some heady strikes. Not surprisingly, we struggle quite a bit with the latter, because the pools in this abstruse and remote area are as difficult to read, as they are impeccably beautiful and enthralling. The fact that the Stora Laxa salmon are generally quite aggressive becomes our rescue. Because even though we are treading uncertain waters, we still manage to find some

huddled schools of salmon in a few seams, pools and eddies. One of the spots, where we consistently have great fishing is the Heljathrem pool on Beat III. Here, a monumental rustred cliff towers above a fast run with relatively deep water and lots of cover. The pool itself is rather small, but it must have a special magnetism on the fish. Because even though the fish on Beat III and IV seem especially keen on travelling further upstream towards the spawning grounds, the Heljathrem pool consistently holds smaller schools of fish. Why they defy their impulse-driven urges to push upstream and settle here in stead is difficult to say. It is definitely no interval of rest, however, because the fish are constantly chasing each other around and becoming more and more stressed and aggressive. In order not to disturb the pool too much, we only fish it early morning and late evening. Everything seems completely self-explanatory here, and for the last three days we hook up with several chrome fish in the six-kilo range that push our light singlehanded equipment to the maximum.


For me, the fishing here comes to epitomize the essence and allure of salmon fly fishing. No mysticism or hocus-pocus is involved, no underlying uncertainties or unresolved speculations! As long as we swing our small tube flies cross-current at a slow pace, the strikes follow with the greatest of obviousness and truism – like meaningful surface explosions of flickering silver and chrome. STORA LAXA, which is undoubtedly among Iceland’s most beautiful rivers, hasn’t got a reputation for delivering catches of downright monster salmon. (This isn’t really true for any of the Icelandic rivers). In stead, there are massive amounts of fish from the beginning of August until October, where the season comes to a closure. The average size of the fish usually lies somewhere between three and four kilos, and when the fishing is really good, you frequently connect with contentious bundles of muscles in the six kilo range. Catching these fish is extremely entertaining, and catching them in generous amounts never gets tiring. However, if you’re one of those salmon fly fishermen, who have a propensity for big fish, it is comforting to know that – with a bit of luck - Stora Laxa salmon up to 15 kilos can be caught, and that 10-kilo fish are landed with regular intervals in the high season. Salmon in this calibre put up a bitter and heated fight, and that is exactly what I get, when I fish a promising pool on Beat 1 and come into contact with one of the river’s big fish – a fish that ends up etching itself onto my memory.


ALREADY AFTER A FEW HANDFUL OF CASTS comes the strike - like lightning from a clear sky. A crackling chrome shape flashes behind the fly, and suddenly the fly line becomes critically taught. I lift the rod tip, set the hook and feel the trembling counterweight of a fish that surges irresistibly back towards its holding spot along the river’s craggy bottom. A series of brutal pulls propagate through the blank, like series of deep carbon fibre-cramps followed by a sudden and blunt dead-weight. The fish cannot be budged - and I suddenly find myself worrying about the fish being fowl-hooked. No matter what, I need to force the fish away from the sheltering bottom textures and into the free water masses – but the question is whether or not the light #5 gear, the 0.30mm tippet and the frail #14 treble hook will be up for the task. I apply whatever side-pressure I can and pull heavy-handedly back on the fish until the cork handle squeaks and the line sings cacaphonically in the guides and finally - after a bit of toing and froing back and forth - the fish yields. It moves into the main current, surges bewildered

downstream and throws itself headlong out of the water with the small Sun Ray Shadow firmly lodged in its glistening gums. Now, the fight is truly on! The fly line cuts through the river’s fleeting water masses with surgical precision carefully mapping the fish’s escape route. After having given up the false security of the holding spot it thrusts itself down river with violent strokes of the tail and with me rushing behind in hot pursuit over slippery rocks. Further downstream, the river and the terrain suddenly drops, the water accelerates dramatically – and foaming water whirls and gushes downwards licking big and dangerously rugged boulders. It is pivotal that I prevent the fish from getting there. To avoid this potential catastrophe, I need to apply some serious side pressure, so I opt to run swiftly downstream, while doing my best to pick up slack line and keep the fish on a tight leash. Immediately above the cascade I manage to turn around the fish, which now changes tactics and starts rolling chaotically in the surface film.


Slowly but surely I bring the fish towards land, where Martin is ready to assist with the landing. A lot can still go horribly wrong because the fish isn’t really tired yet, and every time it rolls bewildered in the surface, it is being carried further downstream, where the frothing water masses of the cascade awaits. It is now or never, so I push the gear to the limit, bring the fish into the shallows and in his second attempt, Martin manages to grab the fish by its massive tail and drag it onto the bank. Here, we celebrate and marvel at an immaculate and beautiful 97cm hen, which has to weigh 10+ kilos. I carefully lift up the iridescent chrome fish for a couple of quick photos and immerse it into the water, where it quickly regains its full strength. A sizzling warmth flushes over me as the fish makes its way into deeper water and becomes one with the river again. I’m left with a sudden appreciation and understanding of what salmon fishing is really about. All the work – every neat cast, every tense retrieve, and every watchful glance is charged with the greatest of meaningfulness. I have lost my soul to salmon fly fishing and not least to Stora Laxa – the place, where even the most disheartened salmon fisherman can find renewed self-confidence and get to experience what salmon fishing is essentially about.


The Stora Laxa River in the Southern corner of Iceland is administered by the Icelandic salmon fisherman, Arni Baldursson, and the company Lax-A (www.lax-a.net). Lax-A disposes over 40 kilometers of the Stora Laxa River, which is a tributary to the massive glacier river Ölfusá. A total of ten rods are available on the four beats: 4 on Beat I and II, which are rented out together, 2 on Beat II and 4 on Beat IV. Depending on the beat and the season, a rod costs between 250 – 700 Euros per day and it includes accommodation in one of the big, comfortable and well-equipped self-service cabins that belong to each beat. These cabins sleep up to 12 guests, and they are right on the river bank, which means that they work very well as a starting point for the fishing. Stora Laxa is a medium-sized and extremely clear river, that is well suited for light single handed and double handed fly fishing. It is among the 10 most productive salmon rivers in Iceland, and in the 2013 season an impressive 1776 salmon were landed – which is in the vicinity of 2,5 salmon per rod/day. In the main season, which stretches from August to the end of September, daily catches of up 10-15 salmon aren’t unusual. At this time of year, there are massive amounts of fish in the river, and if your fishing coincides with some downpours and rising water levels, the fishing oftentimes explodes completely. Additional info can be had by contacting Lax-A via email: lax-a@lax-a.is


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DOWN UNDER:

Surviving Winter – Snowy Mountains Australia The Snowy Mountains were immortalised in the late 1800’s with the poem ‘Man From Snowy River,’ written by Australian icon, Banjo Patterson. Still today, the high-country continues to call people to experience that same blend of solitude and adventure those before us pioneered, including the fly fisherman. By: MATT TRIPET Photography by: BRAD SISSINS and MATT TRIPET


The waterways that flow through the Snowy’s originate in and around Australia’s highest peaks, draining throughout the south-eastern facing slopes of the alpine region, which naturally promote healthy flows all year-round with the abundant snow melt and the odd winter-like weather patterns getting caught up in the mountains during the open season. It’s during this period the guide, Fly Program facilitator and angler in me would describe this period as the ‘wild season.’ Long days, big miles under foot and hours of concentration watching loops and drifts in harsh reflections of sunlight. But don’t get me wrong… I live for everything this season provides and the many people I share it with. But it’s when the leaves fall, the days get shorter and the guides start freezing over that you’re reminded the season ends soon and some normality will come back to your life. It’s at this time when the miles and miles of streams and rivers come to a close, I rack most of the trout sticks along with the waders and swapped

them over for a set of skis. It’s always been that really important downtime for me. It is time to freshen the mind, enjoy the family and rest up the ‘hosting’ profile I carry in the open season. However, last winter I made a commitment to spend more time in the forthcoming winter (just passed) to actively hunt the large winter lake trout that can be found in our incredible dams and alpine lakes and share a story of my struggle, enjoyment and survival of the winter. The Snowy Mountains comprises of sixteen hydro dams built during the Snowy Hydro Scheme commencing in the late 1940’s, with the Eucumbene and Jindabyne systems are grander in size than Sydney Harbour. These huge systems collectively add to the existing natural lakes and tarns that can also be found in some of the higher alpine regions, many of which will freeze over during the winter spell. My objective over winter was to fish in all conditions, within safety and reason.


The likes of the Jindabyne and Eucumbene systems have been well documented in all forms of media as exceptional winter fisheries, particularly working edges for cruising browns. Satisfied that this story has been told on many occasions, I felt a strong draw toward some of our remote bodies of water that are far less pursued in these harder months of ice, snow and winter prevailing winds. But the one question would stand, can the challenging conditions be met by the dimensions of a oncein-a-season fish to make the preparation and effort in the journey meaningful? Thankfully, my mind has never worked in that way. The dimension of the challenges wild places and the lessons they would present me would always been my calling. The high country has a romantic aura about it. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a place that calls to some people, without ever satisfying the growing passion one discovers in this place. The connection with nature in this wild place is just on another level. Everything in this place survives with a sense of depth of wild existence and purpose, not by accident and chance. If it did, it would simply die. Add elements of snow, wind and ice to this landscape we can discover another platform to discover this unsettled world transformed by the elements. I have no doubt this the very reason I find myself in these places and why the idea exploring them in the months of adversity excites me.


Wondering these alpine lakes certainly tested my resolve on a number of occasions, particularly on the days when conditions were against you. You would find a new meaning of cold and despair. Days on days would see me challenge why I found myself walking these untrodden paths for the reasons only a fly-fisherman would relate to, that story of a fish that would be recounted for a lifetime. But there would also be moments like stopping to watch the windswept fog roll through the Snow Gums on a sub-zero morning, or that afternoon sunset and warm fire seeking to thaw out a frozen body after a day without seeing a fish would provide realisation that the very simplest of lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gifts could be the most precious to me in these testing times. Moments created through adversity would become the making of the greatest moments I had in the season. With time and effort, I would enjoy the success the hard work bringing to hand a number of memorable fish.


But memorable not for their dimensions or fighting stories, but for the context they played in a picture painted by long days in strong winds, fidget weather and days where I zeroed out. These experiences of joy seemed to take me off-guard at times, staring at what would be a standard fish in a day’s outing on a warm afternoon hatch. There was never that void feeling of disappointment holding a small yielding in my hand prior to its release. There was only admiration and respect for the life places these fish live. The stories told through their colours and spots are somehow different to those caught on the easy days. Looking back at the season it is easy to say, it wasn’t defined by my first expectations. The stories measured by pounds and inches documented by ‘grip-andgrin’ photos. It would be a season to push me further where footsteps found in the snow are yours only, leaving a path of warmth, safety and comfort found back at the 4X4. It would be a season defined by existing in difficult climatic conditions that express the depth of cold and hunger one can only experience when exploring these places in the depth of winter.


Summed by the many hours wondering alone in the cold and frozen mountain landscapes would remind me to take to heart the greatest gift fly fishing so freely gives us. The opportunity to be connected with real, tangible experiences found in wild places. These are the intrinsic and underlying reasons we are called to pursue the next bend of the river and over the next hill to another lake. It is the ‘unknowns’ that nature so powerfully presents to us as anglers that is the underpinning of this amazing pursuit we can dedicate a lifetime to.

‘Surviving the Snowy Mountains in Winter’ story won’t be defined by the dimensions of an experience that we can measure on a set of scales. It will be a story defined by exploring waterways that exist in wild and adverse landscapes where trout thrive. It is a story to remind us all that we should seek to explore these places and being an active part of them. There is no doubt, these set of experiences would become my most treasured fishing memories for 2018 and be the reason why my mind wonders, as my head lays rest on my pillow each night.


Travel the globe with Farlows Travel and discover amazing fishing experiences in pristine environments. Contact us for advice, suggestions and to book the fishing holiday of a lifetime.

For further information please contact us: T: 0207 484 1006 M: 07713 689106 E: info@farlowstravel.com www.farlowstravel.com


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Profile for In the Loop Fly Fishing Magazine

In the Loop Fly Fishing Magazine - Issue 23