Photo : Steffen Juhl
Interview : Pool 32 Mag
onfessions of a
Steef, you began your “career as a Salmon Junkie” many years back, but where and how did it all begin?
I held a fly fishing rod in my had the first time when I was 12 years old, fish ing in the Danish rivers and small creeks. It was “love at first sight” and after a couple of years I found myself involved in the Danish Sports Fishing Asso- ciation, which lead to a education as a fly fishing instructor.
Being a devote salmon fisher isn’t exactly a normal job, do you ever miss a regular 9 - 5 job situation?
No !! - I used to work a regular job. Back then I worked as a firefighter in Co- penhagen. It was a job with a very flexible work schedule, which opened up for the possibility to change my working days. This was the beginning of my fly fishing adventure and it made it possible for me to combine these two worlds. In the beginning I enjoyed it but after a while it became a bit frustrating to combine these two different worlds. It became a life full of contrasts. One day I was fishing on an exciting and very exclusive beat or flying around in a Helicopter scouting rivers, then next I was back home in my normal 9/5 again, so it’s been a tuff process over the years, not always as glamorous as a lot of people often think.
Steffen Juhl 100 % Addicted - “hopeless case”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia A Junkie or Junky may also refer to:
• A person suffering from drug addiction most commonly used to refer to a heroin addict. • Also used as a hyperbolic expression for a person with a particularly strong enthusiasm for some activity, e.g. “a TV junkie”, “a ski junkie” or the worst case ”a salmon junkie”
Having caught and released more than 2500 salmon, makes you a very experienced salmon fisher Steff, and it really makes me want to “pick you brain” for relevant salmon secrets. I was once told by a fellow salmon fisher, that most of his takes were happening close to the river bank.Tell me Steff what is your experience regarding the “take it self”. Do you see some kind of pattern or is it just a pure coincidence when and where a salmon take the fly?
Well, it’s always hard to say because it changes from one river to a other. But it is essential to be a bit humble and listen to the locals / Fish ing guides, when you are fishing a new river. They know what is going on in their backyard. My experience tells me that the take often happens in the last 2/3 of the swing. Or when you start striping the fly at the end of the swing.
What about the presentation of the fly it self, any good advises for our readers?
First of all everybody who want’s to catch a salmon must be able to cast de cently - not necessarily a very long cast, but a decent and straight cast The fly has to “Fish” as soon it hits the water. Then it is very important to “read and understand the water” you are fishing, and don’t be afraid to try some thing new out there. And make sure the fly is fishing right away by letting the leader stretch out completely in every cast. Salmon fishing is a piece of in tense work, no matter where in the world you are approaching these fish.
R with love”
“This place is instant addiction” Unknown Salmon Junkie
Kåre Lundquist 99,9 % Addicted - “still a bit of hope left”
“Life is hard - and then we die”
“Salmon drugs & Rock’n Roll”
The boy’s with their toy’s
No doubt water temperature is essential when it comes to salmon fishing, but would you say there is a perfect weather condition and water temperature for salmon fishing in general?
In my opinion you should always try to fish the fly fast when the water tem perature is over 8 - 9 degrees. Speed is very important in these conditions. Cast you fly across the river in a 90 degrees angle instead of the traditional 45 degrees, it will increase the speed of your fly significantly. But when the water temperature is below 8 degrees then you have to fish your fly slowly with heavier lines.
I believe there is just as many theories about how to approach salmon fishing, as the amount of fly fishers. But when it comes to fly lines which combination do you use most of the time?
Floating line with a 10 ft. fast sinking polyleader plus max 3 ft 0,35mm nylon.
Being a camp manager in Russia for so many years must have been quite an experience. How would you describe the situation today compared to when you first set your foot in Russia?
In the â€œold daysâ€? 20 years back, everything was VERY different in Russia. I remember a situation back then, when the kitchen served a bowl of fruit for some of our guests. The Russians we worked with had never seen a banana before, which describes the situation we were in at that time. It was like we Westerners came from an other planet.
Sometime it also created a lot of problems for us. Things weren’t always as you expected them to be. Today everything has changed in a very positive direction. The middle class in Russia is growing, and the general level of wealth is higher than ever before in Russia. In the old day’s we could hire a helicopter for a whole day for only 200$ and a candy bar - today it would cost 20 - 30.000$ so things has changed a lot since back then.
As you know Pool 32 also focuses on environmental issues as well as fly fishing issues, simply because I believe that our world is changing rapidly, and salmon stock world wide, are under a lot of pressure. How do you se the future for the wild salmon world wide?
Well, Norway is a perfect example of how things shouldn’t be handled. They really have spoiled a lot of their beautiful rivers over the last 15-20 years. But there has also been made some really positive actions world wide, like the NASF ( www.nasfworldwide.com ). This fund does such a fantastic job and what Orri Vigfusson has achieved so far is unbelievable. This is exactly the kind of awareness we need - and inspi ration as well.
I really hope new salmon anglers understand that good salmon fishing doesn’t come by it self. These amazing fish is under a very, very hard pressure eve rywhere from fish farming industry, high sea overfishing, pollution, illegal net ting, Hydroelectric dams, etc. The new generation of salmon fishers has to be fully aware, that they cannot just lean back and expect everything to be perfect in a future perspective. It is a hard fight, every day, every hour - everywhere!
llegal netting is a growing problem in a lot of rivers world wide. How would you describe the situation in Russia?
Illegal netting is also a problem in Russia, like so many other places. But in Russia it easier to fight the poaching compare to the west, as we don’t have the same democratic rules as here in Denmark - and that saves salmon - be lieve me. Besides that hey are showing some parliamentary determination.
Are you involved in any conservation projects in Russia?
Yes I’m involved in a project where we have removed the illegal nets in the lower part of Umba. We have made a detailed plan 2 years ago, which specify exactly what should be done 24 / 7 all year round. This has made the condi tions much harder for the illegal nettings and the results are very positive. “A river without friends will find it self unprotected” - but Umba has a lot of friends, and I’m one of them as you probably are aware of. Umba is my favorite river in Russia. It’s very unique and has it all. It’s a typi cal forrest river, very beautiful with several different runs and in Umba you always have the chance of catching a really trophy fish from May till October. Besides that Umba offers a long season with several runs, it’s easy to cast, easy to read, not to big, no helicopter is needed to get around. But the fish in Umba is also something very special. These fall fish are designed to stay in the river for up to 18 months without feeding so they are in very good condition when they enter the river. Fall is pure magic in Umba, with some amazing colors everywhere. Only two river in Russia have these late autumn runs - Umba and Ponoi - but in Umba the fall fish get huge
“Salmon Junkies” is a great name - a name you remember and also a very descriptive name, everybody who loves salmon fishing knows exactly how addictive this sport is. What’s the story behind this name?
Well we ARE true Salmon junkies (big laugh) so it just came natural – we are “thinking Salmon” twenty-four hours around the clock No, honestly I think we were inspired by the BC steelhead fly fishing commu nity, they have a good time up there and I really like their approach and atti tudes to the game.
It seems like Russia have “seen the light” and made C & R mandatory from the beginning, something other countries could learn a lot from. What is your experiences with C & R ? - do you see it as the way of the future on the international fly fishing scene?
I think it’s a very good way to help the wild salmon stocks, and I’m practicing C & R in nearly every catch I make, but to be honest I sometimes think it’s a bit to “black & white”. If a fish is caught in the gills or deep down the throat it will die, so to end the suffering in such situations, I think it’s OK to take a life, minimum 9 out of 10 fish survive C & R. But in a holistic perspective, I have a strong believe that biologists should fol low a river closely and estimate how the stocks should be treated. That way you leave it to people who knows what they are doing. We can not just harvest all the time, we also have to nurse, and protect our nature resources. C & R are an excellent tool to change in a positive direction, results from all over the world, shows clearly that C&R secure a very big part of the annual runs.
I spend a week in Iceland two years ago, here dry fly with fishing with a “rifling hitch” gave salmon fishing a whole new meaning to me. Have you practiced any dry fly fishing in Russia?
It’s defiantly possible to catch a salmon on a dry fly in Russia. End of June to mid August, are sovereign for this kind of presentation. Water temperature around +10 degrees a clear and low water level, makes the conditions perfect for dry fly fishing.
You have been fishing in so many exciting places, others just dream about so I have to ask you which one is your favorite river?
As I mentioned Umba - That river has stolen my heart and soul. In Denmark it is Skjern å, especially now with all the very positive results showing.
I really like your photos Steff. You have a very good eye for composition and when to convert a photo into the very powerful black and white expression. I always carry my Canon with me when I’m fishing, and sometimes I prefer to shoot pictures instead. How would you describe your relations the photographic side of fly fishing?
I love to shoot pictures, and it’s been something I have practiced since I where 13 years old. I meet a Danish guy called Bent Schultz by one of the Danish rivers, and he became a sort of mentor for me. Bent had shoot some fantastic photos. I learned a lot about from him and we became good friends.
Last question Steff - do you have anything you want to add to this interview? - any wishes for the future of salmon fishing?
My biggest which for the future would be that people really will understand how important it is to support the organizations, funds and even the small lo cal associations, in their work to help and preserve wild salmon world wide. I fear what will happen in the future, when people like Orri Vigfusson one day pulls out. Who will take over his place and follow his footsteps? That guy rocks!!
We all have to realize that only by really doing something, participating and supporting some of the great work being done out there, only then we will still be able to enjoy the presences of wild salmon in the future. But it will al ways be an ongoing battle and we can never “just lean back” and take wild salmon for granted.
I worked with the Danish Sports Fishing Association (DSF) for many years and it taught me that nothing comes by it self. If it wasn’t for DSF we wouldn’t have seen the progress in Skjern Å and many other Danish rivers, as we are witnessing today.
Famous Salmon angler Lee Wulff once said : “ A salmon is to valuable, only to be caught once”!! - it says it all.
“I’ve heard that salmon fishing is as addictive as crack.... I think I could give up crack” http://www.facebook.com/ group.php?gid=377593387976
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Thanks to Pool 32 Mag