For live and premium content, sign up for our email newsletter and we'll send reports directly to your inbox
Ireland: Five years after banning driftnet fishing for salmon and substantially reducing estuarial set nets, salmon returns to Irish rivers are showing steady improvement. The improvement is so great North American anglers should once again be considering Ireland as a salmon-fishing destination. The Moy is Ireland’s top producer with a 2012 annual catch of some 9,000 grilse and salmon. Flowing into the Atlantic on the west coast, it offers a variety of opportunities. The Ridge Pool in the town of Ballina is famous for its productivity as well as its atmospherics. As a tidal pool, it also has a dark side: it’s unfishable for some two hours either side of high tide. Moreover, getting a rod for a single five-hour session requires an application. Fortunately, the allocation formula favors visitors who use local accommodation. Also fortunate is the fact that there are several ways to access the fishery. One superb way is via Mount Falcon (www.mountfalcon.com), a four-star estate on the River Moy that has private angling privileges on both banks. It’s been more than a decade since I stayed there, but it appears their previous high standard has only increased. They have a considerable variety of salmon-fishing packages with prices that vary with the season. As an example, the rate for four nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the hotel with three days fishing during the high season (single occupancy) is about $1,100 (based on current currency conversions). Mount Falcon also offers access to several other salmon and trout rivers and lakes. While Mount Falcon is at the pinnacle of local accommodations, budget-conscious visitors have plenty of other choices. Tiernan Brothers in the village of Foxford (www.themoy.com), a fine source for all things Moy, lists roughly 20 other options. Michael Tiernan tells me that coincident with the improvement in salmon runs has been some character changes, such as a percentage improvement in the number of multi-sea winter salmon, specific runs arriving later, and a bump in the average size of the grilse. Coincidentally, my latest book, Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies (www.galesendpress.com), includes the pattern for a highly successful local creation, the Foxford Shrimp.
Another Irish river worth noting is the Blackwater River, which can be accessed via Blackwater Lodge and Salmon Fishery in County Waterford (www.ireland-salmon-fishing.net). Ian and Glenda Powell operate this popular lodge on the Blackwater. Although the past two seasons have delivered lower-than-average total catches, likely due to high water, the springer (a highly prized, early run of salmon) count was the best since 2004. For 2013, Blackwater Lodge has announced some substantial price reductions (25 to 60 percent) in both day-ticket and full-package rates. Angling is in the Powells’ blood. Glenda is a widely recognized casting champion and instructor and a former member of both the Scottish and Irish Ladies Teams.
Scotland: The Tweed is Scotland’s most productive river system, with an average annual catch of 12,000. Final figures on the 2012 catch were not available at this writing (the Tweed has open beats until the end of November), but they were expected to be a few thousand below average. I personally fished another river in Scotland, the Tay, some years ago, at the end of a time when commercial netting was taking as many as 90,000 salmon annually (circa 1969). The last nets were bought out in 1997, and angling catches have since improved. The 2012 season was just slightly above the five-year annual average catch of 6,200. While the Tay and Tweed can be accessed via a variety of private beat owners and hotels, an outfitter with whom I’ve had positive experiences is Lax-a (http://lax-a.net). Lax-a has access to quality water and accommodations for both rivers.
Wales: One of my U.K. correspondents who regularly fishes the Wye in Wales says “weird” weather has adversely affected the fishing in that part of the world. “We started the year with drought and warm weather in February and March,” he writes. “I caught my first fish of the year on a full floating line and size 8 fly in March. I have hardly used a full floater since. It turned colder in April and then started (and kept on) raining. As a result, the best fisheries in Wales lost many days of fishing to high and discolored water. So, what were the overall trends? Three sea-winter fish were slightly better than average; two sea-winter fish were slightly below average; and one sea-winter fish (grilse) was about average. On the bright side, the Wye and Usk rivers produced well, with the Wye setting a 25-year record catch of 1,251 fish.
Iceland: Generally difficult fishing conditions led to lower-than-average catches on most Icelandic rivers this past year. Peter Rippen of the Fly Fisher Group (www.flyfishergroup.com) offered, “After several seasons of very strong runs, the fishing in nearly all rivers was below par.” Regardless, he goes on to report that the rivers he fishes did have good periods. As an example, Peter wrote, “July and early August on Svalbardsa performed well again with fishers averaging two to four fish per rod, per day, mostly in the eight- to 16-pound bracket but also with fish more than 20 pounds. Overall, the Svalbardsa average was down, ending the season at 274 fish to three rods (daily for the 90-day season) from a preceding three-year average of about 460. The numbers dropped due to a lack of grilse in late July and the first half of August. As for the Hofsa, also in the northeast of Iceland, it produced the best prime dates fishing for a season or two, ending the season at a respectable 1,008 fish to the seven available rods. This was one of a very few rivers to better its 2011 catch. Looking forward to 2013, there are positives to take from the comparatively low returns from 2012. One is that everything is relative. Iceland has been on such a strong catch curve for the past few seasons that a correction was due and we expect catches will build again from 2013, perhaps even dramatically better than 2012. Equally important, some prime slots that ordinarily would rarely be available have opened up for this season, and on many of the rivers we represent, the pricing will not change from 2012, although in some cases it will decrease.” The three most productive Icelandic rivers, West Ranga, East Ranga, and Midfjardara (in that order), all showed declines versus 2011, but not equally. While the first dipped by a mere 10 percent, the latter two were off by 30 percent. This bears out Peter Rippen’s suggestion that given the outstanding 2011 season, there is little to be pessimistic about. Rods on all three of these rivers are available from the angling club Lax-a (http://lax-a.net), Iceland’s largest sporting outfitter.
The Kola Peninsula: Kola Peninsula rivers had another outstanding year, although there were a few tough weeks on some waters. Charlie White of Roxtons (www.roxtons.com) reported a stellar season on the Varzuga. With 8,500 fish taken by 180 rods in six weeks, it gave them a seasonal average of 47 fish per rod, per week. While the regular six-week salmon season is effectively fully booked for 2013, they have decided to keep the middle camp open for an additional week. “There can be some mosquitoes around and you may have to walk a little bit,” White tells me, “but you should be able to take around 20 to 25 salmon on floating lines and skated flies. Moreover, the price, $5,600 from Helsinki, is hard to beat. That is about half the regular rate.” Elsewhere, Steffen Juhl of Salmon Junkies (www.salmonjunkies.com) advises that they have acquired exclusive long-term booking rights to a 30-mile upriver section of the Varzuga. The long season on the Umba was generally about average, with the fall season (mid-August to October) producing some above-average size salmon. The largest of the year, between 30 and 35 pounds, were taken during this period. The Ponoi had a strange but extremely productive season. Mollie Fitzgerald of Frontiers (www.frontierstravel.com) says conditions during the summer were decidedly mixed but virtually all rods had productive sessions. An average of 35 fish per rod, per week was five better than the 20-year average. The fall season turned out to be extraordinary, producing five record-breaking weeks. As for the Yokanga, it just gets better and better. With a couple of weeks to go in the season, Roddy Hall of the Fly Fisher Group (www.flyfishergroup.com) told me that 105 rods had caught 27 salmon between 30 and 40 pounds, and an additional 137 fish between 20 and 30 pounds. That’s not including several hundred fish in the high teens! During a few weeks of strong grilse and smaller salmon runs, rods were averaging more than 20 fish per week. Conditions were equally good during most weeks at the Three Rivers Salmon Reserve. Justin Stuart Maxwell of Where Wise Men Fish (www.wherewisemenfish.com) writes: “Even though we had fewer guests than last season, they managed to land 63 percent more salmon per guest than the previous year. We recorded 179 fish over 20 pounds, 71 topping 25 pounds, 31 exceeding 30, six larger than 35 pounds, and one 40 pounder.” Finally, near press time I received news of a completely revamped opportunity on the Kola River. Despite being the largest river on the peninsula, the Kola had been downgraded lately as a destination water. Poaching and interference with guests made the supposedly controlled section (part of 3rd sector) of Kola Camp a poor choice. In 2011 a new owner, Dmitriy Kuznecov, took over the lease and made substantial changes. To address poaching and similar problems he added professional rangers who live and work on the river. Boats and vehicles are used to monitor the river daily. All necessary renovations to the accommodations have been completed. Some highlights of Kola Camp are: slightly more than three miles of main river (Kola) fished by eight rods (more of 3rd sector available but not controlled); less than an hour’s drive from Murmansk; average weight of fish is more than 20 pounds, with the record being 53 pounds; 50 to 80 fish per rod, per week have been taken in peak season; the experienced guides here have a knowledge of English; there are double cabins used as singles, all with toilet and shower; the river is accessible for older anglers; the new owner guarantees privacy while on the river (no other boats allowed); all fishing is catch and release. The Taybola sector is upriver and has its own tent camp. Taybola, because of substantial walking and rough wading, is recommended for fit anglers and is very attractively priced. Taybola is easily handled with a single-hand rod while the main river is best addressed with a two-hander from shore, but a singlehander will be fine from a boat. Because it is accessible by road from Murmansk, Kola Camp is able to offer good rates for such exceptional fishing. A week of fishing here in 2013, single occupancy, boat and guide, will run from $5,300 to $7,850 per rod. The main camp accommodates eight rods. The Taybola camp is for a maximum of nine rods and the peak rate is $3,800. Vel-Travel (www.vel-travel.com) are the exclusive agents for the Kola Camp to clientele outside of Russia. Contact Ilya Ovsishcher for further information. I will follow up with a Web site address for Kola Camp when it’s available. Enjoy!