Dreaming of the perfect pools
The Field|January 2022
As your mind wanders while sat on the riverbank during a slow day, try conjuring up the perfect stretch of salmon water
SAM CARLISLE
Day dreaming is a large part of Atlantic salmon fishing. To be effective, you must imagine a fish lying just to the left of that boulder or holding tight to the edge of this seam. When you make the cast, you must believe a salmon might take the fly. This power of positive thought keeps you alert and enthused. But day dreaming also plays a part in helping soften the blow of hours, days or weeks without success. On such a week, plagued by drought, my mind wandered to the ideal salmon river: which pools had I fished that, in my imaginary watery world, would I put together to form one extraordinary river?

LITZA FALLS POOL, EASTERN LITZA RIVER, RUSSIA

The highest pool on the river would have to be the Litza Falls pool, at the top of the Eastern Litza, on the north coast of Russia’s Kola Peninsula. It is a short pool, headed by a waterfall that stops the fish dispersing further into the tundra. At just six miles long, the Litza is not a long river. Close to the entire run will, at one point or another during its migration, visit the pool, before dropping back downstream, looking for a patch of perfectly-sized gravel to call home. I am still haunted by the lazy sip of a salmon, surely in excess of 30lb, that rose to the drift of my bomber. It was lying next to a boulder that you can only cover from the far bank, and its jaws locked around the fly before disappearing with it back to the depths. When I struck, there was no resistance and the fly ended up tangled in a young birch tree behind me. This pool is an experimental salmon fisherman’s dream. You can trot a heavy nymph off the cliffs next to the waterfall, swing a fly through the centre of the stream, drift bombers around boulders or dibble in rough water as the pool vanishes into a procession of rapids. On one occasion my friend and I landed eight fish from the pool, including a 17lb hen, bright from the ocean, that ripped line from my reel at full drag as it disappeared down the rapids. Hopping from boulder to boulder in an effort to keep tension, I am still astonished that I didn’t slip and break a leg and that we managed to land the fish amid the turbulent water.

McCORDIE’S, RIVER EWE, SCOTLAND

The 1909 book Salmon Rivers and Lochs of Scotland decreed of the River Ewe that, “It is doubtful if any district in Scotland surpasses this for grandeur, combined with singular beauty. Seen under almost any weather conditions the picturesqueness on every hand is striking.” Rare amongst west coast rivers, the Ewe is not narrow and spatey. Flowing from Loch Maree, with no other burns or tributaries, it rises and falls at the gentlest of rates. You need a decent Spey cast to cover most of the pools, and the fish are far from small. The weeks I’ve visited in early July have invariably produced a sea-liced 20-pounder to at least one of the four rods.

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