Three Thirty Pounders in a Week by Mark Bird

June 2012 Kharlovka and Eastern Litza

Although conditions were tough with low water, warm rivers and cool northerly winds there was no question there were some big fish in the pools. The first couple of days we all struggled apart from Mikael to bring fish to the banks. Although we were hooking fish, the salmon were finicky, the takes half hearted resulting in most of the fish being lost. By mid-week the river temperatures had cooled and air temperature was much closer and prospects were looking better.

On Wednesday morning I woke at 6.30am and I noticed the wind had dropped. I deliberated for a minute or two then decided to have a quick run through Home Pool before breakfast. I arrived a few minutes later to find Jenya the Home Pool guide on his own because no other rods had decided to have a cast that morning. This was a good omen because Jenya had guided me last year into a 34lber on Lower Dream pool on the Litza. I started at the top in the fast water with a half inch copper tube, my own creation resembling Sunray Variant. Just above the temperature gauge, the line stopped in the middle of the fast current. I knew quickly this was a good fish. As I applied the pressure the rod was flattened and I was into the backing in the blink of an eye. That was no problem though as I needed to follow the fish into the softer water where I started to gain a modicum of control. After what must have been nearly a twenty minute hard fight, Jenya slipped the net under the great fish at the first attempt.

We admired the fresh hen fish, which was particularly spotty and resembled a two time spawner. We then noticed the fish had been tagged previously and the number 03087 was recorded. We later learned that this fish had been caught on 26th June 2009 in the Island Pool on Lower Kharlovka as an 18lber.

We measured the fish at 109cm with a girth of 61cm. The fish weighed exactly 35lb.

I pondered “is that not the best advert for catch and release”.

The next morning we flew across to Litza to spend the last two days camping, pure bliss! We were dropped off in Lower Dream, after a team talk with Rae and Sasha it was decided that I would fish Upper Dream and Mickey Mouse from the left bank as the wading was tougher. First run through I had a savage take on a large Collie Dog I had been fishing square in the top of Upper Dream which resulted in a beautiful sea liced 17lb hen. I decided to go through the pool again and looked in my fly box. A small micro tube that Mikael had given me “The Witch” looked good and was duly tied on. Wow these flies look good in the water. I fished the pool diligently and waded deep, fishing at an acute angle, with the fly plopping inches from the cliff face. Slightly further down from the spot where I’d hooked the first fish I nearly had the rod ripped from my hands. I was attached to a seriously angry fish that was hell bent on spooling my reel. The fish charged at a rate of knots and before I could wade back to my own bank the fish had over 100 meters of backing and was heading for the rapids. The clutch on the Tibor was turned fully on and with the rod flattened I stopped the fish in the nick of time. It’s never good to be playing a big fish 150 meters below you just on top of a set of rapids. Somehow I managed to change his mind and I brought him back up the pool. Boy this fish was strong and I was glad to see that Sasha had popped his head round the corner and was heading for the boat to cross the river and give me a hand. After one of the hardest fights I’ve ever had with an Atlantic Salmon Sasha slipped the net under the great cock fish. We weighed the fish at exactly 30lb and 106cm and girth 59cm. I contacted Mikael on Sasha’s radio to thank him for his fly, only to learn Mikael had just landed a 34lber in Tent and had had a 35lber the night before. There is no question the Eastern Litza in June is the best river for big Atlantics in the world!

In the morning of the final day I went across to fish the far side of upper tent. On my first cast I had a strong pull on my Sunray which came to nothing. As I fished towards the tail of the pool I turned round to see a big salmon roll in the middle of the pool. After lunch I had unfinished business in Upper Tent and walking past a herd of reindeer I went to fish from the right bank and see whether the big fish was still about. Fishing a small Collie dog in the middle of the pool, the salmon nailed it. I quickly realised this was the big fish and feared that he would run me out of the tail. I decided to play him out in the top of the pool as this was much safer than the strong currents building in the tail. I then urged him into the slack water behind the shingle bank and gained control. It was majestic to watch this fish run and shimmer in the clear water. At this point I was on my own and contemplating a place I could safety land the fish without causing damage. I was delighted to see Sasha on the hill and he spotted I was playing a fish. By the time he turned up a few minutes later the salmon was ready and was soon scooped into Sasha’s net. What a fish, a huge male, a few days off the tide, fat as a pig and in pristine condition. With a length of 111cm and a girth of 64cm I knew this was my third 30lber of the week. The scales were brought down to read a whopping 36lb. What a finale to an excellent week and on tallying up, this raised the average weight of my fish that week to respectable 25lb!