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by Jurij Shumakov
So after such a long introduction, I have
finally reached the subject of the present story and reason why I feel the urge to write
on this subject. From my point of view, there might be a number of explanations why
Western fishing magazines publish "Fish took - I hook" stories about fishing in
Russia. It could be an aftermath of (brrrr) the cold war era and an attempt to show that
"our flies are the best" and work everywhere, all the time, no matter what etc,
etc. Then again, it could be editors simply don't understand these questions, or else they
don't care about contents of articles as long as it concerns a "distant" country
On the other hand, perhaps the writers
just want to add a bit of drama and a taste of adventure for fishing in Russia, showing
off their own courage. I suppose we are all a bit kids at heart and keep those romantic
boys' dreams.J Whatever the explanation though, as we Russians
say, they "render a bear service" to their readers. Perhaps that is why I have
so many letters in my e-mail box from different countries from ordinary fly-fishermen who
just want to know how and where to fish on Kola, or who are interested in local flies.
There seems to be a real need for practical and relevant information.
During the 2003 season I applied my best
efforts to finding and sorting out many local Kola fly patterns. Unfortunately, for
several patterns I couldn't find the inventors names. Locals would refer to such
flies with a smile, saying: "Music and words of the song belong to the people".
Many patterns were received as digital images by e-mail from Kola Peninsula local
fly-fishermen and tiers I correspond with. I re-tied some of them, and have listed them
below just under the name Kola fly # -. Perhaps some day I will learn the names of their
inventors, or find out more about their history. Fortunately, I was able to localize the
inventors of a number of Kola flies, and even have flies tied by them. It is a great
pleasure to introduce these tiers to the Internet fly-fishing society. Many of Kola flies
may be similar to flies you already know. That's normal. Similar ideas come to different
heads. Nevertheless, early discovered Russian fly patterns can be described as original
ones, for a very simple reason.
Plaing Kola 20 lb fresh runner
In Soviet times, the Kola Peninsula was
an area with highly restricted entry even for Russians from Continental Russia. Don't even
think about foreigners! Connections with the outside world were quite poor, and it was
impossible and unthinkable to find Western fly-fishing literature there. But local people
fished with fly for salmon and trout for decades before the first foreign tourist came to
Kola. They developed their own fly patterns based on the scanty information they could
obtain from Russian fishing literature, including the very old Sabaneevs book,
"Fishes of Russia", edited before the revolution and later reprinted. Sabaneev
describes principles, fish species, geographic regions, devices for tying, and some flies
for fly-fishing. I can't say fly-fishing was a popular discipline in Russia in Soviet
times, partly due to restricted "classical" areas of use.
In Sabaneev's book, salmon fishing with
fly was described as the most suitable method for Finland (Finland was part of imperial
Russia before the revolution) and Northern parts of Continental Russia. Lack of
information about fly-fishing could perhaps also be explained by ideological reasons,
because it was presented in Soviet fishing literature as a type of fishing practised by
rich men and the "bourgeoise". But the free souls in Russia who had the desire
and opportunity to fish with fly always could and did. Fishing with fly for salmon in
Russia at that time was mostly performed in a type of spin fishing, with the use of a
quite heavy floater.
That type of fly presentation is still
very popular in Scandinavia, even at the present time and known as
"spinn-fluga". In narrower fly-fishing sense, another method of fishing with fly
was applied, based on the use of a long and flexible rod with a long knotted line
(sometimes 2X rod length), made from monofilament pieces of different diameter. Finally,
the classical style of fly-fishing was most known among sport fishermen (casting) from
Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg today) and in the former Soviet Baltic Republics.
Fly-fishing may not have been widespread, but it definitely did exist, and there was a
specific Russian tradition for it.
Much could be written on this subject,
but I am not going to go deep into historical questions about the development of
fly-fishing in Russia in general. Here I only want to give an idea of the background for
flies developed in the Kola Peninsula region.
If we are talking about fishable flies
only, I can't say many of those local Kola patterns are a piece of art. There is not a
shadow of a doubt, fully dressed classics and American "flies for frame" top the
pyramid of tying art. But for anglers who use flies for their direct purpose, the
effectiveness of a fly might not be entirely unimportant.
Jurij Shumakov and Yuri Lobanov on the brige
over sea pool in Western Litsa
I remember the story I was
told by highly respected and well-known local fisherman and fly tier Yuri Lobanov on the
river Western Litza, last season. He once met a couple of Finnish rods who desperately,
during a whole week, had tried to at least feel something on the end of their lines, with
salmon jumping all around, but clearly refusing to take their flies. Yuri took pity on
them, and gave one of them a couple of local patterns for use at that time of year. He
advised where and how to fish. During the following four hours the Finnish guy hooked five
salmon, landing three of them. With a shiny smile on his bearded Northern face, Yuri
grinned: "He met me on the river bank on the last day of their stay, heartily
thanking me for flies and knowledge." "And you know", added Yuri with a
cunning smile, "they couldn't manage to land the biggest salmon he hooked!" When
you will see his flies you understand the words about beauty and effectiveness.
Of course, the perfectly tied fly is
always welcome to any fly-box. The flies I have selected and would like to present here do
not represent more than a tiny fraction of all flies I've seen on the Kola Peninsula, in
the fly-boxes of locals and of Russians from other parts of Russia. Maybe my choice is
even a bit unfair and prejudiced. Still, the major aim for me is to present different and
original flies, not all that similar to patterns known in Western salmon countries, but
which could be interesting and useful for fishermen heading for the Kola Peninsula this
year. Who knows, some of these patterns might do the job for your domestic salmon too?
I don't want to say much about the tying
technique of these flies, and want to avoid long and tiresome descriptions. As we Russians
say: "Better to see once than hear a hundred times". I just would like to give a
few short explanations, my own observations and proposals I've heard from locals on how to
use those flies, and in which time of year. I would also like to give a list of proven
Western patterns, which I know for sure are effective on many Kola rivers.
Traditionally, most popular hooks for
tying local patterns are with eye down, type trout doubles of the size 2, 4 or 6, because
locals believe they hold fish better and fly tied on them is more stable in the stream.
Nova days Mustad and heavy LOOP double hooks are the first choice among locals. Many flies
are tied using unconventional materials, because of lack of suitable tying materials in
local fishing shops. Interesting particularities of local patterns are the use of very
fine flat metallic tinsel for ribbing and varnished body. On my patterns and variants of
Kola flies presented here I tied, more traditional rare ribbing. On retied patterns I
substituted Arctic fox as underwing with Serebrjanka hair, because it is a bit stiffer and
long wing less prone to tangling. Local patterns carry wings made of Squirrel (American or
Sibirian), Arctic fox, Carcarou, Badger, Bear, Goat and Bucktail, depends on size of hook
and for what condition fly is tied.
On local patterns, very often whole grey
Mallard or teal feather is used as a wing. Many patterns carry as a top or sides fine
Grizzly feathers. Usually body is formed by floss or tying thread in shape of pivot.
Perhaps, tight ribbing of many turns on local patterns came from some early trout
patterns. Varnished body is believed to be more resistant to salmon teeth.
Most of these flies are successful in
time of junction between spring and summer, when water drops down, and as summer patterns
for low water on smaller hooks. For spring high water conditions you may use tube and
Waddington versions of this flies. I would also like to give you a couple of examples how
those local flies tied on doubles can be transformed into Scandinavian style tube flies.
In some patterns, which appeared just a few years ago you may notice the strong influence
of Scandinavian tying style inspired by such tiers as Norwegian Torril Kolbu and Swedish
tier Håkan Norling.
Transformation into tube fly
From my point of view, tube flies work
much better in spring on Kola rivers, at least for me.J So, let's
have a look at those flies!
This article continue here: part 3 part 4
part 5 part 6 part 7
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Text and photos by Jurij
Shumakov 2004 ©