The King’s Water
By Brandon Simmons
What better way to
exit a winter-long hibernation that to rent a weekend beat on a salmon
river? Not just any Nordic salmon river, but the Mörrum- the provenance
of the King of Sweden. Like all Atlantic salmon fisheries, the Mörrum is
steeped in history. But there is no need to speak of metaphorical legend
as this river has a documented salmon run chronicled since the 13th
The river flows
through a forested valley surrounded by farms and granite hills. The
namesake town offers the perfect staging grounds for a weekend get-away:
2 grocery stores, 2 fly shops, and a train station make this place feel
like a neighborhood fishery. Conveniently, all of them are
wader-friendly. Headquarters is the Crown Salmon Center. Home to a
visitor's center, museum, aquarium, hostel, and a restaurant, the Lax
house is the perfect place to watch the theatrics of salmon fishing from
pool #1. This is also where you pay for the privilege of fishing a beat.
Don't forget to wear your permit on your person.
32 well-marked beats divide the 7 kilometers of fishable water. A
magnificent network of double plank walkways parallel the water's edge
and hide muddy, steep banks. These stream-side paths line the banks and
keep one from sliding into the tawny river. There is also a series of
platforms and wire-crossings across small islands for those who dare.
Each beat is designated fly or spin or both, and changes throughout the
season. Paying attention to the signs can save you from a costly fine.
The opening month of April is regarded as prime sea trout season. These
large specimens are cousins to the famed Tierra del Fuego sea-run
Browns. Europeans, especially Norwegians, Danes, and Germans, flock here
to warm-up for salmon season and to enjoy the earliest run of salmon on
the continent. The river is fed by a large dammed lake which drains from
the top. The water warms to an ideal temperature by early May.
Salmon fishing is new to me, and so is the gear. Without exception,
two-handed rods are the weapon of choice. Walking around with a 13'6"
rod makes one feel like a pole-vaulter. Reels are large and wound with
enough backing to span the Atlantic. Scandinavian Shooting Heads are the
strategic line tactic. These short-bellied lines bound to long lengths
of running line allow one to deftly anchor a D loop tight to the bank.
Rarely will the riverbank offer more than a meter of casting room from
shore. Forget floating anything- experimenting with various density
compensated sink rates is the only way to go. Like a bomb drill, get
down and get down fast. Casting these grenades, needless to say, takes
timing and skill, and watching the expert locals toss their lines with
relative ease is truly remarkable.
Salmon fly patterns
are also new ground for me. In anticipation of this trip I left a pair
of scissors and a candle in the bathroom. Every morning, after taking a
shower and swabbing my ears with a Q-tip, I would cut the used swabs
off, throw them away, and barely melt the ends of the hollow middle
section. Each of those Q-tips became the body of a tube fly.
Orange is the magic
color on the Mörrum. There is more than one theory to account for this
mystery, and seemingly endless variations of the same theme: because it
works. Single hooks, double hooks, and tubes, are all dressed with
Mörrum orange. Interestingly, terminal tackle is strictly regulated in
the fall when water flows drop considerably. Length and strength of
leaders, fly size, and casting direction are all posted in special
Fishing the King’s
water is an aristocratic experience that leaves little to be desired.
All photos Tom Enderlin
Text by Brandon Simmons © 2008