There is hardly a species that’s harder to catch on a fly rod than Atlantic salmon.
Yet, once you’ve tasted the power and beauty of these wild fish you want to experience it again.
I got into salmon fishing a few years back by chance when friends asked me to join them on a trip to Norway. I was lucky enough to catch my first Atlantic salmon the night we arrived. An unforgettable moment.
The year after I caught four fish in four days and felt like catching salmon was almost like catching trout. How wrong I was. I have to admit that I knew already back then that this streak would obviously not last. The more experienced salmon anglers on the trip smiled at me knowing that I would experience the other side of salmon fishing – soon. How right they were. On my next three trips to Norway I didn’t catch a single fish. Yet these trips remained a highlight of my fishing year.
A new Destination – Salmon Fishing River Mörrum
When the corona crisis became a global problem in the spring of 2020 salmon fishing seemed far away. After a few hard months, countries began opening up again. I got the chance to travel to Sweden to fish for Atlantic (Baltic) Salmon at the river Mörrum with two friends.
One of them is an experienced salmon fisher who’s been in the game for more than 20 years – he knows the ups and downs of salmon fishing very well. The other one had never cast a fly to an Atlantic Salmon before and was excited as anything to join us on the trip.
One of the things that make a fishing trip great even before it starts is the anticipation. And in my eyes there is nothing that can compare to the anticipation of an Atlantic Salmon trip. It is hard to explain this feeling to non fly fishing friends. Telling them you are going to a far place to spend quite a bit of money to most likely not catch a fish seems crazy to most people. It is. But that is one of the reasons that make salmon fishing so special.
It is a bit like real life. The harder you work for something the more joy it will bring to you. The crazy thing about salmon fishing is the fact that your skills only contribute partly to your success. Sure, the more experienced a salmon angler you are, the more likely you are to catch a fish, especially in tough conditions.
Luck plays a Crucial Role in Salmon Fishing
Yet, I caught the majority of my salmon when I was a worse caster and less experienced fly angler than I am now. I would argue that luck as an important factor in salmon fishing contributes to its appeal – a bit like gambling in a casino. Everybody there thinks he or she knows better and will beat the system – yet in the end it’s mostly the bank that wins. In this case it’s mostly the salmon.
You might as well compare salmon fishing to playing the lottery. You know your chances are almost zero, yet millions of people deny these laws and are convinced it’s going to be them who wins the jackpot. It’s the same in salmon fishing. You keep going at it although you are most likely not going to catch a fish.
On the way to Southern Sweden we already shared stories from our salmon fishing careers with our soon to be salmon fisherman friend. Travelling back to the places and times when you caught one of these special fish makes them come alive and almost feels a bit like catching that fish again. Having experienced these moments with good friends adds an extra bit of joy.
Tough Weather Conditions for Salmon Fishing
We got to the River Mörrum just after peak season (the best weeks are the second half of May). Catches had been quite good lately. That made us hopeful to catch a Baltic Salmon. The weather was supposed to be sunny all week which was not going to make things easier. As our host Lars explained, the River Mörrum gets quite warm during summer and the best chance to catch a salmon is after heavy rainfall when the river cools down a bit and the fish get active.
After getting our permits at Laxens Hus (the fishery office) we went on to explore the river a bit. The traditional salmon fishing at River Mörrum stretches over 7km (ca. 4.5m) on the lower part of the river close to the Baltic Sea. The beat is divided into 32 pools.
You can also choose the extended permit which grants you access to the stretches of Vittskövle, Knaggalid and Härnas as well. These three beats are further upstream from the 1-32 stretch and the river gets wilder the further you move up from the Baltic Sea.
Vittskövle became one of our favorite parts of the River Mörrum over the next few days. The river flows through beautiful century old forests of birch and oak trees.
An Ecosystem from another Time
One of the things that struck me most about the River Mörrum was its natural state and incredibly low level of waste along its banks. There was hardly any plastic to be found along the river. Fishermen – and there a quite a few of them at high season – seem to take care of the river very well. I wonder why that is not possible in other places?
The whole ecosystem seemed to be in good shape. In every pool you could see young fish, multiple species of dragonflies populate the shallow waters and even oviparous birds showed up along the bank.
Most importantly for a salmon angler you could tell that the river was full of salmon. They showed in every pool by either jumping out of the water or head and tailing.
Hence we knew the fish were there and there was always a chance to hook into one. But that didn’t happen for the first two days. We took that time to explore the river and get to know the promising pools. Whenever we encountered another fly fisherman we exchanged knowledge and asked them what had been working for them. All of them complained about the warm sunny weather and the fact that the water level was dropping. Not a promising sign to get the fish moving upstream and taking flies.
When you haven’t caught a fish for days you look for every little piece of motivation. Talking to other fly fishermen along the river can be such a little piece. When you hear of a catch first hand you realize it is possible to connect with a salmon and land it in the best case.
Despite the less than ideal conditions we fished very hard from early in the morning until late at night. During the breaks we took we checked the website of Kronolaxfiske where the latest catches are published. Although the water level kept falling salmon anglers kept catching fish. There was no reason to despair.
Time is Running out
Time was working against us though. With only a day of our trip left we were debating which part of the river to fish for the last few hours. The opinions ranged from Pool 1 and 2 (where a majority of the fish had been caught over the last days) to the wilder stretches of Vittskövle. In the end we opted for the wilder part of Vittskövle. We all agreed that salmon fishing ist just as much about enjoying the time you get to spend in nature as it is about catching a fish.
If you were looking for a happy (catching) end I have to disappoint you. But if you are a salmon angler yourself you know how it goes: sometimes you win, sometimes you loose. The good thing about fishing for Atlantic Salmon is though that the moment you put your salmon rod into the corner you start dreaming about your next trip and catching another one of these beautiful fish…
Check out the website of Kronolaxsfiske to get all the information you need about fishing the River Mörrum in Sweden.