There are few salmon fishermen in Germany who haven’t heard of Taki Alvanos. Based in Hamburg, he is the go-to-guy when it comes to choosing your two hand setup.
During summer he can be found on Norway’s rivers to field test his tackle. We met him in Hamburg to talk about the fascination of salmon fishing, three piece vs. four piece rods and making your own tackle.
How did you get into salmon fishing, Taki?
I was fascinated by the way of fishing from the day I first tried it. That was probably 20 years ago and I initially started fishing for salmon with a single handed rod. A little later I got introduced to two handed rods and at that time not too many people in Germany were using these rods. I remember reading a fly fishing magazine and seeing an ad of someone who offered fishing for Atlantic salmon in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was still affordable back then compared to Norway. I went there seven times during the following years to fish the Margaree River until conditions got worse and I switched to Norway. Soon after I started organizing trips to the Orkla river and took people there. But I quickly gave that up again because it made me sick. People were always unhappy when they didn’t catch fish. So I only went on my own or with one or two good friends.
But as a salmon fisherman you have to be prepared to not catch a fish?
Well the problem is if you go there as part of a group that’s a different thing. But when you organize it then you’re the bad guy if people don’t catch fish because it was you who chose the beat. I don’t do that anymore. It’s supposed to be a vacation after all (laughs).
What makes salmon fishing so special in your eyes compared to let’s say fishing at the coast?
Generally fishing at the coast, standing in cold water for hours is not quite my thing. I enjoy fishing big rivers where I can use two handed rods and make long casts. For me that’s part of the experience. And the swing of the fly is always very exciting of course and, well, if a salmon grabs the fly it’s just a very special feeling that nothing can compare to in my eyes.
You also have your own rod series called “Secret Taper”. How did that come about?
I didn’t plan on designing my own rods. It started because Guideline discontinued producing its “LeCie” series as a three piece model and switched to four piece models instead. I told them I still wanted the three piece models because I liked them better. After a little back and forth they finally offered to continue the three piece models for me but at conditions I couldn’t agree to. So I started designing my own rods.
How did you start the process of making your own rods?
I contacted the factory that produces rods for Hardy and the more expensive models for Loop. They are based in South Korea and are the best in the business in my eyes. I told them what sort of action in a rod I was looking for. I wanted a fast-tapered rod, two handed and a certain length. They couldn’t really make a lot of my information so I sent them one of my “LeCie” rods that I had always loved. The rod they built based on that rod was not at all what I had had in mind though (laughs). I tried explaining them what I liked about the prototype and what I didn’t. I asked them to make the middle and tip section a bit stiffer. Then they sent me another prototype and I once again told me what to improve and finally got the rod I had imagined.
Why did you prefer a three piece model over a four piece one?
In my eyes the action of three piece models is superior to the action of a four piece model. A four piece rod has one more ferrule. Ferrules are always somewhat stiff and that affects the rod’s action in my opinion. It’s a personal thing. I’m aware that nowadays a lot of the fly rods being sold are four piece or even five piece models.
What is the idea behind your rods?
I can sum that up very easily. You might think the rods are made according to my personal preferences. But that is not the case. When I decided to create my own series of rods I had the average salmon fisher in mind. I saw a gap in the market and wanted to build a rod that is easy and fun to cast for a not so experienced fly fisher but also for an expert.
Rods are not the only thing you produce.
Yes, in fact I started designing lines before designing rods. It was a bit of the same process. I started developing my first line and the head designer of a big company asked me to send it to him so they could take a look and decide whether they could produce it for me or not. But I declined assuming they would take my design and make it theirs (laughs). So I wrote to a number of companies including Rio Products, Airflo, Cortland and 3M. The only ones to get back to me were Rio telling me they would produce the shooting head for me if I agreed to pay them $2,000 upfront as a deposit. I did and soon after they sent me the first samples, and like with the rods they were not what I was looking for. But the evolution process was a bit easier as a line has several segments and each one of them has a certain diameter. So I told them for example to increase the diameter in a specific segment and they were able to implement the changes very precisely.
Where do you fish in the Hamburg area?
Since I am a big fan of two handed rods as I mentioned already, my favorite way of fishing around here is chasing sea trout in rivers. I spend quite a few days a year at the River Trave that runs into the Baltic Sea close to the city of Lübeck. It has a good run of sea trout and every now and then you have the chance for a salmon as well. But my focus is definitely on the classic Norwegian salmon rivers where I go every year.
Or visit his online store (in German only). If you don’t speak German call him and he’ll help you in English.