The Atlantic salmon grabbed the fly low on the Voronya River, in a smooth piece of holding water just above the estuary where the river meets the Arctic Ocean. It made three huge runs, each deep into the backing, and I chased it a hundred yards downstream before it surged a fourth time and threw the hook. I yelled. My guide, a Russian named Pasha, dropped his net in the grass and turned away from the river. I was miserable, but he might have been even more upset. Weeks of extreme heat and a complete lack of rain had caused the camp’s catch rates to decline from below average to nearly dead. He had wanted to land that fish even more than me.
Pasha’s professionalism returned quickly. While I lamented the thrown hook and reeled in, he waded over, hit me on the back and, in a thick Russian accent, said, “Gregor…Gregor…Is okay. Every-ting is okay.”
I couldn’t tell if he was asking or reminding me that, all things considered, losing a big fish isn’t the end of the world. I laughed at myself and said, “Yeah, you’re right. But Pasha, that was a big fish, wasn’t it?”
He turned away again. “Da,” he said, nodding slowly. “Meter salmon.”
We may not use the metric system in the United States, but even I know a meter-long Atlantic salmon is an epic fish…