Published in Chasing Silver -magazine 2/2017, pics Pieta Piiroinen
The Kymi is the only genuine salmon river in Southern Finland. Its best fishing places are located in Kotka, some 130 kilometers east of Helsinki, so the drive there from Finland’s capital takes about an hour and a half. Large salmon swim into the river from the Nevajoki River. In addition to Nevajoki salmon, more of the river’s own so-called Kymi salmon run there year by year. The salmon population is maintained annually by restoring the river, adding gravel on the riverbed, and also stocking parr. The Kymi is a regulated river that starts from Lake Päijänne more than 200 kilometers from the mouth of the river. There are several hydroelectric plants in the river, equipped with fish ladders to guarantee the salmons’ natural progress upstream. For example in 2016, some 1,5 million € were invested in building one fish ladder at Korkeakoski fork.
The Kymi fishing season starts on March 1.
The Kymi fishing season starts on March 1. The spring is indeed a good time to fish sea trout that swim into the river almost throughout the season, in addition to salmon. The first salmon runs start at the turn of June and July, and it is possible to continue fishing them until the last day of September. It is precisely the newly arrived bright silver torpedoes that are the most difficult to catch, but each year several skilled fishermen at least get to fight those silver spindles. A bright Kymi salmon fresh from the sea is the dream of many fly fishermen precisely because it is so difficult to get them.
In August the river starts gradually to fill with fish. There are the big salmon that have already spent a couple of months in the river and start to search for potential stays, but new fishes keep coming every day as well. This means that it is in August that the fish really start to take flies. The river system then has resident fish and newcomers. They fight with each other, become aggressive, and start also attacking the fishermen’s lures and flies.
The salmon run into the Kymi continues until the turn of August and September, depending on the water level. After that, September is the time to fish older, already darkened salmon. If there is still plenty of water in September, a lot of bright grilse swim into the river so late in the season. The arrival of just a few new fish in the water system causes fights in the pools, and then also fly fishermen get an opportunity for some quality fishing. It is often precisely in September that the biggest individuals are caught: male salmon with handsome crooked jaws that have arrived already in the early season. The fisherman has to be extremely skilled to fool these monsters, and a bit of luck is also needed, because these old-timers already know almost all of our tricks, having looked at them all season from their holes in the bottom. The season ends on the last day of September. It is possible to continue the fishing season in October through local businesses that organize so-called parent fish days after the season is already over. The caught parent fish are used in research vital for the river in order to secure the salmon population in the future.
The history of the Kymi is not nice reading. The former floating channel has been in the headlines often – sometimes because of the polluted riverbed, sometimes because of the hydroelectric plants and dams. The potential of the river was nevertheless known already towards the end of the 19th century, and it became a fishing location for a small, exclusive group of fishermen. Celebrities also came there to fish, the most famous of them no doubt Russia’s Emperor Alexander III, who later in 1887 had his imperial fishing cottage built by the churning waters of the Langinkoski rapids. Fishing for salmonid fishes continued on the Kymi long into the 20th century using seines and dam nets, but sports fishing also increased.
It was known already then that catching a Kymi river salmon with a lure was an extremely challenging task. This is indeed the common thing that has enticed fishermen all these years until this moment in time: the difficulty of the sport. The Kymi has always been a highly challenging place to fish, but with perseverance, skill, and a little bit of luck it has proved possible that a fisherman can catch a genuine Kymi salmon.
Like so many other salmon rivers, the Kymi suffered from the impact of human enterprise. In the 1950s nearly all migrating fish strains had disappeared from the Kymi because of the power plant dams and industrial pollution. The river was in a crisis. Somehow, almost miraculously, the river survived, and towards the end of the 20th century rumors started to spread on the riverbanks: the salmon has returned to the Kymi River. Around the same time fishing methods still in use today started to develop in the Kymi. Faith in the river still existed, but at the same time it was obvious that years of struggle for survival lay ahead. Today, more than three decades later, the future of the Kymi seems brighter, but the same struggle is still going on.
The best fishing areas of the Kymi are located in two of the easternmost branches of the river. The Kymi runs into Kotka area as Pernoo fork and then divides into the eastern Korkeakoski fork and the western Koivukoski fork. Korkeakoski fork is canyon-like, the current is steady and slow and therefore excellent for example for fishing from a boat. At Korkeakoski fork there is also a casting pier for spin-fly fishing.
Koivukoski fork is almost an opposite of Korkeakoski fork. The fishing area starts from Koivukoski power plant. Immediately downstream of the dam, the socalled Beat No 1 is considered one of the best hot spots in the area. Immediately after the pool there is a deep stretch of steady current, followed by fly fishermen’s favorite, Ruhavuolle. Here the river runs quite steadily and represents the so-called classic fly fishing water all the way to the Siikakoski rapids. Siikakoski is the beginning of a longer stretch of rapids that continues almost all the way to the sea. At this spot the sea is some three kilometers away. After Siikakoski, the next rapids are Kokonkoski and Hinttulankoski. The Tattarinkoski rowing area downstream of Hinttulankoski is a good area for example for sea trout fishing. Casting a fly from a boat in this area is an excellent option for a fly fisherman who has already tried everything. The rowing area continues all the way to the glide of Langinkoski rapids where the river runs into the sea. Aside being one of the most well-known trout water in southern Finland, the scenes at Langinkoski are magnificent. You can almost sense the history walking past the imperial fishing cottage or casting the fly standing on the Emperor’s Rock.
Ruhavuolle is a classic fly fishing pool, where the name of the game is the so-called fishing in a ring. This means that each fisherman steps into the river on his turn after the fisherman who has just waded to the shore. Between casts everybody takes three steps downstream, so the ring turns continually and there is room for the next fisherman at the start of the ring. In this way, each fisherman gets in his turn to present his fly to the salmon, and the idea is to minimize crowding. During the peak of the salmon run there may be dozens of people waiting for their turn to try and catch the Kymi salmon of their lives. This kind of ring gives every fisherman an equal opportunity, and the rest is up to the one holding the rod.
Ruhavuolle is a fast-current stretch between two deep places in the riverbed. The fish stop there for a long while during the peak of the run, but there are plenty of them also towards the end of the season. Ruhavuolle often provides the biggest fish of Koivukoski fork and is famous for them.
Ruhavuolle begins from smooth water and turns into fast current where the fly line swims beautifully, and the entire area from the deep water to the shallow and fast water has high potential. There are big rocks and depressions along the way, and the salmon often strike near them. Downstream, the water gets deeper again. It is precisely these spots between shallow and deep water that are the best hot spots of the area and often have really big fish in them. Platforms have been built at the upper and lower part of Ruhavuolle to make the fishing easier. There is also a campfire place, a lean-to, and benches for fishermen waiting for their turn. The benches at Ruhavuolle have indeed become almost legendary meeting places for salmon fishermen. So many speculations on salmon fishing have been heard here that these stories would make a book of their own.
Siikakoski starts from the glide downstream of Ruhavuolle, where the water gets gradually more shallow. Unlike in Ruhavuolle, where only fly fishing is allowed, spin fishing is also an option at Siikakoski, Kokonkoski and Hinttulankoski. The area is really big, so there is hardly ever the same kind of crowding as in Ruhavuolle, The area starts from the Siikakoski glide which is one of the most famous hot spots in the area. Running salmon stop here almost without exception, because they have just swum up Siikakoski and stop to rest for a while before continuing their run upstream towards Ruhavuolle. This is a really good place for a fly fisherman to deliver his fly right before the nose of the fish for example by casting from the legendary Siikakoski rock. After Siikakoski the area turns more rugged and the pools are smaller. This is not to say that the places would The Kymi River not be as good as Siikakoski and Ruhavuolle. Underneath Siikakoski the area gradually turns into the next rapids, Kokonkoski. The fish have more places to hide and the fisherman’s skills are truly tested. There are several spots for smaller fish that offer efficient fishing also with one-handed rods. The most famous of them is Tittisaari Island. In addition there are a few really legendary places for big salmon, so it is advisable to take along the sturdiest rods and thickest lines in case the big salmon strikes. The area from the start glide of Siikakoski to the end of Kokonkoski is within walking distance, so it is easy to spend the whole day fishing these two rapids.
Hinttulankoski is located about a kilometer away from Siikakoski, and it is easily accessible by car. The fishing is concentrated above the Väkinäinen bridge on the eastern shore of the river, with a few excellent hot spots for salmon and sea trout. Especially the glide upstream of the rapids is a great place to fish, with big resident fish towards the end of the season. Hinttulankoski is a scenic place all in all, the old Väkinäinen bridge alone being a sight worth driving there from far away.
Langinkoski is the last rapids of Koivukoski fork, and its waters flow straight into the Baltic. Fishing in Langinkoski is permitted throughout the year, unlike in other fishing areas of the western fork. Fishing is prohibited only in October and November, the annual sea trout spawning ban. From the historical perspective alone, Langinkoski has huge importance to the Kymi river. The imperial fishing cottage built in the end of the 19th century is certainly one of the most famous tourist attractions of the area, and people come to see this building so important for the history of fishing from near and far, even from abroad.
Langinkoski is a place worth fishing throughout the year, but it is the spring that is the best in terms of fishing. When the spring sun starts to warm the weather and the first blocks of ice start drifting downstream from the shores, big sea trout start to swim into the Kymi.
This species, sometimes also called the unicorn of the seas, is the biggest dream of many trout fishers. Why shouldn’t it be, since a bright, newly arrived seat trout is a magnificent sight indeed. Like the Kymi salmon, the Kymi sea trout also have quite an impressive average size: the so-called basic trout is about 60 centimeters long and weighs some three kilograms. In addition to these “basic fish”, several fish near five kilograms are caught annually in Langinkoski.
The fishing area begins from the glide of Langinkoski, a deep, slowly streaming stretch above the rapids. Especially in the spring when the water is still cold, the fish prefer mild currents where they don’t have to consume their vital energy at the start of their run. After the glide the waters drop into the rapids where there are many good pockets and holes for the fish. The end glide of the rapids continues all the way to the sea. These parts under the rapids are particularly good spots to catch a trout fresh from the sea. The area is fishable from both shores all the way to the bridge, and the fish stay in different pools depending on the water level.
Many people consider Langinkoski to be the best trout rapids in southern Finland. In addition to great infrastructure, the place offers great fishing almost throughout the year. A fly fisherman can really feel privileged in this area that was declared a nature reserve already in 1960. Fly fishing is the only permitted fishing method in Langinkoski, and the license for the rapids is valid for 24 hours.
The best fishing equipment in the Kymi river consists of a 13-15” foot two-handed fly rod and a reel with a sufficiently powerful brake. The average weight of Kymi fish is an impressive six kilograms, so the equipment should match such catches. Most of the Kymi fishing is catch & release, so sturdy equipment helps to finish the play with the fish quickly and not to cause more damage than necessary. In July and August the water temperature can get as high as 20 degrees Centigrade, so for this reason alone it is vital not to tire the fish to death with too light equipment.
Langinkoski is the last rapids of Koivukoski fork, and its waters flow straight into the Baltic.
The fly lines should have shooting heads with different sink rates. History has proved that the Kymi salmon can be really reluctant to accept a fly, and the only way to arouse their interest is to get the fly right in front of their noses. Therefore it is good to be able to fish different depths using different methods. The use of sinking shooting heads is also recommended because the pools are often deep and the visibility in the water can be weak particularly in early season. So, it is wise to take along all the sinking heads from 1/2 sinking to 6/7 sinking. Oftentimes a change of tactics or different presentation may be the key to victory.
In the early season the flies should have enough contrasts. Orange/black, red/black tied on a tube or a hook are favorites that deliver the goods year after year. For most of the season, there is some coloration in the Kymi water, so the fly should have some visibility. Towards the end of the season the water usually gets a little brighter, which calls for smaller fly sizes and subdued colors.
The Kymi offers salmon fishermen great fishing experiences only a couple of hours away from Finland’s capital. All necessary services are available quite near, and the latest equipment and hints can be got from the local fishing shops. There are also several local fishing businesses that offer guided fishing on the river. The Kymi is not an easy river. It is a river that educates fishermen and a river where perseverance and efforts are rewarded. It is a river that many have underestimated and been forced to change their opinion. A river that has been nearer to destruction than many would believe but has come back as a winner.
Every salmon fisherman remembers his first salmon from Norway and Sweden. Every salmon fisherman remembers his first 10-kilo salmon and the one longer than one meter. These are the memories each one of us returns to during those darkest winter nights when the time left before the next salmon trip seems all too long. There is one other memory that I myself regularly return to: the first fresh salmon I caught from the Kymi. That is the memory that means the most to me for the rest of my life.