MAGNUS LUNDGREN – ORKLA RIVER, NORWAY II. THE KING OF FISH – ATLANTIC SALMON - MATING IN THE RAPIDS!November 13th, 2008 Posted in Northern Europe, Uncategorized
I called Vegard, the owner of Aunan Lodge, on the mobile to check if the water level was OK and if the mating activities were at it in the river. “The river looks promising and the salmons have already started! Come over, Magnus.”
Two days later I staggered heavy loaded with gear out from Trondheim airport. Patrik picked me up in his Land Rover with a big smile as always. We headed for Orkla. Again, Patrik was going to be my trusted safety diver in the river. We were back to photograph the mating of the mighty Atlantic salmon.
The scenery around Orkla is amazing in the summer but now with the hills around the riverbanks dressed in autumn colours, it was simply mindblowing. Coming back was in many ways a much bigger challenge than going to Orkla the first time. We knew it was going to be difficult and demanding and maybe that was one of the reasons we looked forward coming back so much. A bit strange but still…
Aunan Lodge close their season on the 31st of August but the guides have gathered to help me find the best spots to work in. Vegard, Erik, Krister and Stein were there and later that day Öystein, an authority on salmon biology, arrived. This was going to be a great team effort.
King of fish
The powerful Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, are sometimes known as the “king of fish” and can reach a length of 1,5 metres. Their athletic powers caused them a reputation among the greatest fighters in the fishing world. The life of this fish is in many ways a saga itself. And perhaps most important of all is that the Atlantic salmon is a symbol of clean, healthy waters that run wild to the sea.
Circle of life
After a few solitary years in the river the salmon migrate as youngsters from the fresh water to the salty ocean to grow up. Feeding while they migrate, the salmon move toward the feed grounds in the north Atlantic near Greenland and Iceland. In the ocean they take advantage of abundant food and grow rapidly.
When it is time to reproduce they navigate back to the same river where they hatched. It is generally believed that salmon use a magnetic or sun compass to find the way back to the right area. The last bit they use olfactory cues, basically they follow their nose, to find the river of birth. The salmon normally re-enter the river in the spring and spawning occurs in the autumn. And the life cycle of the salmon begins anew.
The heat was on
First day at Frona, a short distance up river from Aunan Lodge, we saw a lot of activity. The impressive salmons were speeding around, fighting and maybe setting their ranks. We observed a large female excavate gravel from the riverbed by turning sideways and lashing up and down with her powerful tail. She controlled that spot for sure. Later with the encouragement of a male she will lay her eggs in the redd. The eggs will stay in the gravel throughout the winter and hatch the following spring.
The pool was packed with very big and aroused salmons that seemed to be fighting and showing off. A lot of action and they were all in full mating dresses. Almost reddish. I was thinking ”Almost identical colour as my drysuit. Hmmm….” It was time to test to get into the water. I drifted down Frona’s mating grounds. I passed salmons on both sides and and two males with hooked jaws flew by at very close range. It was a thrill and I was basically shooting from the hip at 8 frames per second.
During the following four days I photographed in different mating grounds every day to avoid disturbing their fun too much. Some places the conditions were impossible to shoot in and in other places we had great luck and got close. The mysterious and shy salmon was much more approachable when their bodies were full of testosterone. They were sometimes simply busy completing the circle of life and I do not blame them.
Without Aunan Lodge and Vegard this mission would have been impossible. Big thanks to Vegard and of course Erik, Krister and Stein for Your superior local knowledge and Öystein who explained the mysterious ways of the salmon. You all made it happen. The care and respect for the nature and the salmon You show leaves a deep awe that always will stay with me.
Adventure & wildlife
These four days in Orkla where packed with true adventure in a fantastic Norwegian wilderness. It all went very well. Forget minor hick-ups like a 3,5 ton Land Rover almost slipping off a steep dirt road, dive equipment lost but later found in Orkla riverbank, a blue bum slighty demolished after rafting down to ”Korshölen” in full scuba gear, and Patrik almost having a heart attack running from Utstuggu to Korshölen through the forest also in full scuba gear and not to mention the flow of the river in ”Strupen” that almost crushed the equipment and us.
The salmon of Orkla River is perfectly adapted, through evolution, to live and reproduce just there, in those conditions, in that river. Each river has a unique salmon tribe adapted to the environment, and spending time with people that protect these wild Atlantic salmon was a true honour for me. I hope I will come back to enjoy the king of fish in this true wild wonder of Europe.
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.