Salmo Trek: an unexpected podium!
The Salmo Trek is a competition organised by the FFPS whose aim is to push competitors to exceed their limits! Indeed, as its name indicates, the Salmo Trek is a mixture of trout fishing and trekking! Like all competitions, the aim is to catch the most fish, or rather the longest fish, 1 mm being equal to 1 point. But that’s not all, there are also points for the fastest teams on 3 timed stages along the course. This competition, spread over 3 days, is self-sufficient, meaning that each pair must leave with a tent, sleeping bags, food for 3 days and, of course, fishing equipment!
For this second edition, the adventure took place once again in the Néouvielle massif, in the Pyrenees, with a slightly different route than in 2021. A predefined zone that the competitors had to respect with about twenty different lakes to choose from and 9 compulsory crossing points. This route represents more than 45 km of walking and 3,500 m of positive altitude difference, which requires a minimum of physical condition and preparation!
As we are both passionate about mountains and fishing, Stella and I decided to participate in this second edition of the Salmo Trek as a couple, with the sole objective of reaching the end and living a real adventure! The feedback from the previous year’s competitors was particularly positive, so there is no doubt that this competition would be memorable!
A meticulous preparation
Used to trout fishing, a big part of the fishing equipment was already in our possession, soft lures, swimming fish, metal jigs, wobbling spoons, spinning spoons, everything is there! As far as the rods are concerned, we each chose to leave with our own rod which we use for fishing in the reservoir, namely a Rainshadow 68ML for Stella and a 721Xray for me. These two rods are very good casters, which is a real plus for lake fishing, especially in places where the fishing pressure is quite high and you have to go far!
In addition, for finer fishing with insect imitations or soft, waving micro lures, I use the small Area Flanker, a real UL bomb for trout! Finally, I also needed a long enough rod, capable of sending 2 or 3 gram lures far enough to sweep the ground during moments of low activity, but with a good reserve of power so as not to risk losing a big fish! Laurent from Rodhouse then told me about a 2.13m prototype with a power of 2-9gr and a very fine tip and a very fast action! Bingo, the order is placed and the rod is built up a few days before the departure! I’m also taking my lighthouse 864-4, which is not annoying hanging on the backpack, but which may be able to unblock a situation if the trout start to gobble in all directions!
As for the trek and the associated equipment, some of it was already in our possession as well, as many of our weekends are taken up with hiking/fishing in the lakes and rivers of our Corsican mountains! However, we usually leave for the day, so we invested in the missing equipment: sleeping bags, stove, tent, as well as consumables: freeze-dried meals, energy gel, dried fruits, etc.
SALMO TREK: a 1st day of madness!
After flying in and renting a car, we arrive on site the day before the start and join other competitors for a meal in good spirits, but soon go to bed for a good night’s sleep before setting off on our adventure!
Friday 1st July: here we are! More than 130 competitors gathered at the Portet pass, listening carefully to the last instructions before taking place on the starting line of the Salmo Trek! Only 4 or 5 women are taking part in this competition, and it is with great pride that Stella and I take the start as a couple!
We walk at a good pace until point n°1, the first stage to be validated! Our strategy, which we thought about for a long time based on the information we got from all over the place, led us to build up directly to the North. We quickly arrived at the middle Bastan lake, where we made our first pitches. After about ten minutes, I see a large trout marauding at my feet, which is not at all interested in my undulating and quickly returns to the depths of the lake … I decided to change my approach and took my newly built up prototype with a small finess with a 2gr darter head. The first sensations with this new rod are very pleasant, the soft lure + TP is really well launched, the fine tip and the fast action allow me to animate my lure cleanly, in short I like it!
After a few casts, while the lure was moving above the bottom, I take a huge hit and announce “Fish!
It’s big! Well, I don’t know, I’m not used to this rod, but it seems heavy! The rod takes a few nice head-butts and suddenly the surface explodes, indeed, it is a beautiful fish that will come to ground in the net held by Stella! A fario trout which will show 41,3 cm on the toise and which makes a crazy good for the mental and the motivation, after less than 20 min of fishing!
After insisting on the area without any other results, we move on to the next lake where Stella will catch what seemed to be a big fish too, but unfortunately it will come off after a few seconds, that’s part of the game, especially without a barb, but we have to continue!
We then decided to continue to climb up towards the North, fishing several lakes on the way, in vain… The bivouac area in which we had to sleep having been modified at the last moment, our strategy evolved slightly and we decided to join the lake of Port-Bielh, in which are present a large quantity of Arctic char, the only fish subject to a quota of 10 fish for the competition, which we absolutely have to fill if we want to hope to hang on to the top of the classification!
Arrived on the spot for the evening’s fishing, we make a series of very distant casts with jigs and undulating spoons of 11 and 15 gr until Stella finally makes the first char! It’s good, we have located them, the first one is just meshed with 210 mm on the toise! A second one, then a third one, Stella has understood the trick, and her lure seems more efficient than mine! I change to the same one and catch my first char! At the end of 1h30, only the quota is done, with as a bonus a 220 mm trout added to our picture!
No more reason to stay here, we move to the neighbouring lake to set up our camp with the hope of making an effective morning catch!
Day 2: Take advantage of the activity peaks!
After a short and cool night, we quickly pack up the camp and start fishing at 6am, the legal time we were allowed to do so!
A few gobbles were seen on the surface of the lake, but the activity did not seem to be fabulous! After a little more than an hour without a touch, while she is still satelliteing her 11 gr pink undulating fish with her 68ML, Stella announces fish! Phew! I rush to the landing net and welcome this magnificent char of 316 mm which comes to improve our already correct quota!
Once the sun hits the surface of the lake, no more activity is visible and we decide not to linger!
After a few more kilometres, we arrived on a lake that we fished for more than an hour without a single touch, despite the diversity of the techniques used… It doesn’t matter, we have to stay concentrated, it will come back eventually! We then arrive on a very small shallow lake with translucent water in which we see several fish, some of which are gobbling.
I quickly grabbed my little Area Flanker, built up a small lead head minnow of less than a gram with a small larva imitation, and made a Sioux approach in the middle of the branches to remain as discreet as possible! After a few casts to present the lure to different fish, a trout was tempted and took my lure after a mini animation. The strike is precise, the rod bends and I don’t hesitate to pull on it to prevent it from going into the branches, a very nice trout of 28 cm comes then to join the landing net, doing good to our accumulation of points!
The other fish being really wary and almost impossible to fool, I decide to try the fly before leaving this lake. Despite the lack of space and my poor fly tying skills, I managed to put a small black fly on the head of a small trout that was gobbling, it built up immediately and was hooked at the end of the lighthouse 864-4! Unfortunately, it will only show 20,5 cm on the gauge and the mesh is 21 cm… After many other attempts without results, we decide to go to the lakes further down the valley, as we still have many kilometres to go! After a few casts in various lakes on our way without a single hit, we arrive on one of the last lakes before the many kilometres during which the fishing will be very difficult on large dam lakes and the fishing time very limited.
While walking on the edge of this lake, I see a beautiful trout on the edge, I then hasten to throw all the rods to Stella, seize the Area Flanker by announcing “it must make 28”, throw my small larva in a very precise way in front of the trout, which will arrive quickly on it to seize it! The landing net being attached to the hiking bag, I take the risk of dropping the trout by catching the line by hand! Stella then unhooks the net and I slip it in, the time to take out the measuring rod! A 27,9 cm fish which is really pleasing, a memorable sight action for which we had to be very reactive and the fact of having always the rods in our hands allowed us to catch this fish, contrary to many competitors who folded their rods and hung them on the bag for the walking phases!
We then quickly calculate how long it will take us to reach the next point and our bivouac, which leaves us 45 minutes of fishing before we have to trace!
Stella still insists with her big wave in the middle of the lake, while I decide to adopt a finer and complementary technique. The prototype allows me to send a very small 3gr undulating fish far enough and to feel perfectly its swimming above the bottom, very slowly. The strategy paid off as in less than 45 minutes I caught 3 more trout and Stella one, all of them around 27/28cm! This gives us a total of 8 trout with a good average size and a nice quota of 10 char, giving us hope to catch the top 10 of the ranking on this Salmo Trek, especially compared to the mixed echoes that we had from the other competitors throughout our trip!
It’s time to leave for Cap de Long lake, an emblematic lake for big salmonids fishing, but which is very very difficult to fish, at the edge of which we planned to bivouac!
At the end of a long and steep journey during which our mental and physical capacities were put to the test, we arrived at 9.45 pm at the edge of the lake, the deadline for stopping the journey being set at 10 pm!
More walking than fishing on the last day!
At daybreak, we still give ourselves an hour to fish this huge lake of Cap de Long, hoping to land a very big fish! The fishermen a few meters away from us bring out a small unmeshed christivomer, a species whose mesh size is fixed at 35 cm. After a few casts at more than 70/80m with my 721xray and an 11g undulating rod, I take a touch above the bottom, I strike very hard to get the hook in at this distance, and bring back a fish that is not very combative, but which seems to be quite heavy all the same. I then weed this one out and in front of the colours that it displays, I immediately think of a small christivomer, like the other fishermen next to it. Estimating this fish at around 25 cm, I take a quick photo in the net and quickly release it, happy to have caught my first christi’, but disappointed that it is not meshed!
After dozens of other casts we decide to leave this lake to cover the many kilometres remaining to arrive in time at the finish of this Salmo Trek!
On the way, the legs start to be heavy, and the mind escapes! I think about what we could have improved or not in our strategy, I also think about the fish we caught, and about this first christi’… Then suddenly I have a doubt, I look again at the picture, compare it with the char caught the day before, and not without shame, announce to Stella that I released a char without even measuring and counting it to improve the quota… I must not have been awake and was so much hoping to make a christi that I thought it was a juvenile one! Both absurd and laughable, this anecdote will bother me throughout the return journey, although it wouldn’t have improved anything and the final result will prove it, I feel particularly silly about this reaction!
We spend the rest of the time walking, stopping quickly at a few places to take a break and fish, but without result…
Talking to all the Salmo Trek anglers we passed on the road, our results seem pretty good and we are confident enough to be in the top 10, which was already our dream before the start!
It’s time to build up to the finish: the Portet pass, which we left 3 days before! All the competitors discuss and exchange during this build up, in a very nice atmosphere!
We did it! We reached the end of this incredible adventure, together! Stella and I are really proud to have accomplished this journey, and even if we are exhausted, it is with a smile that we have our catches validated by the stewards and that we follow carefully the ranking!
We are waiting on the line for our friend Morgan with his son Marc, 7 years old, who also managed to finish this race and they are without any doubt the most deserving of all the competitors!
The final ranking was a surprise!
Once all the competitors have arrived, everyone drives down to the town of Saint Lary-Soulan where a meal and prize-giving party are organised!
The final adjustments to the ranking are being made and the bonuses for the best walkers are to be awarded, as well as that of the big fish, a 47 cm christivomer.
Once all these points have been awarded, we take a look at the ranking and see that we are still in 4th place with a total of 4,885 points! An incredible ranking for us to finish in the top 5 of this competition, especially considering the talented teams present! On top of that, Stella was declared best female and won a prize, which is well deserved, as she fished very well and didn’t give up anything throughout the 3 days!
The 3rd and 2nd (who were the winners of the previous edition) are congratulated and applauded. Then it was the turn of the winners to build up the stage to be congratulated and to collect the huge cheque of 4 000 euros promised to the winners!
The evening is spent in good spirits and everyone leaves the venue early enough to get some rest after the efforts of the last few days! It was only the next day, when everyone was resting and checking the photos of the winners’ fish, that several competitors realised that there had been cheating and that different fish had been counted several times! After numerous complaints from the competitors and infallible evidence of cheating the year before, the details of which I will not go into here, a disciplinary committee took place and they were naturally disqualified, leaving the winners of the previous edition of the Salmo Trek, whom I would like to congratulate once again, as winners!
This turn of events allowed us to build up the third step of the podium out of more than 65 teams, which is absolutely incredible for a first time, and in a mixed race too!
A magnificent place and an incredible adventure that we are not ready to forget!
By the way, I’ll probably have a little blank sticker printed with “Salmo Trek Special / 3rd place” to add to the prototype, which should often be part of my trout session bundle!