Grayling fly fishing in Ranua – Simojoki and Ranuanjoki rivers

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Despite the Simojoki River, which is strongly known as a salmon river, and the World Fly Fishing Championships, Ranua has not become a very well-known recreational fishing destination at the local level. In this blog post, however, we present Ranua’s grayling fly fishing opportunities and. In the text, I will tell basic information about the grayling itself as well as my own favorite rapids on the Ranua side of the Simojoki River and the lesser-known Ranuanjoki.
Small grayling returning back to the river in Simojoki

Table of contents

Information about grayling

Grayling, or Harri (Thymallus thymallus) in Finnish colloquial language, is an elongated fish species belonging to the genus salmonids. Of which the most significant feature is the large and sailing dorsal fin, especially in male fish. The grayling usually grows to a length of 30 to 60 cm and weighs about one kilo or less. However, especially in northern parts of Lapland, there are much larger individuals also.

The catching size of grayling in inland waters is 35 cm, and north of latitude 67 ° 00, 30 cm. In marine areas, the endangered grayling is protected throughout the year and in inland waters south of 67 ° 00 ° latitude from 1 April to 31 May, which also holds inside grayling’s mating season.

Grayling is a highly valued fish in streams because of its rather tasty meat. Due to its insect-oriented eating habits, it has become particularly popular with fly fishermen. Although grayling is known especially as a fish species in Northern Finland, permanent stocks have also been established in southern  Finland in recent decades, and nowadays grayling can also be fished e.g. in the Kymijoki and Vantaanjoki rivers.

Grayling fly fishing in Simojoki

The Simojoki has become mainly known as a salmon river and largely for this reason the Ranuan side of the river has been somewhat neglected in terms of reputation. The rise in salmon stops mainly at Lake Portimo at the latest, above which fishing is practically entirely concentrated in other fish species, the most prestigious of which, ie trout, have almost completely disappeared from the river in recent decades.

The Simojoki River was last rehabilitated between 2002 and 2006. The purpose of the rehabilitation was to restore the river as close as possible to the times before the eruption. The river was previously gutted for swimming in the 1940s and 1950s. The most significant fishing-related event was held on the river in the summer of 2007, when Simojoki hosted the World Fly Fishing Championships.

My favorite rapids and experiences about Simojoki

Although salmon and trout shine especially in the upper reaches of the river in their absence, the deserty and quite clear water Simojoki is, in my opinion, quite a great destination especially for fly fishing for grayling and why not also for various roach fish.

In the Simojoki, prey fish are often 30 centimeters on both sides and large grayling, over 45cm, are rarer, at least in my own experience. Although the dimensions of the Lapland grayling of the arm cannot be reached in our waters, I could say from experience that very rarely do you have to return home from Simojoki without any food fish. Next, I’ll tell you more about a few of my own favorite rapids in Ranua.

Kaitavirta (Välijoki)

On the river that originates from Simojärvi, you could first head to Kaitavirta, which flows between Kortejärvi and Auralampi. The river is actually called Välijoki, while Simojoki officially starts after Auralampi pond. Kaitavirta is really easy to access as the rapid is located just under the Simojoki bridge located in Pekkalantie. 

The fishing pool is only tens of meters long but it consists of very clear and gravel-based rapids. This is in addition one of the few places where I have experienced fishing with dry flies worth trying on Ranua side. Along with grayling, it is also possible to catch large ide and pike here. It’s always also worth mentioning that the closer you are to Simojärvi lake, better the chances are also to catch brown trout. 

Because Kaitavirta is very easy place to reach, it remains as a regular place to visit for many fishers in Simojoki. I have also heard many rumours of even great grayling catches. For my part, however, grayling observations have remained in individual and fairly small fish. In the summer of 2020, however, I had a very nice experience in the more stronger current of Kaitavirta, when my fly was was taken by large sized ide, which gave me a great battle for about 15 minutes. 

Aurakoski ja Saarikoski

Grayling fly fishing in Aurakoski rapid in Simojoki
fall foliage in Aurakoski rapid

In Ranua perhaps the most well known fly fishing rapids are located under the Auralampi pond. Aurakoski and Saarikoski rapids are located in a row in Simojoki and both are definitely worth visiting throughout the whole fly fishing season. Although the latter is a little unnecessarily shallow, especially during low-water summers.

I have concentrated my fishing in this area mainly in the period after midsummer to early autumn, which is why Aurakoski rapid is much more familiar to me. It is possible to drive to the rapids both from Aurakoskentie, which turns along Pekkalantie, and from Auralammentie, which later turns from Koivuperäntie. From the former, the journey from Ranua is a little bit shorter, but it is worth noting that the end of the dirt road in question is very narrow and, as a result, potential other fishermen need to be avoided by reversing to a wider spot on the road.

Aurakoski is one of my own favorite destinations in the entire Simojoki area and both the number and the average size of the fish are often quite large here. On the best single trip, the session featured about 15 grayling on either side of the “magical” 35cm mark, all of which, with the exception of one food fish, were allowed to continue their lives. The most exciting part, however, was provided by a huge pike, interested in a rather large grayling at the end of my line, which the big beast eventually took as a dinner, after first bending the AFTM #3 rod close to the limit.

On the Aurakoski side, my own favorite spot is at the pretty tops of the rapids, where a small island separates the river to two. Immediately below the island is a small waterfall and a large boulder, below which is an excellent place for both grayling and roaches. Another spot worth mentioning in Aurakoski is the Aurakoskentie side next to the island, which is quite deep and strongly flowing current, albeit with a steady stream. From this point I have catched a number of grayling qualifying the measure. From the island up to the neck of the rapids, the ridge is quite even and no catch is certainly left in those areas either.

Toivakka area (Haapakoski, Toivakkakoski and Pikku-Toivakka rapids)

Toivakkakoski rapid at Simojärvi river in Ranua
Toivakkakoski matalan veden aikaan kesällä 2018

Going down to the river, my next favorite area is located in Toivakka. There are of course some rapids between Saarikoski rapid and Toivakka area but for example Honkakoski rapid, well known of its stunning gravel river bed, is a rapid that I am not familiar with. The only recent visit was in 2019, when the water level was too low for cathing any larger fish.  A visit to Honkakoski though will find its way to my fly fishing calender for the coming summer. 

There are a total of three rapids in the Toivakka area: Haapakoski at the top, followed by Toivakka rapids: Pikku- and Iso-Toivakka. The road leading to the shore of Haapakoski is a private cottage road, at the beginning of which there is a boom that prevents you to enter the river by car. I have usually asked for a permission from the owner of the house located next to the boom. Another way to get to the river  is to leave the car at Pekkalantie and walk through swamps and forests. Having tried both these methods, I can recommend the first one.

The first rapid, Haapakoski, is one of the narrowest points of the whole Simojoki river. The rapid, which can be fished quite easily across the entire width of the river, is about 30 to 40 meters long and a very interesting fly fishing area, which surprised me greatly during my first visit in the summer of 2017. 

Haapakoski also excelled at the World Fly Fishing Championships in the summer of 2007, as it is known that at that time the largest single amount (27) of grayling was catched from this pool. Kaitavirta, which was already mentioned before, was on second place in this category. 

About a hundred meters down from Haapakoski are the Toivakka rapids, which were known as habitation of large trout in the previous decades. Toivakka is a place with very high current and especially late in the summer, it’s really challenging spot to fish. 

Both Toivakka rapids are still highly potential places for grayling fishing but I’ve been spending most of my time in Haapakoski rapid. Toivakka rapids most definitely are places that I will be inspecting more thoroughly in summer 2021. 

Veneheiton nivat

Grayling fly fishing at Veneheitto in Simojärvi river Finnish Lapland
Large grayling bending my AFTM #6 rod at Veneheitto in summer 2017 - © Pyry Sojakka

There will always be a special place in my own heart for Veneheiton nivat, which are located below the Simojoki bridge crossing Pekkalantie. It was Veneheitto, where I cathced the biggest grayling of my life so far. This happened in mid-July 2017 and the fish weighted more than a kilo. 

The Veneheiton niva itself is a very narrow but deep point in Simojoki river, where the river flows quite calmly, especially in summer months. The depth in the middle of the current must be many meters. This is also clearly visible in the variation of prey fish, as a large pike is also quite common catch here.

There is also one rapid area below Veneheitto, which is unfortunately shallow, especially after the mid-summer. Despite this, I think I have catched at least one decent sized grayling in almost every fishing trip I have ever made here.

This location can be reached both with a boat and by hiking from Kelukkavaara road, located next to Sääskijärvi. It is also possible to make fire on top of a cliff in Veneheitto and you can even spend a night in here if you have a tent or hammock with you. 

Toljankoski

Toljankoski rapid at Simojoki river in summer 2015
Toljankoski rapid in summer 2015 - © Tuomas Haapala

Toljankoski, located in Rynkkä side of the village of Tolja, still has a rather legendary reputation, especially among local fly fishermen. This is despite the fact that trout, which is quite common in the rapids, has apparently disappeared from its former habitats after the restorations of the Simojoki River.

I like to drive to Toljankoski rapid from the Rynkkä side, as from the other side it is way more difficult to reach the main stream of the river. The walking distance from the other side of the river is also lot longer and you also have to hike through swamp and forest bends for several kilometers. Admittedly, when going from Toljantie’s side, there is also a plus side that must be given for the fact that on this side, at least in the past, there have been duckboards all the way to the river bank and a hut by the river, where it is possible to spend the night in.

Toljankoski could be described as a challenging destination for several different reasons. Although the grayling stock on the rapids is vibrant and even abundant, there are no guarantees of actually catching any in Tolja. A competent and accustomed fisherman will usually find a way through, but at least I have noticed very clearly that changing flies and even fishing techniques is absolutely vital in Toljankoski. So you must be able to adjust. Another challenging aspect is wading in Toljankoski. The bottom of the rapids is largely made up of large boulders that are not only sharp-edged but also mobile. You should therefore be especially careful when wading in Tolja. This for me is the only location where I do not enjoy going to the water and where I even avoid wading as much as possible.

In Toljankoski, the best area to see can be found right above the Harrikoste cottage on the river bank. Before the rapids fall drastically and downstream, you will find a steady flowing and deep current area from which the ridge usually always reaches. The average size of fish is often below 30 centimeters, but yes, larger individuals can usually be found.

Toljankoski is very long in fishing length and my own sessions usually includes the area between the start of the stream and Harrikoste cabin. Next summer, however, I am also planning on fishing this rapid in a different way, by concentrating the fishing below the Harrikoste area where you can also find even hundreds of meters of area for fly fishing.

The biggest grayling (about 40cm) that I have catched from Toljankoski was in summer 2017 and it was in a calmer pool located almost on the other side of the river, between two islands. 

Myllykoski

Myllykoski rapid at Simojoki river in summer 2019

Myllykoski is a rapid located below Lake Saukkojärvi and it is probably one of the least known of the Simojoki rapids. However, it is a very interesting and easily accessible place, which, at least in my own experience, is even a habitat for really large grayling. Also the occasional trout have heard the rumor.

Getting to the rapids itself is very easy. From Ranua, you will drive towards Rovaniemi and past Petsamontie, which turns left. After this, turn right from the first possible connection, to Toljantie. Drive on Toljantie for a few kilometers until there is a clear bend to the right on the road. The right place to park your car can be found on the left side of the road, where there is a noticeable road junction. The rapid itself can be reached by walking through the forest, the distance to the river bank is only just over a hundred meters.

Myllykoski’s rapid neck is a very deep and interesting place, where the variety of different fish species could be very interesting to test, for example with a large lure. I don’t think it’s an impossible idea at all to have some trout in here as well. Pike and perch on the other hand are guaranteed. 

In Myllykoski, fishing is mainly concentrated on both sides of the strong main stream found in the middle of the river, where grayling sticks to the fly mainly at deep mounds. Indeed, my biggest grayling I got this place was a bit of a coincidence, when I made a longer cast “over” the main stream and to the other side of the river, from which I got such a strong catch that I could get the large grayling hooked. This particular 40cm individual eventually ended up on the dinner plate in the form of fish soup.

Toljamonkoski

Toljamonkoski rapid at Simojoki river in Ranua
Toljamonkoski was still an excellent place for grayling dry fly fishing in the beginning of 21st century - © Tuomas Haapala

There are actually several places worth visiting along Petsamontie road. Of these rapids, I could mention (among Toljamonkoski) at least Leppikoski. However, the challenge for these rapids near the road is caused by the settlement found on the banks of the river, as well as the cottages that can be found on the banks of almost every rapid. Even with a car, you will either have to walk to the river bank from Petsamontie or you might ask permission to leave the car in the yard of the house or cottage located next to the rapids.

Toljamonkoski is probably the single favorite rapid in the whole river for me, where I have been fishing every year from 2001 onwards. Although this rapid also has a special place in my heart, I can honestly say that it is also a very good grayling fishing ground, where the fishing length is also enough for hundreds of meters.

In my own experience, in Toljamonkoski it is actually worth heading right out of the box to the point where the river makes a bend of almost 90 degrees. Above this, I have never come across any grayling. This particular bend, in my option, is also the hot spot of the whole rapid. This is a very deep and relatively calm current area, where graylings, however, occasionally very fiercely catch the fly from the surface as well. A few meters from the shore, there are two larger boulders that are also excellent formations for fly casting.

Although this bend is the real hot in the rapid, spots worth fishing last for about hundred meters down the river.  In the summer of 2002, I got the first larger grayling of my life from the very beautiful polar part before the strongest part of the current. This area is also worth fishing with, for example, a slowly sinking leech.

When fishing in Toljamonkoski, it is worth taking into account that there is a cottage settlement on the river bank. The smartest way to get to the rapid is to leave the car, for example, at Petsamontie, where you can walk a few hundred meters to the rapids.

Toljamonkoski, located below Lake Portimojärvi, is also an area where salmon sightings have also been regular to this day. Prior to the Simojoki rehabilitations, the rapids neck area was a very potential dry fly fishing area for grayling. I will certainly forever remember, for example, the Midsummer Eve 2003, when the whole neck area was boiling with the twinkling of grayling as mayflies were laying their eggs in the river.

Vareskoski

Vareskoski rapid at Simojoki river in Ranua

My next favorite rapid is located basically on the border of the towns of Ranua and Simo. Vareskoski is rapid that I have only visited couple of times so far, but it has left such an impression to me that I can easily include it to the list of my favorite rapids.

When coming from Ranua, the location of the rapid is quite easy to identify, as it is a rather clear straight section on the road leading to Simo, on the right side of which you will find really impressive looking fields and a farm. To get to the rapids, the car has to be parked on the side of the field, after which you will be able to walk to the river bed.

I once became interested in Vareskoski after hearing a strong rumor that trout can also be found in the rapid. This is quite easy to believe, as the bottom of this river can be compared to the quality can be compared to Kaitavirta. The clean base of gravel and sand serves for the survival and breeding of both trout and grayling.

As mentioned before, my visits to Vareskoski have been limited so far to individual stints, but out of these times, I have only managed not to catch a decent sized grayling once, during the flooded summer 2020. Vares has very many interesting curves in it and deeper spots even close to the shore, which makes it possible to catch larger grayling right next to the river bed. A very potential looking place can also be found after the hardest parts of the current at the beginning of the rapids, where the river makes a bend of about 45 degrees. At this point, in the middle stages of the river, there is a deep and powerful stream, which could very easily be habitat and hunting area for large trout. At this part, it is definitely worth trying, for example, some kind of tinsel-bound streamer or some kind of Muddler fly.

Map for the rapids mentioned above:

Forgotten (part of the) river

As I mentioned at the beginning of Simojoki part, the focus on the river today is practically entirely towards salmon and thus mainly on the river parts located in the side of the town of Simo. This is very noticeable from many things, most notably perhaps from the fact that the Simojoki.com website, for example, only mentions the Simo side rapids and completely forgets the existence of Ranua. Also, various services for fishermen, such as fireplaces, lean-tos and sheds, have almost completely disappeared from the Ranua side. Among popular destinations, lean-tos have been dismantled from the shores of Toivakkakoski and Saarikoski, for example. It is also very unfortunate that the rapids on the Ranua side have now been left out of Infogis map service.

The forgetting of the Ranua section of the Simojoki River is unfortunate, especially for Simojärvi and its brown trout. Petri Manninen, who works as a professional fisherman in Simojärvi, has been doingg active work for years to revive the trout stock, and concrete measures for the trout of Simojärvi will probably be seen in the next few years. However, the subject would also deserve much more attention at the national level as a whole. I also think that fishermen who have been fishing on the river for years and who have paid for permits do earn considerably more specifically from the licensee.

Ranuanjoki

Originating from Lake Takajärvi in the center of the village of Ranua, the Ranuanjoki River has been a very popular recreational fishing destination in recent decades, especially in side villages along the river, such as those living in Asmunti. However, the water quality of the Ranuanjoki River has declined significantly in recent decades, and today grayling fishing is concentrated in parts of the river downstream from the village of Asmunti.

In the case of the Ranuanjoki, it is good to take into account that the river is often very shallow, especially after mid-summer. In practice, this means that fishing should be timed mainly either in the first half of June or in floods, as was the case, for example, in 2020. At that time, the fishing season in Ranuanjoki continued until autumn.

Jokikangas

Rapids at Ranuanjoki river

Jokikangas is located near the village of Asmunti, about 23 km from Ranua towards Pudasjärvi. To get to the river canvas, before arriving in Asmunti, turn left onto Sääskisuo Road, which is driven for about three kilometers, after which you will encounter a bridge over Ranuanjoki. The bridge is preceded by a rather large parking area, which can be used to park several cars at a time.

Above the Ranuanjoki bridge is a rapids called Ässänkoski. This rapid is located next to a field, which is why there is plenty of space for regular over the shoulder casts on the river bank. It is a fairly evenly flowing rapids, which is pleasantly deep compared to the norm of the Ranuanjoki River.

There is also another rapid near Ässänkoski, called Petäjäkoski. This rapid is located downstream of Ässänkoski, at the point where the Ranuanjoki makes a bend of about 90 degrees.

Petäjäkoski is only tens of meters long, but with very interesting features. At the end of June 2020, I had plenty of strong bites under a tree bent over the river, yet I was only able to hook a couple of smaller graylings. Especially during high water, however, I feel that even larger graylings can be reached from this place.

Nastankoski

Jokikangas rapids at Ranuanjoki river in summer 2020

The next place worth mentioning on the Ranuanjoki River is Nastankoski, a short distance down the river from Jokikangas. You can get to Nastankoski by driving from Jokikangas on Sääskisuontie, from where you will make a turn right towards Lamminkylä, from where you turn about 300 meters away. I went on site in the fall of summer 2020 and I don’t recommend driving this road, at least with a low-based car. An easier place can be found about 200 meters away, at the point where there is a house on the left side of the road. At the house, the car can be parked on the right side of the road, from where there is a path that leads directly to the bottom of the rapid.

Nastankoski is a fairly long rapid, which is adjacent to the well-trodden passage route all the way. The flow in the rapids is steady and there is practically no actual effervescence in the rapids. In terms of its depth, Nastankoski is sadly quite shallow. Even in the flood summer of 2020, the water reached only about a knee at the end of August.

However, there seemed to be some contact with the fish and during a short fishing session of about an hour I caught many smaller graylings.

Down from Nastankoski there are also other rapids, such as Rupulinkoski, Hautakoski, Tavinkoski and Ellinkoski, but at least I have never visited them. Based on the maps, these rapids are located in places that already require a little more walking, because at least to my knowledge, there are no actual road connections to these rapids. It would seem that some sort of road to Rupulinkoski from the ridge of Lamminkylä seems to go, but at least you will not dare to try your luck on such roads by car.

Ranuanjoki rapid map:

Grayling fly fishing equipment and techniques

Over the last decade in particular, fly fishing has become very closely linked to certain nymphing techniques, in particular the so-called French nymphing has taken a strong role in the domestic fly fishing scene. However, I cannot personally say that I was inaugurated in any particular mold. For example, using a fly line in fishing instead of just a thin leader is still an integral part of my own fishing. The effectiveness here may be lost somewhat, but I honestly have never experienced getting too small amounts of fish. So this does not bother me.

I mainly fish in both the Simojoki and Ranuanjoki in pretty much the same way. My fishing is probably about 80% nymph fishing with a short line and the best possible feel, where I try to fish certain areas of the river as accurately as possible and as close to the bottom of the river as possible. The last two years I have been fishing almost exclusively AFTM # 3 class rod, which measures 10 feet, or about three meters. As a leader I have been using about one and half a rod length and the tip slightly thinning fluorocarbon. The base of the leader is usually about 0.25mm thick and the tip is either 0.21mm or 0.18mm.

Grayling flies

Of the flies, the different nymph and larva models have worked best, mainly in hook size 12 or 14. My own favorites of individual flies are especially binding from hare hair. One of my single favorites are Hare’s Ear Nymphs (tying video on YouTube) in different color and binding variations. Other traditional flies, such as the simple Pheasant Tail nymphs and various small larvae, have also worked excellently on both the Simojoki and Ranuanjoki rivers. On the streamers side, Ariko’s little Muddler (tying video on YouTube) by Ariko Miettinen, a fly tying wizard from Sodankylä, has been a very hard game for grayling in many different rapids, especially in late summer. This small streamer seems to be a fly that the grayling absolutely loves at times and at the fly is often bit by a fish right after it has landed on the river.

Wading on the Simojoki River is at least recommended in most of the places mentioned. The Ranuanjoki River, on the other hand, also gets along well with rubber boots, and in many places the river can be easily fished along its entire width, including with a fly.

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