Tuesday 28 June 2011

End of the season review

As ever the season has simply flown by and it is hard to believe that it was only 6 weeks ago that our first guests got off the helicopter at Lower and Middle Varzuga.

From that first week it was clear that it was going to be a bumper season as those 13 rods landed an average of 61 fish per person. It can be cold at this time of the season but early on is when the big numbers of fish run and this year was no exception.

Guide Losha with an early season fish
 As the season progressed it was also clear that unless we had heavy rain it was going to be a relatively low water year. This is something that we generally welcome as it makes the river more defined and easier to read although it can make boating to some of the beats harder than we would hope. In the event we did have rain on the 3rd week of our very short season which helped somewhat but the last two weeks did involve some walking for some of the camps.

Midnight on the Varzuga
The amazing thing about the river is that it does not seem to be affected by sun, rain, wind or extreme temperatures. In conditions that would mean most rivers would not produce fish (we had one day of 30 degrees Celsius with a searing sun) the Varzuga continued to be remarkably productive.

A decent fish from Lower Varzuga
 We finished our season with a very healthy average of 37 fish per rod per week. The lower water also meant that we could access areas of the river earlier in the season than usual and this led to some big fish being landed. Several fish of over the magical 20lbs mark were taken with plenty in the high teens.

The Varzuga is not a river where you are likely to land a fish of over 40lbs but it offers an unrivalled opportunity to hook a very good number of salmon and I lost count of the number of people who commented on how much they had learnt about their fishing after a week on the river.

The new lodge at Lower
The new accommodation at Lower Varzuga is quite simply superb and with some finishing touches it will be the best lodge on the Kola by quite some margin. As we continue to invest in the boats, the accommodation and the training of the guides, the programme improves year on year and we look forward to our next 20 years on the river.

For 2012 we are excited to say that we are able to substantially reduce the cost of fishing at Lower Varzuga and Kitza for the prime weeks thanks to an exciting opportunity presented to us by our new Russian partner. Please contact me in the office for further details.

Middle Varzuga in June
It has been a wonderful season with an amazing total of 5,401 fish landed over the 6 weeks – there simply are not many places that can match these statistics in terms of Atlantic salmon fishing and I am constantly reminded as to how lucky we are to be able to fish there every year.

Could this be you next year?
 We will not update the blog any further until the start of the 2012 season but my thanks goes to all of you who fished with us this year and I will look forward to seeing you on the river next year.

Charlie White

Saturday 25 June 2011

The last day

The last day

A brief blog; sadly we close the camp down today and last night hauled all the boats out of the water and secured them well above (we hope) next Springs river ice break.

We ended the season on a happy note here at Middle Camp with another excellent day, although I know the fishing in this low water has been tougher than normal up on Pana.

At Middle Camp we had a strong upstream wind all day, not easy fishing at times and in Yovas Rapids there were strong gusts from all directions. Despite that our six guests landed 42 salmon with Richard D catching 12 to take him to over 50 for the week – not bad for a youngster who had only caught 3 salmon before he came here!

Ian C at Royal Dee in Yovas Rapids
Middle ended the week with 230 fish to six rods, much better than last year and well above the long term average. At Pana I’m afraid the team struggled slightly in very low water conditions, even so they had 119 for their team of eight.

Shortly the helicopter arrives to take our guests back to Murmansk and thence to home. Tiffy and I will go to the village this afternoon, find our car and retrace our steps back to Norway to see our friends on Lakselva.

This is always a sad moment – how the season flies by. A huge thank you to Genadiy Nagirniak and all the Russian teams in Kitza, Pana, Middle and Lower Camps for all their hard work, support and friendship this year. I look forward to being back in May next year.

Andy B with one of his 50 salmon for the week
 Charlie will summarise the season on the blog early next week. In the meantime we will all take home wonderful memories of this remarkable river, the stunning scenery and the warm hearted people of Varzuga village.

Christopher Robinson

Friday 24 June 2011

Warm Water

Another bright day yesterday with a reasonable breeze that caught you out occasionally if your casting got lazy. Ian C and Andy B were first away, eager to get up Yovas Rapids. Ian, having fished the Varzuga with us for most years since 1991 has stuck to his Bomber pretty much all week, knowing that he might land more on a conventional fly but happy to experiment and have some fun. He came home having banked six salmon.

Peter and James D with Misha returning to camp
Andy B, in his first trip to Varzuga has been determined to make the most of the numbers of fish here and landed 9 yesterday using an intermediate sink tip and his special killer fly. The fly is of his own tying and he brought three with him, one he kindly gave to James D, a pike dealt with the second yesterday so, on his last day he has one left. Not too much of a problem as he is not one to knock off flies on rocks when casting.

The last of Andy B's special flies
The water temperature crept up to 17⁰C yesterday and the level continued to drop, the salmon have started to move out of the slower and medium paced flow into the fast stuff. This was very noticeable yesterday and caught us out a bit in the morning.
Hugh landing Jemima's first salmon
With only two days left here, Hugh took Jemima out in a boat to see if she could land her first salmon – which she duly did, a nice 8lber from Simmons - celebrated with a banya and a swim in the river!

The first salmon smile
We ended the day here at Middle Camp with a creditable 32 salmon plus Jemima’s first. The Pana team struggled with the warm water and bright sun and had 15.

Our last day today – the season has just flown by, it is cloudy and quite windy again. Overall good conditions but tough casting I suspect.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 23 June 2011

Just around the corner

The water level continues to drop and as it does the pools are becoming more attractive and defined. We haven’t seen the water as low as this in June for many years and exploring new spots is fascinating and often rewarding.
Yovas Rapids, Royal Deeside pool
Lawrence and Richard D walked up Yovas Rapids yesterday, I explained that there was no need to go all the way to Scotts as the lower and middle section was fishing well and full of fish (the beats here are so long that it is seldom all the pools can be covered in a day).  In fact they did walk all the way to the top and came back with 21 salmon between them, most from the area of Scotts. Lawrence explained that as they walked up they’d see a pool and mark it to be fished on the way back, then the fisherman’s inherent curiosity kicked in and they walked to the next corner to have a look – another fabulous pool – so, inevitably, they were drawn further on. They hardly fished the middle and lower sections and the two groups going there today are champing at the bit to get going.

James D and Misha with one of James's four salmon yesterday
We completed a great day with an after dinner Bomber demonstration on Generator by Ian C where he rose, hooked and landed a fish for the gallery. That took us to a tally of 36 – not bad for very bright conditions.

Pana reported 20 yesterday with a really nice fish of 15lbs falling to Alistair M in Lunch Pool.

Andy B broke his rod on Tuesday and borrowed one of our Guideline ACT 4 rods kindly supplied by Guideline Director Espen Myhre. He rated it very highly and had seven salmon on it from Simmons, one of which was a cracking 10lber straight in from the sea.

Andy B in action with the Guideline rod
Only a light wind today thank goodness, quite warm and overcast – looks good.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Mid Summers Day

Mid Summers Day announced itself with a weather front of howling upstream wind and rain, the team knew casting into it was going to be tricky at best and enthusiasm for the day ahead was somewhat subdued.

Andy B and Ian C took the Royal Deeside area of Yovas Rapids where, despite the conditions, Andy had nine fish by 2 o’clock before his double handed rod broke. He struggled on with his light single handed in the wind and came back in the evening with his mind querying what the score might have been had he been able to cover the water. Ian C had 10 fish from Green Bank and Royal Dee, four on a bomber and the rest on Sunrays; he declared the beat ‘heaving with fish’.

Tired but happy after a long day in the wind
Opposite them Peter D had six salmon before he too broke his rod - it was one of those days. Lawrence and Richard D drew the ever productive Simmons and landed 13 between them and we finished the day with a remarkable 40 salmon to six rods in pretty atrocious conditions.

Midnight at Middle Camp
Up at Pana the team again had 30 fish, yesterday evenly spread amongst the team. The water up there is really clear and low and a certain amount of experimentation with flies is going on, today they will try blue – not a colour we usually use here.

Tim Scott Bolton painting at Green Bank
We had the artist Tim Scott-Bolton out here for a couple of weeks and he has created a wonderful collection of paintings of the river and Varzuga village. His exhibition will be held at the Tryon Gallery from 6-9 December.

A typical 'big sky' on Varzuga
The wind dropped last night, looks much better today although quite bright. More tomorrow…

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Another good day

The forecasters delayed our expected rain for 24 hours and we had a bright, sunny day. Pretty good conditions which were only marred by a strong up-stream wind that kicked in about 2 p.m. By the time we finished fishing at 6 p.m. it was blowing a gale. For the first time in many weeks no one fished after dinner, preferring a banya followed by arm chair fishing by the fire.

Lawrence D in action
At Middle Varzuga our team of six landed 31 salmon. The fish seem evenly spread throughout this long beat and here were no particular hot spots, other than Simmons again from which James D had 5 fish. Lawrence and Richard D put in a long day, walking with Hugh our Camp Manager up from Blue Rock to Scotts and fishing back down. They had six salmon apiece and returned tired but happy.

A beautifully marked salmon for Richard D
The fishing at Pana picked up and they landed 31 for the day with Charlie McV and Paddy D-P top scorers with seven each. With a ferry boat now in the Lagoon, access to the lower fishing is easier.

A happy father and son
We had quite heavy rain last night and the Longest Day of the year has dawned damp and very windy. Hoping for a clearer evening as we are planning a midnight BBQ, and some fishing on Generator of course, to celebrate mid-summer just 6 km short of the Arctic Circle.

Christopher Robinson

Monday 20 June 2011

Mixed Blessings

Low water brings mixed blessings here at Middle Camp on the Varzuga. On the plus side the pools become more defined, fishing effort can concentrated on the more obviously productive salmon lies and the river looks stunningly beautiful. On the down-side boating is tricky to say the least. Yesterday we all clipped rocks in a couple of places so today there are two shallows where we shall get out and walk the boats through, it does not take long and is well worth the effort.
Lawrence D below Pic-nic
We had a great start to the week; having landed eight fish in Generator on their first evening our six rods set off with the sort of enthusiasm that deserved reward. Andy B and Ian C walked up from Blue Rock to Scotts – their effort paid a handsome dividend in the form of 21 salmon between them. Ian experimented a bit and had four on a Bomber with numerous others risen. Andy stuck to his Mediator tied specifically to Jim Fisher’s instructions and finished his ‘best days fishing ever’ catching four more out of Simmons on the way home - giving him a total of 17 salmon for the day. The team finished with 44 in the book, the biggest at 13lbs for young Richard D.

Richard D with one of his 10 salmon since Saturday evening
The low water hampered the experienced team at Pana. They just got into double figures, with the float trip again yielding the best results. Today we are adjusting the pre-positioning of the boats which should improve access to the lower beats.

Simmons in low water - nine salmon were caught here yesterday afternoon
Rain is forecast today, no sign of it yet and anyway unless we have a massive amount the desperately dry tundra will just soak it up. Pana would welcome even a shower, here at Middle I suspect the team would prefer to enjoy the river as it is.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 19 June 2011

Low Water

Last week we dusted off the seldom used file marked ‘Low Water Drills’. The river continued to drop steadily and by the end of the week access by jet boat to some areas was denied to us. All camps were having to adjust their beats; Pana struggled to get down-stream to Ponzoi, but despite not fishing Ponzoi for three days they finished with a solid 376 fish to the eight rods.

Laurence L in action at Simmons
At Kitza the pools above First Island had to be walked to. I saw team leader Richard G at the airport, he reported good runs of fresh fish coming in but with low, warm water the fish were not stopping much in the lower pools by camp. His team had made good work of the conditions with 120 for the week.

Dreamy water - Scotts, at the top of Yovas Rapids
 At Middle we finally stopped boating the Yovas Rapids on Thursday evening. Friday saw two teams fish up the rapids by foot – an enjoyable ‘expedition’ with a pic-nic lunch and BBQ’d salmon by Green Bank. We finished the week at Middle Camp with 307 salmon for the 11 rods. Just about level with the long term average.

Frans Van S and Hans K pic-nic on Green Bank
The new teams were all in camp by 4:30 yesterday. By 5:30 here at Middle Richard D (our youngest guest of the season), guided by his father Lawrence, had landed his first Varzuga salmon and went on quickly to a total of four by the time dinner was called! Seldom seen a smile like that one!

Frans van S with one of four fish from Scotts
Very bright today, but a good start with Ian C having two before breakfast from Generator. More tomorrow...
Christopher Robinson

Friday 17 June 2011

The Switch

I came into breakfast this morning to overhear a conversation about the switch. I assumed someone’s cabin hot water heater had fused. It became clear that the discussion was about Nature's river switch that sometimes confounds us salmon fishers.
Green Bank in Yovas Rapids
After four days of really good fishing weather our fifth day was extraordinary bright with a strongish up-stream wind. It never really felt fishy, the water temperature climbed back to 15⁰C, everyone had to work hard for reward. In other words, it was not a day our guests went down to the boats with a skip in their step. Simon G again managed to work it out and had 6 salmon from the fast water at Korevi Pots on the single handed rod. Sadly his success was not reflected across the board and we finished the day on 31. By no means a bad score but given the number of fish here it was decided that Nature had thrown the switch on us.

Ian R and Artiyom at Scotts
I have not heard Kitza’s final score from yesterday, rumour has it that it was around 20, taking them over 100 for the week so far. Like us, Pana had a patchy day landing 40 salmon of which 12 came off the ever popular float trip. Dan B had another excellent day with 12 good fish landed.

Conditions improved last night as the cloud cover returned, Laurence L had four from Generator and another two this morning before breakfast, all on his 13 foot split cane rod.

Waxwing, photographed by Hugh yesterday
A softer morning today, with some cloud cover – looks much better (I hope I have not spoken too soon!).

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 16 June 2011

A 25lber at Pana

A warm day yesterday but not too bright giving us pretty good fishing conditions over the whole river. Our regular team of eight guests at Pana did not land quite as many as previous days with 49 salmon banked. Although numbers were slightly down they had two super fish, one of 25lbs to Ashton C and an 18lber to David L.

Alexander T and Artyium in Generator
The Kitza party had over 20 fish, I do not have the full score yet, but I heard that Brian P was leading the way with 7 salmon by early afternoon. In the evening they all went down to the mouth of the river on the White Sea for a BBQ. This expedition is always enjoyed, the White Sea light is extraordinary in the evenings and the coast is teeming with wild life and birds. Often we see whales in the estuary.

Midnight on the White Sea coast
 The fishing at Middle camp is proving remarkably consistent with 58 salmon landed, all fairly evenly spread amongst the rods other than Laurence L who made the most of the faster water at Pashas Rest and banked 15. We saw more pods of fresh grilse splashing through yesterday – they fight like mad, jumping spectacularly.

The Choice
The water temperature is a perfect 12⁰C and at Middle Camp the level continues to drop about 2.5 cm per day. Very much floating line conditions and small flies in the range 8 – 12.

First Island on Kitza

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 15 June 2011

A new fly

Experimentation continues. Yesterday evening Paddy F produced a good looking fly tied by a Spey ghillie and it was decided to copy it. However, missing from our fly tying kit was any suitable white hair. The only possible source was soon narrowed down to Mouchar (ch like lough), our large camp dog whose role is to keep bears off this island camp. Mouchar means fly in Russian so it all seemed to be coming together nicely.


Mouchar lives outside most of the year and his thick, back hair proved to be poor fly tying material. After some debate we recalled from where, on a rams anatomy, the body dubbing for the famous trout fly The Tups Indispensible comes from.

Now - those of you who know where on a ram the dubbing for a Tups originally came from will grasp immediately the delicate and possibly dangerous nature of the task ahead.

Franz van S, Hugh and Hans K designing the fly
Fortuitously we were able to pour sufficient vodka into Hugh, our camp manager, that he risked life and limb to acquire the necessary hair. So a new fly was born and taken on its first outing by Frans van S who landed one and lost three on it. It has yet to be officially named although several suggestions have been made, the only one I dare mention on this blog is the Mutts Nuts.

Keith J fishing Party Pool yesterday
I digress - on the fishing front, the Kitza party have landed 64 salmon so far this week with the better fishing on the higher beats. Low water is now beginning to limit their fishing to the more accessible pools. Pana continues to be excellent, yesterday Charlie T had 17 fish out of a total of 74. Here at Middle Varzuga we had 56 for the day with Simon G again getting a 14lber on a single handed rod and tiny skated fly. Party Pool was full of fresh fish yesterday - very encouraging.

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 14 June 2011


A cold morning yesterday, but by lunch time the weather improved and we had another glorious afternoon of mixed sun and cloud.

A light lunch on the river bank
At Middle Camp Jemima produced a ‘little light luncheon’ on the river bank; the combination of roast chicken and warm sunshine led to the inevitable siesta before battle was re-commenced later in the afternoon.

A post lunch nap
Frans van S landed his first Atlantic salmon from Bear and then proved this was not just luck by quickly landing another and losing two in Generator. It is always a relief to have everyone on the score board, and with plenty of fish here experimentation has started in earnest. Laurence L had a couple of fish on his 13 ½ foot Hardy split cane rod and a 1922 Perfect reel. The reel makes a wonderfully iconic sound as the fish take line; “The church bells are ringing” a guide in Norway once said to me. After catching a fish of 13lbs in Simmons yesterday Simon G has borrowed my 10 foot Sage and a box of small skating flies to see what he can tempt to the surface.

Frans Van S playing his first salmon
Jamie the camp manager at Pana reported 71 fish yesterday, the lower beats providing the best fishing and the boats are still able to get through to Ponzoi . At Middle we landed 50 fish for the day, with more caught after dinner and not yet in the book. The water temperature has dropped back to 12⁰C, just perfect for the Varzuga.

Sandy S and Anton in East Generator
More tomorrow..

Christopher Robinson

Monday 13 June 2011

Captain Nemo's report

We had perfect Varzuga fishing conditions yesterday morning, mixed sunshine and showers and a soft down-stream breeze to flatter the casting skills (not that this team at Middle Camp need much help – most having ‘fished a bit’!). The afternoon was more tricky, quite cold, the wind picked up and the salmon put their heads down.

Sandy S, Rafael M and Anton heading off to Green Bank
 Pana continues to fish wonderfully and the eight rods landed 105 salmon; Dan B was top rod with a fabulous day of 29 fish.

Straight in from the White Sea
Kitza reported a biggish run of grilse coming through the lower beats and they had 29 fish for the team of seven. Here at Middle Camp our 11 guests landed 70 salmon. Birthday and Party Pools are just beginning to slow down and now we are sending two boats right up to the top beats at the head of Yovas rapids – possibly the most beautiful place on the river.

Midnight sun last night
After a busy Saturday I had a chance yesterday to catch up on some administration, and to reflect on last week’s fishing. Despite the very hot, bright weather Kitza and Pana had excellent weeks, both hovering around the consistent long term average of 30 salmon per rod/week. Middle Camp was slightly ahead with just under 40 salmon per rod. Very creditable results given the conditions. All of us involved in the river feel the run of fish this year is stronger than 2010 and there seems no shortage of fresh, silver fish still running in from the White Sea.

Emillio R-G with a really good salmon from Snake Pit
I’m going out guiding today – needing practice after being soundly beaten by young Jesse last week. A public apology to Paul Young and Colin S for our boating adventure on the rocks on Thursday. The guides here at Middle Camp are amused at my new title of ‘Captain Nemo’!

Christopher Robinson

P.S. Cooler this morning. 4⁰C at breakfast so it might be a slightly tougher day.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Cooler weather

Saturdays up here bring a degree of urgency and, dare I say it, controlled chaos at Murmansk airport; it is always a relief to get everyone on to the helicopters and on the way to the camps. We were all settled in by late afternoon and within minutes rods were being put up in eager anticipation of a week on the Varzuga.

Tom C-B last week
We are now concentrating our fishing efforts from the Pana, Kitza and Middle Camps and I have based myself at the later. All camps had landed fish before dinner last night, here at Middle the team landed 20, Simon G leading the way with 7 salmon from Generator.

Arctic Terns watching for smoults
We had some rain in the evening and thankfully the baking hot sun of last week has been replaced with much cooler, cloudy weather giving us excellent fishing conditions. The water temperature had reached 16⁰C on Thursday, hopefully it will now drop back towards an optimum 12⁰C. Floating lines remain the most popular, flies are the usual eclectic range the top choice probably being a size 8 Cascade.

Another salmon from the famous Generator Pool
This morning has started well with Laurence L putting 4 bright silver salmon into the record book before having breakfast (wearing a very happy smile!).

More tomorrow….

Christopher Robinson