Saturday 21 May 2011

Great First Week

I will have to be brief today; I head back to UK tomorrow morning. Charlie White takes over up here for a couple of weeks and will keep you posted with fishing results and conditions on the Varzuga.

What an amazing first week! Low’ish water but the level is holding up well with the recent rain. The water temperature remains a constant 6⁰C, our only problem being some dirty water washed in by the side streams off the Tundra.

Craig P with his 90th salmon for the week
At Middle Arnaud F-M landed 24 salmon today taking him over 100 for the week. At Lower Craig P is still out there, on 97 and determined to get over the three figure mark. Henry G has retired gracefully on 73 fish for week, all caught ‘in office hours’.

Unless we get a really cold spell we should be on course to be on floating lines by early June.

Midnight this evening
Always a sad moment to leave the Varzuga, but I will be back in a couple of weeks – and to catch up with Tommy the Toyota – who awaits our next journey to Lakselva in Norway in late June. Local kids have written ‘Clean Me’ in Russian on him; I quite want to make it back to Hungerford with that still there. I suspect I will not - but I will take home more memories of this remarkable river.

Christopher Robinson

Friday 20 May 2011


Yesterday started clear and cold, it just did not feel that ‘fishy’. We had an extraordinary sun captured well by Hugh at Middle.
A fierce sun above Middle camp
By the afternoon it was blowing a gale from the South, and then the rain came; really heavy, mixed with sleet and bitterly cold.

In poor conditions the rods struggled a bit. At Middle they had 81 to the nine rods and at Lower 25 to four rods. All relative in salmon fishing terms as I mentioned yesterday, no other river could match that score given the weather.

Simon P on watch

At Middle, Tim S tried a floating line all day, with a Sunray and had good success albeit less fish than he might have had on an intermediate line. With the water temperature still at 6 degrees we remain on the threshold putting on the floating lines. But that is what this river is about – a very rare opportunity to challenge yourself and the text book.
Anton landing yet another from Clarkes

Keith and I ran a boat up to Middle to take boat spares, see our guests and have general catch up with them all. An awful run home, the worst I have experienced, into the teeth of a gale and driving sleet. Hugh gave me a memory stick with his latest photos - really good.
A good scrap from Snake Pit

Christopher Robinson

P.S. This morning the after-storm calm. Overcast, mild at 10 degrees, river up 2” and still at 6 degrees. Craig P landed three salmon from Heli Pool before breakfast – think we’ll have a good day.

A perfectly formed springer

Thursday 19 May 2011

Rise in water

We had more heavy rain yesterday morning, much welcomed by us as the river is a touch lower than normal. The many streams feeding off the tundra coloured up adding peat to the water, at both Middle Camp and here at Lower we noticed the change in the water colour and we all felt it put the fish off in the afternoon.

That said – it is all relative up here – Middle had 98 salmon to nine rods and at Lower the four fishers had 43. Not bad in slightly adverse conditions!

Arnaud F-M led the way at Middle with 17 for the day. He has also kicked off our annual International Swimming Championships, taking two swims for France both of which required replacement life jacket gas canisters. Simon P had a paddle for the UK team with Hugh our Middle Camp manager, representing the Home Team, having a ‘bit of a dunk’ while exploring new water.

Clarkes Corner was reported to be ‘stuffed’ with fish waiting to go up the Yovas Rapids, Patricia S had 10 salmon in the afternoon there. Four rods went above the rapids to Scotts in the morning catching 17, proving that the fish are now on their way upstream to Pana.

At Lower there was some experimentation, Craig P tried a surface Bomber, on the limit with the water only at 6⁰C, he rose several fish, one of them three times, before changing back to a sub-surface fly to take them. Alan J stuck to his favourite Ally Shrimp and landed 9 from Janaways in the morning.

Yellow and black, tied by Jesse. Deadly!
The river came up an inch or so and remains at 6⁰C. Just on the cusp of floating line territory but not quite there yet. The most successful fishers are using sinking tips, a shortish leader and a fairly eclectic mix of flies ranging from the Green Highlander through the colour spectrum to black. The safe bets being Ally Shrimp, Cascade and Willy Gunn. Jesse reccomends a yellow fly with contrasting black, ask him for one of his specials - tied with a cone head. Deadly!

Great fishing so far – and only 4 days into the season.
Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 18 May 2011

The river settles down

We woke up to heavy rain yesterday, a damp but warm start to the day. Craig P went out here at Lower before breakfast and landed his customary 3 salmon. Up at Middle, Didier F-M managed to bank 7 salmon before his bacon and eggs.

The weather gave me an excuse to catch up in the office whilst Feodor’s faithful camp dog, Karai, sat on the office step looking mournful as the rain dripped on to the veranda. The milder damp air brought on a huge hatch of stone flies. The pied wagtails, now here in numbers, feasted on them. So did my printer and this Saturday's helicopter manifest has half a dozen stone flies imbedded on it. Last week we had mouse droppings in the printer. Such is life up here; close to nature.

The river steadied off; I guess a combination of the rain and the slightly milder air releasing the water frozen in lakes and soil. For those who know Lower Camp,the water is 5” below the top of Sharks Tooth rock. The water temperature is constant at 6⁰C. Really great conditions for Lower and Middle.

Up at Middle they landed 106 fresh salmon for the day. Today Hugh and Misha will send two teams further up to try Pashas and Scotts, we all want to open up those great top beats – such wonderful fishing up there. The run up through Yovas rapids really re-enforces the feeling of being so fortunate to have miles of freedom and space on this wonderful river.

Losha at Bear Island
Here at Lower our 4 guests landed just under 40 salmon, with the guides having a few too. It really is so rewarding for us to see clients handing a rod the guide and saying ‘go on, have a go’. David H gave his rod to Losha for 10 minutes down at Bear Island (our current hot spot) and bingo! Losha landed a great looking 14 lber, straight off the tide. He is still wearing a smile 18 hours later.
Our new accomodation lodge 

After dinner Anna took the guests up to the village where Sviat's legacy is evident in the restoration of the three churches. Well worth seeing when you are here.
Our new accommodation at Lower is a huge success – really comfortable, warm and with great views over the river. No doubt the best on the Kola.

Christopher Robinson

P.S. Mild again this morning. Air temp 9⁰C and water 6⁰C, water height steady.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Mild weather, great fishing

Yesterday was a perfect fishing day. Our first ‘soft’ day after 10 days of early spring weather, the biting cold breeze dropped, cloud cover came in and the air temperature remained above 10⁰C well into the evening. Our guests at Middle and Lower made the most of it, what a great days fishing!

David H at Lower Camp
At Middle camp they landed 99 salmon to nine rods, with the catch very evenly spread between all of them. To date they have fished from Clarkes Corner down steam, below the Yovas rapids which tend to hold the fish up this time of year. I chatted with Hugh our camp manager at Middle last night on the radio, head guide Misha feels that it will soon be time to explore further upstream. I’d like them to go up to Scotts today, but the fishing is so good on the lower beats I’m not sure they will venture that far yet.

Craig P with one of his 26 for the day

At Lower camp we saw the first massive run of fish of the season. The four rods here landed 58 between them with Craig P again leading the way with 26. All the beats are fishing well with the exception of Duck which we have left out of the rotation as it is best in high water. The water level continues to drop slowly, another 1” down over night. It is quite low for this time of year, providing almost perfect conditions for those here now and next week; might need some rain later in the season to keep the level topped up.

Meanwhile in camp Keith has moved his workshop table outside to enjoy the warmer air and Jenna, just back from 10 weeks in Antarctica, is training to climb Mont Blanc in late June, Keith’s container door provides part of our new gym!

Jenna training in our gym/workshop
A great start and today looks good too. Overcast, little wind and the air a mild 10⁰C at breakfast. Craig P had 3 before breakfast in just 30 minutes - you will seldom have seen scrambled eggs go down so quickly as everyone rushed to get out to the boats!

More tomorrow.

Monday 16 May 2011

The season starts

We had another really hard frost on Saturday night, no cloud cover at all and the air temperature plummeted to - 5⁰C. Despite the chilly air our new guests were determined to give it a go. At Lower, we persuaded Craig P to come back inside at midnight, his reel frozen and line iced up to the rod rings; but he had landed 7 salmon in a few hours and seemed pleased to take a break and warm up. The radio came to life at midnight to report that Julian T had just come in from Bear after landing fresh run 15lber.

Yesterday was our first full day on the river and the boats left on time, our guests eager to get fishing. The water temperature started at 3⁰C, a bright day with a chilly breeze from the North, fairly typical for this time of year. By the evening the water had risen to 5⁰C and had dropped an inch or so.


On Middle they had 60 odd fish to 9 rods with Tim and Leticia S, guided by Misha, leading the way landing 18 salmon between them, mostly off Clarkes which, as old hands know, can be a hot spot this time of year.

Henry G at The Wires
I went up there last night to see them all for dinner, a really happy team, delighted by the first day and looking forward to the rest of the week. The slight rise in water temperature at the end of the day had made the running fish more active and they reported quite a large number splashing through the pools on their way upstream to Pana.

At Lower, Craig P continued his success of the previous night landing a total of 20 fish for his first day. Bear Island and above it, the 3 ‘Bearlets’, fished particularly well as did Larder, Green Bank and of course The Wires. Moskoi Rapids and the Beach were a bit disappointing, we thought we’d have more from there. We ended up with 50 salmon landed at Lower on the first day to 4 guests. Not a bad start.

There is a huge sense of relief to have the season now under way – a great deal of hard work goes into getting the camps opened, staffed, supplied, and running. Now we can settle into a routine and really enjoy this quite remarkable river.

Christopher Robinson

P.S. This morning we have sent Henry G down to Moskoi, at the last count (11 a.m.) he had landed 3 and lost 3 which sounds quite encouraging.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Blog out!

We had a Blog Out! - apologies - the main Google Blog site crashed for some reason on Friday, yesterday I went to Murmansk and now, Sunday, have finally settled down, our first guests are out fishing and I have a chance to catch up.

Friday was pretty busy putting the finishing touches to Lower Camp; the ‘lawn’ in front of the new accommodation is, frankly, a mess, but that is what happens after a major construction project. We have done our best to level it and we hope the grass seed will take soon when the weather warms up, if the lemmings have not eaten all the seeds by then.

Sergei with an 11 lber off the tide
Jessie took our the new guide at Lower, Sergei, down to Bear Corner for more instruction and familiarization. On his third cast Sergei landed a fresh 11lber!

Tiffy, Anna and I drove a spare outboard engine to Kuzamen in Tommy the Toyota – his first experience on sand dunes – sand dunes with deep snow on them are bizarre, and quite tricky driving too; pleased I put a decent set of new off road tyres on before leaving UK.

Kuzamen, two wild ponies grazing on dried winter grass
Kuzamen is as remote as it gets, there are 30 residents living in nowhere amongst the sand dunes at the mouth of the Varzuga. The White Sea light and air is always extraordinary – it seems to the visitor (and there are very few) to be on the edge of the world, I guess it nearly is.

'Tommy' with his back wheels in the White Sea (I nearly got bogged getting out!)
We met Ura on the White Sea beach and boated up to Kitza camp to be met by Sergei, Victor and Luba. The camp looks great, lots of new paint, all the boats and engines up and running and some salmon are already up to Heli Pool and beyond. Wonderful to be back at Kitza and to meet our friends there – a very special place looked after by even more special people.

Luda gave me this shot of the Kitza river ice breaking up on 28 April. If you have never seen this, believe me, it is noisy, awesome and frightening.

Kitza ice breaking on 28 April
Yesterday we flew to Murmansk to collect our first guests and they were all putting up rods by 6 p.m. I have not heard the Middle Camp first result yet, but here at Lower, Craig P landed 7 salmon after dinner last night and had 3 more before breakfast – not a bad start.

A bright blue sky today but chilly after an overnight frost of -5⁰C. Water temperature remains at 3⁰C. I’ll have much more on the fishing front tomorrow when we hear how everyone has got on today.

Christopher Robinson