Saturday 28 May 2011

Changeover day

Saturday’s bring their challenges on the Varzuga. It is changeover day and some of our guests will be a tad slow after a farewell party the night before, others have to be prised off the river and almost forced into the departing helicopter!

Ivan B with one of 13 for the day
There are also unforeseen events that challenge the normally smooth changeover. Today it was not weather, baggage handlers at Helsinki airport went on a ‘wild-cat’ strike yesterday leaving many of those coming up today without their bags at Helsinki. Charlie had a sleepless night trying to see what could be done and by dawn the situation had improved somewhat and it looks like he can get almost all the 40 guests into the camps with their kit today. Our store of spare fishing kit, waders, boots and jackets has been prepared just in case.

Pasha with a good fresh run fish
The fishing continues to be excellent, Charlie will give us the full update tomorrow. I gather the fish are still pouring in through the Lower river, Ivan B had 13, many from Bear Island which continues to be one of the hot spots. The score from Middle is hard to judge as they were fishing until the last moment, what is certain is that they have had a bonanza week. Over at Kitza they reported more fish showing and catches should pick up there this week as the main run of salmon kicks in.

David F at top of Green Bank
This coming week should herald in the floating line, the water is a perfect height for it, the grass is greening up fast and the birch buds breaking – summer is on the way, and the main run of fish will enter over the next couple of weeks.

Summer is on it's way
More from Charlie tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Friday 27 May 2011

Catching up with old friends

I boated up to Middle Varzuga last night to catch up with the team there and the drive up, which takes about 45 minutes, was extraordinary in that it was difficult to look at the water without seeing fish jumping. The drive back was exciting as well as we saw a young bear on the river bank about 2 miles below the camp but unfortunately, as I scrabbled for my camera, it disappeared.

We had a great evening up there as Feoder, the head guide at Lower Varzuga, kindly drove me and he saw lots of clients who know him from old. It was lovely to see the affection in which he is held and the bond that builds up between the guides and the returning clients.

Feoder driving last night
They had had 93 fish for the day and the general feeling was that it was not long before floating lines would be the norm with relatively small flies and ½ inch tubes. Quite a few fish have already been taken on the surface and whilst that method does lead to a lot of lost fish (as they slash at the fly and do not always get a firm hook hold) it is very exciting as some fish will come again and again at the fly.

Jenna, our cook at Lower, with a fish caught whilst we were having lunch on the river
Here at Lower we are now down to only two rods for today as Peter S and Robert H have had to leave early in order to get to Moscow on time for other arrangements they have in place. We hugely enjoyed them being in camp and their approach to the enjoyment of it all as an overall experience was great to see.

Robert H, ready for the banya
The team had 23 fish for the day with Ivan B and David F having at least two double hook ups on Heli pool in the evening and quite a few fish out of Bear Island throughout the day.

Kitza was slow yesterday and they had 10 fish to their 4 rods. We have got very high winds and some drizzle today which has led to our radio communication with the camp being very patchy so I don’t know any more than that but I hope to speak to them later.

Arctic tern - such graceful birds
David F and Ivan B have the length of Lower Varzuga to themselves today so I hope that this wind abates a little in order for them to make the most of it.

Charlie White

Thursday 26 May 2011

Big fish, grouse and a trip to Pana

After 3 days of helping here at Lower Varzuga, it was time to take James and Kate to Pana to open up that lovely camp. It was a wet day but that did not dampen anyone’s spirits as we were all keen to see how the guides and kitchen staff had fared over the winter.

Tolly and Kate
Tolly, a man who has been at Pana for over 14 years, was there to greet us; as were a brace of heather grouse, still in their winter plumage, which flew into camp just as we arrived and promptly flew out again. The river up there is relatively low for the time of year but is in fact slightly higher than it was on this date last season. Regular rods to the camp know Hippo Rock, slightly downstream of the camp, as a reliable marker and I wandered downstream to take a quick picture of it.

Hippo Rock on a wet day
On the way to Pana, we flew directly over the Middle Varzuga beat and it is surprising that, even in that short window of being able to view them, I did not see them land a fish as they had 130 for the day. The best fish of the day was taken by Brian F - a cracking 19lbs cock fish, measured at 36 inches.

Ivan B, caught in the act of salmon smuggling
Here at Lower Varzuga there were differing approaches to the fishing. David F and Ivan B were determined to make the most of the river and were rewarded with 9 and 6 fish respectively whilst Robert H and Peter S took a rather more sybaritic approach to life. After a great morning in which Robert caught a further 3 fish, the pleasures of camp life proved to be too strong a draw and the rods were put away for the day.

Robert H with one caught in the morning
Kitza had 13 fish to their 4 guests with Joan G and Sue C scoring well in Sasha’s pool in the morning but the afternoon went very quiet and not many fish were added after lunch. The water is still cold over there – 4-5 degrees C - and it would appear as if the bulk of the fish are waiting for the warmer water to tempt them into the river system.

David F on Heli pool
I am going to dinner at Middle Varzuga tonight so I hope to be able to grab some of Hugh’s pictures to show more of that beat and some of the fish that they have been catching.

Charlie White

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Changeover day

Yesterday we flew from here at Lower Varzuga to go over to Kitza camp. We took Michael E and his team to swap over with the guys who have been at Kitza for the first half of the week.

The "bumblebee" landing at Lower
We flew at 7pm after a full days fishing and it was a very good day at Lower camp with 42 fish landed to the four rods. Phil W was at the top of the tree with 17 fish to his rod plus another 8 fish lost after playing them for a long time – the Posh Tosh proving deadly. Joan G had her best day yet when landing 8 and whilst Michael E has caught a lot of fish; his stand out moment was when a capercaillie flew straight over his head.

Team Kitza had a better day with 12 fish to the four rods. Peter S had a cracking 15lbs fish from Deluxe pool and Robert H went from landing his first fish on Monday to landing 3 more in the morning.

Upstream from Kitza camp last night

Middle Varzuga had 87 to their 12 guests with Peter W taking 18 to his rod. It was warm yesterday and the water temperature got up to around 12 degrees C by 4pm - John R took advantage of this to have the first fish of the season on a skated bomber.

Back here at Lower, Ivan B went out for an hour or so last night and took 2 fish out of Heli pool and David F has done exactly the same thing this morning before breakfast so I hope they will have a good day.

Joan G and Feoder with one of her 8 fish yesterday
I am flying to Pana camp today with James and Kate, the manager and cook and I will post some pictures tomorrow of the camp and the river to give an idea of how it is looking up there.

Charlie White

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Windy and bright

Last night I went up to Middle Varzuga for dinner which was a good call as a) dinner was delicious and b) it was the most glorious evening to be on the river. The morning cloud had burnt off by lunchtime to be replaced with bright sunshine but a strong upstream wind made things slightly tougher than we would have hoped for.

Midnight on the way back from Middle Varzuga
At Middle they had finished with 124 for the day but perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that all of the rods reported losing as many fish again if not more. With the water temperature climbing all day it appeared to make the fish incredibly aggressive and slashing takes and grabs led to many of them dropping off halfway through the fight.

Mike B showed me his fly of choice from Sunday, which had caught 12 fish from Clarkes in about two hours and it is fair to say that it amply demonstrated that heavily dressed flies are not a necessity out here as it was chewed to pieces and yet was still catching fish.

Joan G with a nice fish from the Wires
Here at Lower, our four rods had 27 for the day and again lost fish were a feature. Andrew M, our finance director who is out here to see the programme, had 9 additional fish after going out for a couple of hours in the morning. If there was ever a time to get a sympathetic hearing regarding a pay rise it was surely just as he came in for lunch with the world’s largest grin!

Sue C with one from Bear Corner
At Kitza there was great celebration after Robert H landed his first ever salmon. In fact it was his first fish full stop as he has not picked up a rod before, so it was appropriate that it should be celebrated in style. After their 15 fish on the first day, things were tougher yesterday and they landed 4 fish with the wind making casting very difficult.

This morning is a much calmer and warmer day so it should make life easier for everyone.  I have already seen Michael E land two fish after 30 minutes of fishing so I hope it is a sign of the day to come.

Charlie White

Monday 23 May 2011

Superb start to the week

Generally a week up here starts with everyone tentatively remembering what they did last year and to take a day or two to get the casting up to the standards they would hope – not this week it would seem.

After heavy rain in the morning and lunch back at camp, the afternoon was glorious with bright sunshine and a soft downstream breeze. With the water temperature going up to 9 degrees there was a temptation to go to full floaters but the general consensus was that, whilst that might work, sink tips would probably be more productive – and so it proved.

Michael E into a fish from the bottom of Heli pool
Phil W led the way here with 13 fish for the day and Michael E was close behind on 11 with all beats producing fish although Moskoi Rapids was strangely quiet in the afternoon. We finished with 33 for the day to our four rods as well as 6 fish that were caught on Saturday evening just after we arrived.

Phil W with one of his fish from the Wires
Jesse took Anna, our invaluable helper here in camp, onto the river for the first time last night and within an hour she returned triumphant – a pretty good fish with which to start your fishing career!

Anna with her first salmon
At Kitza 15 fish were landed to the four rods and with all of them new to the beat I expect the numbers to climb as they learn the river throughout their stay.

The day at Middle was quite simply outstanding. 11 rods are fishing with Brian Fratel acting as a floating guide and general mine of information. They had 179 fish between them along with 39 caught on the first evening. It is difficult to pick on individual numbers but I understand that every rod caught more than 10 fish and that all of the beats were remarkably productive. I am going up there this evening and will learn more but we can only hope for more of the same.

Losha, a guide at Lower, ready for action this morning
This morning is quite cold and overcast but all of the rods have gone out with quite a spring in their step - long may it continue

Charlie White

Sunday 22 May 2011

Great to be back

It is great to be back to see old friends, meet some new ones and, this year, to see the extraordinary amount of work that has gone into the new accommodation here at Lower.

Our journey up here could not have been easier and we got to Middle Varzuga by 3:30pm which I think is some kind of record. Having dropped the clients off there we flew to Lower Varzuga and then on to Kitza which gave me a great chance to see the whole river system and how it is looking.

Loading the helicopter at Murmansk
Kitza, as always, looks beautiful and the river appears to be dropping into the perfect height. It is still cold over there with a water temperature of 4 degrees but that is not a bad thing and the head guide, Ura, reports that not many fish have got above the 3rd Island yet which should help concentrate the fish in the pools nearer the camp.

Upstream from Kitza camp last night
It is pouring with rain this morning which has put off any rods here attempting a fish before breakfast but Phil W had 3 last night and Sue C had a fish just after supper to kick her week off in style. I understand from Hugh at Middle that one of our regular rods put his waders on directly after we had dropped them off and had hardly stopped fishing since – he has so far had 34 fish to his rod in little over 18 hours, extraordinary fishing and extraordinary stamina!

Downstream from Kitza camp
Last week was almost as good as it gets – great weather and superb fishing. The nine rods at Middle had 563 for their week and here at Lower, Craig P stopped fishing after his 100th fish which helped the camp score along to 233 to just four rods.

Craig P on his way to 100 salmon for the week
Whilst the river is relatively low for this time of year, this rain will help in the long run but it might put the dampners on numbers today as I imagine that we will have lunch back in camp as opposed to being on the river.

Charlie White