Friday 11 May 2012

I’m afraid there will be two short blogs coming up, today and tomorrow, Saturday. I’m going back up to Murmansk this morning with the helicopter, I can buy some last minute bit and pieces and then meet our first guests on Saturday morning.

Jesse and Glenn in the workshop
We went up to Middle Camp yesterday with a huge load of supplies, all was well and in the evening Hugh called us to report that the boats were in the water and ready to go. There is quite a lot of snow in camp, however it is melting fast and last night the temperature did not drop below 4⁰C, the river continues to rise and although we still have some ice coming down we should be pretty clear of the worst of it by the end of today.

Middle Camp yesterday
For this coming week at the Lower and Middle camps we are expecting quite a high river with low water temperatures which suits us really well for spring fishing. It will be sinking lines or tips of various types and large bright flies.

Lower Camp from the helicopter yesterday
Hopefully I’ll be able to post a blog from Murmansk tomorrow morning, and by Saturday evening we will be up and running with both the camps full of eager fishermen. All the guys here are keen to get going, the prep work is done, the river is looking good and there is an itchiness to get serious fishing underway!

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 10 May 2012

Victory Day

We have had the rise in water we hoped for and yesterday, Victory Day in Russia, the river started to disgorge the ice out into the White Sea.
Hugh setting up a time lapse camera over the river
Our Russian friends celebrated their National holiday while we had a productive day putting the last touches to the camp and preparing equipment for the Middle Camp which we will fly up to later this morning.

We now have a boat in the water which will make life a great deal easier and we can start ferrying more kit down from the village.
Watching the ice going to the White Sea
I will fly up to Middle Camp in an hour or two with Hugh and Jemima (manager and cook) who were there last year and are much looking forward to welcoming their first guests on 12 May. We will try and get some photos for tomorrow’s blog. I saw the camp's head guide, Misha, in the village a couple of days ago and he reported all was well, I think we have the same team of guides but will find out exactly how things are when we get there.
Kate, Jemima and Tiffy sorting out the medical boxes
No chance to fish yesterday but the river looks good today; we expect it to continue to rise over the next few days and it might warm up a bit but I would think that we will start on 12 May with a water temperature of around 1⁰C – 2⁰C.
The river at Lower Camp this morning
A bit of a brief blog today – tomorrow I will give you a full update on how Middle Varzuga looks.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 9 May 2012

The first day

Yesterday was our first full day in camp with much to do. Before he had even set sight on our boat engines, Glenn in his first day here as our MMAT (Mechanic and Mender of All Things) was plunged straight into his new role helping the guides mend one of the Russian Skidoos. The ice is gradually clearing from the river, however we will not launch the boats for a couple of days yet and until then we depend on the skidoos to run supplies to camp from the village a few miles upstream.

Kari guarding Feoders skidoo
One of my first tasks each year is to get the office printer up and running and, as always, the mice had adopted it as their home over winter. Every year they make a nest of chewed up paper in the back of it and it takes a few print runs to clear the bedding and droppings out of it!

The guides, Jesse and Glenn got five boats up and running and they now sit on our camp lawn on top of a couple of feet of snow ready to launch later this week. Sadly for us there was no chance to fish yesterday, one of the Fish Inspectors went down to Heli Pool with a spinner and soon had a welcome 10lb supplement to his rations on the bank.

Tiffy, Jemima and Maryke having lunch watching the ice go past
The river remains low and not yet in full Spring flood, it rose a couple of inches yesterday then last night we had a hard frost which slowed down the melt. The water temp is a chilly 0.5⁰C – good news for the Lower and Middle Camps as the salmon will not push on fast upstream at the moment.

A large ice flow coming past camp
Today has dawned bright and clear, already the air temp is up to 10⁰C so we should see a further rise in the water level by the evening. The first birds arrived yesterday, the pair of ravens that nest opposite camp greeted us with a cacophony of calls from the pine trees across the river. No sign yet of the Pied Wagtails which are always my marker that Summer is truly on the way.

The boats ready to go
If you are coming on 12 May you should expect to find quite a bit of snow and probably ice on the banks and although it is highly unlikely you will have to do much deep wading, a pair of fleece leggings or ‘long johns’ under your waders would be advisable. Large, bright flies 1½” to 2”and a fast or medium sinking line or tip will probably be the best tackle.

P.S. Glenn has just measured the water height – up 3” overnight despite the frost – good news.

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Welcome to Varzuga 2012

Welcome back again! Full of anticipation we got to Varzuga yesterday, and what a contrast to the green England I left last week. An interesting drive here with a great deal of snow on the road, the last 100 km took us over 5 hours ; we stopped by the memorial to Sviat to lay some flowers and remember him, we admired the White Sea icebergs littered on the beach by the dropping tide and finally arrived at the village to meet our many friends after a year away.

The memorial to Sviat
Varzuga has seen a much later Spring and, this winter, had a great deal more snow than for quite a few years. The river ice is just breaking up now, there are reaches of the river flowing clear including the rapids by the Lower Camp and the Heli Pool, however there is a good deal more ice yet to come down in the next few days and as I type this a section of the ice, the size of a couple of football pitches, has ground its way past us.

The White Sea coast yesterday
Yesterday evening there was the usual scramble to see who could catch the first salmon. It is a testament to this remarkable river that it is not a question of ‘Can we catch a salmon?’ but ‘Who will catch it?’. Hugh the Camp Manager at Middle Camp immediately lost two then had a solid hook up and proudly landed a fat, bright silver 10lber straight in from the sea.

The first salmon!
Today we have abandoned any idea of fishing and it is a busy team here preparing the boats and equipment for the coming season. A bright day, about 8⁰C with the river height slowly rising as the Spring melt continues. I will keep you updated on the fishing outlook – at the moment expect true Spring conditions with cold water temperatures and snow on the banks, but hopefully lots of salmon!

Preparing boats this morning

More tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson