Saturday 26 May 2012

The end of an amazing week

It will be a short blog this morning as we are off to Murmansk any minute now with our outgoing clients. During the hour and a half flight we will no doubt all be reflecting on a wonderful week on the Varzuga.

Joe M at Lower Camp with a bright bar of silver
As I type, a few of the hard core members are still fishing and trying to squeeze that one last salmon in before we depart so I do not have final numbers for the camps. Tomorrow I will have caught up with everyone and will report the totals. One thing I am fairly certain of is that Middle Varzuga will have broken every record going. As of Thursday evening, the week was averaging 98 salmon per rod and they still had a full day to go.

Peter A with another one from Pertiha
At Lower and Kitza we had fabulous fishing. The numbers will be less than Middle but we had an excellent 6 days with very little fishing out of hours. The camp at Lower is now fabulously comfortable and with the intimacy of Kitza, it is a wonderful way to split the week.

Water height at Sabacchi Rapids at Lower Camp yesterday
There is no question that those who fish before breakfast and after dinner do land more than those who fish in just the guided hours but, for most people, a week here is about the whole experience and not just the numbers. Being on a river where you fish in expectation rather than vague hope is a rarity these days and our guests have taken full advantage of it.

One of the many Arctic Terns that have arrived this past week
More tomorrow when I hope to report that many of our new rods will already have had a few fish under their belt on the first evening and will be enjoying simply being in this amazing environment.

Charlie White

Friday 25 May 2012

Spring has sprung

After such a cold day on Wednesday it was a relief to wake up yesterday to bright sunshine, a gentle breeze and a real feeling that summer was on its way.

At Lower, we took advantage of that with a very relaxed river-side picnic for lunch but it did not detract from their total score by the close of play. 78 fish were put in the book to the 10 rods with Adrian T having his best ever day by landing 11. In a continuation of a theme, we landed some excellent fish and every rod has remarked on their fighting ability and strength.

Adrian T with one of his 11 fish for the day
At Kitza, Joan G led the way with 6 from her session on Deluxe which contributed to a score of 33 to the 9 rods. Tom reported that the river continues to drop and access to the pools is getting easier by the minute. There is a sense that there are plenty of fish in the river but the height of the water is making it tricky to get to all of the taking spots and this should improve very quickly.

Peter H and Feoder with a lovely fish from Beach
At Middle Varzuga their week continues to defy any form of expectations. They landed 180 fish to the 12 rods with Keith B landing 21, Peter A 22 and Peter W landing his 100th fish of the week. That fish took him to his own personal milestone of landing 1,000 fish from the river over the years.

Greig T with one of his 13 for the day
With the temperatures warming up we are beginning to see lots more wildlife. In total we have seen 32 species of bird including ospreys, capercaillie and heather grouse as well as pine martins and mink.

Johnny O'B at Upper Sviats
Hugh radioed this morning to say that an otter had been seen outside of camp and that his team had landed several fish before breakfast. With a clear sky and very little wind we are hopeful of another excellent day.

Charlie White

Thursday 24 May 2012

A day of records

We had a fantastic day yesterday and there were records broken in every camp; from personal milestones to long standing figures that have stood since we started fishing the river 21 years ago.

Here at Lower Varzuga, the 10 rods landed 91 fish for the day with Greig T the top scorer on 24 for his rod which was his best ever fishing day by some margin. John G-H landed a 36 inch fish which the Sturdy scale puts at 20lbs and Nick T had two fish in a row of around the 16-18lbs mark. There is a considerable wager going on amongst the rods as to the biggest fish for the week and everyone has taken tape measures this morning to validate their claim for the prize.

Nick T with a cracker from Bear Corner
At Kitza they had 33 for their day with Chris J landing 10 fish. They are going to take a picnic down to the White Sea this evening which is always a highlight of the week as it is a beautiful spot and feels as if you have reached the end of the world. They will hopefully have a sighting of Beluga whales as well as the Arctic Terns that are beginning to arrive from their epic migration.

Greig T with one of 24 he landed yesterday
I went up to Middle Varzuga last night which is about an hour from here by boat and the feature of the trip was seeing fish after fish splash and jump as we drove up there. It was a very cold evening and frost formed on the front of the boat as we went up but the sight of so many fish kept any thoughts of being cold at bay.

They had another amazing day with 243 fish being put in the book to the 12 rods. The world record for Atlantic salmon caught in one day was broken yesterday with 67 fish landed to one rod. It is worth pointing out that he went out at 5am and finished fishing at 10pm so it is difficult to say that this is what one can expect when fishing the Varzuga as he does put in a huge amount of time and skill to his fishing.

Johnny O'B at Beach
I caught up with him after dinner last night and he thinks this is his 35th week on the Varzuga and his records show that he is 16 fish away from landing his 5,000th salmon from the river. It is an incredible record and does show what the river can produce but most rods prefer to fish the guided hours of between 9am to 6pm and then enjoy the comforts of the camp. One man who did exactly that yesterday was Mark B and he recorded a personal best of 30 fish to his rod for the day.

Nick T with his second solid bar of silver
At around midnight we boated back to Lower Varzuga and as we drove back on a beautiful and clear evening it was hard not to recall the line of “if Carlsberg did salmon rivers…”

Charlie White

Wednesday 23 May 2012

A change in the weather but some extraordinary fishing

Yesterday was a busy day in every sense and after the excellent weather we have been having it was somewhat of a shock to have some snow and hail showers.  A cold wind added to the chill but it did not seem to affect the fishing in any way.
Eric W with one of 30 he hooked yesterday

At Lower Varzuga we had a bumper day with the 9 rods landing 75 fish between them.  Eric W hooked close to 30 fish but in the end only put 6 in the book whereas Michael E had a slightly better conversion rate and finished with 22 landed to his rod. 
The story of the day however was JP’s fish – a 20lbs bar of silver taken from Bearlets.  Unfortunately, his guide was too busy releasing the fish to take a picture and I only knew that we had photographic evidence of it when JP showed me the pictures in the helicopter as we went over to Kitza for the changeover, by which time it was too late to copy the picture for the blog.
Kate and Tolli
I flew up to Pana with the camp manager and cook, Mungo and Kate, to open up that camp for our first guests arriving on Saturday.  The river is high and is probably only 4-5 feet off the bank but it is obvious from the water line that it has been higher previously and it already dropping quite quickly.  It was great to see the team up there and Tolli greeted us with a huge welcome as did Dima, the head guide.

In the evening we did the midweek changeover with Lower Varzuga and Kitza.  We took our 9 rods to Kitza and picked up the 10 rods who have been fishing over there.  The Kitza has dropped enormously (I would guess by around 3-4 feet) since I was there on Saturday and with every inch that it drops, the fishing improves. 
Looking upstream at Kitza last night
They finished with 32 and it was a keen and eager team that we picked up.  Greig T had one after supper and the two rods who have been out before breakfast this morning have been rewarded as Bill P has landed two and John G-H has had one.

At Middle Varzuga the fishing continues to astound.  The 12 rods landed 290 salmon for the day which is an amazing figure to type let alone write in the book.  Hugh has asked me for more sheets to record his catches and I am beginning to understand why.  There were so many personal bests recorded that it is hard to know where to start but Paul R landed 26, John R had 25 and Paddy F took 24 fish out of Peartiha in the morning session alone. 2 fish of over 15lbs were landed and amazingly, Peter W and his fishing partner have recorded back to back days of over 100 fish between them. 
Pana yesterday afternoon
They quite rightly had a big celebration last night as one of our regular rods called a halt on his fishing day when he got to 65 fish.  We shall never know if it was tiredness that beat him or a reluctance to break the record but either way it was an extraordinary day.

It is cold and overcast again this morning but if that lends itself to a similar day to the one we had yesterday, there will be very few complaints from here.
Charlie White

Tuesday 22 May 2012

A bright day

After the first day of fishing we wondered if we could begin to repeat the scores of Sunday and it transpired that we could. A beautifully bright and hot day was tempered by a strong downstream wind which made life harder but the rods fished through it to great effect.

Phil W landing one from Bearlets
At Lower we put 47 in the book with Eric W having his best ever day of 6 fish. Ken H was also among the fish but his day will be remembered for a bizarre experience. He hooked a really decent fish that cartwheeled several times and the guide and he put it at between 14-16lbs. After a searing upstream run everything went slack and knowing he had lost it, he started to wind in to check his hook. With that, his reel went crazy and thinking that he had somehow not lost the fish he was ready to resume battle. After 5 minutes it was clear that he was connected to a smaller fish which had taken the fly as he was reeling in – 2 fish on one cast is not a bad effort!

Eric W with one of his 6 fish
At Kitza the fishing is improving with every inch that the river is dropping. They had 23 yesterday and with a cold night and the streams on the tundra beginning to recede, prospects are looking excellent. They have reported seeing masses of fish but they have been struggling to find relatively easy spots to wade due to the height of the water so it will be great when we can access the entire beat and really target the fish.

Phillip V in his now customary pose
Middle Varzuga continues to defy belief with another day of astonishing fishing. 203 were recorded to the 12 rods but it is only fair to note that Peter W and his fishing partner accounted for 92 of these. I have a feeling that their guide is going to be an awful lot fitter at the end of this week than he was at the start as he runs in between them to net their fish.

We are still fishing with heavy sink tips and big flies but Jesse, the manager at Lower, raised a fish on a hitched tube last night and with a water temperature of around 8 degrees we should be fishing nearer the surface before too long.

Michael E with one of 8 he landed throughout the day
It is a cold and grey day this morning but that did not stop Sue C going out and landing one before breakfast. In an hour or so I am flying to Pana with Mungo and Kate (manager and cook) to open up that camp for our first guests coming on Saturday and I will look forward to seeing how the river looks up there.
Charlie White

Monday 21 May 2012

Very nearly a world record

Yesterday was a day when the fishing Gods smiled on us and we so nearly broke a long standing world record. Hugh, the manager at Middle Varzuga, came through on the radio at lunchtime to warn me that he was witnessing something quite special. It transpired that one of our regular rods had landed close to 40 fish at lunch.

Sue C with one of 10 she landed yesterday
With the fishing on fire, it was obvious that the long held record of 66 fish landed in one day was under threat. This record was set at Lower Varzuga by Phillip Jannaway in the mid nineties and it has always been thought of as a one off and unlikely to be repeated. Despite a concerted effort, the day closed with 62 fish landed to the rod which is an amazing achievement in its own right but there was a palpable sense of so near and yet so far.

It would be unfair not to mention his fishing partner, Peter W, who had 53 fish himself.  In usual circumstances he would have top billing but yesterday was not that usual!
Phillip V with his first Russian salmon
The rest of the rods at Middle also contributed to a staggering start to the week and they finished with 211 in the book to their 12 guests.

Here at Lower we had a superb day with the 9 rods landing 46 fish. Sue C was the top scorer with a personal best of 10 fish and we had several guests who all beat their own records of fish to their rods for the day. Supper was punctuated by several toasts to the successful and our vodka supply took quite a hit as we enjoyed an excellent dinner and a long post mortem.

Joan G at Bear Island
At Kitza, the very high river has hindered them slightly but Greig T made light of the conditions to land 5 fish for his day. The great news is that Tom reports that the river has dropped by nearly 2 feet overnight and that it is clearing quickly. They all saw several fish yesterday and hopes are high that it will improve as we go through the week.

There are, without doubt, a lot of fish in the river at the moment and the most successful tactic is to cast short and square with a sinking line or heavy sink tip and a biggish fly such as a Snaelda or a 1 inch brass tube. The majority of the fish are taking very close to the bank which is as we would expect with such a strong river as they sneak up the margins and keep out of the main flow.

Spring is definitely here
We have another bright and clear day this morning and I have just seen Phil W take a fish by the boats as he waited for his fishing partner so I hope to be able to report more of the same tomorrow.

Charlie White

Sunday 20 May 2012

A dropping river and improving fishing conditions

It is tempting to laugh at the customs and immigration set up in Murmansk but the truth is, that if Heathrow was half as quick then we would not be so concerned about hosting the Olympics.  Within an hour and a half of our charter landing, we were on the helicopters and heading to camp.

Graham M with his first ever salmon
As Christopher has alluded to, last week was a tale of two camps and Middle Varzuga started the season exactly as we would have hoped.  329 bars of silver were landed to the 8 rods with some superb specimens amongst them.   Julian T was the top rod but everyone had a good share of the action.

Martin L with one from Middle last week
As we know, our team at Lower had a tougher week but from what I gather, they had all enjoyed the experience and I hope that we will see many of them back here next year to show them how this camp really can fish in the first week.  The refund was the hot topic of conversation in the Helsinki Hilton and several clients agreed that they thought it was the first time that they had heard of this type of gesture.

Gareth C with a cracker
Our new teams have been eager to get going and despite arriving to what can only be described as a huge river; the early indications have been excellent.   Kitza has welcomed its first guests for the season and Bill P was the first on the score sheet with a fish before supper last night.  Having stayed up late to listen to the football and celebrated even later, the morning radio call was rather delayed and it sounded unlikely that anyone had tried to catch a fish before breakfast.  Their river was bank high last night but it has dropped 4 inches overnight and they are setting off with great enthusiasm and greater headaches.

Jaime S during his first time at Middle
Lower Varzuga is also dropping and clearing which is just as we had hoped.  Chris J was the first to catch a fish last night with Phil W also opening his account.  3 rods have gone out this morning and landed 4 fish between them with Sue C losing one as well as landing her first of the week.

At Middle, the very experienced team has got off to a flyer and one of our regular guests has landed an astonishing 35 salmon since he got off the helicopter yesterday evening.   John R had a cracking 12lber to kick off his week and with their water also starting to fall away, hopes are high for an excellent day.
Head guide Feoder with Joan G this morning
The Lower Varzuga guides have just arrived from their night off in the village and with a clear sky, dropping water and plenty of fish already in the book, the scene is set for a first class start to the week.  As ever, it is great to be back and I am looking forward to reporting on the action for the next 3 weeks.

Charlie White