Saturday 16 June 2012

Saturday - Murmansk Day

I’m off to Murmansk first thing today as we change over teams on Saturday – so here is a quick round up of yesterday’s news.

Tim P hooked up in Simmonds
A really bright day yesterday with the air temperature up to 25⁰C; to make things more tricky there was a strong, albeit warm, upstream wind that made elegant, long casts somewhat rare. Compounding the issue was a river that continued to rise. I was sure yesterday morning that it would level out but I was wrong, we recorded a rise here at Middle Camp of another 5”. Pana this evening reported that it had dropped off a touch with them, so I would hope that by the time the next team start fishing in earnest on Sunday morning it will have settled down here.

Costa del Varzuga
Even so we had a very productive and happy day landing 55 salmon, Dominique M being the only one to fish late in order to land a couple more fish to round off his week with 40 salmon to his rod.

Ian S with his 100th salmon of the week
Pana had a quieter time and the team up there had a pretty relaxed day and, in shortened hours, had around 70 fish. Tom at Kitza reported around 30 salmon landed. I’ll get the full news tomorrow evening and will do a roundup of this past week.

Farewell from a wonderful group to have here at Middle Camp
It looks pretty good to me for the next week, a good water height and plenty of fish running.

More news tomorrow when we have the new groups in camp.

Christopher Robinson

Friday 15 June 2012

Still rising

Such is the nature of the Varzuga watershed, consisting solely of virgin tundra and bog, that even heavy rain takes a day or so to percolate through to the river. We must have had more rain than we thought on the 12th and 13th June as yesterday the many small streams that feed the river were noticeably full and noisy and the river continued its slow rise.

David KW with one from the boat
At Pana (80 km upstream from us here at Middle Camp) our manager, Mungo, reported the river to be well up, 9” over two days and getting a boat down to the holy grail of Ponzoi should be possible for a few more days. At Middle, where the river is wider, the total rise of water height is 6 ½” (17 cm), causing us to adjust the beats to make the most of the changed conditions.

Lunch opposite Clarkes yesterday
Despite the rise, the water remains crystal clear and the temperature steady at 14⁰C. Full
floating lines or a floater with an intermediate tip are working well and bright flies with
yellow, red and orange remain the favourites.

Pana landed 98 salmon yesterday, the catch pretty evenly spread amongst the eight rods and all of the
beats up there are fishing exceptionally well. Over at Kitza the catch was a little off
yesterday and they put 34 fish in the book before going down to the White Sea for a stroll
on the beach at midnight. That might sound bizarre to you back home – but it really is an
extraodinarily spiritual experience, the light is quite magical and it is something that lives in
people's minds when they reflect on their trip here.

The White Sea beach at mid-night
At Middle Camp we landed 78 fish with Ian S reaching a remarkable land mark for a salmon fisher landing 100 salmon in five days fishing.

The rods have just set off for their last full day on the river, this week seems to have flown
by, tonight we’ll have a barbeque by the river and the usual farewell party before
reluctantly boarding the helicopter back to Murmansk on Saturday morning.

Fishing a skated fly at Party Pool
We look set fair for next week – the rise in water has come at a perfect time and the river looks in excellent shape.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 14 June 2012

The Mediator

The rain of Tuesday night continued most of yesterday, accompanied by an upstream gale in the morning. Pretty foul conditions and here at Middle Camp we kept the generator on all day in case anyone took an involuntary swim and needed a warming shower, we lit the fire and brought everyone back into the lodge for lunch.

Fishing in the mid-night sun
The river rose slowly throughout the day, on the radio last night the camps reported the casting into the wind tricky and the fish fickle. The score sheets were down a bit with Kitza recording 45 salmon with the biggest of the day at 14lbs to Ed B. The river had risen by 3½” triggering a landslide at Clay View which coloured up the water for the lower beat so Tom moved the whole team up-river. This morning the water had cleared and they will be able to put a couple of rods below camp into the ever productive Sasha’s Pool.

A 14lber for Ian S
Up at Pana the team of eight rods had 102 fish for the day taking them past an extraordinary milestone of 8,000 salmon landed and released in 21 years of fishing here. The river up there has risen 4” in the past 36 hours and all the lower pools remain accessible.

At Middle the fish were a bit dour, but I guess that statement needs to be put into a wider context – we finished with 78 salmon for 11 rods, not exactly a disaster in salmon fishing terms. Everyone one had three fish or more for the day, again Ian S, Richard L and Dominique C leading the way with double figure scores.

There was no doubt that the fish had their heads down a bit, after dinner the weather calmed so Ian S, Hugh and I took the boat down to Party Pool to experiment. Ian fished his trusty fly, The Mediator, on a very short slow sinking tip while Hugh and I took turns with either a Bomber or skated Sunray Shadow. In an hour and a half Ian landed four (one a cracker of 14lbs) and lost one; while not a single fish showed to the surface flies.

1,111 salmon caught and released so far this week
The river should settle down today, it is up 4” at Middle which gives us a bit more lee way for the jet boats, the weather is cooler and brighter and there is a light breeze. Everyone has been digging around in their fly boxes for Mediators and Hugh has been busy at the fly tying bench. We’ll see what happens today, so far this week 27 rods on the Varzuga and Kitza have landed exactly 1,111 salmon in four days. Not too bad!

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Mid Week

At Kitza Tom reported seeing more fish yesterday than he had on previous days and the group of eight rods recorded 58 salmon landed, Richard G was top rod with 12 fish on his card. Tom reckoned that most of the salmon were in the 8lb – 12lb range and straight in from the sea. The water level on Kitza has dropped more slowly than the Varzuga and all beats remain accessible by boat for the moment.

Dominique C and Volva
The eight rods on Pana had another bumper day with 139 salmon landed. They are still able to get a boat down to Ponzoi but this option could denied to us in the next few days if we do not get significant rain. It should not matter too much as the most productive beat remains the tail of Lagoon to just below White Rock, so there is masses of room still available if Ponzoi has to be taken out of the rota.
A bear crossing the river yesterday
The run of salmon continues here at Middle Camp, yesterday we saw numerous pods of silver fish splashing through and our team of 11 landed 126 salmon, the largest of 14 lbs falling to David KW. Ian S is acknowledged by all to be our expert and he is now on 76 salmon for three days fishing – a remarkable effort and most of them caught in “office hours”. Four of our Belgium friends went up Yovas rapids and had a fantastic day up there, Rodolphe C and Dominique C leading the way with 32 fish between them.

With three wonderful days of fishing under their belts the team are beginning to experiment, something Hugh and I are encouraging, more single handed rods are being put up, the Bombers and Skaters are coming out and I’m sure that we will have more converts to surface fishing this week.

Mother and 3 cubs seen at Middle Camp on 31 May
Those of us who stayed on the lower beats yesterday got together for one of Jemima’s famous roast chicken picnics at Peartiha. Half way through lunch a bear swam the river right in front of us, a wonderful sight. At Kitza the rods were surprised to see an elk charging across the river with a young bear in hot pursuit.

It rained heavily all night and the river is up an inch this morning. A welcome rise, not so much from a fishing point of view but it does help from a boating perspective. In any event the river is a good deal higher than this time last year and is about as perfect a height as one could wish for.

Perfect height at Snake |Pit
 The water remains at 15⁰C – very much a floating line temperature, the flies of choice at the moment are Flame Thrower, Mediator and Red Francis on a ½” tube or #8 to #10.

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 12 June 2012


Yovas Rapids are at the head of the Middle Camp’s beat, 2½ miles of white water and wonderful ‘lay-bys’ for the running salmon to rest in on their haul up the steepest section of this long river. Early in the season the fish pause at Clarkes right at the bottom of the rapids, making Clarkes probably the most sought after spot on the beat rotation. Now, with the water temperature above 10⁰C, they tend to run through Clarkes pausing in the myriad of perfect pools throughout Yovas.

Lunch at Yovas
 The jet boat ride up the rapids gives the day a feeling of expedition, you pull into the bank, the engine is cut, and suddenly you realise you are genuinely in the middle of nowhere, just a mile or so south of the Arctic Circle, in the most beautiful place on the Varzuga with more fantastic fly fishing water than you can possibly cover in the day. Truly fishing heaven.

Graham B and Anton with another silver salmon from Yovas
I ran my boat up Yovas to meet Graham B, David KW and Ian S for lunch, a fresh salmon barbequed by Sasha; we relaxed on the bank and soaked in the silence of the wilderness. In the afternoon Anton guided Graham down the bank while I took David in my boat. I made a couple of indifferent decisions about where to fish and by mid-afternoon, much to Anton’s delight, Graham was well ahead on the score board. Eventually we got it right, just above The Slabs, and in an hour of mayhem David landed four, lost four and had numerous aggressive and splashy takes.

We sat in the boat quietly contemplating the day, David said “I wonder if people realize that it is a privilege to fish Yovas”.

A very happy Sebastien R
At Middle Camp we ended the day with 103 salmon in the book, Kitza reported 55 with Joshua C landing 15. Pana had a cracking day with 136, one guest fished late to get to a remarkable score of 50. It was a bright day and the water temperature rose to 15⁰C; floating lines are now the best choice and flies of 1” or less are working well.

More tomorrow from the wonderful Varzuga.

Christopher Robinson

Monday 11 June 2012

The Perfect Day

Yesterday was probably one of the best I have witnessed up here on Varzuga. The weather was perfect with mixed cloud and sun, a light breeze, few if any mosquitoes, the water height at summer level and the water temperature (even on Kitza) at 12⁰C. Ideal floating line conditions and with the huge run of fresh salmon continuing it was difficult to imagine a better place for a fisher to be.

Over at Kitza Tom reported their best day of the season with 59 salmon, Ian B leading the way with 14. After getting his first salmon very soon after arriving on Saturday night Ed B put another three on the bank to get his fishing career off to a remarkable start.

Sebastien R with his first salmon
Pana had 106 to the eight rods with the catch evenly spread amongst the team, some of whom have fished here for many, many years. They tried the float trip for the first time this season with great success and that will now be a much anticipated event for two guests per day.

Here at the Middle Camp Hugh took Sebastien R out in the morning to settle him into salmon fishing and he landed his first two fish in Bear Pool; meanwhile Graham B had his best morning ever with 10 fresh fish from Simmonds. In the afternoon Ian S undertook an extreme wade through Eagle Rock and was richly rewarded with 19 salmon landed and five lost – taking his total for the day to a staggering 30. The camp total was 105, putting them one behind Pana for the day – Hugh is not that happy to be beaten by Pana for the first time this year and there was an air of determination at the morning briefing.

Jim R with a typical 2012 chunky Varzuga salmon
Last night I ran a boat down to the Lower Camp to collect some supplies and on the way back was amazed at the number of fish running and porpoising their way up river. Not only have we had a really good run of salmon this year but the average size has been noticeably larger with many 8lb – 12lb really fit and strong fish.

Hugh briefing David, Graham and Ian on Yovas beat this morning
This morning there was a distinct buzz of excitement at breakfast, Barbara C had landed three and Ian S four before they tucked into their scrambled eggs and bacon. Today we are sending two groups right up Yovas rapids to explore the prettiest beat on the entire river. Once I have this blog posted I’m off to join them!

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 10 June 2012

Summer Time

Murmansk airport was wonderfully noisy yesterday, the upstairs bar was packed for a couple of hours as the outgoing parties met up and compared notes and the incoming groups urgently de-briefed them for information on water height, hot spots and the best flies to use.
Getting ready - 30 minutes after arrival!
The decibel level at the bar was understandable given the extraordinary catches; last week Kitza finished with 310 salmon to 8 rods, Middle had a staggering 907 for 10 rods while the team of 8 at Pana landed 496. I’m not sure yet of the total score for the Ultimate Salmon Fishing Course that we held at the Lower camp, but it was in the region of 350 salmon for 9 fishers. Vintage stuff!

The group coming into Middle Camp came in in two parties, the second a few hours after the first. As we made our final approach, low over Generator Pool outside camp, Richard L was lifting a 10lb bar of silver out of the water for us all to see from the helicopter windows.

The excitement in camp was infectious, rods were hastily assembled, dinner was rather quick and by mid-night the rods had banked 11 salmon before retiring for a well-earned sleep.

Summer is in the air now, the water temperature is 12⁰C and the height, although a little above average, is ‘summer height’. Perfect for floating lines and before breakfast this morning Ian S had a salmon on a single handed rod and small skated tube.
Generator at mid-night
I talked to Kitza this morning to hear that Ed Billson from Australia had landed his first ever salmon after dinner last night and there was, I gather, ‘a bit of a celebration’.

Another update from Varzuga tomorrow when I can report on how the first day of the week has gone, it was very bright first thing but is now clouding over nicely – looks good!

Christopher Robinson