Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Last Day

It was still a bit chilly yesterday, a light northerly wind and the odd shower, but that did not deter our team at Middle Camp who put 40 salmon in the book; James F struck gold up at Pashas where he landed nine in an hour and a half before generously handing the rod over to his guide Sasha. A really great team this week – and for us here so rewarding to see new guests trying salmon fishing – some young some a tad older but all soaking up the Varzuga experience.

A great photo by Hugh last night
Talking of gold, our young dog Zlata (gold in Russian) is finally learning her trade as a camp guard dog and last night, for the first time, started to bark and move off a large bear that came close to camp. About five of our guests had a good view of him from 25 yards or so before Zlata suddenly kicked into her role and after ten minutes or so had seen him off the island.

 Up at Pana the water rose all day after Thursday’s rain and their catch was down to just under 40, however they should be on about 300 salmon for the eight rods this week. Kitza had another good day with about 45 landed and I guess they will finish with over 300 salmon for the week – a great result.

Farewell from Varzuga
This morning we leave early for Murmansk and home. It is always a wrench to leave both the Varzuga river I have known for many years and of course our Russian friends who are so much part of it and who truly care for it. What a wonderful fishing season we have had on Varzuga, one of the best.

Until next May.... dosvidaniya.

Christopher Robinson





Friday, 22 June 2012

Camp Life

There is a wonderful team of local Russians here at Middle Camp whose work, often in the background, goes un-noticed. Luda comes every year to run the kitchen and her grand-daughter, Sonya, keeps us all amused playing with the new camp dog Zlata who, being only seven months old, has taken to stealing socks from the laundry room - much to the annoyance of Julia and Julia whose roles are to keep the camp tidy and clean. This week Luda has been known as Doctor Luda as she has tended to three minor injuries and there is a queue at the kitchen table in the morning as cuts and wounds are dressed.

Luda tending to one of her patients, David B
Iliya, Luda’s grandson, runs the generator overseen by Sergei, in the evenings after supper the guides do an hour or so camp work; the latest task is to finish a new wood shed to keep the fire wood dry over winter. A great deal goes on in the village as well to support all the camps, from supplying the tons of fuel we need to keep the generators and out-board engines going through to ordering and dispatching the supplies we ask for from Marina in the Varzuga store.

Zlata with sock
As always it has been a pleasure to work with our Russian friends and partners this season and we are really grateful to them for all the assistance and hard work that goes into making the fishing programme such a success.

We had one of the coolest days for a couple of weeks yesterday and the air temperature struggled to get higher than 10⁰C. It was damp too with drizzle and rain from the North and, with a rising river, the fish were off the take a bit. That said we had a pretty reasonable day at Middle Camp landing 41 salmon with David S leading the way again with eight to his rod.

Sonya
Kitza had another excellent day and the Spanish team landed 53 with the fish well spread throughout the river from Sasha’s below camp right up to Rackmanns at the top. The Pana count for the eight rods up there dipped a bit and they recorded 49, encouragingly the fresh salmon are still running right through to Pana and they had several bright, fresh salmon yesterday.

David and Anthony ready to go fishing this morning
Tomorrow we leave for Murmansk and home – it hardly seems possible that only six weeks ago we were digging our way in through the spring ice and snow – it has all gone far too quickly.

We will post a quick blog tomorrow before we leave and next week Charlie will post a roundup of the season.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mid Week

With a group at Middle Camp most of whom are new to the water here, and with some guests in the early stages of their salmon fishing careers, it takes a day or two to settle everyone into the fishing. It is always very rewarding for us to have guests who take advantage of the remarkable fishing here and who use the time with us to experiment, learn and improve their skills.


Hugh S with a bar of silver
We had an excellent day yesterday even though it did not feel particularly fishy and was still and muggy – however it was great to see the younger members of the team really getting into their stride with Jamie G landing five salmon in the day, Hugh S three and James D with a great score of 10. David S also had another good day with 10 on his score card from the Yovas Rapids beat. The total for the twelve rods was our best for the week so far at 52. With little breeze we had some mosquitoes about so lunch was on the boats, anchored together as a floating pontoon.

Lunch 'on the river'
The fishing was good at Kitza too and Tom radioed in this morning to say that they had landed 55 with a few from Sasha’s but most coming from the higher beats. Head guide, Ura, had taken advantage of the water height (which remains good for boating) and had pushed even further upstream than normal as far as Rackmanns where Emilio RG landed 7.


James D and Sasha in the newly named Bomber Ally by Snake Pit
Up river from here the group at Pana landed 59 yesterday with the fish pretty evenly spread amongst the team. We had heavy rain last night and this morning the water was up 2” at Pana and I guess we will get a small rise here later today. It is a lot cooler today with a chilly downstream breeze from the North and with a grey, overcast sky it does not feel at all like mid-summer.

A record day for James D 

I hope the weather warms up as we are planning a mid-summers night drinks party on the gravel bar, mid-river, at the suitably named Party Pool.

More tomorrow....

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Back to Summer Height

After the heavy rain last week the river rose steadily peaking on Saturday. Since then it has dropped in slowly and we are almost back to summer height. As the Varzuga drops so we are adjusting our tactics to suit the changing conditions. On Sunday there was just a sufficient weight of water to suggest that an intermediate tip and larger fly would be best, by yesterday afternoon our guests were using longer leaders and smaller flies on floating lines.

Peter and James D setting of with Sasha
Last night after dinner we experimented in Party Pool, fishing small copper tubes very slowly through the draw at the end of the pool. James F and James D were well rewarded with four good salmon all of which took the fly so softly we thought they were parr or grayling until the line fully tightened and they exploded into a strong fight.

One of David S's nine salmon yesterday
At Middle Camp we landed 42 fish, David S had his best ever day with nine to his credit. Jamie G who had never caught a salmon until 24 hours ago proved that his first two were not just luck, he is really getting the hang of it and put three in the book yesterday. At Pana they are still able to boat down as far as Ponzoi, they landed 60 to the eight rods with the salmon well spread out through all the beats. Our Spanish guests at Kitza had a cracking day catching 49 salmon with Emillio RG landing 13 for his best ever day the day.

David S and Anton
It remains calm and overcast and to the South we can just see banks of sea mist over the White Sea coast, quite good fishing conditions. With the water now lower we are back into our Summer routine and 2 pairs of rods, Anthony, James F, David S and John have gone up Yovas rapids for the whole day where Anton and Sergei will barbeque a fresh salmon for lunch.

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Boating

Only four out of the 12 rods here have fished at Middle Camp before and after their first day settling in they set off with enthusiasm yesterday to explore more of the masses of river available to them. The water height remains perfect for getting the jet boats about so Sergei took Hugh and Jamie up Yovas rapids to see if Jamie G could get his first salmon.

A very happy Jamie G with his first salmon
Sure enough Jamie landed two in the morning, from Dunkery Run and Deeside, and Hugh put up the Union Flag on the boat in celebration. In fact the celebrations ran well into last night and breakfast this morning was rather later and quieter than normal!

Hugh S ran up the Union Flag
I try, every evening after dinner, to take a boat out with a couple of guests for an hour or so; it has become a bit of a routine and one I much enjoy. Generally I take one of our larger boats, 19 feet and with a wide, flat plywood floor. A very stable and comfortable platform to fish from and with the advantage that no waders are required; the guests simply grab their rods and a jacket and jump in.

From the boat last night, James F hooked up as Hugh S looks on
It is a wonderful way to spend an evening hour, the light can be extraordinary – more so as we approach mid-summer – it is totally peaceful and quiet and the casting easier without the hassle of wading. It took five minutes to the top of Generator where some fish were splashing through and in the hour James F had two really good fish to the net to take his tally for the day to five.

We always have the option to put a guest into a boat to fish, some prefer to wade while others, particularly those of more advanced years, like a combination of wading in the easier places and fishing from a boat if tired or where the wading is more tricky. I also like to take beginners in the boat to settle them into fishing for salmon – the casting is much easier, they can see what the line and fly is doing and can really concentrate on learning how to fish the fly in a salmon tempting swing.

A good fish for James F
Pana reported 68 salmon landed on Sunday and 63 yesterday and on Kitza our Spanish team had 36 yesterday before celebrating their win over Croatia.

We had some rain last night and this morning is rather mournful with a low, damp mist. The rods have gone out, some with sore heads, particularly the younger members of the party who quite predictably ended up around the kitchen table last night with the younger Russian guides. Great to see the bonding going on - I suspect it will be an early night for some this evening!

Christopher Robinson


Monday, 18 June 2012

Learning


We had a really bright, warm day yesterday, the wind was just enough to keep any mosquitoes away but annoyingly just strong enough to make the casting less easy on the more exposed pools. The water temperature rose a smidgen to 19⁰C which is warm enough to make the salmon a bit dour.

Lunch on the rocks yesterday
Pana reported around 60 fish landed yesterday, I will try and get a fuller report from them tonight, the radio reception being poor at the moment. Our Spanish friends got off to a keen start at Kitza and when I spoke to Tom last night at 19:45 they were still on the river and our cook, Donna, was fretting about the souffl├ęs she always does as a starter for dinner on Sunday. Tom reckoned that they would have about 30 salmon in the book for their first day.

Wonderful light at mid-night
At Middle we landed 34 with Anthony C leading the way with seven fish. Hugh S continued his good run and by the evening had landed three salmon having only caught one before he came here. Jamie G came very close to landing his first salmon unfortunately losing three during the day, after supper I went out in the boat with him to see if the next fish would hold on. Sadly it was a quiet evening for him, but we enjoyed the peace of fishing under the wonderful midnight light and returned late to camp sure that today would bring success.

Jamie G and Hugh this morning
After breakfast Hugh held a brief refresher casting session by the boats and our novice fishers headed off with their guide Sergey full of confidence. A number of people raise an eyebrow about novice fishermen and ladies coming to such an amazing river as the Varzuga, however I can think of no better place to start your fishing career. Casting can be taught on any river, but you can only really learn about fishing if you are catching fish. On Varzuga there is every chance of that happening, mistakes can be made and lessons learnt in the pretty certain knowledge that you will have a chance of another take from a salmon and the opportunity to get it right next time. Where else does that happen?

Anticipation
Cloudy today, a nice breeze and a chance of rain, a much better day for fishing and I will let you know how we get on tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The New Week

It is always a sense of relief to have all the in-coming guests into camp on Saturday evening in time to relax, enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine, assemble the rods, have dinner, and for those keen enough, a chance of an hour or two down the home pool under the constant day light.

A happy group last night after Hugh S caught his first Russian salmon
The transition through Murmansk airport gets easier each year. All the major operators share our Kola Charter from Helsinki, we all know each other well and there is a refreshing degree of co-operation and banter as we meet our respective guests and make sure the luggage goes to the correct helicopter.

At Middle Camp after dinner Hugh S caught the second salmon of his life from Generator and James F had one from Bear on his single handed rod. We have some less experienced fishers this week, all really enthusiastic to make the most of the river, so this morning Hugh has taken them off to Generator Pool to refresh the casting skills and settle into six days fishing on the amazing Varzuga.

Some of our guests wish to remain anonymous
The river has stopped rising and it should now continue its steady drop throughout this week. We had a blisteringly hot day yesterday and the water temperature climbed to 18⁰C, a touch too high to be perfect however the forecast looks like cloudy weather most of the week so hopefully it will go no higher.

Radio reception was poor this morning, if the other camps have an issue they can call in on their satellite phones, otherwise we rely on the HF radios, all can listen in and there is a good degree of fishing chatter. Both Pana and Kitza reported salmon caught last night but the detail was hard to hear.

David and John setting off this morning
Last week was an exceptional weeks fishing, marred only by the rain on 13 June which although welcomed put the salmons heads down a bit as the river rose through the latter half of the week. All camps recorded above average catches with Kitza at 276 salmon for eight rods, Pana just under 700 for eight rods and here at Middle a great score of 540 for 11 rods. All commented on the size of fish this season, their aggressive takes and fighting strength.

The Pana camp from the helicopter yesterday
The new teams will settle in today and I will let you know how they have got on tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson