Friday 7 June 2013

The final day of the season at Lower Varzuga

All too soon we have reached the last day of the season here at Lower Varzuga. As ever, it goes too quickly and it seems only moments ago that we waited with bated breath for news from Christopher and the advance team as to what the river looked like.

The floods, ice walls and big water could not be more different to what we are looking at now and it has been a season where, more than ever, we have been reminded that Mother Nature is in control at all times.

Peter M with one from Arileka
Yesterday’s heli fishing experiment was a huge success and the team landed 40 fish between them. Some did better than others in terms of pure numbers but each and every one had enjoyed the day enormously – not just for the fishing but seeing a different part of the river and eating freshly caught salmon cooked on a barbecue, the best way to eat it by far.

Middle Varzuga also had an excellent day and they landed 81 to the 12 rods. John M and Ian C had a stellar couple of sessions and landed 29 between them whilst fishing above Yovas Rapids. Middle is 12 miles above here and had an endless amount of water to fish and crucially, in these low water conditions, has lots of pockets and fast runs where the salmon can seek much needed oxygen.

David P into one with Misha standing by
Pana had a slightly slower day and they had 18 for the 8 rods. The team who are coming next week know the beat intimately and the fish always seem to arrive just as they get off the helicopter – I am sure that next week will be no different.

Kitza had yet another superb day and they had 46 to their team. Our returning hero had 7 for his day to make the long trip fade away immediately. David P and Julian P had 10 each and encouragingly David was at the very top of the beat whilst Julian was right at the bottom so there are fish throughout the system over there.

David P releasing his fish
After a cloudy day yesterday we are back to sweltering conditions and after a pretty heavy party last night the rods were relatively slow on to the river this morning, my guess is that some will be taking advantage of an afternoon siesta.

A very happy Gordon S with a 2nd spawning hen
I am off home tomorrow and so my thanks goes to everyone here for a great season and I, along with everyone else, will much look forward to reading Christopher’s reports from Middle, Pana and Kitza for the next few weeks.

Charlie White

Thursday 6 June 2013

Much better fishing conditions

Having written yesterday’s blog I was nervous that we would have jinxed the weather by mentioning it had been raining – fortunately the overcast, wet and relatively cold conditions continued throughout the day and it immediately had a positive effect on the fishing across all of the camps.

Kitza is really firing now and the 8 rods landed 74 for the day. David P had a superb days fishing and accounted for 19 of these whilst Chic McS weighed in with 13 and Julian P had 10. They were joined last night by one of the rods who had to cancel at the last minute and who has made an Herculean effort to get here so we just hope that the next two days of fishing make his trip worthwhile.

Sergei with one landed by Neil R on Beach
At Lower Varzuga we had a much better day and it was great that the rods finally had a chance to see how good this beat can be given anything other than extraordinary conditions. They landed 41 fish with Peter M landing 9, Howard E with 7 and his fishing partner, Stephen B taking 6 for the day. Despite the excellent fishing yesterday we had already taken the decision to fly them all out today to a stretch of the river above Middle Varzuga where they have taken a huge picnic and will be there all day. All of the rods bolted breakfast this morning and were ready beside the helicopter at 9am sharp for what should be an excellent day.

The team at Lower ready to fly out this morning
Middle Varzuga recorded 76 salmon yesterday with catches spread evenly across all of the rods although Hugo M just came out on top with 9 fish to his single handed rod.  It is remarkable to note that as of yesterday, 2,000 salmon have been landed from Middle Varzuga in just over 3 ½ weeks– truly an exceptional stretch of fishing.

Pana continues to fish well and they landed 32 yesterday with Barrie W taking 9 from the Home Pool. Jean and Keith H did the float trip and had an excellent day without landing the numbers that we had anticipated. 4 fish between them was a good day out but there is no doubt that, before too long, the numbers being landed from that float will rise sharply.

Phil R on Beach yesterday
We still have cloud cover and it there was a bit of a chill in the air this morning – very welcome indeed and no one was complaining about having to put on an extra layer. More tomorrow when I hope to be able to report on an excellent “away day” for our team here along with catches from other camps that will no doubt be helped by these more favourable conditions.

Charlie White

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Reading the water

Yesterday was a day for the connoisseurs and one where those experienced in the art of reading the water came to the fore.

Whilst we had a little rain in the morning, heralding what we thought was a new pattern, the sun won out and by lunchtime it was very hot again. This meant that the best of the fishing was in the faster, oxygenated water and being able to identify those likely holding spots improved your chances no end.

Bill Drury on Duck yesterday
At Middle Varzuga the 12 rods landed 53 salmon with John M on 7, Keith J on 6 and Ian H also on 6 doing well. Hugh did a bit of guiding for Achille C and they landed a stunning 2nd spawning hen fish with masses of spots on its gill plates. They have now got the boats at the top of thr Island and are boating from there to Blue Rock – beyond that it is the beautiful walk up to Pasha’s Rest.

Here at Lower, we were given a master class in guiding from Bill Drury and Eoin Fairgrieve who put their rods on fish every time they were with them. Rods came back in the evening delighted to have learnt new skills and having had the chance to use them to land fish. One man who needs little help at the moment is Gordon S who finds fish wherever he goes and finished with 9 for his day.

Dinner at Lower - a very good team
Upstream at Pana, our 8 rods had 38 fish with Matthew P doing particularly well landing 9 of these. Two rods are going to do the float trip from the Old Bridge down to the camp today and I hope that they do as well as we expect them to.

Kitza continues to fish very well and they landed 48 yesterday to 8 rods. Julian P had 14 of these whilst Ian W, not to be outdone by his son Ralph, recorded 11 for his day.

Gordon S with one of 9 he had yesterday
Dare I say it but we have had quite heavy rain for the past hour and the temperatures are much cooler. It is unlikely to be enough to raise the water height by any great degree but it will at least hold it steady and perhaps more importantly will increase the rate at which the water temperature falls.

All of our rods have headed downstream with a picnic this morning and it was a heartening sight to see them needing hats and jackets as opposed to sun cream and short sleeves.

Charlie White

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Rain, glorious rain

Lynsey Mair, who many of you will have spoken to in the office and who is an avowed sun worshipper, will kill me for saying this but rarely have I been happier to see clouds and spots of rain as those that came yesterday. It was only a small amount of rain overnight but it is overcast today, as it was yesterday evening and it already feels a much more fishy day.

At Middle, their earlier start paid dividends as they caught plenty of fish in the morning but found it harder in the afternoon. The water temperature, despite the cloud in the afternoon, was 19 degrees and a lot of fish only half heartedly took the fly resulting in plenty of losses. They still finished with 78 salmon in the book with JP C doing very well landing 12 of those and John C, on his first trip to Russia, taking 9 for his day.

Howard E with one from the Wires in the morning
Here at Lower Varzuga, nearly all of the rods were out by 7ish but it is fair to say that the early start did not make much difference. Fortunately, the overcast conditions worked much more in our favour in the evening session (from 6-10pm) and after a great brunch and a welcome siesta, we started to land fish across the beat. Not in huge numbers but everyone has now landed a Russian salmon and the mood at supper was much more upbeat. Terry H with 3 from Duck and Ken H with 4 from Bear Island were the star performers in a total of 18 fish for the day.

One of Ken's from Bear Island
At Kitza the 8 rods landed 51 for their day, a great effort and everyone caught fish up and down the beat. David H had the best days salmon fishing of his life and landed 10 whilst Ralph W went from landing his first ever salmon on Sunday to landing 7 yesterday. Tom sounded pretty tired on the radio this morning and I suspect that the successes did not go uncelebrated.

Amazingly some of the ice still remains
The 8 rods at Pana recorded 36 fish with David S the top rod with 7 for the day. They have stopped boating down to Ponzoi because of the water but also because it was not producing the huge amount of fish that it can. A lot of the fish are nearer camp which is where they will focus their efforts today.

With conditions much more suited to salmon fishing, everyone at Lower was up for the 6am start this morning but Gordon S was not content with that so started fishing Sabacci Rapids at 5am and had 2 on the bank before everyone else had grabbed a cup of coffee – a good start to what we hope will be a good day.

Charlie White

Monday 3 June 2013

A change in tactics

Yesterday was the hottest day of the season so far and whilst all the camps caught fish, the radio calls in the evening all focused on the fact that the afternoon was much harder than the morning. Interestingly and perhaps obviously, the smaller rivers, Pana and Kitza were less affected as they are much narrower than the main stem of the Varzuga and they offer many more shaded areas for the fish to rest in.

Middle Varzuga is the widest part of the river but with the many twists and turns there are always darker parts and the rods did well to exploit these. They landed 87 fish to the 12 rods, a superb day’s fishing when most people would have gone to the beach. John M had 10 to his rod whilst Hugo M demonstrated his epic wading prowess and skill with a single hander to take 12 for his day. They are getting up earlier this morning, having a longer lunch and then fishing into the evening.

Phil R's first Russian salmon
We are doing the same here at Lower but with most of the river exposed to the bright sun all day we are aiming for more extreme tactics. The guides were ready at 6am this morning and we will fish until 11, have a long siesta and then fish from 6pm to 10pm which will give us the best chance in these conditions. All of which was a great plan until many of the rods decided to celebrate Stephen’s birthday until very late at night – some of the guides looked a bit lonely this morning. We landed 13 fish yesterday which was not exactly what we were hoping for but given the conditions was really pretty good especially as 5 of the rods landed their first Russian salmon.

Feorder with Gordon S's first Russian salmon
At Kitza, Chic McS had an amazing day landing 18 fish to his rod. He hit the jackpot in Beaver Pit and then took more fish from the Boat pool. They finished with 40 fish to the 8 rods (the two rods who could not make it are much missed and our thoughts are with them) with most of the fish coming from the pools above camp. Great though Chic’s day was, the biggest celebration was reserved for Ralph W who landed his first ever salmon.

Ready for lift off - the stunning Arctic Terns
The 8 rods at Pana had 39 salmon for the day with Dick B landing 10 in his morning session. They are boating down to Lunch and then walking to Rock Pool where they then can go on all the way to Ponzoi. The team all have lunch together which is a lot of fun but does mean that they tend to miss out on the float trip which is a shame as I have a sneaking suspicion that it could be very productive up there.

More tomorrow when we will see if this change in tactics has paid dividends.

Charlie White

Sunday 2 June 2013

Changeover day

Yesterday was a hectic day for one and all. With most of the Kola rivers now open, the arrivals hall was full of bags, clients and excitement. Old friends came through the door seemingly every minute and it was hard to find time to have a chat with everyone – there was a real buzz of anticipation in the air.

After a wait that only Murmansk can be famous for, we eventually got underway but it was not until late in the evening did we all get into camp. Everyone immediately did what everyone does and started to scan the record books from the previous week to see where the fish had been caught and on what.

Lawrence R with one from Middle
They had a lot to read as last week was an excellent one in every respect. In Yemen like conditions, the salmon fishing turned out to be a lot better than was depicted in the film. Middle Varzuga’s 12 rods finished with 776 salmon for their week. All of the rods commented that they had not seen the river that low before but how much they had enjoyed fishing new parts of it and using their skill to seek out new hot spots.

Our Spanish friends at Pana had a fabulous week and landed exactly 300 in their 6 days. They had caught some larger fish, had caught fish in pools that they had not fished before and unlike us, thought that the temperature was pretty normal for the end of May. Carlos MA finished his week with 33 salmon – not bad for your first salmon fishing trip.

Chris C and Ivan
Here at Lower, the 9 rods landed 115 fish for their 3 days to combine with the 200 fish that they took from their time at Kitza. A really great group of people and it was a lot of fun throughout. Lucy M took the starring role by landing salmon on 5 of the 6 days which was a superb achievement having barely held a fishing rod before the start of the week.

The team who finished at Kitza ended up with 317 for the week with the 10 rods all looking tired but happy when we picked them up yesterday morning.  Simon J went from landing his first salmon on a fly at the beginning of the week to landing 15 in a day at Kitza - that is some progress. They are still boating up river and the new team over there are looking forward to exploring the beautiful upper reaches.

Alan S releasing another one last week
It is very difficult to state how hot it is here at the moment and there was a real temptation amongst the team this morning to wet wade – not a bad idea as the water temperature is 17 degrees and it was 27 degrees in the shade at breakfast. However Gordon S got up early this morning and landed his first Russian salmon from the Wires which got everyone going a bit quicker than they might otherwise have done and we are looking forward to another excellent week.

Charlie White