Friday 14 June 2013

Settled Conditions

Yesterday was a perfect Varzuga fishing day, mixed sun and cloud, a light breeze with an air temperature of 10⁰C – 15⁰C and the water temperature steady at 13⁰C. The heavy rain showers of Wednesday pushed the river level up ½”, but other than that it was a really settled day.

Ian S with one of his 14 for the day
Our guests at Middle were off early with Ian and Doug taking the left bank of Yovas Rapids and Peter and Olivier the right bank which is a slightly longer walk but easier. Despite my saying that there were miles and miles of fishing up there and there was no need to go all the way to Scott’s of course they could not resist it and they started right at the top. Pasha’s and Dunkery were reported to be ‘heaving’ with salmon, and good sized ones as well. The four rods in Yovas accounted for 38 of the 60 salmon we landed at Middle Camp yesterday. Ian was back to the top of the board again with 14 fish closely followed by Doug (his mojo returned) with 11 – several fish of over 10lbs were landed and all talked of them fighting really hard in the cooler water temperature.

Olivier hooked up
A major success was the first salmon for Myriam I – she had never caught a fish before and while we were all out she waded Generator by herself, hooked, landed, photographed and released a lovely hen fish of about 8lbs and strolled back into camp with a huge smile and those slightly shaky hands we all get after a huge adventure. A great feat and one she has shrugged off with remarkable modesty.

Mryiam relaxing after landing her first salmon
Pana reported 20 salmon with the float trip not having great success and the salmon mainly concentrated in the Lunch Pool area. Kitza had another good day with 44 salmon to their team of eight rods. Charles had a super day taking 10 fish from Kitchen including one of 12lb and one of 18lb. In the evening Tom radioed in to say that a big run of fresh fish had come splashing through the pools around camp. The water at Kitza is low enough to prevent any boating other than a ferry downstream as far as Piddling Pool. However at Kitza, like at Middle, once the guests have settled into the low water beat regime they all adjust to it quickly, the fishing can be great and the pools so much better defined.

Doug with the first of 11 salmon yesterday
The week has flown by, it is the last fishing day and everyone is out making the most of this extraordinary river. I await the helicopter due shortly in camp with next week’s food and drinks and tomorrow we leave for Murmansk. I will endeavour to give you a brief update before we leave, but if I fail then normal blog service will resume on Sunday morning.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 13 June 2013

Sunshine and Showers

A day of all seasons yesterday, at times bright sun and pleasantly warm out of the wind and then hammering cold rain for 20 minutes. The water temperature was settled at 12⁰C which is about perfect and the height although very low was steady with no drop overnight.

Anton and Gregoire with one of 11 for the day
Sometimes the fish gods do not reward the deserving, why I know not and there is sometimes no rhyme or reason to it. Doug and Ian, right up there with the strongest fishers we have, struggled a bit and just could not get into fish. Doug had a particularly lean day with only one salmon, so on return to camp he had a quick 45 minutes in Generator before dinner (this pool is normally as much a guarantee of success as you can find in salmon fishing) but without so much as a touch. Immediately after dinner Gregoire and Jean Christophe had a scamper down the same stretch and landed seven between them. Doug took it well, although we did do a bit of red wine over the de-brief, this morning he is up in Yovas so I just hope the fish gods are smiling on him today.
Peter J at Bear and his second salmon that fell to the tiny skater
In the afternoon I took Peter J down Simmons, nothing happened although it had fished excellently in the morning. With an hour or so to go we went to Bear Pool, which in this low water resembles a small pool on any one of the classic Scottish spate rivers. We tried the small ½” skater and almost immediately a cock fish of 10lbs hammered it, coming clean out of the water on the take – just an electric moment. With that fish landed Peter proved the technique by landing a second fish of 8lbs.

We closed the book for the day at Middle with a healthy 49 salmon landed, Jean-Christophe with six to his name to beating his best daily catch and with Gregoire top rod with 11.

Kitza too fished really well, topping us again with 52. Harry B had a cracking day with 12 salmon closely followed by Richard G with eight. Pana reported a better day as well with 26 although they did not do the float trip which I gather is on for today.

Discussing tactics this morning
This morning has dawned soft and fairly still, it seems quite settled and calm. The water temperature starts the day at 10⁰C and after the heavy showers of yesterday is up a fraction by 3mm or so – not significant really, but when it is low anything will do!

We are much looking forward to seeing the teams on Middle, Pana and Kitza next week. Please be prepared for mixed weather, layered clothing is the answer; this week we have fished in air temperatures from 28⁰C down to 3⁰C. Even if it pours down with rain we will still have low water, so please be prepared to walk a bit where we cannot get the boats through; a day bag you can sling over your shoulder or a small ruck sack is quite useful.

I will leave you with a photograph of the extraordinary arctic light that we fished under after dinner last night, catching salmon with that as a backdrop is really quite special.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

We joked yesterday morning over breakfast as the weather changed to the North. Tee shirts went back into the suitcases and the fleeces, woolly hats and gloves came out – Maryke’s rain dance had done the trick and our wish granted. Vova, who is as close to the nature here as anyone I know, shrugged his shoulders and with a wry smile said “Maybe snow”. Last night Camp Manger Misha told us that he would leave the generator on all night, a sure sign that they knew it was going to be a chilly night.

Gregoire with warm hat and gloves this morning
This morning at breakfast the air temperature was barely 3⁰C with a light drizzle and North wind adding to the chill factor. The water temperature has plummeted from 22⁰C on Monday evening to 9⁰C on Wednesday morning.

Jean Christophe with his motivational tee shirt
The howling wind from the North yesterday was a challenge and particularly in Yovas the casting was testing to say the least. Myriam sensibly took a day off from the river and settled down with a book by the fire place in the Lodge. The banya was stoked up to warm up the guests and guides at the end of the day. We stuck with floating lines and smaller flies with success and recorded 41 salmon for the day. Gerard went on to prove he has the hang of fishing and banked three and Ian S again led the board with 11 for the day. Peter J had a memorable battle with a really good, strong fish which was eventually netted by Ivan after various adventures around rocks and estimated at 9lb – 10lb, Peter’s personal best and he was delighted.

Peter playing his best ever salmon
Over at Kitza the salmon continue to be caught throughout the river and Heli Pool is fishing really well, a sure sign that fresh fish are still coming in off the tide. Joshua and Alan showed remarkable stamina by walking right up to Rackmann’s and fishing down from there. Charles W was top scorer with eight for the day followed by the Team Head Richard G with six ; the total for the camp was 38.

The Pana fishing remains a bit of a mystery, they had 20 yesterday and given the experience and knowledge of the team there we would have expected a lot more. It is almost as if the salmon are holding right back in the main river system somewhere and not running up Pana as usual.

Talking of salmon behaviour I had a really bizarre incident yesterday. I have taken to carrying a small spinning rod with a chunky 8cm surface popper for pike when I am out guiding; the Russian cooks love pike and there are quite a few about. Walking back to camp along the reedy margins of the now totally still lake (200 meters below the Banya for those who know Middle) I saw a good swirl about 5 meters off the reeds which had to be a pike chasing minnows or dace. I chucked out the popper and as it splashed over the spot I had seen the swirl there was a savage explosion and I hooked a strong fish. After a good battle I landed a 10lb female salmon, beautifully spotted and almost certainly a second spawner.

The salmon that thought it was a pike
The water depth where it took was knee height and with absolutely no movement. What on earth the salmon was doing there and why it was so aggressive on the lure will remain yet another salmon mystery.

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Hot Hot Hot

The hoped for change in the hot weather did not appear yesterday. More bright sun and tee shirt weather I fear. Maryke went off to the point of the Island where she assured us she would do a naked rain dance she had learnt in South Africa. Tim P donned his bowler hat and hoped that pretending to be a judge at a hunt puppy show at the height of English summer might induce the Rain Gods to act.

Tim P
None of the above worked and by mid after-noon we recorded a water temperature of 22⁰C – a record I’m not sure that I ever want to see broken or even matched. Despite this our valiant team fished hard and quite cannily. They ignored the normal deeper holding pools and concentrated on any fast, bubbly water where the dissolved oxygen might give the salmon at least some energy.

Maryke off to do her rain dance
Middle Camp fishers will understand that Party Pool and it’s like, normally hugely productive, were simply non-starters. Generator Pool was full of fish, concentrated at the top in the faster water, yet even with our four best rods fishing it after dinner it yielded only one fish for the day. However it was a highly important fish – Gerard I’s first Atlantic salmon, indeed his first fish ever as he was totally new to this wonderful sport of ours before he arrived here just 48 hours earlier.

19 salmon of the total of 31 at Middle yesterday came from the rapids above Clarkes, the rest from wherever there was streamy water. Successful flies were the usual eclectic mix with quite a few taken on skated flies and the Mediator being a favourite sub-surface fly. Sizes were generally 8 through to 10 and all fish were taken in floating lines.

Toasting Gerard and his first salmon
Kitza too had a quieter day although their water temperature remained at 17⁰C. They recorded 28 salmon for the day with Harry B having six beautifully fresh fish from the lower beat, two of which were just under 10lbs. They were using slightly larger flies and their favourite yesterday was a 1” Stoats Tail.

Up at Pana they recorded a water temperature of 19⁰C and with sweltering weather and a bit of a walk needed, Damian took only one rod downstream below the Lagoon where Henry G banked a well-earned 7 salmon.

Change on the way?
Last night we had a wonderful halo around the sun and we all felt that Maryke's rain dance might be working. Early this morning the wind finally shifted out of the South and we have a stiff, cool breeze from the North East accompanied by good cloud cover. Getting up early Ian S noted the water temperature had dropped to 16⁰C and making the most of it he dashed off to Generator and landed four salmon before breakfast. That’s more like it!

Christopher Robinson

Monday 10 June 2013

Top Camp Kitza

Doug U got us off to a good start yesterday at Middle Camp with a couple of salmon landed from the top of our island home before his scrambled eggs and bacon. The forecast was saying cloudy and possibly rain and all morning I watched in vain for the sight of just one encouraging cloud - nothing - not a hint of a change, and by lunch time the air temperature was 28⁰C. Double checking the computer for the forecast just increases the stress levels but being a man naturally I quadruple checked. As TIffy would say “put that damn computer away and look out of the window!”

Hugh briefing Gerard and Myriam on their beat this morning
Hugh and I joined Peter J and Olivier D on Simmons where some fish were showing in the streamy runs opposite Eagle Rock. With the water temperature by mid-afternoon at a highly challenging 20⁰C we changed Peter to a tiny skating fly and Hugh took him out in a boat to cover the better lies where the wading is quite tricky. I took Olivier further up and we had an interesting wade (Bambi on ice springs to mind) through the fast water which really was our only hope of a fish. Peter soon hooked a fish on his skater but sadly it dropped off close to the net. We moved a few more but they really were not at all aggressive and there was little to do but call it quits at 6 p.m. and retire for an ice cool beer.

Peter J and Hugh at Simmons
Further up the river in the Yovas rapids the fishing was better and the majority of our 32 salmon for the day came from up there. Ian S described the canyon as “pure wilderness – pure heaven”. Top rod for the day was Rodolphe C with a very creditable 8 salmon.

Pana was difficult to hear on the radio last night and some rods were still out, Damian thought they would be around 25 for the day, in the hot weather most had not undertaken much walking, reserving their energy for the hoped for change of weather.

Olivier with Ivan at Eagle Rock
There were however whoops of delight from Tom at Kitza when he realized they were by far the top camp. His younger rods had walked up to Boat Pool and fished back down while the more senior guests fished closer to camp and down to the Piddling Pool. Fish were taken throughout the river with Ian B landing a beauty of 16lbs from Old Dam. The water temperature never rose above 17⁰C and they were all delighted to put 45 salmon in the book. I can visualize the large grins (gins? Ed) over there as they celebrated out fishing Middle, and with 4 less rods – well done Kitza!

A salmon saying 'thank you' to Gregoire
There is nothing quite like a challenge to keen fishers and our team here were off by 08:45 this morning. I have given up looking at the forecast, a complete waste of time. A glance out of the window tells me it is sunny and warm with a hint of high cloud that might indicate a front coming in – on second thoughts that might be significant so I’d better check on my computer.

More tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 9 June 2013

Summer Fishing on Varzuga

Early June normally heralds the start of genuine summer fishing here on Varzuga. Spring fishing, with intermediate lines and larger flies, changes to Summer kit with full floating lines and smaller flies; skaters and bombers come into their own and single handed rods come out for a bit experimentation and fun. Generally this happens sometime in first week of June, 1st June being my own date in the diary, and one that has been pretty reliable for many years, when I advise guests that they can expect to fish a full floating line with confidence.

Lower Varzuga on 7 May
This year, as you will have noted, the seasons are running well ahead of schedule and when I look at the river level and development of birch trees leaves here at Middle Camp it feels more like late June. The salmon though are running to their own calendar, and despite the low water, fresh fish continue to run – it was really encouraging to see the team at Lower camp on Friday catching tide fresh fish on the Beach and at 39 Steps, the first stopping spots on the river.

Lower Varzuga on 7 June
Talking of timings, the changeover yesterday went well and all of our guests were in camp by 4.15 for a quick cup of tea and some fishing before dinner. Up at Pana they had 7 salmon from Junction and Ivan’s Stream, over at Kitza Bryan P landed a bar of silver within 5 minutes of starting in Heli Pool. Here we had half a dozen before tucking into Maryke’s delicious roast chicken.

Jean Pierre C at Bear on Middle Camp
Despite the warm conditions last week the results were really creditable. Middle Camp landed 467 salmon and Kitza 301. I don’t have the final score yet from Pana, it was not a good as we might have expected given the strong run of fish we have had this year, however the fish do have an uncanny knack of arriving in Pana at the same time as the current group arrive, so we shall see what this week brings.

Jean Pierre's father, Achillie, with a beauifully spotted 2nd time spawner
The forecast looks more changeable this week, I’m not quite sure whether to trust it at the moment as it is saying current conditions are light rain showers, but have bright sunshine and hardly a cloud in sight! No one is complaining though, just enjoying the wonderful green of summer here, and the amazing wild flowers that are in full bloom.

Charlie is back in the office next week after a ‘pretty busy’ three weeks here and I look forward to keeping you posted on the fishing through June.

Now where did I put my fly box with the Bombers?................

Christopher Robinson