Saturday 29 June 2013


It’s the end of the week and it's normal to have a contented tiredness after a week’s fishing; no more so than up here at mid-summer where the endless light changes the body clock and just one more cast before darkness becomes a 24 marathon. There is no darkness.

Planning the last night session
I have to hand it to our guests this week – Thank You for being such good sports. Right at the start we knew it would be tough going, the high pressure system had settled in and the water temperature reached crazy levels. 25⁰C at mid week. Fishing at night when the air was cooler was our best option and we have stuck to that all week. Everyone has mucked in, joked a lot and got confused over when to have a cold beer and when to have a morning cup of tea.

Vova heading back down river to end the season
Last night it was pretty still and muggy, luckily it had been cloudy all day, even so the water temperature remained at 18⁰C, still a challenge, but not to be daunted we set out at 22:00 with the Arctic sun starting to set to the north.

Malcolm with a really good salmon from Yovas
Tom led the way with seven salmon for the night from Dunkery down to Tiffinies. His father, Malcolm had six and Andy and Gerry G had three each from The Slabs, the top section of the river fishing really well. We ended the night with 26 salmon to take us to 103 salmon landed for the week, with many lost and quite a few adventures on the way; not our best score here by any means, but as we all agreed at breakfast this morning – the Varzuga is pretty remarkable even in extreme circumstances.

Juila, Lara, Luda and Sonya leaving for home
I leave here in a few minutes bound for Murmansk and then to see my garden at home. The transformation here  on Varzuga, over 7 weeks, will remain etched on my memory; an extraordinary change from the snow, ice and a brown, frozen landscape to a lush green meadow, full of wild flowers, butterflies and even delicate pink dog roses. A transition from true spring salmon fishing through to summer salmon fishing in just seven weeks – and 2,668 salmon landed at the Middle Camp. The guides pointed out that it is 63 salmon a day, they are pretty chuffed with that and well deserve all the praise this year.

So it is goodbye time and a massive, massive thank you to all our Russian friends here from all of us.
Charlie will summarise the season next week. In the meantime, until next May, do svidaniya.

Christopher Robinson

Friday 28 June 2013

Fathers and Sons

It is amazing what a change of just a few degrees in water temperature makes to salmon fishing, particularly at the extreme end of things. Although much cooler yesterday it was still pretty bright through the day and the water temperature refused to drop, at dinner last night it was still 20⁰C and I feared that we might have another really tricky session. Cloud cover and a cool wind slowly did the business and by midnight the water was down to 18⁰C and I just hoped that we would see bit more of action for a great group of guests who have really deserved reward. Our tally for the day rocketed from single figures to 27.

Tom with one of his five salmon last night
The two father and son teams, Malcolm and Tom and Rob and James had drawn the coveted high beat of Yovas, guides Anton and Daniel did another great job in squeezing the boats through to the top yet again and the four rods finished with a handsome score of 14 salmon. This takes the two Boys to level pegging with the Dads on salmon caught; the boys though are two ahead on pike, for while the dads sleep the boys never give up and borrow our spinning rod and pike popper during the day and are just maintaining a slender margin on the leader board.

James with another on the bank to keep the boys level pegging
Lower down the river Norman had a great time landing five salmon from Korevi down to Madonna, while Chris and Gerry worked really hard with Ivan and I around the island with no real result at first. Our hope, yet again, lay with the new hot spot at the tip of the island. Ivan took Chris to fish it from the east side while Gerry was on the Island with me. Chris quickly landed one and Ivan looked at me across the river to sort of say ‘Russia one, England nil’. My secret weapon, so carefully guarded, my one remaining Green Machine, I had lent to Tom last night so he could copy it and make his Yellow Submarine. Gerry looked downcast as we had pinned our hopes on that fly, but undaunted we tried a small green bomber and bingo – a cracking cock fish of 10lbs that had him straight onto the backing.

Chris hooked up
I have the one Green Machine left, Rob is holding his cards to his chest and we think he may have two, although he is accusing me of nicking his second last night. Anyway – it is all to play for in the fathers and sons stakes – my money is on the boys and I hope I have given them the edge and have lent Tom that precious Green Machine for tonight.

The Point of the Island this morning
It is cooler and cloudy this morning and we could go out today, but we will stick to the night fishing programme and then after a quick breakfast tomorrow will leave for Murmansk and home. The plane going home will be quiet I suspect, other than contented snores.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 27 June 2013

The Boys Show the Way

I hope this is the last time I mention hot weather – another baking day yesterday and at dinner we all sweltered, outside it was still 30⁰C in the shade at 8 p.m.; while Maryke, Luda and Lara struggled in the kitchen where it reached 40⁰C. During dinner the wind kicked up and it started to cool down - by mid-night the wind had swung around to the north and this morning, finally, the air temperature is back down to normal levels and, as I type, it is 13⁰C.

Maryke, Sasha and Daniel preparing the pic-nics last night
We went out last night knowing in our hearts it would be tough going, despite the steady change in weather the water temperature was still 22⁰C. But adversity does not dull the enthusiasm of a youthful fisher and our two younger rods showed us that you should never give up.

Tom onto his first fish at the Point of The Island
Everyone fished hard but even Yovas with the streamy rapids did not produce much action. James W had two good salmon from Scotts which he rightly deserved having fished so well yesterday without result.

I joined Malcolm and Tom on the normally productive Generator but we could do no good with it despite trying everything from a deep Red Francis to a small skater. After a picnic at 2 a.m. we moved down to the new hot spot, the Point of The Island where the changes to the gravel bars after the big flood this year have altered the flow considerably.

Tom and Anton
Tom and I chose a Green Machine from my fly box, my last one and given to me two years ago by Ash M when fishing in Norway. Tom rose two fish almost immediately and further down hooked and landed a really strong cock fish of 10lb that had him well out into the backing on his single handed rod. Malcolm then had a go and landed a nice clean grilse, Tom went down again and had another nice grilse. A few more were risen but would not take hold. A magic hour for father and son and no one was more pleased for them than both Anton and I.

On return to the camp, Tom wanted to tie a Green Machine but with no green chartreuse for the body he settled on yellow, the fly will have its first outing tonight and Tom has named it the Yellow Submarine. I wish it luck.

Malcolm playing his fish with Anton at the net
After that we had breakfast, but as a celebration was in order there was a pretty eclectic mix of fluid taken with the bacon and eggs. Rob had asked Maryke to keep his dinner from last night so he could have 'dinner' not 'breakfast' after fishing. So while Rob had roast chicken followed by lemon sorbet, I had a fried egg 'easy over'. Quite bizzare. It was also agreed that the boys could have a gin and tonic to celebrate their success. I think our families back home may have to nurse us back into reality at the end of the week.

James and Tom
We still have rods out so I am not sure what the tally is for the night, we should be in double figures but not by much. In any event the boys took the day and well done to them.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 26 June 2013

A Hard Days Night

We had yet another blisteringly hot day and after brunch everyone crashed out following our first nights fishing. In the evening Hugh took the water temperature and was somewhat reluctant to announce the news that we suspected but really did not want to hear, 25⁰C.
Andy and Vova - Yovas last night
My experience over a few years dictates that at 17⁰C or over, salmon become reluctant to move far to take a fly and at 20⁰C they become torpid and almost impossible to move. So 25⁰C was going to be a challenge. With the undying optimism that only salmon fishers and Jesuits possess, undaunted we set off at 10 p.m.; the guides working miracles and still getting the boats right through to the top of Yovas despite the water now being at the lowest of the year.

Royal Deeside at 2 a.m.
It was a hard days night – I accompanied Rob and his son James on the lower river.  James was casting beautifully, really well, and normally would have been handsomely rewarded. Rob picked up one fish in the tail of Peartiha and after a quick snack at 2.30 a.m. we fished down through Generator – not a touch or any sign of interest, not even a grayling. We finished, with the sun well up at 6 a.m., on the point of the Island and in the faster water James moved three fish, one to a Skater, one to a Sunray and one to a Green Machine, all lazy half-hearted attempts by salmon that would normally have nailed the fly.

Gerry with Vova and the first salmon of his three last night
Hugh went up river to Yovas with Andy and Gerry C; Andy got his first Varzuga salmon, Gerry had three and lower down Norman also had three. Again it was the streamy water of the rapids, with the extra oxygen, that yielded a fish or two. Other than that it was the odd one here and there. Really tough going to be honest and we have retired back to camp tired, disappointed perhaps, yet content to have been out on the river all night and to have given it our best effort.

Young James at the Point of the Island this morning
A great pity really as the fishing here at Middle Camp can be so good in low water, we just are stuffed by this bizarre hot weather - my mood not made much better when Tiffy called me last night to say we were low on logs in the wood shed at home; chilly back at home I gather.

Oh well – tomorrow's another day I guess, but that is confusing too as we are already tomorrow and the camp debate over what is breakfast, lunch and dinner continues. All I know is that Maryke continues to ply us with food, now more chilled soups and sorbets rather than the usual hearty cold weather fare. No one quite knows what the etiquette over drinks at ‘breakfast’ is – so we have agreed anything goes and there was a good mixture of red wine, tea, strong coffee and our two young ones tucking into well deserved chilled beers.

As I type the sun is beating down again. I’m just hoping against hope that we get a break from this heat – such a keen team here, very frustrating. Such is fishing I guess, but being so proud of the river the guides, Hugh and I really want our guests to experience it in better conditions.

Yours frustrated from Varzuga

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Green Machines, Skaters, Food and Bears

We started our new routine last night and went out fishing at 10 p.m. It had been a blisteringly hot day, 29⁰C in the shade, and there was no doubt that we had made the right call. After dinner we set off with the sun dropping behind the pine trees, it was a bit cooler during the night, all the way down to 18⁰C (that’s not a typo, 18⁰C at 04:00 – Ed). The light was stunning and it looked fishy but the but, and it is a big but – is that the water temperature remained stubbornly at 20⁰C all night.

Gerry S with a good salmon on the skated fly
Our valiant guests did well despite the conditions, Chris C had 5 salmon including a really nice fish of 76 cms (about 11.5lbs), Rob W also had a good night with five fish as well. The Gott father and son team, Malcolm and Tom, had eight between them to add to our total of 21. I encouraged Rob to use the Green Machine, a fly synonymous with the Miramichi and it worked well for him.  After we all got back into camp at about 7 a.m. Tom walked down to the point of the Island and had another salmon from there, again on a Green Machine.

Chris C
The skater did well too, Gerry G had a good fish from Simmons Glide on the skater and two casts later hooked a strong fish that tore off down river and eventually snapped the leader. Malcolm fished his skater a tad unconventionally (he is from Yorkshire) on an intermediate tip and a fluorocarbon leader, but he had three salmon this way and another yesterday – no one is saying much but I did see a couple of people adjusting their kit when we got back for breakfast.

Gerry and Andy, a toast to the Varzuga
On the subject of food, we had a bit of a debate over our eggs and bacon on return. Markye had sent us off into the night with a light pic-nic and I included a reasonable ration of vodka and the shot glasses - a toast or two under the rising sun at 2:30 kind of rounds off the surreal experience of fishing all night. We were not sure what to call breakfast after fishing at night – Rob said it was really dinner, Chris thought it was brunch and Gerry G said he didn’t care, had no idea what the time was let alone which day it was.

NOT the last photo Hugh took
It’s now midday, 30⁰C in the shade and all are asleep. Hugh is fiddling with his cameras as we have a bear that visits the island occasionally and Hugh (a budding Attenborough) places his cameras on the tracks to capture it. He got a cracking photo last night of the bear investigating the camera. We thought we might post it on the blog as ‘The Last Photo Hugh Took’ but that might have spooked Jemima at home.

Off to bed. More tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Monday 24 June 2013

All Change

As expected, yesterday was the very opposite of good salmon fishing weather. A high, bright sun, very warm and a water temperature that climbed slowly to peak at 20⁰C in the late afternoon. Most of the fish were caught first thing in the morning, after that they put their heads down and only the odd one made a mistake until the evening.

Fortess Pool yesterday
James W had a great day landing his first ever salmon, then in the evening he and Tom G saw a bear cross the river a couple of hundred yards below them. Tom and his father Malcolm led the board with two and three salmon respectively from the top of Yovas; Tom, who has fished for the English Youth Team casts beautifully and was unlucky to lose a further three salmon that appeared well hooked and were on for some time. Andy and Gerry G had quite a few takes and touches but nothing stuck on, they went out very early the morning and are now asleep so I’m not sure how they got on.

Norman with a good salmon from Generator
We ended with 18 salmon for the day, not a vintage Middle Varzuga score, but more than respectable for the first day and given the adverse conditions. This hot weather seems to be set in for most of the week so yesterday evening we decided to adopt a night fishing regime that will maximise our chances. We will start fishing at 22:00 this evening and fish through until 06:00, the air temperature will be at its coolest, the sun low and we also benefit from the ‘change of light’.

Chris C landing a salmon early this morning
Here, just short of the Arctic Circle at mid-summer, the sun dips towards the horizon around 22:00 The change of light is noticeable to those who have fished some years for salmon in the North, between 02:00 and 04:00 it starts its climb back over the top of the fir trees and again the light changes. These are great times to be fishing and so often the most productive as any keen Scandinavian fisher will agree.

The whole camp routine has to change, from the hours we run the generator, the daily kitchen bread making, meal times and even the laundry and housekeeping times. All our guests are most grateful to the wonderful Russian team here who have quickly altered a well-established routine to fit in with the new fishing times.

Party Pool at 2a.m. last night
With today to catch up on sleep quite a few rods fished last night although were quite weary from a long day on the river. It’s now 10:30 and a brunch is due shortly, but so far no one has stirred so I do not have any results from last night other than I know that both Chris C and Malcolm had caught salmon. It is already blistering hot by mid morning, and very bright so our decision seems well justified.

I look forward to letting you know tomorrow how we get on fishing through tonight.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 23 June 2013

Mostly Cloudy

We were into camp pretty quickly yesterday and the new team were out on the water by 5 p.m. Hot, very bright and a nasty upstream wind kicking up waves which made explaining the ‘draw out’ on Generator difficult. Not an ideal start but everyone settled in and got into the casting rhythm. Rob W landed a nice salmon before dinner, Chris and Gerry C soon worked out what to do, paced themselves a bit and then fished through to the early morning when the light was at its lowest and best. Chris had four salmon , although two fell off as he was dragging them onto the gravel and Gerry one. Bob was up early and landed two salmon before breakfast. So not a bad start really.

Rob with the first salmon of this week
I had a squint at the forecast on the internet first thing, “mostly cloudy” said the experts. I did as instructed by Tiffy - “just look out of the bloody window” – bright blue sky, blazing sun and I’d be surprised if there was a cloud between here and Murmansk. Good job Noah did not rely on the forecast; it would probably have said “possible chance of light drizzle”.

"Mostly cloudy" this morning
I fear we have another hot and bright spell with us again. We will see how it goes today, our first day, and then adjust from there, I suspect we will alter the fishing times and make the best of the low sun and cooler temperatures at night.

Gerry C at 3 a.m. this morning
Yesterday I flew out to Murmansk with the Kitza team, Tom, Donna and our Spanish friends. There were huge smiles in the helicopter, lots of thumbs up and I was able to download the photo of Jaime and his big salmon – a very happy young lad. Tom was delighted with the season but was sad to close down with fresh fish still running. However he was justifiably very proud to have seen 1,349 salmon landed in just five weeks, each of six days fishing. An average of 45 Atlantic salmon per day for eight rods – makes you think a bit if you are fishing elsewhere doesn’t it?

Jaime with his salmon of the season at Kitza
I’m about to post the blog a touch later than normal as the helicopter dropped a massive load of supplies for us this week. With everyone else out Big Misha and I carted it all from the pad to the store and freezer, muttering like grumpy old men; the young and fit are never about when needed.

Now off to find Maryke and see if she can do another rain dance.

More tomorrow

Christopher Robinson