Friday 20 June 2014

Big Windy

The wind from the North really kicked off yesterday, and it was cold and grey. At breakfast Misha just said "big windy" and Donna knew it would be a tougher day on the river so she set about a really warming lunch.

We lunched up at Snake Pit again and by boat Donna delivered hot pizza, masses of soup and stuffed baked potatoes to warm up the fishers. Despite the wind we did well and the team of nine rods landed 74 salmon with James D, Freddie P and James F all into double figures again.

Terry delivering Donna's Dial a Varzuga Pizza service
Hugh S and James G fished the very exposed Party Pool in the morning where the wind gave the normally smooth glide quite a wave. Hugh landed a really good fish of about 16lbs, his largest so far. In the afternoon they fished Simmons which they declared ‘stuffed with fish’ and in a very productive two hours landed 15 salmon.

Ivan with Hugh's biggest salmon - 16lbs
Despite the wind experimentation continued and Freddie P had two good fish on a tiny skater. I always encourage trying flies or methods here on the Varzuga that at home you may not have the confidence to fish. Many rods leave here delighted to have set a personal best record for a day’s salmon fishing but with a tinge of regret that they had just thought about ‘how many’ rather than trying out different methods and flies.
Terry, Mark de G and Ivan
Pana, being well up river from here and higher in the watershed, had a really cold day with the same strong North wind. Rollo reported a slower day and they finished with 34 salmon in the book – even so not exactly a salmon fishing disaster! They picked up quite a few fresh grilse, probably the big run that we had come through here at Middle earlier in the week. Kitza remains its consistent self and our Spanish team had another excellent day with 65 salmon.

James G, Hugh S and James D relaxing and warming up with a fire, backgammon and Bloody Marys
The week has flown by and this morning breakfast was over quickly and the rods have set off to make the most of this remarkable year on Varzuga. Tomorrow I go to Murmansk to meet our new guests so I will not update you until Sunday morning – it looks at the moment like we will end up with around 1,200 salmon to 26 rods this week. The three groups in Middle, Kitza and Pana have fished pretty hard in some really varied and cold conditions; I expect quite a lot of snoring on our charter jet home.

Oh! – Emma – have those scissors ready – I’m afraid Freddie really is coming home in his waders.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 19 June 2014

The River Settles Down

Tuesday was always going to be a tricky day, a rising river, cold and windy and just not ‘fishy’; yesterday was much more settled and the guides felt confident we would do much better than the 49 salmon landed the previous day.

Jana and our three camp dogs who keep the bears off our island camp
And so it proved. The team recorded 79 salmon, with all the beats fishing well. Of note were 10 salmon of over 10lbs, the biggest of 14lbs landed by James G who had an excellent day up at Scott’s and Pasha’s. Ollie L and Freddie P also had a cracking time with 28 between them and Mark de G had his best ever day with 13. A very good result and, with a banya to warm us up on return, we had a very content and happy team here last night.

Peter D and Sasha with a chunky salmon from Party Pool yesterday
Most evenings we take the big boat down to Party Pool after dinner for an hour or so experimentation. It is an easy option and great fun; we take two guests who can fish in their shoes, no waders needed, just a warm top in this weather. We drop the boat down the pool on the anchor rope slowly, the purpose being to try different flies, something unusual normally and then we see what happens.

Mark de G with one of his 13 for the day
Last night Ollie L fished a Green Machine right on the surface and James F a traditional #8 Cascade. It was really cold, 3⁰C, and we felt we would struggle with the Green Machine. We rose a few to it, and James F had a few plucks to his Cascade, but it was not until right at the tail of the pool both of them hooked and landed fish within a few minutes of each other. It just proved that even if the air temperature is significantly colder than the water temperature salmon can be caught right on the surface, albeit not in the same numbers as in better conditions.

Ivan, James F, Freddie P, Hugh S and James G - salmon BBQ up at Yovas
Kitza had another good day with 65 salmon landed including a further 20lber from Beaver Pit. Pana too did well with 54 George S leading the way with 14 caught between the Tail of Lagoon down to Lunch Pool.

It is cool and grey again today, with a very strong downstream wind which might make things difficult up in the Yovas canyon where the wind can swirl about and make casting frustrating. I’ll let you know how we get on tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 18 June 2014


It was uncomfortably cool and wet yesterday and the river rose a couple of inches. Unsettled fishing conditions. Father and son, Peter and James D, remained out all day but the rest returned for lunch by the sitting room fire. The morning was tougher fishing while the air temperature remained depressed at around 4⁰C. The rain and drizzle eased in the afternoon, it was never warm, but certainly better than the morning, and the fishing picked up.

Hugh playing his first salmon on a skater
Fresh grilse were splashing through and I took Hugh S off in the afternoon to try and get him his first salmon on a skated fly. It is, by far, my favourite method to fish for salmon. It is ‘visual’ fishing, you can see the fly skating steadily across the pool, the take can be aggressive or sometimes like a lethargic trout taking a mayfly. It is also a winning way to learn fly control, and that was part of my aim with Hugh. Because the fly wakes across the surface you soon learn the effect that a downstream or upstream mend has on the speed your fly fishes at, and you can experiment lifting or lowering the rod to increase or decrease the speed.
Fresh grilse
Hugh soon had two fresh grilse on the bank, both classic surface takes on a glassy ‘tail out’ above Madonna’s. His smile said it all and we headed home to warm up in the banya. Our nine rods at Middle landed 49 salmon yesterday plus a pike. At dinner we thought we ought to make it 50 so Freddie and James came with me in the boat to try Party. The odds were stacked against us, it was raining and the air temperature 3⁰C – they rose a couple of uncommitted salmon but it was pretty dead really – as I was lifting the anchor for home Freddie hooked and landed a perch on a half inch skated tube. Not a salmon I know, but one of those minor fishing triumphs that we felt meant that we had not blanked on our mission.

The Perch
Pana too had a slower day, the water rose and it remained quite cold up there. They finished with a round number of 50 fish, 11 coming from the float trip. Kitza has again benefited from the lake system above, their water height has been stable now for three days and the water temperature also stable at a perfect 12⁰C. The Spanish team of nine had another cracking day landing 81 salmon, 10 of which were caught from well below camp in Long Pool as they continue to pour in from the sea.

We look forward to welcoming our new guests on Saturday – the weather looks, at the moment, a bit more settled next week. I suspect it will be the usual mixture of floating or intermediate tips and a range of flies from skaters, conventional double hooked flies of #6 - #10, or small’ish heavy tubes if you want to fish down and slow. Please remember that the weather conditions vary from really cold and damp to shirt sleeves in 24 hours – best to come prepared!

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 17 June 2014


It started raining last night about midnight and this morning it continues wet and cold. The air temperature is 4⁰C and in the steady drizzle it feels cooler than that. Our guests lingered over breakfast, no one was in a rush to get out on the river and we decided that lunch would be in camp today. The fire in the sitting room will remain lit all day and Misha is firing up the banya to revive the team this evening and to act as a drying room for 9 sets of damp clothes and kit.

Casting practice with Terry last night
Quite a contrast to yesterday when we had a glorious Kola afternoon; a blue sky and high, puffy white clouds contrasting with the vivid green of the silver birch trees and the bright yellow buttercups along the river bank.

Up river at Pana they had another excellent day recording 64 salmon including two of 20lbs, one to Charlie McV from the tail of Lagoon and the other for Willie G from Ponzoi. Boating down river to Ponzoi has become a little more tricky now and they are walking the boat through the rapids below Lunch Pool.

Fishing Green Bank up at Yovas, under a Kola sky
Tom and Ura at Kitza are also just beginning to adjust the boating regime. They are getting through to Third Island and walking up from there. The nine rods had 63 salmon yesterday with the third 20lber of the day falling to Emillio R G from Third Island. Fresh fish are continuing to run in and they picked five silver bars out of Sasha’s in the afternoon session.

Middle Camp had 65 fish for the day. Top of the leader board was James D with 14, closely followed by Freddie P with 13. I joined Ollie, Freddie and James F up at Scott’s after lunch and then guided Freddie down the wonderful streamy water of Yovas, through Tiffinie’s and Slabs. We have so much water to fish up there that some pools do not get fished at all in a week, and there is a real sense of anticipation as you swing a fly down a pool that may not have been covered for days.


We fished late and on the way back I stopped off at the tail of Robinson’s Folly (so named because some years ago I discovered the pool by running my jet boat, full tilt, onto the gravel bar from which we now fish it). A new gravel bar has appeared just above Upper Fortress, as the water drops so the whole river is forced through this classic glide and into the V of the tail. Freddie tried a Green Machine fished right on the surface; smack in the middle of the V he was rewarded with a wonderfully aggressive ‘head and shoulders’ take from a strong fish which we netted and estimated at 10lbs. A memorable end to an excellent day.
Success with the Green Machine
This rain will raise our water level over the next 48 hours, good news for those coming next week although I suspect that a rising river may depress our catches for a day or two. But hey ho – it will still be amazing fishing by any other standards.

Christopher Robinson

Monday 16 June 2014

Of Mice and Men

We have had a mouse invasion here at Middle Camp. Donna hates mice and has a real phobia about them, consequently some meals have been delayed while we shoo’d one of the little fellows out of the kitchen and declared it safe for her to venture back in.

I ordered mouse traps from Murmansk last week; Sasha kindly offered to send three cats on the helicopter on Saturday which she thought was a thoroughly practical, Russian solution to the issue. Last night one of the mice ate a huge hole in the landing net on my veranda and by some unfortunate quirk of fate managed to get its head stuck in the mesh thus strangling itself. One down.

One down
Of men – Freddie P is, without doubt, our most enthusiastic guest of the season. If he could have changed into his waders at Murmansk airport he would have done so. He was in them before the helicopter left, and has not removed them since. Such is his infectious, boyish enthusiasm Donna has shelved the ‘No Waders in the Dining Room’ policy. Mrs P (Emma) is well advised to acquire a pair of those heavy duty scissors you see the nurses in A&E using to cut patients out of their clothes – we are pretty sure Freddie will arrive back in UK in his waders and will need cutting out of them.

Ollie L with another fresh salmon from Birthday Pool
On to the fishing – Kitza had a great day and our Spanish friends landed 90 salmon in their first 24 hours on the river. Francisco had the largest fish so far from Kitza this year, a silver 21lber from Beaver Pit. Tom reported the water level still slowly dropping, the boating is fine at the moment but in a day or so they may leave a boat upstream of Third Island and walk up to it past the shallows below.
Bear Pool yesterday
The Pana team did not quite equal the amazing numbers of last week but had a great day of 84 salmon to eight rods with Alexander M-B landing a 20lber from Inspectors. Here at Middle Hugh S waded boldly, got wet and made the most of the fishing up in the wonderful Yovas canyon recording his best day’s salmon fishing ever with 12 landed and quite a few lost. All were very happy to see 66 salmon in the book yesterday plus 19 landed on Saturday evening.

Hugh S drying out after his 12 fish day
The weather looks on the cool side for this week, possibly with some rain. Good fishing conditions. The water temperature is back to 10⁰C and although the river continues its slow drop to summer height we are getting the boats to all the beats and should be able to do so for the remainder of this week.

More tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 15 June 2014

Jack Frost Makes a Return

Friday saw the helicopter buzzing about the camps re-supplying us for the coming week whilst our guests made the most of their last day on the river. The Pana team of eight landed a further 133 salmon for the day to take them comfortably over 800 for the week. I am sure that Anthony T who, after fishing with us every year since 1991 has now handed the reigns over to Charlie T, will be chuffed that Charlie and the team made the very best of what has to be one of our finest weeks on Pana.

Sonya and Danya moving supplies from the helicopter
Kitza too had a remarkable week, Richard G and the team of seven caught over 390 salmon for their week – they may have made the 400 mark, but with poor radio reception this morning I cannot be exact on the score.

Our team at Middle also made the most of it with 813 in the book to 12 rods. I mentioned last week just how perfect the conditions were – we landed at least 2,050 fresh, silver salmon to 27 rods. I’m sure you can do the maths; it is ‘quite a few’ per rod.

James D with one of his five salmon from Gennerator last evening
I arrived back in Middle Camp with our new team of nine rods at 5 p.m. Donna’s tea and home made cakes were ignored as our enthusiastic guests tackled up and decided to ‘have a quick cast’ in Generator before dinner. Terry and I dragged them out eventually and we had 19 salmon in the book before canap├ęs. Up at Pana Rollo reported the same problem – they had a very late dinner, but had 25 salmon on the bank.

The view from Middle Camp last night

Last night the air temperature plummeted, James F went out to Bear Pool after dinner but was soon back in by the fire reporting the air temperature to be -2⁰C. Donna, Julia and Luda started early in the kitchen as usual this morning, I joined them at 7 a.m. to find our water system frozen up, the normally warm kitchen was freezing cold and the girls were well wrapped up as they prepared breakfast. I went to look at our water height marker and the margins of the river had a rim of frost. The water temperature was back down to 9⁰C, no bad thing really as the last conditions we need this week are a repeat of the 2013 heat wave.

Donna, Luda and Julia well wrapped up in the kitchen this morning

I look forward to updating you tomorrow on the first full day of fishing this week. I do not expect we shall repeat the extraordinary bonanza of last week, but I suspect it will be pretty good.

Christopher Robinson