Friday 22 May 2015

Stable River

It has remained pretty mild for this time of year and the forecast looks reasonably settled for next week. Varzuga veterans will know how changeable it can be up here and you really do need to be prepared for that cold North wind that on occasions catches us out. I use which gives you the forecast at Umba, some 130 km to the west of here.  Like all forecasts you just need treat it as only an indication of what the weather will be; keep your warm gloves and hat in your day pack!

Lunch Pool at Lower Camp yesterday
We had a benign, warm spring day on Thursday. There is a distinct hint of spring in the air and boating down from Middle Camp in the morning we passed skeins of ducks, geese and two pairs of swans all heading north to their breeding areas. The ravens opposite us at Lower Camp have started on their nest – about 5 days later than last year for some reason.

Signs of Spring
The water temperature this morning is 9C and we are debating moving on to intermediate tips, or perhaps even trying floating lines on the shallow tails of some of the pools. Yet the river remains high, we had a few hours of heavy rain in the evening,  and this morning the river is steady, no drop overnight; so the general consensus is to stay with medium sinking tips just now. I suspect that next week, if the river drops off a few more inches, then we can start the change to floating lines.

Geoff F and Sergey setting off this morning
At dinner last night the Lower Camp team of eight were really chuffed to have banked 69 salmon and to have got well ahead of Middle Camp who had a duller day and finished on 40. Not quite sure why that was – something to do with the party on Wednesday night?

Jonathan B with a bright spring salmon at Lunch Pool
Earlier in the week the salmon seemed to be holding back below Morskoy Rapids at Lower Camp however with the increase in water temperature they are starting to run in real numbers and we can see them splashing through to thier way upstream. Toby Burrell, the Pana Fishing Manager is out here this week and willing the salmon on up river to Pana which we will commence fishing on 30 May.
Kitza from the helicopter yesterday
I went over to Kitza in the afternoon to see Ollie and Rosie and to drop off more supplies. They had landed a couple of salmon from Camp Pool and Sasha’s, the river is dropping in slowly and remains at about 5C – if you are fishing Kitza next week expect it to be higher and colder than Varzuga. You ought to have at least a medium sinking tip and a handful of heavy flies. We have suitable flies in camp if you get caught out!

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 21 May 2015

Level Pegging

Salmon fishing is, or should be, a contemplative pastime. Competition ought to be reduced to just you and the fish, or perhaps to you and your casting, or to you and the weather; it a personal escape mechanism from the haste and pressure of modern life. There is however always a keen interest here on the Varzuga in the evening radio call. Partly to see what the various camp scores are and partly I guess to understand what the salmon are doing. Is there a big run coming through the lower river? etc.
One from the boat at Birthday Pool
Yesterday the scores were level pegging. Tiffy and I had come up to see the Middle Camp guests and to drop off more kit (and lots more tonic water!). We had not yet had a cast this season so we popped out in the boat to Birthday Pool and shortly had a cracking fish of about 13lbs. Terry agreed not to put it in the book and at the evening radio call the scores were level - 64 salmon to each camp for the day. Not bad! and all were delighted.

Laura in action by the banya in Bear
At Lower Camp Robin M opened up Larder Pool with three salmon in the afternoon. Larder is normally one of the most productive spots at this height, and being directly opposite camp we can watch the fishers and see the glint of sunlight on bent rods. For some reason this year it has been slow, perhaps the river is changing.

One of the 60 + fresh silver springers from Middle Camp yesterday - not bad for 7 rods!
Up at Middle Camp the Bear Pool is out fishing Generator. Normally in the evening everyone is out on Generator, last night when we arrived there were four guests fishing Bear as far down as the camp banya, landing six salmon in a hour or so. The river seems to be changing here too and perhaps Generator will lose its fabled status to Bear.

Digby and Sasha

We have another warm, mild and still day again. The water temperature is up to 7⁰C and at breakfast the air temperature was 12⁰C. Most rods are fishing medium sink tips, if the weather remains warm we might be onto intermediate tips by the end of the week. As always - you are best advised to bring a selection of tips so that you can adjust to water conditions. Flies at the moment are the usual eclectic mix of colours and patterns, the best size being about 1.5" to 2". Bring layered clothing and remember we are a long way North - the weather can be 'changeable'!

I am posting this blog from Middle Camp so have had to compress the photos more than lately.

More news tomorrow from Varzuga.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 20 May 2015


We had lovely mild weather yesterday and in the afternoon the wind dropped right down. It felt pretty warm in the sun and in places there are the signs of green shoots poking through the brown, dried old grass. Here at Lower Camp the beat below Morskoy rapids was the hot spot and of our 26 salmon landed 15 came from there; a sure sign that the main run of fish is building up.

The road to Kuzomen
Up at Middle Terry reported that the team of seven rods had landed 63 salmon; the fish were well spread out over all the beats. As of yet they have not fished up the Yovas rapids above Clarkes Corner and I suspect that it will not be until next week, when we have 12 rods fishing, that they will venture up there.

Loading stores into the Kitza boats on the White Sea coast
I took Ollie Maxwell and Rosie Furnival over to Kitza to settle them in and to see the camp. Tom Ledger is also out here this week and with four season’s experience of fishing and guiding on Kitza he will make sure that Ollie gets a good feel for the river before our first Kitza guests arrive this Saturday. The river was high, but dropping in nicely and running pretty clear. As always it will be about a week or so behind Varzuga in terms of height and water temperature. Ura said that the salmon were already there and Sasha’s did look very inviting, but sadly time did not permit a quick flick or two. Honest!

Kitza River, looking upstream from Clay View yesterday
Ura and his team have been in camp since early May and have done wonders. New doors have been fitted on the bedroom cabins, new floors laid, new showers installed and there is lots of shiny new paint etc. We have not enlarged the sitting room this year; although we had had a plan to do this it proved to be structurally impossible to do – so Plan B is to rebuild the whole Lodge, both sitting room and dining room for 2016. On reflection I am sure that makes sense and rather than a bodged temporary fix we can rebuild properly for the long term. But there is a new sofa and some new chairs on the way, the fireplace is painted and it all looked most welcoming.
Robin M with another springer from Morskoy
The drive over the remarkable Kuzomen desert is always memorable and we stopped for a few photos and to admire the estuary and White Sea. On the drive back there was not one of us who did not want to be left at Kitza for a week or so – what a charming camp it is.

It is mild again this morning, the river continues to drop and salmon are showing. Looking good.

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Off To The Races

Yesterday, our second day of fishing this season, it all started to come together. Between the 15 rods on the two beats that we are currently fishing our guests landed over 100 bright, fresh spring salmon. It is still not warm, the water temperature was 3⁰C, the river is quite high and although it is dropping in nicely we had a brisk upstream wind. Not perfect conditions – but good enough - and everyone made the most of this most productive river.

Robin M with a cracker at Lower Camp
Upstream from here at Middle Camp they had a really excellent day with Clarkes Corner, just below Yovas Rapids being the usual early season hot spot. Likewise Morskoy, the lowest rapid on the river, was the hot spot at Lower Camp. That said, the salmon are now pretty well spread out and with the water level slowly dropping each day more pools are coming into their own.

Digby F at Middle with a lovely fish from Clarkes
I miss-reported yesterday – at Middle we had three ‘first salmon’ on our opening day, Giles, Tim and Charles all landed their first salmon. A great start for them. I saw the Middle Camp last night and they were all delighted with the way the week was developing, the score was still being assessed when I left but it seemed that the seven rods had caught over 70 salmon for the day. Returning to Lower Camp I saw our Fishing Manger, Bill Drury, who was delighted to report 41 salmon for the day, including another first for Neil C; I understand it was suitably celebrated at dinner!

Terry and Laura at Middle
The numbers actually landed at Lower Camp somewhat underplay the action, for some reason the fish were taking short, just not really taking the fly aggressively enough, as a result we lost a lot. Ken and Geoff landed 19 between them, but they lost 43! By ‘lost’ I mean rod well bent and the thought turning to landing the fish – not just an ‘on-off’. The long inquest has not produced any meaningful explanation – such is salmon fishing.

Heli pool at Lower this morning
The river is down again this morning, we are getting towards a really interesting spring height. A brighter day this morning, not too cold and all were on the water right on time eager to make the most of it. I hope to get over to Kitza today and if so will get a photo or two for the blog. Our first guests arrive there this Saturday, Ura reports that the river looks good and he has all his boats in the water.

More on Kitza, and an update from Middle and Lower Camps tomorrow, in the meantime with the river looking really quite good, Spring in the air, and salmon running in earnest there is a distinct fishing optimism here.

Christopher Robinson

Monday 18 May 2015

The First Day

After an evening’s unpacking, settling in and a cast or two for the keenest on Saturday evening we commenced fishing yesterday in earnest. It was not the easiest day weather wise with a brisk, cold upstream wind and here at Lower we made sure that the Banya was fired up to warm up our guests when they got it from the river.

Ken and Geoff at Bear Island
The river had dropped over night and through the day continued to do so. At Lower camp we struggled a bit; dirty water was coming in from the Sobacci stream which was in full spate and with the river still high the wading in the withy bushes was not easy. After lunch Sergey took Geoff and Ken out in the boat and roping down on the anchor by Bear Island (still well under water) they picked up four bright silver spring salmon.

Generator Pool at Middle Camp
Up at Middle, Terry reported that water was much cleaner and the seven rods there landed 35 salmon. Leading the way was Laura H who showed the men how to do it by landing eight fish from Peartiha. Generator fished well too and Tim D landed his first ever salmon there to much celebration.

First salmon for Tim D
So – not a bad start at all although we would have liked to have contacted more fish here at Lower Camp. In the afternoon Michael and Alan fished Moskoi with Feodor and though they only had a few takes that did not convert they saw fish showing as they came in from the sea. Overnight the river has continued to drop and it looks a great deal more manageable today and I’m sure we will see the score here at Lower much improved.

Jonny and Laura H
The weather looks pretty settled for the coming week, it might be a bit chilly but no real rain is forecast so we can expect steadily improving conditions. I look forward to updating you tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 17 May 2015

The first Finair charter aircraft of the Kola salmon fishing season arrived yesterday at Murmansk from Helsinki, on board were our guests for both Middle and Lower Camps. With only 18 on the first flight this year they cleared through immigration and customs quickly; as always it took a bit of time to sort the bags out and make sure the helicopter was loaded correctly, however by just after 2 p.m. we were all in camp. A point to note - the time zone has changed this year - Russia is only 2 hours ahead of UK time.

Middle Camp and arrival helicopter in the background
The weather in Murmansk was pretty foul, about 4⁰C, grey and drizzly, but once into the Varzuga water-shed we arrived to a wonderfuly warm, sunny, spring afternoon. At Middle Camp Terry and Donna had laid out welcoming drinks, coffee, soup and the ever present Middle Camp bloody mary jug on the veranda. At Lower the fire was lit and Markye’s home made chocolate chip biscuits made us welcome.
Midnight last night
Since I left on Friday morning the river had dropped at least a foot. At Middle it was running clear, at Lower we had a touch of colour still in the water, but the trend looked good.
Tackling up this morning - quite chilly and a real contrast to yesterday
Our arrival day is not really a full fishing day. In other words if we get into camp early enough, of course our guests can put up their rods and have a go. But is also the guides’ day off, so it is a bit of self-help (bonus) fishing. Up at Middle they landed a handful of salmon, inevitably from Generator. Here at Lower we fished Heli Pool only and did not manage to land one, but we all noted the dropping river and at dinner we were chatting about the improving prospects for the week.

Michael H ready for action this morning
This morning, Sunday, the river has dropped steadily over night; it is not yet at the optimal spring height, I think we need a couple more days, but it looks increasingly better. After the bright, warm spring day of yesterday this morning the weather has turned again; we have a cold upstream wind, it is grey and dull and really quite chilly. Although not really pleasant to be out in at least it will slow down the snow melt and we can now commence fishing knowing that each day increasing numbers of salmon will come in.

Christopher Robinson