Friday 12 June 2015

Final day at Lower

I am aware that regular blog readers will have heard all of this before but the season here has just flown and I can hardly believe that we are now packing up bits and pieces to move our base camp to Middle Varzuga, which will run for another 3 weeks.

Lower Varzuga will close down today which always seems a shame particularly as we had a much better day yesterday and recorded 37 fish for the team. Grant I and Phillip T were the top rods with 7 fish apiece but it has been the dedicated instruction and help that everyone has had from Eoin Fairgrieve and Bill Drury which has been most talked about.

Eoin with a fish from Jannaways
They are both utterly atypical in that they don’t grab the rod from your hands and show you how they would do it; rather they stand back and just offer the odd really helpful hint that allows everyone to seriously improve their casting, wading and all round fishing. This instruction combined with prolific fishing is something that we believe is unique and we will be running the "Ultimate Atlantic Salmon fishing course" again next year.
Keith C taking a slightly more relaxed approach
Pana is dropping quite nicely now which is opening up more of the river and the 8 rods there finished with 42 for their day. Ponzoi was again the most productive beat but the home pools and above that are all fishing well.

Kitza has been the model of consistency and 30 fish to the 8 rods was the score yesterday. With lots of water in the system, we should be able to boat to all of the beats until the end of the season and this will give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful upper stretches of the river.

Maryke with her annual fish of the season late last night
Middle had another great day and put another 85 fish in the record book. JP C and Ian H were the top rods with 11 and 13 fish respectively. This camp has the longest of our seasons as it holds the fish so well and things are looking very good for the latter part of the season.

Stephen C in the seemingly rare sunshine
Today will be a busy day as we make inventories, plan for next season and ensure that we have put everything neatly away. Bill Drury and I will be back in September for two weeks to target the Autumn run and there are still a couple of rods left for the week of 26 September to 3 October, please call the office for more details.

He is as old as the hills but we hope to see Karai in September
I am of course looking forward to going home but there are very few places in the world as special as this and I know I am very lucky to be part of it.  We will raise several glasses tonight as we celebrate another very successful season and thank all of our Russian friends who make the experience so wonderful.

Charlie White


Thursday 11 June 2015

Dinner at Middle

Yesterday started with bright skies and a very light breeze. As the day went on it clouded over and we had the odd shower. It seems strange to make any sweeping statements about the weather this far north but it has, without doubt, been one of the wettest seasons I can remember.

Fortunately I picked a decent gap in the weather to boat up to Middle. Everyone up there was having a great time and they had had their best day of the week. 92 was their final score with top rods being John M and Hugo M – not the first time that this has happened.

Ivan at Middle - turning into a really top guide
It was a lovely evening on the way home and as is the case every year, it was hard not to feel slightly melancholic as we came down river. Three weeks goes too fast and I tried to ensure that I did not forget a single part of the journey so as to keep my memory banks going until I come back in September.

Leaving Middle.  The midnight sun still impresses
Over at Kitza the team finished with 34 fish in the book and again Chic was the top rod with 9 fish. The fishing has been very consistent and so has the evening entertainment. A missed radio call this morning leads me to conclude that Ollie has finally decided that if he can’t beat them he might as well join them!

The head of the police - Andrei
Pana had a better day with the river now finally dropping. 37 fish were recorded with notable mentions being Paul C’s fish of 16lbs from Ponzoi and Jack M taking 5 fish from the Ford in the morning, all of which were over 10lbs.

Toby Burrell - doing a great job managing Pana camp
I got back around midnight to find a very quiet camp as the previous evening had rather taken its toll. I am not sure it is fair to blame that on the fishing here but yesterday was a tough day. 15 fish were put in the book and it felt quite slow on the river. Any chance of glum faces at breakfast was instantly banished by Phillip T going out at 7am and landing 4 fish from Heli. With just today and tomorrow to fish until we close this camp, it is time to make the most of it.

Charlie White

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Back from Pana

Well that was fun. Three days in the simply glorious surroundings of Pana with clients who know it so well. In truth, the water is too high for it to be at its best but it is such a stunning camp in utter tranquillity that it seems picky to say that it could be any better.

Paul C with one from the Indel
I left Lower Varzuga on Saturday to fly to Murmansk and on the way it was obvious that all of the feeder streams had pretty much dried up and you would expect the river to drop quite quickly. However, some serious rain in the past couple of days has changed the game and as I flew back in yesterday, I could see Sobacci stream running very high and all of the smaller burns are also pumping water into the system. All of which has meant that we are faced with a rising and quite dirty river – not ideal.
Beany - not about to be put off by the rain on Sunday
That was slightly evident in the catches yesterday but as ever, you cannot help but be amazed as to how many fish we actually do catch in conditions that should write everything off.

Pana finished with 27 to the 8 rods which was lower than we would hope but not much is going to get in the way of the team enjoying themselves. Paul C had 4 fish from the Indel before lunch and Jack M continues to catch fish in all sorts of circumstances.

Grant I on the Wires yesterday
Kitza had a better day and they put 36 in the book. Chic McS was the top rod with 9 but from this morning’s conversation on the radio it would seem harsh to expect too much from the rods today. A very major party took place last night and Ollie was not sure how many would make breakfast. I think he is underestimating the stamina of the team and my guess is that they will all be out on the river before too long.

Middle shows true consistency throughout the season and yesterday was no different. 64 fish to the 12 rods was the final tally with John M scoring 11 for his day. JP C also had a good day with 9 fish but it was very even otherwise.

Damian S all smiles after another fish from the Pana home pool
We had a rather tougher day at Lower as, being at the bottom of the system, we are more affected by the feeder streams but even so we still put 27 fish in the book. Barbara H had 4 for her day and remarked that she has been waiting all her life to catch more than two fish in a day and she has now done it three days in a row. We raised a glass (or 3) to David H as he landed a salmon that took him to 200 fish for his salmon fishing career which involves 20 different river and 6 different countries.

Keith C on Heli last night
It is a much better day today with very little wind and bright skies. This will help settle the river down and we should be on a more even keel before too long. Paul B has been out this morning to land two fish from Heli before breakfast and spirits are high – long may it continue.

Charlie White

Tuesday 9 June 2015

North Wind

It has not been the easiest start to the week from a weather point of view. After the rain on Sunday the wind has set itself in the North, and yesterday was strong enough to dampen a few spirits at the Lower Camp where, along with Middle the river is wider and more exposed. After dinner they all hunkered down by the fire in the Lodge and did not head out to Heli Pool – many spirits of a different sort were raised in ‘various toasts’ as Bill reported this morning!

Fishing Heli Pool at Lower in the wind
Pana had a another good day with the team of eight landing 43 salmon, Jack M had 14 of them fishing from the Old Bridge down to camp. Good news as it means the salmon are now right through the river system – pretty much on time; I always have 6 June in mind, so the cooler weather this year has not delayed them much.

Terry at Middle reported 62 fish for the day – a good result in the wind. Andy B did well with 16 to his rod. Kitza, for the first time in 10 days or so, had a tougher day as well and they reported 29 for the eight rods. Charlie has sent over another guitar – they have two now at Kitza – not sure if the legendry Kitza Kitchen Parties are playing a part in the score?
Grant I at Beach yesterday
Lower Camp struggled a bit and ended up with 21 – still, not exactly a disaster in salmon fishing terms. The wind has abated this morning although it looks like it is going to remain from the North for a day or two yet. The river is steady after the rain, but will commence its slow drop again shortly. Intermediate lines are the best at the moment, if we get some sun on the river the water temperature will soon be back up to over 12⁰C, so if you are coming next week make sure you have a floating line and also an intermediate tip.

Varzuga Village - potato patch ready to go
This morning Sasha went up to the village, the wind is drying the soil out and everyone is getting ready to plant the potato crop. Another sign that summer in Varzuga is not too far away.
Christopher Robinson  

Monday 8 June 2015

Summer Is Not Here Yet

Just when the weather here at home is settling down and starting to feel like summer the same cannot be said of the weather up north.

Yesterday saw another day of pretty heavy rain on and off all day, this morning Bill Drury reported the weather distinctly chilly with an air temperature of 6⁰C and a sharp wind from the NW. The water temperature has dropped back to 10⁰C.
Grant I at Sviets yesterday
Not ideal conditions and with a slowly rising river as well to add to the ‘fishing excuses’. That said the teams in the four camps had a pretty good day yesterday and the catches have remained remarkably consistent despite the changeable conditions.

Up at Pana they landed exactly 50 salmon with Barry W taking the best fish at 18lbs. Kitza too had a good start to their week with 46 landed, the whole of the beat is fishing well and the salmon seem well spread out from the top at Rackmanns all the way to below the Camp.
The Wires at Lower Varzuga
I do not have news from Middle Camp, but the team there is an experienced one and I’m sure they will have done well. At Lower Camp they landed 39 fish with Ralph C top rod for the day with seven.

With the water temperature down a bit most fishers are sticking with intermediate tips and slightly larger flies. The weather for the week looks to be on the cold side with an East wind, if you are preparing to come out on 13 June those gloves and a hat might be needed.
Bear dog sheltering from the rain at Lower Varzuga
Charlie should be back from his visit to Pana today and I hope we might have some Pana photos on the blog tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 7 June 2015

No News Is Good News

This is a somewhat unusual blog today – from Wiltshire in UK rather than direct from the Varzuga, and I am light on ‘breaking news’ photos!  Charlie is staying at Pana Camp for a couple of days, a very useful chance for him to spend some time there and to look over the camp infrastructure. Our normal 2 hour visits with a millboard and a list might seem to be productive, however it is really only when you actually stay a couple of nights in a camp that you fully understand how it is working and what needs to be done.

It is a busy week.  All four camps are up and running and we have 39 guests this week, Bill Drury is anchoring the operation from our base in Lower Camp. He called in last night (Saturday night) with the call we all want to hear – all the guests were in the camps in good time and many were already out on the river.

Lower Varzuga on Friday - Brendan G
This morning it is pouring with rain again and looking at the forecast it looks like another unsettled week. Maybe not the most pleasant fishing conditions; but much better than a dreaded high pressure system that might park itself over the Kola for a week or more - great if you want a suntan, but that is not why you come to Varzuga.

Bill sent me a text to disturb my early Sunday morning, with the weather really closed in the HF radio reception is rubbish so Middle and Pana did not get through with a report this morning. Each camp has a backup satellite phone, they are expensive to use so for the morning call we work on a ‘No News is Good News’ basis – for the evening check if the we fail on the radio then the camps have to call in on the Sat Phone with a report.
Wiltshire this Sunday morning
At Lower Camp we have our Instructional Week with both Bill Drury and Eoin Fairgrieve on hand – a wonderful chance to experience some of the best salmon fishing with two masters of the art to guide and coach. Paul B got off to a good start with 3 salmon from Wires before dinner and over at Kitza they also had a handful of fish from the camp pools in the evening before Rosie served supper.

Mouse defences in Lower Camp
The water temperature is steady at 12C and this rain should keep the river topped up. Floating lines are working, my hunch is that an intermediate tip and a slightly heavier fly will be the killing method if you really want numbers rather than the fun (in my view!) of fishing a floater. It is too early really to predict the conditions for the week starting 13 June, let’s see how this week pans out first.

More tomorrow!

Christopher Robinson