Friday 26 June 2015

When Lunch Becomes Important

I’m not quite sure what happened yesterday – the river just seemed to be very quiet. The weather was fine, we had quite a strong south wind all morning which made the lower beats at Middle Camp tricky to fish but apart from that it was wonderful Kola day. A blue sky and quite bright with puffy clouds; the margins of the Varzuga are now turning bright green as the water level drops and the river is beginning to look at its best.

Archie R taking a relaxed approach
The team here at Middle Camp fished hard for nine salmon, two of which were really chunky cock salmon of between 12lbs and 14lbs landed by Lars B and James F. Undaunted Freddie, Ollie, Archie and Lars set off after dinner, once the sun had dropped down, to try Bear and Generator and they finished about one thirty last night. At breakfast this morning they reported only the odd pull from a lethargic salmon or two. Not one of our greatest days at Middle Camp.

Hugh S
Kitza too did not hit the jackpot and managed to put 11 salmon in the fishing records. Ahead of Middle for the day, which I would expect at this time of the season, but the numbers of fresh salmon coming in this year seem to be well down. On Kitza the last poor run was in 2009 and this week may echo that.

Archie, Ollie and Freddie setting off after dinner - note Archie's hat which we call the Ascot Hat
Pana had a tough day as well with only 4 landed by the afternoon – they were going out after dinner once the bright sun was off the river and I’ll hear this evening how they got on.

When the fishing gets tougher Donna knows she has to pull out every stop on the cooking front – it is always excellent I know, but there are times to go the extra mile or two. We loaded the boat full of food and drinks and she produced a delicious poached fresh salmon on the bank for us with salad and all the trimmings.

Donna setting up lunch on the river bank
Today is another Kola day – a high sky, quiet bright again but with enough cloud about to feel confident in the fishing, we have a stiff wind from the SW which might be troublesome on some beats – but not a mosquito in sight! I’m not sure that the numbers of salmon landed will pick up enormously – but here is hoping for a few more than yesterday. The water temperature is up to 16⁰C and the level has dropped a good deal this week. I suspect we will make the change to mostly floating lines next week.
Tomorrow we go to Murmansk and back to reality outside this wonderful wilderness. I look forward to updating you on Sunday.

Christopher Robinson

Thursday 25 June 2015

Breakfast in Waders

Each week amongst our guests there will be one or two irrepressible enthusiasts who, whatever the fishing conditions or results, will remain ever optimistic. Last week it was Ian S and Chris M, the latter broke the record and was tackled up and in his waders exactly 15 minutes after the helicopter planted its wheels on our pad.

James D with one of his 5 salmon yesterday
This week we have Freddie P and James D. Varzuga blog readers might recall that last year, through this blog, I warned Mrs P back in England that she would need a strong pair of garden shears to cut Freddie out of his waders when he arrived home. Our salmon numbers are down this year, inevitably so after the record of last year – so it takes people a little time to adjust to having to work a bit harder and maybe fish better to make the most of it.

Peter D fishing Generator
But born optimists such as Freddie and James seem to attract the salmon and they are both joint top rods at the moment. James, wanting to make the most of his six days fishing, went out late last night and had two salmon from Bear – which in this dropping water is beginning to take on that lovely defined, easy to read look to it. Freddie came to breakfast in his waders, ready for action – and then stayed out late while Donna kept his and Ollie’s supper warm on the hot plate.

Breakfast in waders
We had a better day at Middle and landed 26 salmon, it might have been more and Ollie L had a ‘mare of a day losing three apparently well hooked fish. Kitza struggled and I’m not sure why as often in late June it will fish the best of all the camps, they managed nine in the book. Pana reported in with 21 – their middle beat, normally a banker seems not to be fishing that well. However Tom R and A M-B hit several pods of really fresh grilse coming through Ponozi and managed to lose 11 of them!
Fishing Party Pool
If you are coming out to Middle Camp on Varzuga next week here is an update on conditions. The river is dropping in nicely; the water temperature is pretty steady at around 14⁰C. The weather looks reasonably settled. The mosquitoes are here, but not too bad and the Middle river is open enough to attract any breeze. However you do have to be prepared for them if the wind drops. The top beats, which have not fished that well in the high water should be much more interesting next week.

I’m off to dry out the dining room chair cushions – Freddie in his wet waders again. More tomorrow.

Christopher Robinson

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Bigger Fish

Although it felt more ‘fishy’ yesterday it did not pan out quite as expected. Freddie P had an annoying morning landing two but losing four, a theme that was to be repeated for several of the team. We met up for lunch at Snake Pit, James F had landed a really good fish, measured at 32.5”, at Fortress using the Dee Sheep and Tim S had lost a couple, one also seemed to be a large fish.
James D playing his lunch time salmon
We compared notes, Freddie had been using one of my small’ish but heavy Red Frances tied on a tungsten tube and it was agreed that getting down a bit to the salmon was probably the answer. There was a degree of re-rigging tips, James D put on a 10’ medium sink tip and went on the rocks in front of us having lunch to try it out. He pretty soon hooked a nice salmon of 10lbs which was dually netted by Sasha.
Archie R and Hugh S
My box of Red Frances and Dee Sheep was looking fairly bare by the time we finished lunch and I joined James F and Lars B on the lower pools. Party and Birthday seemed very quiet, not many fish showing and it proved to be a dull afternoon for all except Hugh S who landed his biggest ever salmon which was estimated at around 14lbs. We ended the day after dinner fishing Party from the boat where Lars lost one on the tail – it was one of those days and we could only put 15 salmon in the book to take us to 52 at the mid-point of the week.
Hugh's biggest salmon
Kitza too had a dull day with only 13 recorded and eight of those fell to Richard M and John H who hit a pod of fresh fish running through. Pana had a very good day and Toby called in this morning to report 26 salmon yesterday to the six rods including another big fish from Ponzoi – an 18lber for Andrew C-M.
The smile says it all
We were a bit slow off the mark this morning due to the International Relations Gathering that finished rather late I hear.
More tomorrow

Christopher Robinson

Tuesday 23 June 2015


We enjoyed our first really warm, bright day yesterday. The sun shone down all day, there was a light breeze to keep mosquitoes away and it was proper shirt sleeve weather. The bright sun did not help the fishing much but after two weeks of poor weather it was a chance for the staff here to enjoy a taste of summer.

Freddie P fishing Scotts
Ollie L, Freddie P, and Peter and James D fished the top beat and landed eight salmon between them in the morning. The afternoon session was tougher although not for Lars B who had his best day salmon fishing ever with four to his name. James Fox, who normally is close to the top of the leader board had a blank day, most unusual for him. After dinner I took him out in the boat down to Party Pool and he soon hooked and landed a salmon – like Archie on the previous evening he was using my recommendation of a Dee Sheep on a ½" brass tube fished slowly and deep on a slow sinking tip.

Sonya, Genna, Natasha and Arina enjoying the first day of summer
With the water temperature up to 14⁰C after yesterday’s sun the text book would indicate floating lines and smallish flies but with the current water height we feel at the moment you need to get down a bit to the salmon. And with a smaller run of salmon this year no one yet is really experimenting with surface flies. With the river level on Varzuga dropping in now we might be able to change tactics later this week.

Hugh S yesterday
Over at Kitza Ollie reported that the river continued to rise most of yesterday and it was not until the evening that he felt that the rise had peaked. It made for another tougher day there and the team landed 12 for the day, with Richard S catching his first salmon on a fly.

James F at Party Pool after dinner
No news from Pana – the radio reception is poor to non-existent. Last week the team of eight at Pana landed 277 salmon. Here at Middle we had 194 with four people catching their first salmon ever. The eight rods at Kitza had 173, sadly they were missing Jonathan G who was hospitalised at the last moment – all of us here wish him a speedy recovery and we look forward to having him back on the river next year.

Nice cloud cover today, a medium breeze – it feels like a better fishing day.

Christopher Robinson

Monday 22 June 2015

Midsummer Birthday Party

Midsummer! I can hardly believe that just seven short weeks ago we were navigating our way through ice bergs to open up the camps. Yesterday was our first still day for quite a time, warm too and the air temp climbed up to 19⁰C. Time for the sunscreen. The Varzuga has steadied off and dropped a fraction, but only a fraction. Over at Kitza the lake system delayed the rise and it was not until yesterday that it really kicked in and their river height rose 6" over the day.

Midnight - Midsummer

It was a tougher days fishing in all the camps; but there were bright spots and happy experiences. Archie R caught the first salmon of his life, followed shortly by a really nice pike which disappeared into the Russian kitchen faster than lightening. Pana reported 21 for the day; they had landed 15 on the previous evening on their arrival and the difference in scores tells you that for some reason the salmon were just not co-operating. Kitza struggled in the rising water and finished with 18, Ollie reported a happy team and I think there is a good degree of relief that they will be able to boat right up to Rackmanns all week. Along with Yovas the top of Kitza ranks as quite the most magic place to fish for salmon.

Birthday Party
At Middle Camp we had two Birthdays to celebrate. Young Sonya was nine (she has been on this remote Island Camp with her grandmother, Luda, for the past eight summers!). Natasha too had her birthday, she is the wife of Pasha who now guides on the Kola river but who used to guide first at our Lower Camp and then was head guide here at Middle when I set the camp up in 1995. Luda made a delicious cake, Donna wrapped the presents brought out from UK and we had a proper birthday tea party – supplemented with a Georgian red wine for the grown-ups supplied by Igor (Sonya’s grandfather).

Birthday Pool
Birthday and Party remained the theme. I joined Ollie L and Freddie P on Birthday Pool where they had a double hook up and Freddie landed a really nice salmon right on the tail. After dinner I took young Archie and Hugh out in the boat to fish Party Pool and also to experience midsummers night just a few kilometres short of the Arctic Circle. And what a wonderful sunset/sunrise it was, the sun just kissed the tops of the fir trees way up the river at the top of Generator Pool and above us a massive high sky developed. On cue Archie hooked the second salmon of his life, it was netted by Hugh and we returned to the Lodge content and delighted that we had made the most of fishing under the midnight sun on midsummer’s day.

Party Pool
Happy Days

Christopher Robinson

Sunday 21 June 2015

Rising River

We welcomed our three new teams yesterday at Murmansk, and headed of for Kitza, Pana and Middle Camp. I was able to spend a few minutes at both Kitza and Pana on the way through and both rivers looked in peak order. There is plenty of water to get the boats to all the beats and it should stay that way this week.

The very damp Varzuga watershed
Flying over the tundra on the way in I was struck by the amount of standing water in the Varzuga catchment area; acres and acres of damp bog glistening in the sun and the feeder streams all running. Up at Pana the river level steadied off over night and this morning it had dropped a fraction. Further downstream here at Middle Camp the level was up again this morning by a couple of inches. The forecast is not too bad and hopefully we will see the level drop off this week.

Preparing the pic-nic lunches this morning
Yesterday we were later into camp than usual and we did not have quite the normal time of bonus Saturday evening fishing. Hugh S and Peter D both landed a nice salmon each from Generator Pool and after a long days travelling most (but not all!)went to bed reasonably early. Lars B from Norway started us off well with a salmon before breakfast.
Lars and James setting off with Danya
It is fairly still and muggy this morning and the wind that dogged us last week is absent and all got under way pretty promptly in the boats at 9 a.m. Four rods will fish the very top beats in Yovas canyon; Terry will go up there this morning and will join them for lunch at Royal Dee. Donna and I will take the main lunch out to the rest of the team fishing the lower beats and we will meet at Snake Pit.

Tomorrow I’ll try and round up last week’s results.

Christopher Robinson