Tuesday 5 July 2016

2016 season review

This season was our 25th year on the Varzuga and as ever, we were hugely looking forward to it.  By early April we start to pay closer attention to the Russian weather forecasts and anxiously await news.

Yuri D
As our advance party did their final bits of shopping in Murmansk it was clear that they were experiencing far warmer conditions than they would expect and that all indications were that we would have an early ice break.

Moscoi Island out of the water by 16th May, unheard of
The ice broke on April 28th which is early but not ridiculously so but the weather either side of the ice break was incredibly hot and whilst our Russian friends welcomed the heat after their long winter, it gave us slight cause for concern.

Jonathan B will a chunky one
Sadly those concerns came home to roost.  The relatively early ice break combined with warm and low water meant that the fish decided to run fast and hard very early.  Sadly, a big proportion of the run of fish had run through our beats and were in the headwaters pretty much before we got there.

This rather sealed our fate with the first three weeks of the season being solid, if not spectacular but after that the fishing got progressively more difficult.

Fishing with old friends
It is a measure of our expectations that a final tally of 3,240 salmon over our seven week season was, at best, disappointing.   This has been the lowest scoring year of our 25 seasons on the river and a seasonal average of 17 fish per rod per week compares against our long term average of 36 fish per rod.
Jonathan makes the frame again
The season started with very hot weather and also finished the same but fortunately in between we had sufficient rain that we could boat to pretty much all of the river over the whole of the season. The exception to this was Kitza which defied all logical explanations by falling to a very low level by mid June despite having a lake at its head.  Another odd thing in a fairly odd year.

Catch and release throughout the season
We had some cracking fishing in all camps at various points during the season and as ever, the chance to spend a week in the remote wilderness with great friends, real comfort and mile after mile of epic fly water is not something that can easily be forgotten.

Findlay with a lovely fish from Beach
Our commitment to the programme, the well being of our guests, to our Russian partners and to the river itself is unending and we continue to strive to make fishing the Varzuga a lifetime experience.

Low water was a feature of our early season
History shows us that a poor year is followed by a good one and we look forward to being back on the river in 2017 to start the next 25 years up there.

Happy days
Thank you to all of you who entrusted us with your Russian fishing adventure this year and we hope that we will see you next season.  Finally, a big thank you to our Russian friends and partners, without whom we could not experience this fantastic river.

Charlie White

Friday 1 July 2016

One per day

Another scorching day and the fishing was again really slow. Gordon B got one before breakfast as per this morning's blog. However Ian B, the man with at least a fish a day, managed to land a nice Salmon on a home tied Red Ali's making a complete week of fish. A very happy man. He also managed to lose another. A fishy pair of brothers.

Winter care taker's island home

This evening we packed up our kit and the boats and tomorrow we head home on the early morning helicopter. With the searing heat and low water it has been a tough week for a few but everyone has shown stalwart determination. A solid team of dedicated fishers head home with us tomorrow for a well earned rest.

Prawn Cocktail - Classic

We also waved goodbye to Ura and Ivan (Guides) as well as Jena and Rick (Dachshund) who are paddling back down to the village with a couple of beers and a couple of the camp boats. I did ask if they might fish on the way down but Ivan just asked "where are the fish?" A sad but today valid observation.

Wild Roses still in bloom

The camp is currently extremely beautiful and full of colour. It seems a shame to be leaving but Iceland is calling and it's time to head home.

A quick tow from Vova to faster water

Jack Selby

Anyone for a swim

Yesterday was scorchio again. It did not seem to stop Paul R from a very serious day landing 3 fish and losing the same. Julian S also landed one up river. We took lunch up river and fishing had been tough but everyone was on good form. The water is skinny now and so we sent Donna by boat and waded up ourselves.

Gordon B's fish Peartiha

One of our member has had a fish every day so far and so the pressure is on today (Not mentioning any names). Gordon B had a fish this morning on a Green Highlander that was remotely guided by Terry. Last year Terry told Gordon of a rock far out on the true left channel of Generator. Gordon extended his leader and his cast and sure enough this morning it worked. Well done Terry.

This mornings fish

Yesterday Paul R also took a slight spill in the river. Not enough to fill his waders but enough to dampen his arms and front. However clearly it had the effect of gently releasing his auto inflate life jacket. About ten minutes after he'd recovered his composure it suddenly went off mid river and almost sent him back into the drink. Therefore Oli carefully rearmed it last night whilst sampling a little Malt... For quality control purposes you understand.

Post supper rearming

Another wonderful supper a la Donna

Jack Selby

Thursday 30 June 2016

Finally a Sunset

Another day of scorching hot weather meant the previous days success was not repeated sadly. With water temperature between 18 and 19 degrees Celsius and similar air temperature the fish were avoiding too much movement in case they poached. Ian B as always started his day extremely early with a fish from the top of Generator before anyone else was even awake (possibly before some were even asleep)

Gordon B's fish from Tuesday

Paul R caught a fish from Party in the afternoon and Dominic M had a smashing take from a very silver 4lbs trout which was jolly lively? Perhaps a sea trout? So 2 Salmon for the day.

Stewart S fishes the top of Party as the sunsets

Last night it was very still but we took Dominic M and Stewart S out for a post supper hitching session. There were fish bouncing in the neck and tail of party but none wishing to take part in any boat activity. Dominic M hitched like a demon but with 10 degrees of air over 18 degree water it was easy to see why they did not play ball. But as the motto this week has been: "You never know"

Dominic M and Stewart S paln the evening attack

Lastly with all the excitement of Penry A's big fish (estimated 6-7kgs or 13.2-15.4lbs) I was unable to mention Gordon B's magnificent pike. Whilst we are all about catch and release here the Russian kitchen utterly adore a fresh caught pike. I wonder if I can get Donna to cook up the next one...

Kitchen (Russian) fish

Jack Selby

Wednesday 29 June 2016

What a beaut of a day

At lunchtime yesterday we had 1 fish (as far as we knew) from before breakfast and none of the lower rods had touched a fish. As I sat with Oli in the scorching sun we lamented the fact and worried about the chances of more than 5 fish for the day. How little we knew.

Safely in the net

We ended up on 12 fish; Julian S with 4 fish and Paul R with 4 also. Ian B and Gordon B held up their impeccable record up river and early morning. Penry A put his first score on the board and here is where I am breaking my own code. I have always thought the pictures on the blog need to represent the scenery, wildlife, camp life as well as grip and grin but this is a special exception.

That is a very serious fish

At lunchtime Penry told me his guide Ura was determined that their fly boxes contained nothing small enough. I dished out some of my rarely touched Iceland doubles but with the weather as was it was likely to be the morning before they really came in handy.

Safely released by Penry A

Down at Party Penry hooked into a fish with a Green Metalica and Ura and Pat A came to help with the battle. They netted the monster you see in these images and for the pure delight in Penry A's face I am only including fish pictures today... Well and one hand shake!

Happy client - Happy guide

Jack Selby

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Every possible option

Yesterday started out hot after such a nice cool overcast Sunday. Blue skies, limited cloud cover and little breeze. Luckily several of the team had an early start and took fish before breakfast. Both Ivan T and Ken T got a fish during the day which just proves determination and persistence pays off even is scorching conditions.

Paul R having a cast at lunch

Paul R has probably tried every combination of line but there is not one thing that makes it happen. Popular flies for the sun are yellows and golds with a little black. However Gordon B picked up a fish on an Orange Ali so again nothing is set in stone this week. We ended the day on 8 and no one went out after supper.

Gordon B's guide releases a very nice fish

There seems to be an explosion of dragon flies this week which is a welcome distraction from the more bitey bugs. Equally a number of butterflies showed up at lunchtime yesterday. I had really expected to find the wild flowers over as I arrived as this is always the case in Iceland but being that little bit earlier they keep coming out with renewed gusto. Everything is really verdant and whilst it's rare to photograph a fish it makes for lovely images of the river.

Super hot wildlife action

It's slightly strange to think that we are now all alone out here. Natural instinct is to wait by the phones twice a day in case Pana or Kitza need to raise us but the call does not come. Stranger still is that in a handful of days we will no longer be here and the fish will be left to do their own thing for another year.

Jack Selby

Monday 27 June 2016

A very good and early start

After a very good early morning yesterday we had a slightly slower day. Donna and I joined the team at lunch and there were a few fish for the morning. Dominic M had two (he suggested it was team effort - like a true gentleman) and Paul R had landed one. Things were looking good and the weather remained overcast allowing the river to cool back down. However the afternoon was a little slow. After fishing Paul R and Gordon B went out before supper and Paul had a knock whilst I was with him.

Early morning rewards

This morning a handful went out early (3am) and were rewarded so it seems the morning is the better time to be out. Ian B seems to be the reliable man so far and I will join him after lunch to get some good pics if he gets into some fish this afternoon.

Well earned bank lunch

We were almost over run by sea eagles yesterday. Penry A was up river with his fancy lens but much like me by the time he'd got everything switched on and his big lens in place it was too late. I have some snaps but you really need to zoom in to see anything.

Brie added ready for melting

Donna did an amazing supper for us as always and joined us also. We had a fairly tame exploration of the Vodka with a few clients but understandable when so many are up so early to fish.

Maybe chute chute?

There is no magic formula this week and some our being caught on sunk line and a heavy little tube fly and others on the hitch or a 1" cascade close to the surface. We totaled 11 fish for the day in the end.

Jack Selby

Sunday 26 June 2016

Up the tempo

Yesterday was an early start to fly to Murmansk. The team here at middle had finished with a good last day with 10 fish landed with Hugh finishing on a high with 3 to his rod. The team finished up with 53 fish total and all seemed very jolly despite tougher than average fishing. I fear I will simply be repeating myself but it was sad to say good bye to them all at the airport. We had a really good time together and they really joined into the spirit of camp life. For many of the team this was their one trip of the year and to find fishing harder this time did not deter any from fishing hard and keeping the focus.

Hugh S with a lovely fish

Pana also had a good last day picking up 11 fish with Guy R landing 3. Kitza landed 6 and we all met up in the airport yesterday. Pana looked like they had enjoyed quite a party but did not look to be enjoying the early start. For Pana and Kitza staff this is goodbye. Ollie has gone home to prepare for fatherhood and Toby has gone out to Yokanga to look after the lodge there. Good luck to both.

Hugh S also our most reliable photographer

Thus, now on our own, middle camp has a new batch of fishers and resumed enthusiasm. Whether it is this enthusiasm or the cold overcast morning we have woken to but we had 5 fish on the bank before breakfast. Everyone has gone out heartened by this and focused for the day ahead. We are running a book on the number of fish by midnight tonight.

Into a fish up river

One from the boat

In other news we had a brown visitor to camp last week. The picture is poorly focused but you can see him. Neal had gone for a trot round the island and managed to come upon him on his way back. I don't know who was more surprised but the bear made tracks fast.

Brown visitor

Jack Selby

Friday 24 June 2016

Sudden change in the weather

Yesterday proved again that it's not just the upper beats where the fish are willing to take the fly. Richard D and Tim S took fish just above camp including a large cock fish from Simmon's. Up river Neal S and Lloyd G had a fish each. One first thing and one at 10 minutes to 6 pm. Peter D and James F also had one a piece for the day.

Tim S's big fish from Simmon's

Last night during supper there was a very marked change in the weather with a sharp drop in temperature and some relatively stiff up stream wind. This has certainly produced a new hope for today and was a likely factor in the party ending quite abruptly last night.

 Lloyd G with one to the net

Neal S's fish carefully netted

Down at Kitza they landed a respectable 8 with, as is the norm, the bulk of fish being landed by Jose FM. In fact 6 of the 8. He's clearly doing something right. Pana had terribly hot sun during the day and decided to have a long lunch and fish later so no accurate score yet but they had 5 by lunch. I hope the warm water and sudden drop in temperature did not hamper their plans.

A little tying

Jack Selby

Thursday 23 June 2016

Reel Deep

Whilst wading deep, John C hooked a fish that took off for the nearest obstacle. In trying to free his line from round the rock his reel came detached from the rod and plunged into about 3 foot of water. Unflustered John continued to play the fish with just the line whilst Vovo fished around with the net eventually reuniting the rod and reel and landing the fish. Great team work. The upper most beat landed 3 fish and they lost a fourth. Hugh S also had a notable day with 3 fish to his own rod.

Hugh S with another fine fish

After Pana's healthy 12 their fortunes have been less favourable with 2 fish yesterday added to the book. Kitza also landed 2 fish yesterday. We at Middle Camp managed to total 8 fish with the bulk of fish caught either first thing or as the cloud rolled in about 3pm. Interestingly whilst hitching has produced some interest and small silver hooked yellow and gold flies seem to be showing well in the sunny weather a few fish have been taken on a sunk line in the deeper water also.

A great fish for Hugh S

Donna's bank side lunch was a roaring success and delicious to boot. We mitigated the bugs with a nice roaring fire. Everyone had a steady snooze on the rocks before returning to battle with the river.

Donna's Bank Lunch

Morale is high despite unexpectedly tough results. Last night James F braved it for a cast post supper but whilst a few fish jumped off the point of the island nothing snatched his fly sadly.

The bottom of Bears at "Sunlow"

Jack Selby

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Birthday Party

As I type the sun is here once again. Yesterday tried it's hardest to cloud over but burned off and was very sunny. Up river seemed to be the place to be for middle. Having said that Pana really struggled with only one fsh for Guy R from honey pot. Kitza landed 7 respectable fish considering the conditions.

Delicious Curry

Down here at middle we continued to pick away with 8 fish landed and fewer fish lost. Weather may have been a big factor but without doubt it's not alive with fish this year. If this was Iceland I would be urging people to book for next year as lightening rarely strikes twice. Oddly we saw quite a few fish jump in the morning before the sun really got strong and all appeared to be fresh. Unfortunately I seem to be the kiss of death for clients to catch fish and so yet again I have a camera full of images of casting, lunch and guides.

Meet Rick

Last night in camp we worked out that Donna could easily be bringing lunch up river so today we are going to mobilise and get back to traditional lunches. I will at least be there in body but I think the spirit was killed whilst I attended Natasha's birthday party last night. I had assumed she was 23 but turns out we are the same age and the years have been a lot less kind to me. Luckily they were not really drinking and it seems I have just done a number on myself but have won some favour with the home team for trying...

Vova - Wonder Guide

Jack Selby

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Up to the Hitch

Yesterday heralded a stark change in the weather. Bright sunshine from lunchtime certainly slowed the afternoon for most. James F however came close to a bonanza with 2 fish lost conventionally in the morning and 1 landed for 5 on in the afternoon fishing a hitch.

Homeward bound

Pana had good fortunes with 12 fish including 3 fresh fish and down at Kitza 7 fish were landed including 3 for Ed B. We totalled 10 with another notable pike which did not make the kitchen unusually.

Delicious risotto al la Donna

After supper I attempted to take a team back out on the river but there were no takers. I soon saw they were wise as the still night brought out the Mosquitoes. Oli battled on whilst I wimped out to my pit.

Might be only me that's excited about the abundance of up winged flies.

Jack Selby