Friday 13 May 2016

Final day before our first clients arrive

The countdown now starts in earnest as we tidy the last remaining things before welcoming our first guests of the season.

Yesterday, Terry and Donna had a really good day setting up the camp at Middle.  Every year this gets slightly easier as the continuity in the Russian staff starts to pay dividends.  The guides had been up there since Tuesday and the camp looks in really good shape.

Vova, back at Middle for another season
Big Misha is there this year which we are delighted with as he has not been in the best of health and all of the other guides are there except Anton who has gone to join the military.

Looking down Generator Pool yesterday afternoon
We have been lucky this year as the weather has been perfect for setting up the programme.  Whilst we can cope with any set of circumstance, there is no denying that getting boats in the water, fixing engines, airing linen and generally sprucing the place up after the long winter, is far easier when you can get outside without getting soaked.

Karai enjoying the sun - he seems immune to the ageing process
Not that I expect anyone to believe us but we were too busy to go fishing yesterday.  However, one of my jobs today is to go down to the lunch spot here at Lower to take the tables and chairs for our al fresco picnics which we all enjoy every day.  Much as I will have things to do, I am definitely taking the rod.

Checking one of the boats in front of the dining room
The river and camp look in great order and we are looking forward to getting everyone on the water and enjoying what this place can offer.

More on Sunday when we will hope to be reporting bumper catches.

Bill Drury

Thursday 12 May 2016

Setting up going well

In our second day of setting up the camps things really started to come together. It takes a bit of time to move all the kit and supplies, this is done by boat and with the river clear of ice this year we have been able to crack on well. All the boxes and bags have to be lugged down to the boats from the village, moved to base camp and sorted out, then distributed to the various camps – it takes time, but with an experienced team here we are moving on ‘apace.

Glenn at work in Lower Camp
 The weather was pretty mild yesterday, sun and cloud, but really quite chilly in the wind this morning and Donna and Terry wrapped up warm for the 40 minute boat run up to Middle Camp. For those coming up to Varzuga the forecast we use is the Umba one, about 100 km west of here. It is not always spot on! – but at the least it gives an indication of trends. As always this far North please be prepared for really changeable weather.

Terry and Donna setting off for Middle Camp this morning
The river has dropped a couple of inches over the past 48 hours, a bit lower than we would normally expect in the first week, but this is good news for those coming out early. The fish are here and I popped out last night for 30 minutes or so and lost a couple before landing a real beauty of a silver, deep shouldered springer.
The first of many Spring Salmon to come
I hope Terry will get some photos of Middle today and if so I’ll post them tomorrow.
Bill Drury

Wednesday 11 May 2016


We know when we come out to the set up week that it will be hard work but also great fun catching up with our friends in camp and this year is no different.

Taking supplies out of the new sklad
It has been made easier by not having to struggle through snow but equally certain things in the village have made it slightly harder than we would expect.

There is a fairly fixed routine as to how we go about setting up the various lodges and it involves months of planning in advance.  We send all of the items that we cannot source in Russia up to Murmansk and then ship down huge amounts of dry goods, wine, fridges, chairs etc etc from Murmansk to Varzuga village via huge trucks.  This is then stored in a vast storage shed (sklad) that houses everything that the village needs and we finally take out our kit under the watchful eye of Marina, the sklad overseer.

Taking supplies from the village to Lower Varzuga
This year we had a shock when we came to the sklad to reclaim our goods and the picture below shows the devastation but not the extent of the size of the building before it burned down.

The sklad after a huge fire
Whilst this has been horrendous for the village (years of supplies that have been hoarded have been lost) we were fortunate in that the trucks had not set off from Murmansk by the time it had burned down.  This means that our advanced purchases are all intact but the reserves from the village have been severely depleted.  As ever in Russia, they are at their best in a crisis and the whole community is now working to find out what has been lost and where they can source replacements.  It is extraordinary to see everyone pulling together and making the best of what they can.

Newly racked supplies - amazing how fast they have recovered
As a result, it seemed a bit insensitive to fish very much when there was so much work to do but Terry had a crack at the end of the day down by the boats for half an hour.  He hooked one but lost it, largely I think because he was too worried about looking at the camera!

In terms of the important things for those of you coming soon, the weather remains warm although it is overcast now and the water temperature is 7 degrees.

Terry about to lose a fish
The water level is dropping as we would expect and conditions look set fare.

More tomorrow after another day of unpacking, sorting and trying to find time to have a fish.

Bill Drury

Monday 9 May 2016

Welcome to the 25th year on the Varzuga

Welcome back to the Varzuga blog!  This year marks our 25th season on the river and we hope it will be a vintage one.

After a relatively easy bus journey down, we are now here on the river.  “We” is myself, Maryke (our cook at Lower), Terry and Donna (manager and cook at Middle), Ollie (manager at Kitza) and Glenn, our brilliant mechanic.

Unloading supplies at Sobacci Rapids
We got to the village around lunchtime yesterday to be greeted by Misha and Feoder who so many of you will have met in the years gone past.

They told us that the river had begun to break on the 28th April and that it took three or four days to fully clear out which is as we would expect.  Apparently they had much more snow than usual during the winter and beyond the tree line there is a lot of snow still waiting to melt.

Boats in the water and ready to go
Having said that, it has been a very warm week and it continues to be – it feels bizarre to be opening up the camp in shirt sleeves when we are used to digging paths out of the snow in order to get to the lodge.

The river is relatively low for this time of the year but we all know that predicting weather patterns, rainfall and almost anything else up here is a fool’s errand so we will see how it all unfolds.

Glenn, Misha and Nikolai sorting through the supplies
It was Victory Day in Russia yesterday so we probably were not as productive as we might have been but it was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone and the real work starts today.

I will keep you updated throughout the week and I might even manage a cheeky cast today – it looks perfect.

Bill Drury