Friday 27 May 2016

1,500 up

Yesterday was a rare day.  This is Peter W’s 15th season fishing the Middle Varzuga and he came out here this year with a target to hit and hit it he has.  He recorded 14 fish yesterday which took him to over 1,500 Varzuga salmon landed; an extraordinary achievement and a mind boggling average of fish caught per week.

Whilst they quite rightly toasted Peter, the other scores on the board were adding up and they finished with 62 for the day.
Geoff F in the sunshine on Larder
All the camps did well actually because after my gleeful, early morning weather report, it was not long before we reverted to type and the bright skies made an unwelcome reappearance.  With them  they bought a simply horrible upstream wind which made the afternoon particularly frustrating.

Graham J with one from the boat
Lower ended with 31 in the book but there was another milestone which we worked out only after supper.  Steve B has now landed 40 fish for his week and today it is his 40th birthday – a good and happy symmetry.

Cage, the dog with the eyes of a supermodel
Over at Kitza the team continues to land good numbers of fish.  46 was the score yesterday with Sue C leading the way on 8 fish to her rod whilst Craig P and Nigel W chased her up with 7 apiece.

The perfect specimen?
As ever the week seems to have flown by and tomorrow we will fly to Murmansk to wave goodbye to this team and to meet the new team coming in.  In truth, we need some rain or at least some colder weather to see the river at its best but so far this week we have landed more than 700 fish over the 3 camps and with plenty of fresh fish coming into the system every day, we have much to look forward to.

Charlie White

Thursday 26 May 2016

Rain, glorious rain

I might have been slightly over magnanimous yesterday when I said that I wouldn’t mind being soaking wet and freezing – it turns out that I did mind a bit!  A full day of rain, a cold wind and fish being caught all over the river has made it feel much more like the second week of the season.

Findlay F with a cracker from Beach
The reality is that it is going to take a huge amount of rain to actually lift the water levels but just to have a change in the weather feels like a huge step forward and means that we can concentrate on the fishing rather than the sunburn.

Bear Island, bottom left, before the rain set in
I got to Middle to find everyone in good spirits and we had a very lively dinner.   They had landed 64 fish during the day with one rod on 19 and Keith B on 8.  As is often the case when I go to Middle, there were numerous rods fishing the home pools as I arrived and they are making the most of their opportunities up there.

I got back just after midnight and after defrosting, came into the dining room to find a select hard core chatting the night away.  After a few vodkas (just to warm up you understand) I left them to it and I gather that might have been a good decision as there are a few sore heads wandering aimlessly about this morning.
Graham J on Bear Corner
Why not have a few drinks to celebrate a very good day?  We landed 49 here at Lower with Craig C leading from the front with 14 fish and plenty of others on the 6 or 7 mark.  Apart from simply being a better day for fishing, it was noticeable that there was a strong run of fresh fish coming in and those rods on Beach and Moscoi probably had the best of it.

Ralph C and Vova in the sun on Tuesday
Kitza continues to do well and they landed 38 yesterday with Craig P and Boo V ending up as the top rods with 9 and 7 fish respectively.  Boo is the aunt of Tom Ledger who was the previous camp manager at Kitza and I know that she and Jeremy have been warmly welcomed as he is fondly remembered by the whole team over there.

We woke up this morning to the conditions that we have been dreaming of – it is utterly miserable. Long may it continue and Craig has already been out this morning to land 2 before breakfast so we hope that it is the start of another productive day.

Charlie White

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Pana and Kitza

As advertised, yesterday was a busy one.  After our team had started fishing here, we loaded up the helicopter with the supplies that we bought over from the UK for Pana camp and then flew to the village to meet the Russian staff who will be helping us up there for the next 4 weeks.

Loading supplies at the village - Toby was delighted to see Carlsberg on the menu
We are lucky in that the core of that team has stayed pretty much the same for a few years now and whilst it was early in the morning, it did not stop the home brews coming out to celebrate meeting up again.
The Pana team reunited
We then put on all of the food and drink that will be required for the opening week and as a result, my flight to Pana was cancelled as there was simply not enough room for all of us to fly.  I waved goodbye to them and the resulting dust cloud perhaps best illustrates how dry it has been here.

Dust bowl
Following a nice walk back to camp it was soon time to get everything together for the weekly changeover.  It was a very happy team that we found over at Kitza which was no surprise really as they finished their 3 days on the river with just over 200 fish to the 10 rods.  Yesterday was another good day as they put 56 in the book with Geoff F, Knut A and Paul P all finishing with 8 fish to their name.

The happy team at Kitza
Middle had another solid day and they recorded 59 by the time Donna called them all in for supper. Mark J hit a purple patch and landed 8 from Clark’s in the morning whilst Peter W was also amongst the high scorers.  Terry reported some really decent fish being landed across all of the beats and in common with our rods here, saw plenty of fish all day.

Steve B with one from Kitza
Lower was not exactly brilliant in terms of landed fish yesterday as 13 were recorded but in fairness, we lost more than double that and there was quite a lot of action throughout the day.

The new team have started with a bang and Craig C has already had 5 before meeting his new guide whilst John M has also joined him on the score sheet.

Looking upstream at Kitza last night
Whisper it quietly but there is just a hint of a change in the weather.  I spoke to Terry this morning and it is currently raining at Middle whilst it is overcast here.  I am not sure it threatens floods but just to be out of sun for a nano second will be more than welcome.

Downstream at Kitza - plenty of water over there
I am due to boat up to Middle tonight to have dinner with them and normally I try to find a dry and warm evening to go up there but if I end up soaking wet and freezing by the time I get back here tonight, no one will be more delighted than me.

Charlie White

Tuesday 24 May 2016


Well that was interesting.  135kms west of here lies the town and river of Umba which we have kept a close eye on for a long time as it owned by our partners here on the Varzuga.  In February, for various reasons, the lease became available and we agreed to take it on.
Umba Lodge
Bill and I went over there yesterday and were seriously impressed with what we saw.  A really dedicated and enthusiastic guide team, a gorgeous and really comfortable lodge, 18kms of double banked fly water to die for and it was much, much prettier than I had imagined.  Photos of big fish adorn the walls and at almost every pool and fishy spot we saw, the guides competed to tell us of fishing adventures that they had there in the past.

Umba dining room
It has a reputation of having a poaching problem and there is no hiding from the fact that this has been an issue in the past.  However, we had excellent discussions with the military and our partners over here and with an increase in man power on the river and better relations with the locals than the previous lease holder, it does seem as if we can make a real difference.  We are nearly sold out for this season but if you do want to fish one of the nicest rivers I have seen for a long time, at a really good price then please contact the office.

Miles and miles of perfect fly water
Now, back to why you are more than likely to be reading the blog…!   Need I say that yesterday was another staggeringly hot day?  Water temperatures are now around the 13 degrees mark and we are fishing floating lines here with flies in sizes 6-8 as well as Sunray’s and hitched flies.

Boo V on Beach
On Kitza, their lake system is doing as we would expect and their water temperature is nearer 9 degrees.  Whilst water levels are dropping like a stone here (I don’t think we will be boating all the way down the river by the end of this week), levels over there are holding up well.

At last! A good picture of the bear we have seen pretty much every day
They landed a further 52 fish yesterday with Findlay F proving that youth is no barrier to success as he led the way with 8 fish.  John M and Steven Brand were close on his heels with 7 apiece and it was a happy but rather tired team over dinner last night.  They are still on intermediates and half inch tubes but if this weather carries on then we can expect that to change before too long.

Craig P on Bear Corner
Here at Lower we had 22 for the day but actually a number of those came from fishing after guided hours.  That was the first time the sun had been off the water as the beat is quite open and exposed (Kitza and to some extent Middle are in tighter valleys and so the sun does not have quite the same impact) so it made sense that the fish would be slightly more obliging given a bit of shade.

Middle Varzuga finished on 52 fish with Ralph and Stephen C having 8 and 5 respectively with the rest fairly evenly spread.  Good numbers for sure but in truth we have seen this beat produce many more fish at this time of the year and it is a bit patchy.

Jeremy V on Upper Beach
It is yet another blisteringly bright and hot day and those of you coming later in the season should pack mozzie protection as they are already making an appearance – ridiculous to be typing that on 24th May.

Today will be fairly busy as we will fly to Pana to set that camp up and this evening will fly to Kitza to do the mid week changeover – I might have a job persuading the Kitza rods to get on the helicopter…

Charlie White

Monday 23 May 2016

Kitza rules the waves

Back in the “good old days”, when nothing worked, we would crowd around the HF radio set and strain to make out what the camp managers were reporting every evening.  It was often tough to understand everything and memorably, we once sent a pair of blue jeans to Middle Varzuga instead of the requested aubergines.

Now however, we have mobile signal in the three camps that we are running and whilst it is less romantic, it has to be said that it is much more efficient.  This was amply demonstrated last night when Ollie rang in from Kitza to report on their first full day of fishing for the season.

Craig P, in the bright sunshine, at 8am this morning
There was no mistaking the excitement in his voice and there was fortunately no time restriction on his reporting.  A good job as it turned out as they had a superb day.  93 fish were recorded to the 10 rods with some fantastic individual scores.  John M was the top rod with 18 fish, Craig C had 14, Paul P 11 and father and son team of Geoff and Findlay F finished with 19 between them.

The new dining and sitting room at Kitza - it probably looks a bit less smart this morning
Geoff and Findlay volunteered to go upstream and caught fish all the way up to Beaver Pit but the majority of the fish were landed from First Island down – an indication that the run is just beginning over there.

Ollie probably wishes we were back to radios this morning as his voice very obviously betrayed that they had celebrated in some style.

Sergei with one of Boo V's fish
Middle Varzuga also had a good day with a returning team of some very experienced rods.  72 fish were put in the book by supper.  One of our regular rods had 14 of those whilst Keith B had a lovely fish of around 15lbs amongst the 9 he landed.

Joan G on Bear Island
Here at Lower we had many firsts.  Colin D landed his first ever salmon, one of 3 he had during the day, Jeremy and Boo V landed their first Russian fish,  finishing with 13 between them and we had our first fish of the season on a hitched fly, landed by Ken B.  We also had Mark’s birthday to celebrate and a delicious chocolate cake washed down with the obligatory vodka was a good way to end the day.
Our starter last night - really very good
We ended with 28 fish between us which was a good start in soaring temperatures and 3 rods have been out this morning and all landed fish from the Heli pool so we look set fair for the day.  Bill Drury and I are going over to Umba today to have a good look around and I will report more tomorrow.

Charlie White

Sunday 22 May 2016


Saturday changeovers are always the busiest day of the week and yesterday was no exception.  We left here in glorious sunshine and arrived in Murmansk to be greeted with temperatures of 26 degrees and it seemed as if the heatwave was here to stay.

Terry and Tony C on Clark's
After saying goodbyes to the departing rods, it was not long before we got the call from the immigration officers to let us know that our new clients were coming in.   It is always a good sight to see everyone coming through the customs doors and catch up with people who have been coming here for years and also to see some new faces.

Playing another on Clark's
The talk was of the unseasonably warm weather and jokingly I said that, not to worry, the blog prediction was for the weather to change given that we had new clients coming.   Two hours later we arrived to the camps in pouring rain and a really cold wind!

It seemed to herald the longed for change but sadly it was fairly short lived and this morning things are back to normal with soaring temperatures and blue skies.  The prescience of the blog, lauded last night, has now been given short shrift.

Tim T on Duck
On speaking to the departing rods it was clear that their week had been full of fun and action.  Middle Varzuga finished on 342 fish for the 10 rods and Lower recorded 253 for initially 10 rods and then we dropped to 9 as Yuri had to leave.

It was a great week with lots of laughs and it was sad to see them go but as ever, things move apace up here and it was not long before new rods, new waders and seemingly millions of flies were being scrutinised, weighed in hands and held up to the light.

Jeremy, Boo and Sergei in the bright sunshine this morning
Stephen T was not too fussed about all of that and simply went out and caught 3 fish before dinner whilst Craig P has landed 2 fish on his new 18ft, beast of a rod before breakfast so we are looking in good shape for the week ahead.

Over at Kitza the best news was that the first fish of the year was landed by Findlay F who is over here for his 21st birthday present.  A great way to christen the season and they went on to land 8 fish before Fiona called them in to dinner.

More tomorrow when no doubt we will have lived through all four seasons in one day.

Charlie White