Friday 10 June 2016

Last day at Lower

3 of our teams had a great day yesterday but trying to work what is going on at Pana has us scratching our heads more than ever before.

Ditch W with one of 4 he had yesterday
At 8:45 all of our clients here at Lower Varzuga were boarded onto the helicopter and flew a short distance to a beat above Middle Varzuga.  Lower has been very quiet all week in terms of numbers landed and a couple of fly outs seemed to be the right thing to do.

Glynn D with Sergei ready to pounce
The team landed 29 fish between them with Glynn D the top rod on 7 for his day.  It was great to get people into real action and for them to see the fishing as we know it can be.  Everyone had a really enjoyable day and the celebratory party carried on way, way into the night.  I am not sure how many people will fish today as our vodka supplies were dramatically diminished.

One of 7 for Glynn yesterday
Middle Varzuga continues to be the model of consistency with 54 put in the books.  It was a very even performance across the team but Andy B just shaded it by landing 7 to his rod.  Young Colton C is having a great week and yesterday recorded his 10th Atlantic salmon – not bad given that he is 5 days into his fishing career.

Igor at the ready
Kitza had a much better day and totaled 21 to the 7 rods.  Malcolm K and George R made the most of their knowledge of the beat and finished with 5 apiece.  They are now walking to their beats but we have had much cooler weather recently (water temperature is now 9 degrees) and it has made any form of walk much easier.
"Get the net!"
Whilst Middle did well and our rods also caught fish above them, the mystery of Pana’s season continues.  They landed 5 fish yesterday which is beyond extraordinary.  Somewhere there must be a whole heap of fish in between Middle and Pana and at some point someone is going to have a bonanza up there but why that hasn’t happened already is something we can’t answer.
Richard S with another one
Today marks the end of the season at Lower whilst Kitza and Pana will fish for 2 more weeks and Middle for 3.  It has not been a record breaking season and we have had tough conditions but we have also had some fantastic teams fishing with us who all “get” fishing and know that sometimes nature conspires against us.
Phil T and Peter
It has been, as ever, superb fun and all of us working here know how lucky we are to be able to call this our office for a month.  We couldn’t do it without tremendous support from our Russian friends but don’t underestimate the impact of having someone as efficient and caring as Lynsey Mair back in our Hungerford office to ensure it all runs smoothly.  It truly is a team effort and one I am very proud to be part of.
See you next year
I will fly home tomorrow and Ollie Shuldham will take over blog duties.  I will be back up here in September for a week at Lower Varzuga and then onto Umba for our first season there – exciting times ahead.

Charlie White

Thursday 9 June 2016

Very quick update

We are flying out in a minute so short of time.

The situation remained the same yesterday with a tough day on Pana (8 fish),  Kitza (9 fish) and Lower (10 fish but 5 of those caught after 6pm by Victor B)  Middle had a great day with 60 something fish.

Very odd, particularly the Pana result given the numbers at Middle.

Full update on weather, river and overall conditions tomorrow.

Charlie White

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Salmon theories

As previously mentioned, this is our 25th year on the river and given that we are talking about salmon and all of their mystical qualities, it seems only right that this year should have us scratching our heads more than ever before.
Richard S with one of 3 he had yesterday
We have 4 camps on the river and we open and close them according to our well documented history as to when the fish are most likely to be there in good numbers.  Pana, for example, is 80 miles north of where I am typing now and as a result, we open that camp 2 weeks after the start of our season here.

Nearly there...
This year we had a relatively early ice break (although not hugely so) and then had 4 weeks of intensely hot weather.  Lower has not really fished that brilliantly and the obvious answer is that most of the fish have slipped past us here and that Pana should have a bonanza – simples?

Straight back
Only it is not.  Pana yesterday had 9 fish to their 8 rods.  Really very odd and whilst Toby reported seeing fish, especially at their lower beat of Ponzoi, for whatever reason they would not play ball.

Another one
The other well known “fact” is that Kitza has a very deep and very cold lake at its head which means that we open this river a week later than we do here at Lower and that the run of fish will steadily build as we go through the season.  Again, that was not backed up yesterday as the 7 rods over there landed 12 between them.  Just a really strange day with the normally cooperative salmon on parts of this system deciding that flies were not for them after all.

Glynn D executing another perfect Snap-T
Bucking the trend in a major way was Middle.  They landed 53 fish to their 12 rods with Ian H and Caleb S the top rods on 9 fish each.  It is slightly galling that they are landing paint fresh fish as our rods here, fishing hard, know that all of those fish have swum straight past us for the past couple of days without so much as a hello.
Ura from Kitza, boating down to the White Sea
As Lower has been proving tricky we flew our rods to a beat just above Middle Varzuga.  It was a huge success and we landed 29 fish.  Jonathan K and Victor B were the ones to make the most of it and they had 6 fish apiece.  Flying to a different part of the river, landing fish and seeing what the Varzuga is really capable of meant that everyone came back in great spirits.  There are one or two missing in action this morning as we did not let the success go uncelebrated.

More tomorrow when no doubt we will have discovered that salmon like to climb trees.

Charlie White

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Fly out

Yesterday was not so much a tale of two halves but rather a tale of one quarter.

We struggled somewhat at Kitza, Pana and here at Lower.  I am not really sure why as it was a fishy day, we saw plenty enough fish to give us encouragement and everyone was fishing hard but it just didn’t come together.

Victor B on Wires
At Kitza they landed 12 fish with James H and George R accounting for half of those with 3 fish each.  I would like to blame the previous night’s party but I think that would be slightly unfair.  A family crisis has meant that one of the team has had to fly home and we wish him our very best.

Pana had an OK day but it was really nothing more than that.  19 fish were put in the book with everyone contributing fairly evenly.  They can still access the whole beat but we now have a truck that can drive down to Ponzoi even if we cannot get the boats down there and that will make a big difference to our later weeks.

Barbara and Feoder 
Middle was the quarter I refer to.  They had a great day and landed 66 fish.  Andy B had a fantastic morning on Dunkery and landed 7 from that beat which contributed to a 12 fish day for him.  Hugo M was using his single handed rod to deadly effect and he finished with 10.

The team at Lower raring to go this morning
The greatest celebration however was quite rightly held for 15 year old Colton C who landed his first salmon.  It was a good fish of around 9lbs and by all accounts he played it like a pro.  It was particularly nice to talk to him on the phone last night and to hear again that inimitable excitement of someone who has landed a fish that you know he will remember forever.

And they're off
Here at Lower we had a tough day.  6 fish were landed and a few more lost but it was difficult throughout.  After a council of war with our Russian partners, we have arranged for the team here to fly out to a remoter part of the river today where we hope we can find them a few more fish. Anticipation levels were off the charts this morning and they were all at the helicopter pad on the dot of 8:45 so we hope that they will have a great day.

Charlie White

Monday 6 June 2016


After weeks of high temperatures and searing sun, we now have fishing weather.  We woke this morning to snow and hail showers and we have all layered up in anticipation of a cold day on the river.

Yesterday was similarly cold and it took a few of us by surprise.  Not least our friend Chris Yrazabal from Los Roques, Venezuela who is over here to find out all about salmon as opposed to guiding us to bonefish which he does so well.
Glynn and Sergei
Whilst the weather may have changed, the relative fortunes of the camps have not so much.  Middle Varzuga was the most productive camp yesterday with 55 fish recorded to their 12 rods.  Hugo M was one of the top rods for the day with 8 fish.  Not a massive surprise really as he has been here many times before and knows the beat well.  However, Michael D was equally prolific which in some sense was a more impressive effort as he has never seen the river before.

Richard S on Bear Corner
At Kitza we have a team that do not need too much excuse for a celebration but yesterday there was a genuine reason to ensure there were hangovers all round this morning.  Mark M has never held a fly rod before and we were keen to get him into a fish as soon as possible to alleviate any pressure.  Ollie took him out and it was not long before he landed his first fish of any description and then went on to land 3 more – a fantastic effort.  They finished with 25 in the book with the top beats of the river being the most productive.
 Pana had a slightly disappointing day with the 8 rods landing 18 fish.  Andrew D landed a cracking fish of around 14lbs from Grannies whilst John G had the misfortune of losing 5 before getting on the score sheet.
Sergei settled in for lunch
Here at Lower we had a tough day.  10 fish were put in the book with Philip T doing well to land 4 of those.  Eoin, Bill and Ollie Shuldham (who will take on running the camps when I come home at the end of the week) were on hand to instruct and help and whilst it was not the most productive of days, everyone came in having learnt something new and we had a raucous dinner last night with the whole team in very good spirits.
Ditch out of the blocks
With the water temperature falling back to 9 degrees we have broken out the bigger flies and the odd intermediate tip this morning and there is something comforting about needing fleece layers and jackets – it feels far more fishy than applying sun cream.

Charlie White

Sunday 5 June 2016

Tuition week

Yesterday was a long one.  Strong headwinds meant that it took us much longer to get to Murmansk than we would normally expect but in anticipation of that, we had set off early and the charter flying to Helsinki was not too late in leaving.
Brendan G on Bear Island 
Unfortunately our late arrival into Murmansk meant that we then got stuck behind 3 domestic flights and we had to wait our turn for the only luggage truck in the airport to take our bags to the helicopter. Relaxing and chatting in a bar, with free drinks, sounds good until it goes on for slightly too long!

However, as soon as everyone is in camp and has their first look at the river, the waiting is swiftly forgotten and the anticipation kicks in.

Champagne cocktails at the White Sea
Last week was perfectly respectable but was in no danger of breaking any catch records.  We finished with 783 fish landed across the 4 camps to 39 rods which is just over 20 fish per rod for the week.  It sounds a lot but expectations of the river are high and it felt like quite a tough week at times.

William P-S with a hard earned fish from Heli
There is no doubt that we had weather that would have had the clerk of the course at Epsom heavily watering the ground and a glaring sun that often felt relentless.  That didn’t help but everyone was determined to make the most of it and we had a really fun week.

Bruce B on Kitza
Saturdays seems to be weather changing days and that was the case yesterday.  We took off in glorious sunshine and were somewhat surprised to see snow out of the helicopter windows an hour into our flight.  It was seriously cold when we got to Murmansk and it was when we got back here in the evening.  Some rain, a cutting wind and grey skies are what we have now – thankfully!

Ditch W and Eoin Fairgrieve ready for action this morning
This week is our tuition week at Lower Varzuga.  Bill Drury and Eoin Fairgrieve are here to pass on their expert knowledge and it is always great to see people improve their casting, wading and fishing skills. Learning how to really catch fish rather than just cast for them is a unique experience and it has proved very popular.  It seems, however, as if Phillip T doesn’t need any help at all as has landed 3 before breakfast to give everyone a boost and it was a purposeful team that strode out this morning.

Charlie White