Friday 17 June 2016

Costa del Kola

And indeed it was a wonderful day to be on the river, though a beach towel and sun cream would have been a more appropriate armoury on certain parts of the river. Thankfully Anglo-Belgian relations remained amicable as there’s always plenty of room for everyone on this Riviera.
The river at Middle rose also by 5-7 cm so fish were a little unsettled.

Understandably fishing was patchy, though Gaetan managed to haul seven fish out of Pashas in the morning before the sun moved round and came into play. This made for a well earned role reversal with his partner (fishing) Tim P who still shot better than par for the day.

Ura keeps and eye on Gerard
Having finished with camp affairs in the morning, I bumped into a well tanned but fishless Stefano M and Joseph C heading down Generator. They went onto Party and before long I could hear whooping  and hollering as they each hooked into fish, landing one each and losing another.
This seemed to be the theme for the day with small pods of fish moving about the river providing brief periods of sport.
At the end of the day I found Ian S and Doug U collating a Varzuga themed fly box for their long time guide Sasha who's worked hard all week to keep them in fish. This will doubtlessly be very well received and I for one had to put my Velcro gloves away at the sight of it!

Lucky lad
As is ever the case with high summer fishing anywhere you go, those who pick their hours wisely (or fish every available one!) will be justly rewarded. Peter W has been up at four every morning this week and every day has moved or lost a fish in Generator before breakfast…. This morning it was landed and I can only imagine the satisfaction; or is it relief?!

Early doors fish
More of the same to start with today at Middle, though a pretty cloudless sky with a warm wind has been replaced by some very welcome cloud and a drop of rain. It feels fishy!

The headwaters at Pana had risen 3” by yesterday morning and coupled with the bright weather produced a very tough day with only a couple of fish to show for their endeavours.

Hitch fish
Kitza battled on with seven for their day.

Here's hoping for a different theme tomorrow,

Oli Shuldham

Thursday 16 June 2016

Follow the fish

It was a sensible plan in the minds of all, but in hindsight more a case of all the eggs in one basket. Concentrating the rods in the top half of the river produced a reasonable day in terms of numbers (25), though below par for the week.
 Doug U had six fish at the scene of yesterday’s battle and Ian S had a couple. However, Ian did not lose any so hopefully his case of the yips has been cured?!
Tim P had five and continues to draw on his 12 years of experience on this lovely river.
Sebastien R has been soldiering on this week with a very positive attitude and hooked four fish – that’s all that Victorian gentry were bothered about, so he’s rolling with that for the time being.

Tim knows it - so may you
For those rods that went wandering further down the river there were a few bars of silver to be found – encouraging to see fresh fish still joining the party and perhaps resting those waters may benefit today?

Vova gets his tash on
There was another banya and strong emphasis on joy de vive for in camp this evening. Donna rustled up more gravadlax and a further four fine courses for supper. This was followed by a vodka session and a sing off between Ian and Doug versus Stefano and Gaetan – think 8 Mile meets A River Runs Through It.

Crepe suzette from Donnas' office
Glorious sunshine and a stiff breeze today should make for an enjoyable day to be out and about.

Stefanos' sunny disposition brings him fish this big.
Following on from yesterday’s chat with Toby and we can concede that the stats aren’t always reliable. Seven fish for the river with a 15lb lump for Algernon P. Nonetheless, a betting man would still go with this week.

Kitza plugged away with thirteen for their day with Josh C and Alan McT accounting for three each.

Looking forward to escaping camp and heading up river today as in the absence of serviceable boats due to low water it turns out I’m “just really into blogging” at the moment.

Tolerable view
For incoming guests info – we’re still fishing intermediate tips in places, so still pack suitably. Also bring midge nets and anti-histamine pills. They’re not on the list, but make life far more comfortable should the need arise.

Oli Shuldham

Wednesday 15 June 2016

A new dawn

What a difference a day makes – after the previous days’ entertainment, this one has started with an early down pour and a good breeze. All and sundry headed out with great hope.

As mentioned previously this is possibly not a year to be described as vintage. However, when a team of 12 rods (half of whom would be described as occasional fishermen) is consistently returning to the lodge with in the region of thirty fish netted each day, life’s a whole lot better than you may have heard!

Experienced rods picked fish from pots
Middle camp has produced 31 and 29 fish for the last two days and yesterday particular mention must go to Ian S who landed eleven fish and lost a further five and is far less disillusioned with his sticking power. As a direct reversal of roles from the previous day, Doug U landed four fish…… and lost ten. I can’t wait to see how this battle has panned out today.
On the opposite bank (between Boundary and The Slabs) new boys Stefano M and Joseph C landed four fish each. They’ve both fished here a couple of times before, but the amount of fishing they’ve done elsewhere suggests this is the only place one should fish! Joseph freely admits he’s hounded Bill Drury into sharpening up every one of his casts…. It’s clearly coming to fruition. Well done.

Elsewhere on the river it was fairly slim pickings and even the experienced rods were only finding the odd fish willing to play ball. A change of beat demarcations and a concentration of rods on the upper pools will hopefully produce more evenly spread sport.

It's a complete service here at 'zuga - Nurse Nataski tending to a pre-trip injury.
Smoke pours from the chimney of the banya and Old Vova gathers birch as I type, so aching bodies can sweat it out this evening.

Happy with their gravadlax
A chat with Toby at Pana this morning revealed that yesterday produced sixteen fish for their team and Charlie T who’s unusually not here this week has sent statistics that tell us todays’ average catch at Pana since 1992 is 74.5 fish….. I’m expecting big news tomorrow lad!

Retired for the day

Kitza produced nine fish yesterday. Tough going, but that's fish all round.

Oli Shuldham - responsible for yesterdays' entry as well...

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Double Guns

Via an airborne assault yesterday, with both black fly and mosquitos hunting in biblical volumes. After 14 years on this peninsular, Bill Drury had never seen the likes of it. I headed up the river mid-afternoon and it wasn’t long before boats were in flight downstream.

Flee the flies
Guests’ faces at the end of the day clearly showed the exposed areas between Buffs, caps and sunglasses and breakfast this morning consisted of antihistamine cocktails all round.
Tim P’s son had better beware…. You’ve not returned his mozzie net to the fishing bag!

The "Generation Man" old Vova spent the day firing up the banya after many much in camp political wrangling the day before and it was very well received (along with many cold beers) after a brutal day on the river.

Banya bound
Nonetheless, fish were caught in reasonable numbers at Middle upstream of Fortress Rock and as is to be expected the more experienced rods produced the goods. Despite the aggressive insect life Tim P had seven fish, five of which came from one spot at Royal Dee that he pulled out of, but was certain there were another couple to take from there. Thoughtful fishing again from this Francophile, with several fly changes, swinging them fast and as they say “the proof is in the pudding”.
Doug U also had a great day having caught seven fish and lost a couple more. His partner hooked into a similar number, but shook most of them off – I feel it’s time for The Ferret to swim.
Olivier D is on the same thought lines and snagged 3 ALL on Le Chutney F. Come now, tie one on today, they get that taste they’ll not let go!

A fresh start
Away from the river and wandering through the woodland you’ll come across incredible ant hills with these industrious insects gathering vast piles of pine needles. They (the needles) can’t taste so good, so I’d imagine they’re feeding something else – fungi perhaps?

Life down on Kitza continues to be rosy for first timer Mark L who found three fish yesterday, and Ian B caught four – pretty respectable result wherever you fish for Salmo salar.
There was a certain symmetry to yesterdays reports with 16 fish topped by a 16lb’er (to David M) from Pana and 13 on the 13th at Kitza.

Monday 13 June 2016

MSW wake up

After a particularly tough time last week, yesterday seemed to bring a slight change in fortune for both Kitza and Pana.

Having loaded a couple of very excited Kitza virgins back onto the helicopter, post pit stop at Middle camp, Mark L and Graham Y found five and three fish respectively for their opening day and are understandably quite pleased with life! Of particularly unusual note for this pretty little river, Richard G brought an 18lb fish to the net – perhaps a lost one of the fish that Yokanga guides refer to as “small fish”?!

The big bird's retired in this water
On Pana David M lead the way with four fish to his rod and a further eleven were shared pretty evenly throughout the other rods. Certainly not gang-busters compared to normal standards, but damn fine fishing nonetheless.

Stefano says "you grip I'll grin"

Due to low water making boat life difficult for those of us without intimate knowledge of the middle river Bill Drury decided to go for a stroll yesterday and marched through clouds of black fly to iron out casting issues up at Pashas and then made his way South again to meet Stefano M and Joseph C at Eagle Rock and Simmons. I greeted two knackered but happy faces back at camp with six fish between them. Bill on the other hand was covered in black smears having spent the day pasting insects across his face.

Joseph thinks Ivan's the man

Blue Rock to Lower Fortress seems to be where the money is at the moment and Peter W, Graham B and Tim P each returning with three apiece. Tim P seemed to have spent the day thinking hard about his fishing and endlessly changing his fly and pace of swing. As a result he’d managed to shake off another handful as well. I believe they count “hook-ups” in the US and as that’s the challenging part I can understand why.

Get it square out there

Clouds of large green duns have been pouring off the river of the last few days and sedges have been running like mad for the banks. A slight lift in the air temperature, good insect hatches and cloud cover screams Bomber Time to me… if you can tear yourself away from the grayling. Pack suitably Selbs.

As I sit in the dining room window at Middle I’ve watched a fish repeatedly moving by the rocks just upstream. I think it requires tending to this evening.

Toit loins,

Oli Shuldham

Sunday 12 June 2016

A fresh fish...

…runs into the blog.

Thankfully the same can be said for Middle as Doug U dug an 8lb bar of silver out of Generator shortly after the heli landed on Saturday and another before breakfast this morning. Olivier D and Sebastien R were rewarded for a trip down Bear Rapids and through to Rock with three between them. As is often the case in fishing it is the less likely looking and under-fished spots (of late) that provide for the curious fisherman.

Sebastien R shows faith in a proven mode of transport
I found Ian S sorting his gear out before heading to bed and he produced a box of beautifully tied flies (by his own hand) with names as colourful as their ingredients. He promises to take his latest creation “The Chutney Ferret” for a swing through Bomber Alley today. I’ll save you the detailed tying instructions but wow, just wow; this man has a fertile imagination. I fear more to come on this theme.
No Ferrets in here.

Pana kept up with Middle on the opening eve of this week – despite the river dropping off a little, could this be the turn of the tide? I’d suspect James P may think so with 3 to his rod before supper. It was a casual family affair with Algernon providing another. Here’s to this evening’s report from up there bringing fine news

Heli leaving from Pana with a heavy load.
Having just finished my first week on Varzuga I’m in awe at how beautiful the river is with seemingly endless “perfect” fly water - a far cry from the featureless expanse I’d expected! Photography doesn’t do this river justice and our entire party agreed there was little point in trying to capture the evening light and perfect mirror image on Bear last night.
After much pre-trip talk of low water we're a far cry from the need to fish 25' leaders and size 18 flies I'd expected as fish are still as aggressive as could be hoped for. However, the boats are feeling it a little.
Waders and boots - the latter very necessary for these boats.

On the note of parties, it would seem there was something in the air on Friday night as Murmansk departure “lounge” was a lively affair yesterday and I certainly found one fisherman outside the guides rooms in the early hours “just taking in some Russian culture”! Everyone is in this game together and the feeling of camaraderie between very broken English/Russian is hugely evident.
1st blog written and photos selected.

Duct tape diaries
Now to continue with my ongoing battle with internet connection. I take my hat off to Christopher Robinson for operating apparently seamlessly in this black hole of connectivity for so many years!

Oli Shuldham