Thursday, 6 July 2017

2017 season review

2017 will go down as the most extraordinary year that any of us have seen on the Varzuga and to a wider extent on the whole of the Kola Peninsula.

Our advance team "on the river" on May 6th
Over the past few years the trend of the ice break date had been very much veering towards the season starting earlier and after 2016 there were a few calls to start the season in the first week of May and perhaps think of dropping the last week of June – this is not a conversation we expect to have again soon.

River ice beginning to break
Our advance team of staff got to the river on May 6th and the very first call back to the office was bad news.  The river was totally frozen over, to the point where the locals were still using it like a road for the trucks and skidoos.  We have cancelled the first week of the season before and whilst it is never something any of us like to do, we had experience of it as had the clients we needed to ring.

Snow at Kitza
On May 6th, it was very clear that there was only one option in cancelling the first week but none of us could imagine that winter would cling on and we would need to cancel the second week.  Almost unbelievably and for the first time in our 26 year history, sadly we had to do just that.

Igloo building was the most productive thing to do for a while
It was simply staggeringly cold and even though we were very reluctant to cancel the week it was a very good job that we did.  The river did start to clear during the second week but it was only really when our first clients got there on May 27th did the river look fully fishable.

Snow storm on our first morning of fishing
Even then, winter had us in its grip.  Our first fishing day started with an epic snow storm which lasted until lunchtime and the reality is that this set the tone of the first two weeks of fishing – very high and cold water, very cold fishing conditions and a sense that all of us simply wanted to see summer and break out the floating lines.

At last, what we came for
Of course we caught fish – this is the Varzuga after all.  In the first week the 4 camps landed 539 fish between 37 rods – not fantastic but given that we were in flood condition, it was extraordinary that we caught that many at all.  Sadly the fish were not as spread out as we would have liked and Middle Varzuga accounted for the majority of them.

All of the fish were in great condition
The stand out feature of the opening week and that of the season was that we hardly caught a small fish at all.  The Varzuga is predominantly a grilse fishery and  we would expect quite a few 5-6lbs fish but we were catching fish over 8lbs practically the entire time and landing a fish of 12-14lbs was not only unremarkable, it became usual.

A nice fish from Middle Varzuga
Whether this accounted for what happened as the season went on we cannot say but the upshot was that we ended up landing very few small fish and the big “push” of the smaller, summer grilse that we normally start to see in the first week or so of June never arrived.

With the river so high we fished from boats more than normal
The weather Gods simply never gave us a break all year and every time we thought the river was fining down and becoming readable, we would get another dump of rain, snow or hail – it was quite extraordinary.  This not only put the fish off but it put the fishermen off as well as the reality is that when the river is that high, it becomes very difficult to find places to wade and the taking spots for the fish are few and far between.

A good one from Kitza
It is testament to the staff, the locals, the lodges and the all round experience of the trip that in a year where everything seemed to conspire against us, we saw endless smiling faces, had some of the best fun we possibly could have done and had so many people say “see you next year”.  It really is a phenomenal place to fish and we are very lucky to be able to go there year after year.

Food of the highest standard
We landed just under 2,000 fish in our shortened one month programme to 140 rods which gives us the lowest average catch per rod of our whole history on the river but that has to be set against the coldest winter for 100 years and simply terrible fishing conditions throughout the whole season.

Increased comfort in the lodges - all rods have single rooms
I believe that more than ever, a result of around 14 fish per rod per week in a year like this reinforces what an amazing resource the Varzuga is and we look forward to fishing it in more “normal” conditions next year.
A rounded experience with fishing, wildlife and fun
Thank you to all of our clients who came this season and who all, without exception, gave it their all and were determined to enjoy everything that the river and the whole week has to offer.

The sun sets on another season
A final thank you to all of our staff and particularly to our Russian partners without whom none of this would be possible.

Charlie White

Friday, 30 June 2017

Mixed day

Firstly it seems there is an issue with the BGan or the operator/instructor. Either way we are unable to receive images from middle camp. Luckily everything else seems to be running very smoothly. I was talking to Toby late last night about the all important close down notes. What a contrast from last year. Toby reports that all the new engines are in very good condition and no chips or dings. "The big boat needs a starter motor" is about all he needs to note down.

Yesterday morning turned bitterly cold and consequently the morning's fishing was slower. Around lunch time the sun came out and the clouds cleared entirely. This time last year I was where Toby is now praying for overcast conditions to cool the water temperatures. None the less the warmer weather had a good effect and the team managed to land 19 fish. Without exception all the rods took to the Generator pool after supper and Dominic M managed to entice 2 more to the bank.

The other thing that is astounding is the mosquitoes have arrived. As Toby said "seven weeks in the Russian tundra and they only show up on the very last day." That is pretty good going although I think I would happily swap 2-3 weeks of mosquitoes for the 2 weeks watching a frozen river at the start.

This morning there is a little cloud but mainly blue sky and warm. Stewart S had an early start this morning with the intention to catch his first fish on the hitch. He achieved this with ease so big congratulations. Once hooked on the hitch it's very hard to go back.

I guess this is my last report until the season round up. It has been a strange and wonderful, interesting and emotional, challenging and enjoyable year. You cant just go back to Russia with a thought, the only way to relive that moment is to go back there every year and experience it. It does not matter how many people ask me about my trip, no one who has not experienced that amazing environment can truly understand the draw and the appeal.

Jack Selby

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Short takers

Yesterday the weather never really changed. There was heavy rain forecast but this may have remained inland of Middle camp as they enjoyed overcast and light showers only. However either rain in the tundra or Tuesday's rain meant the river was up about 4-5 inches. This did not hamper fishing particularly although might have had something to do with the short taking. The team landed 25 fish.

Paul R and Gordon B were up river and Paul estimated he had hold of or offers from 30 fish for the day and only landed 7. He lost quite a few and had quite a few tugs and then nothing. Whether this was down to fish running hard on the rising river or maybe a bit of cooler water coming in making them less aggressive we can only speculate.

Dominic M had another lovely day landing 7, 6 of which were landed from Peartiha. He told Toby that he had caught more by the end of Tuesday than any other week he has fished. I'm very pleased for him indeed.

Last night Paul R decided that enough was enough. Inspired by the Bear and at one with nature and the animals he stalked and caught a fish with his bare (Bear) hands. Quite why it let him do this I'm not sure but he was jolly pleased. I've not heard what the Salmon thought of the whole thing.

Toby is in the process of sending me images so I will update when they arrive.

Jack Selby

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

2 Day Catch Up

Having thought we had the satellite data sorted out yesterday saw heavy rain and wind and Toby was unable to get a decent connection under cover. His test emails would come through but any detail or images failed. I have spoken to him this morning so am updating two days in one and have finally managed to receive some images.

Nice smaller fish for Paul R
Monday was over cast with showers. However the river was still good to us and air temperature stayed warm. The team landed 22 fish for the day. Richard G got his first fish in Generator which was alive with fish on Monday night. He was jolly pleased that it was bigger than any of his fishing partner's fish.

Sunsets are always utterly wonderful at this time of year
Gordon B fished down through Fortress with a bomber and nearing the bottom he raised a fish off the rock. It came several times for the fly but never committed. Just about to move away to snake pit he popped on a hitch and the fish smashed it straight away. So glad there is finally some surface action.

Lovely fish released
Yesterday was heavier rain and a cold wind. None the less the river has not risen but has stopped dropping. Our intrepid team put in the hard graft and landed another 22 fish for the day. Gordon B and Paul R are now fishing exclusively full floating lines and having the same success as before.

Camp from the air, still very little green
Last night a bear visited the island in search of some scraps. Mischa chased it away, a spectacle in it's own right, and the dogs were active in keeping it at bay until the early hours. Today it is grey and overcast with light rain so far. There are still no Mosquitoes with 2.5 days left of the season. Staggering!

Jack Selby

Monday, 26 June 2017

All but the tech

This morning my images are going to be a medley of the season so far right from the really cold early days. Toby is struggling to get a decent satellite data connection at middle. I'm hoping we have found a way to sort this but for now I have no current images to report.

Right at the start this was all that was not frozen
However the fishing has been jolly good. Including the first night the party have landed 42 fish. Yesterday was lovely sunny weather and the water temperature was around 11 degrees. Thus where the river is deep and fast the heavy tips still won the day purely to counter the flow of water but where it is a bit slower intermediates have been the order of the day. On top of this Paul R landed a fish on a full floating line in Generator.

Toby and Matt back from the first few casts
Last night Paul R caught a very respectable fish. Toby pressed him for an estimate as he was not overly keen to put a figure on it but guessed around 16lbs. Paul tends to be pretty honest if not a little modest about these things so this could well be accurate. He has a picture I believe so lets hope it gives some perspective.

Slight set back in week 1
Stewart S and Dominic M both had good days yesterday which I'm really pleased about. Last year they had tough fishing because the water was too low and they fished really hard and well. I was out hosting them and really felt their pain. This year Dominic M has said to Toby that he has seen more fish moving, landed or lost in one day than in 2 weeks over previous years. I hope he keeps up with his great start.

Last week on Kitza with the green finally pushing through
This morning the weather is overcast and light rain. There is murmuring from the guides that tomorrow it will be heavy rain. Having said that we had some good days last week at Kitza even on a rising river and one thing I know about the team at middle is they will work hard what ever is thrown at them.

Jack Selby

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A pretty lovely week

Yesterday was pretty full on. I was awake at 4am when the Russian kitchen party broke up. Breakfast was over in a flash and we were loaded into the helicopter on the way to Middle camp. We had a good flight to Murmansk and after a slight delay said goodbye to Russia.

Richard G fishing beat 5
 Middle on the other hand is still at it. After all rivers reporting a slow afternoon on Friday, yesterday the three chaps still at middle landed good numbers of fish with Paul R and Gordon B sharing 10 between them. Coupled with an early helicopter arrival yesterday was a good day at middle and with a fast dropping river things could be very promising today.

Kitza team photo
Last week at Kitza we landed 80 fish which considering the water rise was pretyy good going. Middle landed 182 and Pana 171. All very respectable figures and with very few grilse being caught it begs the question what would Pana and Kitza be like next week?

James D hoping to get a nice fish to the net mid river
Toby reported in this morning that the weather is fine and river dropping. Coupled with some dedicated fisherman today should be good.

Jack Selby

Friday, 23 June 2017

What a day

Whilst yesterday was not spectacular in terms of numbers it was a stunner for George L. He was equal top rod with Gordon B and they landed 3 each. George returned from the river as if he owned it and celebrated well at supper. The team had landed only 3 by lunch and no one expected much for the afternoon but we ended on 11 fish despite only 6 rods venturing out.

George L at 3rd Island

Pana is still rising but despite this they managed to land a very respectable 19 fish for the day. It’s nice that after a tough season Matt gets to see the river performing at least somewhere near it’s potential.

George with a lovely fish from Sashas
King of the river
Middle had good fishing with their intrepid anglers putting in serious out of hours fishing. They landed 44 fish for their day with Craig C landing 14, Geoff and Findlay F landing 10 between them and everyone reporting a really strong showing of fish throughout the beats. Really encouraging for next week. Luckily my Visa allows me to stay… Maybe I should do a further week from Middle.

James D with a properly fresh fish
It seems almost ridiculous that 8 weeks ago I landed in snowy Murmansk to start the set up process and here I am a day away from heading home and it’s still only 4 degrees outside. Yesterday we clad Lucy in full waders and goretex jacket to brave the wind and rain and try for a salmon on Heli pool. Amazingly within 45 minutes she was shooting line with a perfectly executed double spey and by the end we had her firing out a long line with a snake roll. I could not have been more proud.

Lucy wadered up...
Perfect double spey
Here at Kitza we are finally on a dropping river and soon we will be back to where we started at the beginning of the week. Middle has now plateaued but they are at the same height as they started the season and Pana reported the river was still rising. We can only play with what we are dealt but it’s sad that we don’t have a few more weeks ahead to really see how the fishing fares once the rivers define themselves.

Seal damage
This is my last post from here and on Sunday morning I will be reporting remotely from home with updates supplied by middle manager Toby. It’s almost frightening to think I will have to readjust to “normal” civilisation and not travel everywhere by jet boat. It’s been emotional and quite educational this season and I will truly miss the camp, guides, staff and river here at Kitza. However I am no longer sure what “normal” means. I have heard this word used many times by repeating clients to describe the pools and where they have traditionally fished. This has not been a “normal” year on so many levels but we have all had a blast and really made the most of the opportunities we have been presented with.

Master of all he surveys
Lucy is once again wadering up and we are heading to Heli to try and get her a fish. She might even give me a casting lesson.

Jack Selby

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Brighter outlook

Yesterday was a good day here at Kitza. Some of the party headed out with the expectation of a bonanza after it was clear there were numbers of Grilse running in. Interestingly we once again mainly caught bigger fish in the 6-8lbs class. Paul R still heads the leader board with another 6 fish for his account. What seems staggering is the quality of these fresh bright fish and the fight they offer is way above their pay grade.

Bright beautiful fish
Over at Middle they had rain in the morning whilst we were bathed in sun. However the afternoon brightened and they then caught more fish. They landed 27 for the day with 11 fish to Craig C. Many of the rods took to the water at midnight to celebrate summer solstice and enjoy the “sunset”.

Paul R's infamous hat
Pana had a slightly tougher day on the back of the rising river landing 22 fish. Of these 11 were landed by George S. The D of M managed his first fish of the week at midnight last night. Let’s hope it will spur him on to fish hard for the last two days.

James D's lovely fish
Today we were forecast great rains. This information was gleaned from the internet and as we know the internet never lies. Paul R and Gordon B made a pact last night to go out at 5:30 if it was not raining. Paul R admitted at breakfast that he was secretly a bit disappointed to find it clear and quite mild. We can let him off as he is doing 2 weeks and needs to pace himself.

Celebrating George's fish
The mild, clear morning is only a little hampered by a stiff breeze but I have little doubt on the fast dropping river we have there will be some good success on the river today.

Jack Selby

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Up up up

Today the river is up. Maybe only 8 inches but it’s certainly up. My marker is once again in deep water in the main flow. Despite a rising river we had good fishing yesterday with 8 fish landed but Paul R carelessly lost 6 in a row in the afternoon right at the net. And James D also failed to complete on several connections.

Sergei ready to net
 Pana caught 34 fish with Jonathan catching 10 fish for the day. 9 of which were from the Pana/Indel junction pool. The river is rising on a par with us but still the fish don’t seem to have been told this and continue to take the fly.

Richard G with a fine specimen
Middle had 23 fish for the day with strong catches from Craig C and also James F who landed 3 in quick succession in the afternoon. Middle had not risen like we had to begin with but the rise has finally made it to them and they are up about a foot.

Another fine fish ready to return
Whilst today the air temperature is a balmy 8 degrees yesterday started at 5 degrees and added to rain and a downstream breeze really felt cold. Middle had some snow even last night. We have a brighter outlook today with the sun sneaking through the clouds whilst middle has drizzle and heavy cloud. It’s amazing what a difference there is between the two camps.

Viktor wears GoreTex's spring collection
We had a small party for Lucy’s birthday yesterday which culminated in my offering to cook breakfast this morning. With help from James D we managed to bring it all together and Gordon B admitted my porridge was” the best I have ever made”. Not tricky as it’s the first time I have made porridge but everyone seemed happy. Now in the kitchen I am no longer big boss number 3 but sous chef.

Jack Selby

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Heavy rain

Despite heavy rain early yesterday morning and then showers all day we had a pretty good day at Kitza yesterday. George L caught his first Atlantic Salmon, James D had four for the day and lost a further four. The river has risen by about 3.5 inches and this certainly made some spots tricky to wade again. That being said all beats produced fish and we ended the day on 15 fish.

Paul R at Spey bank
Over at Middle camp they had a reasonable start to the morning but quite a few clients decided to hang out at the camp after lunch meaning the afternoon did not produce the goods. Toby and Craig C went up to Bears in the afternoon and had three fish so the fish were there but not many fisherman. They ended up on 22 for the day. The river has risen little at Middle despite the rain.

James D with a lovely fish
 Pana on the other hand has a rising river like Kitza. Despite this they landed 30 fish for the day. The information from Pana was a little lacking last night because the team were much more interested in getting the Lions score and the cricket. Today the focus is on the forecast which seems to be changing it’s mind a lot.

George L making friends with his first Atlantic Salmon
This morning it is raining gently but overnight it rained very hard indeed. Consequently a lot of the bank at clay view is in the river so we have about 25% of the true right bank coloured up. Non the less with a bit of persuasion everyone headed out on the river to face the day. I think we will still see a few fresh fish landed today.

Paul R's taken on this morning's conditions
Jack Selby 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Kitza wakes up

Yesterday we saw what Kitza is about. With the river still dropping and pools really starting to show their features the river produced fish all through the beats. We landed 20 fish for the day although we ended the fishing day on 19, Angel  HR bounced us over the line in Heli before supper.

Paul R's largest fish
Unfortunately the fish were not completely divided equally across the rods with 2 people still yet to catch. Consequently 8 of the fish were caught by Paul R. It’s not been very easy to put all fish pictures on the blog this season so far but today I actually can. He had a coupe of really cracking fish and all shiny bright. The only drawback with Paul catching so many is trying to remember what they are all called. He names each fish.

Another fresh one
Pana also shared a similar fate with 34 fish for the day. It’s nice to know there are fish arriving up there now and with properly fishable water they can be caught. Matt as camp manager has had a tough few weeks but at least now he should have a sense of what Pana is all about.

Deep shoulders
After a strong start to the morning for Craig C at middle things did not really materialise as expected. They landed 34 fish including a lovely post supper fish for Findlay F at bears.

Ready to return safely
Today it has begun to rain and Kitza has come up a little this morning. Hopefully all the snow melt has washed any rubbish and earth in already so we wont see the river colour too much. Middle were still dropping but I think it takes a lot of rain to make a difference there. Non the less our team were out to their beats quick smart this morning and are raring to go.

Jack Selby

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A lovely start

Last week had ups and downs. Whilst Kitza and more over Pana increased catches steadily throughout the week Middle had a consistent run of it until the last day when only 8 were caught. Middle finished their week on a respectable 155 fish whilst Pana caught 83 and Kitza 54. Nothing spectacular but everyone had fish and certainly everyone had a good time. I think maybe Pana had rather too good a time, they all looked pretty green on the Helicopter on Saturday morning.

Last weeks Kitza team enjoying the sun
Last night started well for us with Paul R teasing a lovely fresh fish out of Heli pool pretty soon into the evening. It was like the start of a wader clad race as everyone took to the water extraordinarily quickly after we landed. It was a lovely evening but no more fish came to the bank.

Paul R's fish from Heli
Over at middle they had a strong start and there were 18 fish ion the book before breakfast this morning. Last night Geoff and Finlay F had fish as well as Craig C who is already on 10 with 4 added first thing this morning.

Paul R into his fish
Pana started well also with 6 fish up to breakfast and the water dropping into fine condition. The team were certainly jolly excited on the way in and I am glad they are taking advantage of the conditions.

Angel HR putting in the hours
Today is warm and but a little overcast. Both Paul R and Gordon B out early but the fish did not want to play the game sadly. It was a little cold last night and the water temperature had dropped to 7 degrees again this morning. However to look back about a week we would have given an arm for 7 degrees. Hopefully we will see another push of fresh fish like we had on Friday. Yesterday was Viktor’s Birthday and was not exactly quiet in camp. I think everyone is a little jaded today but luckily the clients are bright eyed and bushy tailed so should bring back some fish.

Jack Selby