Saturday 13 May 2017

Loud Creaking

First thing this morning was glorious sunshine as was much of yesterday. Donna and I set to the final allocation of supplies to camps ready for more supplies arriving today. It's amazingly tricky to work out which camp asked for an odd number of soup bowls but luckily last years camp managers were pretty thorough with their close down notes and requests.

Starting to join up
Glenn has already had a massive win in the form of a reported "seized" engine just being a bearing issue. I say just cause he seemed to have it stripped down and built back in no time but how he knows quite which washer lives where I wont guess.

Tundra Technician 
We were worryingly low on potatoes after our last failed mission to the village so we headed up the side of the river to get some. The village had been resupplied and we headed back to camp wrapped up warm. Suddenly Toby noticed some wagtails catching insects in front of us just as the sun came out in full force. It was glorious to the point of shedding layers. The insects continued to hatch and Toby had a cast for a perch or grayling.

A sneaky cast for a grayling where the "streams meet"
The Igloo still stands and when Bill and Lucy (Kitza chef) arrive later this evening we plan to have a little shindig to welcome them back. Good food, music, dancing and snow it will be... La Folie Douce it wont be...

Bathed in sun but still standing
The Ice began to creak last night and we all watched intently hoping for a big push. Further below the camp where the rapids begin has now started to break up and there are large holes where a few days ago we could have walked so we are really starting to believe it's only a matter of time now.

A quick go but not allowed for the trip to the village
Let's hope for more sunshine today as it clearly made a big difference to the river and to warming up our outlook. We laughed so much last night it hurt and moral is high.

Jack Selby

Friday 12 May 2017

A most Productive Day

This morning is brighter still but maybe it's partly the sun reflecting off fresh snow. The area of blue water within the white is turning slowly from a streak to a triangle as the down river end reaches out to meet the banks. This might sound like slow progress but compared to five days ago where we were looking for inches of change this is much more rewarding.

Dry goods to go to Middle Camp starting to build
Yesterday, considering it snowed for much of the day we smashed it in camp. Everyone really pulled together. Dry goods arrived, were checked and then split up into camps before being packed into checkered bags or roller bags ready for distribution to their new homes.

Dry goods mid cataloging 
With limited help from me and lots from a small band of Russian guides and fish inspectors Glenn began the task of lining up the worst engines for repair. It took a while to figure out which engines were here as with a low water end to the season last year a few middle repairs "occurred". With luck this year we will see a more gentle season on engines and boats. But as I look out across the river I wonder how what I saw last year was even possible.

It looks good but still needs some love
With dry goods done, as well as a lot of packing away of tools, ropes and anchors, Iona was able to get her supplies as well as the last of her utensils in order. It's been tough on all of us having had to cancel a week and the small things have really kept things motivated. We discovered that one of the supplies was misinterpreted and arrived as small jelly sweets. These are utterly delicious and naturally a few of the deformed ones have been set aside for staff testing.

Moral Boost
We built an igloo. Well our interpretation of an igloo. It seems to just have gone up and up. Iona suggested we google how to build the roof but I pointed out that Eskimos don't have google although I'm fairly certain they have better access to it than us. Once we got too cold to carry on we had a quick snow ball fight and went inside to delicious roast chicken.

Iona and Toby apply all important cementing layer
I hope to have more blue and less white tomorrow and a report on another productive day. The more we do the more we find needs to be done which for once is a good thing.

Jack Selby

Thursday 11 May 2017

Shopping in the Village

Yesterday productivity returned to form. Donna and Iona got their kitchen equipment out of the container and made a note of things that had gone missing or been damaged which was luckily very little. Toby, Bill and I took to the flies and loan reels and Glenn has now cataloged his engine parts.

Flies sorted and stacked
Water is certainly more and more part of our landscape here and there are gaps of flowing water at the edges. It was cold yesterday, very cold, but that did not seem to stop the slow and steady change in the river which seems determined to get going just like we are willing it to.

Starting to eat away at the edges.

The Russian work party left for the village again at around 3:30 which triggered a desire to head out for a little walk. We are out of potatoes and so decided a spot of shopping in the village was in order. We headed out along the track towards the village which actually only took about 20 minutes to reach.

Donna and Emily on our walk into "town"

We had Donna as our guide and the first shop we arrived at was out of potatoes. Luckily it had a supply of chocolate which camp had been lacking for a few days. We got some frozen vegetables too and headed for the church.

Serious log pile OCD.

We found the second shop just past the wonderful churches, one of which is made entirely without nails and is truly ornate in nature. The shop was shut but we walked to the top of the vast flight of stairs to watch the young kids of the village enjoying spectacular sledging. 

A spot of village sight seeing

We walked back to camp buoyed by the idea of being so close to a chocolate supplier and Iona rustled up a most delicious prawn dish of which Toby had 3rds.

Long awaited King Prawns

Today for Glenn and I is engines day. We are now able to get into the container and work out which needs what and get a few on stands. We are also in more of a position to clear up and lay out our living areas which will make it feel more homely. Hopefully more river frontage to report tomorrow.

Jack Selby

Wednesday 10 May 2017

The day after Victory Day

This morning is a brighter day but still quite cold. Victory day was fairly unproductive both from a UK team perspective as well as from the Russian side. The snowball fight never got off the ground due to not being able to get snowballs off the ground. Victory day is a national holiday that seems to equal a proper party day. We did not venture to the village as has often happened in previous years but none the less the party came to see us.

Party comes to town

Looking out this morning there is certainly a little more water in front of the lodge but with outside temperatures still jolly cold no one has any expectation the Salmon will be woken up yet. Well all except this guy...

Andrea put on skis to inch to the edge and "cast"

Misha, the Russian camp manager here at Lower, spent much of yesterday reinforcing the bridge between the ice and bank just below the lodge meaning we can still get Ski Doo's in from the village with supplies, people and dogs. He also spend some time with Toby  on the drone screen looking down river and across the Tundra.

Misha and Toby inspect our surroundings

Whilst probably a bit premature this evening will see a spot of fly tying. I'm going to put together a few tungsten coned tubes and Toby is planning to create something from the dark depths of his TDF sea trout season.

A spot of tying
Donna and Iona are in the kitchen setting out their equipment and Bill and I are heading for the office whilst Glenn counts washers and drive shafts. Back tomorrow with a lot more achieved I hope.

Jack Selby

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Gently Spinning

This morning we are looking out on a little more water. Ice and snow is still a big part of the vista but water is certainly more prevalent. Last night Toby went for a cast. Sadly it was to no avail but it most certainly perked us all up. Having cancelled week one moral was a bit low. I for one have spent a year building up to the start of our season and now I am sitting here willing the ice to leave so things can kick on.

This mornings view.
Today is Victory Day in Russia. Therefore nothing much is going to change other than the ice and snow. We had a little pre victory day party last night so Varzuga is gently spinning this morning. Iona cooked us all a wonderful supper last night and I have foolishly started breakfast for her. Yesterday we achieved a great deal but I'm not overly confident we will be terribly efficient this morning.

Bill testing his new wellies

Bill and I have parceled up all the new loan rod and reel outfits for each camp. This set up has been designed largely for the Varzuga system and once we have enough water open in front of us we can hope to put a bend in the rods.

New engine boots made of rubber

What strikes me as I sit here, willing things to break up, is that whilst we are stuck here making inventories of our supplies and clearing duck boards, Lynsey and Charlie are back in the office dealing with the cancellation. Whilst it is very sad to cancel opening week it is testament to the reliability of this magnificent river, that so far most clients have elected to roll this year's fishing on to next rather than take a refund. We take the risk so our fisherman don't have to. 

A little more water...
More tomorrow when I will have found out exactly what Victory Day means to the Russians.

Jack Selby

Monday 8 May 2017

Welcome to the 2017 season

Welcome back to the Varzuga blog.  I have been following this blog for as long as it has been going and it is great to have the opportunity to be the author.

We flew out to Murmansk last Wednesday to do the last minute shopping and to ensure that our container of goods cleared customs.  It is extraordinary that a process that was started last July takes until the last minute to actually be completed and it is a reminder that nothing is easy to implement up here.
The bus fully loaded with supplies for camp
One thing I was staggered by was the improvements to the city since I was last here 4 years ago.  It really is a different place with very smart shops, excellent restaurants and the hotels are now very comfortable indeed.  We used to dread overnighting in Murmansk but now it is something to be looked forward to.
A new shopping centre in Murmansk
It was very cold in the city and we were told that the Varzuga had not broken, there was lots of snow and it was still freezing at night.  All of which sounded rather ominous and our journey down here (8 hours by bus) was pretty much a white out.

An aerial view of the ice on the river, looking back from Lower to the village
We got to the village yesterday evening to be greeted by Misha, the Russian camp manager at Lower Varzuga and Feorder, the head guide.  It was perhaps a sign of things to come that they greeted us on skidoos having driven up the centre of the river on the thick ice.

Feoder on his skidoo
Very quickly it became obvious that we are sadly going to have to cancel the first week of the season. The local advice is that it is going to take up to a week to start the ice break and that it will take a few days after that for the ice to have fully cleared so that it is safe to be in the water.

Taking supplies into camp
We have got plenty to be getting on with; not least clearing the duckboards so that we can get to the office, the container and the lodge without getting soaked but there is no doubt that there is an air of disappointment amongst all of us that we are not going to be welcoming our first clients on Saturday.

Trying to get to the container
It is a beautiful day today with temperatures at around 4 degrees but it was very cold last night.  One thing in our favour is that the river froze at a very low level in the Autumn so that once the thaw starts, it will not take much melt to lift the ice “off its moorings” and start the break up process which is something we are all looking forward to seeing.

Giving the drone a fly above Lower
We will keep be posting daily from the river and look forward to bringing you more news.

Jack Selby.