Friday 8 June 2018

Steelhead Lessons, Varzuga Style

 Last night Hugo M took Ian H and Hugh M out for a lesson in casting for steelhead. They are booked to fish Skeena Salmon Lodge and wanted some pointers. I was expecting to find a very serious lesson going on but mainly they were just drinking vodka tonics and learning how to mend the line on a grand scale.

Steelhead lessons
Yesterday was milder with a lighter wind and the team were rewarded with some good fishing. Oddly Ian H and Hugh M, who normally lead the pack, had a tough day but Ian C caught 7 with 4 from Tiffinie’s. Jim R had hold of monster fish in Spring but sadly it took off down the fast water and they parted company. Ian S had a strong start considering the night before but did take a short siesta after lunch before fishing bear and catching a good sized fish in Generator. The fish had been previously hooked and broken and Ian S gained a free fly into the bargain. Doug U had some fun sport on Boundary with a number of fish showing and chasing his fly.

No lesson is complete without a V&T
Lower Varzuga fishing picked up again with 14 fish for the team. Whilst no signs show a big push of fish the fact Lower and Kitza are still seeing fresh fish is encouraging for our next weeks. Kitza caught 18 fish with Paul C catching 4. 3 of these fish came from Gold Mine. For those who know the Kitza Gold Mine is a stunning wade at the right height. Dylan WB had 3 including 2 from Spey bank. New to fishing, John M caught 3. One of his fish was a monster 7kgs and caught in Kitchen. Ollie reports that all the fish are beautifully fresh and strong healthy fish. Pana landed 19 fish for their team.

Lovely fish for Ian S

Ian S into another
Today the river has only dropped a quarter of an inch and is still sitting at 9 degrees. It’s slightly milder today and the sun has been sneaking out as I type. There is a much more gentle downstream wind. I’m hoping the upper river will perform today with a more even spread for the 4 rods than yesterday. The river up above Clarks corner is truly stunning and whilst the fishing has been mixed in terms of success it always provides excellent wading and lovely fly water.

Doug U into one on a tricky wade
Tomorrow is change over day so no blog. I will update on today and tomorrow’s news on Sunday morning. The key message to those coming out is “Layers”. The weather has never failed to surprise us these last two weeks.

Jack Selby

Thursday 7 June 2018

HMS Pizzed Up

As is tradition on Ian S’s birthday we set sail after supper last night on the HMS Pizzed Up for an hour or two of skating a fly and drinking a vodka.  The wind had died, the sun had briefly shone and a beautiful sunset was the backdrop to our endeavours. We tickled out of camp and down to the top of Party. Doug U was into a fish during the second drop and I had an offer on a sunk line. Neither held on. Then on the last drop as the river slides to the left Ian S hooked a birthday fish on a sunray shadow. Much red wine and vodka was consumed and some great tunes from DJ Doug capped off a marvellous birthday evening.
Beautiful evening for a Birthday Boat Ride
Back to the day’s fishing and we were again cold with heavy wind and the occasional shower. A few of our party took a well earned rest and as seems to be the norm now we had lunch by the fire back at camp. The morning air temperature was 7 degrees and a water temperature of 9. The river has risen by about 6” this week and has now levelled out. Whilst some are still fishing full floating lines and size 8 or 10 flies a few have had success with an intermediate tip or a slow sinking poly leader and small light tube flies. The story of the morning here at Middle was Jim R hooking and losing 4 fish. Everyone worked hard for their fish yesterday and Jim managed to keep 2 in the afternoon. Up river birthday boy Ian S landed 3 fish with Hugo M landing a respectable 4 fish including 2 over 12lbs.
Party time at Party pool
Ian H managed 5 for the day with another from Generator after supper. I thought it was a little odd that he was on the Fanta all night. There does not seem to be any one beat doing better than another with fish just caught here and there. Ian’s fish last night was a very fresh grilse giving us hope that there are still a few fish entering the system.
In the net for Ian's birthday fish
Down at Lower the wind and cold took it’s toll and they landed 6 fish. Pana had similar weather but with added sleet but they soldiered out for 17 fish for the team. Iain L got 6 for the day as well as a lovely 16lbs fish from Ponzoi. Dick B had 3 and Andrew D had 4. Jack M did not connect but he did take the afternoon off to teach Dima’s son Sasha to fish. Maybe future guide material?
Hold him up... and the fish
Kitza caught 20 fish with David W catching 4 as well as his grandson Dylan W B. There were a few fish caught up at Corner Pool and Ronan C had 5, 3 of which came from Gold Mine. Kitza water is still a little cooler than the main river and they are getting almost all fresh fish now. A very jolly team with lots of singing and partying.
Rude not to...
Today it is a little bit milder to start and the wind whilst fresh is not to heavy. With luck the milder conditions will give us a slightly easier day and a few more fish on the bank.

Jack Selby (Operations Manager)

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Over to Umba

My apologies for the lack of a blog yesterday but after a very busy morning in the village, Bill Drury and I headed over to Umba (about 100 miles West of here) to see the guides and set things in motion for our Autumn season.  It is such a stunning place and I am looking forward to our first guests being on the river in the last week of August.

Umba lodge yesterday
All of which meant that I was out of time to do the blog so there is some catching up to do.

The first thing to say is that I was quite glad I was in a car for most of yesterday as it was a freezing day all day.  A really bitter North wind cut through even the most technical of clothes and catches were down everywhere. 
Doug U with a lovely fish from Middle
In the past two days Middle have landed 49 fish, Kitza have had 50, Lower 30 and Pana have totalled 34 – very consistent fishing across all of the camps.

It has taken a bit of time but the best news from yesterday was the John McC landed his first ever salmon and went on to land 3 more in the afternoon – a great effort on a day when sitting beside the
fire felt like the smart option.
David K-W with a small but very hard won fish in the freezing rain
Sadly for me this is my last blog post of the season as I head home for a long standing family commitment.  Every year I am reminded that I am extremely fortunate to call this my place of work for a month and every year I enjoy it more and more.  The people, the fishing, the scenery and the sheer fun of it are just unique – it is quite simply a brilliant place and my thanks go to everyone who help to make it so. 

Charlie White

Monday 4 June 2018


The prescribed wisdom of the Varzuga is that the ice breaks in early May to leave a very high and very cold river. With that, the first major run of fish enters the system leading to incredibly productive fishing in early spring like conditions. As the season progresses, whilst fresh fish come in all the time, we would expect less fish to be landed but summer fishing with floating lines and skated flies means that catching them can be more fun.
Stuart H on Bear Corner
How then, do we explain that we landed more fish yesterday than during any day of last week?  118 fish were landed across the camps with catches remarkably even for all rods.

At Lower and Middle, as well as catching more, we saw a lot more fish and whilst plenty were put in the book, an awful lot more were lost.  Not a problem as this river is all about action and that is what everyone was reporting.
Nick W on Beach
Steve and Jenny W were the stars at Lower with 13 fish between them.  We normally toast the top rod each day but the toast last night was instead reserved for Ernie D who landed his first ever Atlantic salmon in the morning and then had another in the afternoon.  25 was the final tally for the day but Stuart H and Glynn D were not happy with that and went out and had 2 more after dinner whilst
Steve W has landed 2 from the Wires this morning before coming in for breakfast.

Jenny W on Wires
Middle finished on 43 for the day.  As is usually the case, the returning rods fared slightly better and it was Doug U and Ian H who put their knowledge of the beat to good use by landing 7 each.  Jack reported a very happy camp last night and it sounded as if they celebrated fully.

Andrew B on Bear Island
Kitza landed 26 but that figure is almost irrelevant compared to the next one.  96 year old (yes I typed that correctly) Dave W landed 7 salmon yesterday from Boggy Bank and the Corner pool whilst his 21 year old grandson Dylan landed 6 from Gold Mine and Beaver Pit.  A brilliant family effort and a rather inspiring one.
Doug U with one of 7 he had yesterday
At Pana they had a day much more as we would expect.  23 fish were landed to the 8 rods with James H-B landing 5 of those which was matched by Jack M.  Ponzoi was fishing well as was Inspectors whilst Peter H landed his first Russian salmon.  A fun day all round and Matt sounded very upbeat on the satellite phone.

It is damp and gloomy this morning – pretty much the exact opposite of the mood of the clients.

Charlie White

Sunday 3 June 2018

A new week

Yesterday was as busy as it can get.  A 6:30am departure from camp to get to Murmansk in time for the charter and then almost as soon as we had got to the airport, the new weeks clients were coming through immigration.  With all of the rivers on the Kola now up and running, the arrivals hall was manic and it was an intense couple of hours.

Chris C on Middle
However, we got everyone on to the helicopters in very short order and we were in camp at around 3pm which was pretty speedy.  Everyone had a few hours on the river and quite a few fish were caught.  7 at Lower, 6 at Middle, just the one at Kitza and 13 at Pana which was hugely encouraging.

Rob H on Generator - you can see that he was able to wade halfway across the river
Last week was a strange mix of very good salmon fishing whilst at the same time not being as productive as we have known the river to be.  We landed 468 fish in the week across the 4 camps and it sounds positively greedy to ask for more than that but we have caught more in the past and it just felt as if the grilse run had not been as prolific as usual. 

Paul C on Party
Having said that, all of the fish we landed yesterday were grilse and a lot more were showing in our home pools at Lower so they may just be late.

It was very good to speak to those clients on the way home, some of whom had definitely been caught up in a “last night of the week” party.  Everyone was hugely complimentary about the staff in the various camps and many made specific mention of the excellent food this year.  It is not why people come but it is good to know that things are being done well.

Chris C with another
As has been the case for many a year now, Eoin Fairgrieve and Bill Drury are heading up the “Ultimate Atlantic Salmon course” this week here at Lower.  With two world class instructors at your beck and call, a falling river and one which has fresh fish coming in all the time, there is no better week for people to improve their skills. 

Jamie H with a grilse from Heli pool last night
As a result, there was more fishing gear on show this morning than the average tackle shop has in stock as everyone was asking for opinions on what would work and what they should fish.  However, Stuart H did not need any of that advice as he went out and landed 2 fish before breakfast to give our week a very positive start.

Charlie White