Friday 10 May 2019

Up river to Pundostrov

As is so often the case, a 10am collection became “you’re going in 40 minutes”. And sure enough we were loading Middle Camp bags and supplies into the boats and away shortly after breakfast.

For a number of reasons I have always had to take the helicopter to get to and from Middle but the boat ride is truly spectacular. There was much concern from the team at lower as we headed upstream rather laden with goods.
Middle Camp yesterday
The sun was shining all day yesterday and with the majesty of the deep blue water reflecting the sky, ice blue walls that line the banks and a punctuation of shingle beaches, it was awe inspiring. We saw divers, goldeneye duck and eagles as we travelled up with expert navigation.

We arrived “home” to be greeted by some old friends and new faces. Everyone seems to be here already and as always they have been hard at work. Yesterday we unwrapped and cleaned all the kitchen equipment as well as stocked the store room with dry goods.
Generator Pool
Holly seems to have a new spice rack and Jana has a very serious draining rack. The main cabin is in fine fettle and with the fridges cleaned, I will be stocking them today.

The ice is pretty heavily piled round the island with quite steep walls along Generator. It is hard to get down to the water’s edge but as the water temperature increases so does the frequency of chunks and shards falling into the river.

The air temperature this morning is 10 degrees C and water is 3 degrees. Whilst I can’t be sure how I will get to the river; I will be swinging a heavy sink Skagit and T-tip with a big but not too heavy fly. The water, despite being melt water, is quite coloured and the speed of flow is brisk. The Skagit will allow me to slow things down as well as dodge the ice flowing down river.
Looking down stream to Party Pool
For all our clients arriving tomorrow, I suggest plenty of thicker layers and thermal hats and gloves. It’s a long day fishing and whilst in the sun it is lovely, it is cold by any standards.

At Lower, as here, there are reports of more ice coming down and a rising coloured river. A lot will change between this morning and tomorrow afternoon with more and more ice leaving the banks and if the sun remains strong, a further rise in water will follow.

Both the team at Lower and at Middle are looking forward to welcoming the incoming guests and we wish everyone safe travels. There will be no blog tomorrow and the next post will be on Sunday when our first guests will be on the river.

Jack Selby

Thursday 9 May 2019

First Varzuga Salmon

It is with great excitement that I bring news of Hamish's first Varzuga Salmon. Despite heavy ice flowing down river Bill and Hamish went out for a cast in the morning. Along with a good number of icebergs, Bill lost a fish on green bank. Then the ice became too much so they packed in.
Silver and White
Every time the ice seemed to be getting better Bill and Hamish made their way to the bank to find another great raft of ice coming down stream. After our Russian friends returned to the river Claire, Bill and I sat on the bench above, whilst Hamish picked his way through the ice cubes.
It's just an ice cube buddy!!!
The next thing we see is Hamish's rod tip bent over and line being stripped off the reel. He was cursing the ice and Claire headed inside and Bill and I laughed as he played what looked like an ice cube.
Hamish with his first Varzuga salmon
Suddenly Bill said "ice does not swim upstream" and we were racing down the bank through the slushy snow to see what was on the end. As we neared we could see the silver flanks on a lovely Varzuga grilse.
White Wagtail, a sign that the river is waking up.
The weather yesterday remained fairly over cast until around lunchtime and the sun came out. This certainly had an effect as with Hamish's drone we could see large chunks of the ice that sits on the far bank of the village breaking off. This morning is also very sunny and dare I say quite mild. Holly and I are off to Middle this morning to get things ready there and I hope to work a way to report from there in the morning.

Jack Selby

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Fish Jumping

Yesterday was great fun. We shifted every box, packet and bottle of the dry stores supply into the Lower camp dining room. As it turned out, we also received half a year’s worth of the village coffee supply. 
Essential supplies
Once counted and documented we set about splitting the items between camps and bagging them up, ready for transport by boat and air to their respective homes.

6 month's coffee supply
The warm start, coupled with a south wind made for a good deal of snow melt. At around 3pm, as our Russian friends headed out to the village, we saw a lot of heavy cloud rolling in which turned to sideways driving rain. If the river is up this morning it’s only a fraction but I think we will see it rise slowly throughout the day.

Middle ready for transit
Some of the Russian Middle camp team have arrived safely in camp and report that the river above the village is in good health. We also heard rumours of fish jumping…

Cloud before the downpour
Yesterday evening as we finished up we had a visit from a stunning white tailed eagle. Typically I had taken my big lens off my camera about 10 minutes previously and as if to rub it in the eagle swooped low along the far bank before climbing and perching in the trees opposite the camp. By the time I got back with my camera it had gone.

A very different scene 2 nights ago
Today we have already changed a fridge and removed our coffee over supply. Claire and Holly are busy making soup and more bread. I’m now really eager to get a line out and so we are sending Hamish in as our guinea pig whilst Bill and I spot icebergs for him.

Jack Selby

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Dividing supplies

Today we have the unenviable task of splitting the dry goods and cans between camps. This seemingly simple task is remarkably tricky to complete with differing quantities having to go to different camps based on both numbers of clients and weeks.
A bit of drone footage
Add to this that the snow and ice filled banks mean a lot of extra careful carrying and lifting and you make for quite an active day. In preparation for this, the girls (Holly - Middle, Bryony - Kitza and Claire - Lower) have fed us as if we might never eat again.
Yesterday's lunch involved sausage rolls a foot long and supper was so delicious and filling as to be almost too much. We are all hoping to burn off some excess food as the dash between boats and camp continues.
Lower Boats are almost ready
Sun and Ice flowing. Both good to see.
A slightly shortened blog today as there is much to be done but yesterday's weather started cold with low cloud and small snow flurries. This quickly gave way to warm sunshine and a lot of the snow and ice round camp got very soft and began to melt well. From around 4am the sun has been shining today and we have a warm wind from the south. Our good friend Peter (Varzuga veteran) has indicated that he thinks today will see a big rise in the water. It seems there is also now navigable passage to Middle Camp so I suspect I will suddenly be set to go upstream.
Glenn checking his new spares in.
Back to the supplies! More tomorrow.

Jack Selby

Monday 6 May 2019

2019 Arrival

A few days ago Bill Drury and myself arrived in Murmansk and busied ourselves with the annual "shopping". Most things are gathered by our good friends Sasha and Sergei but there are always bits and pieces that need to be found and for the most part this was again very straight forward but as ever punctuated with very good lunches.
A warm welcome
The rest of the forward party arrived on Saturday and this year we were away on the road by 9:30am. It was a very smooth journey mainly bathed in sunshine. There was quite a bit of snow lying in the tundra and many lakes were still a little frozen. The unmade part of the road was smoother than ever and we made it to the village in good time.
Dennis preparing to pilot the team through the ice
We then loaded our bags, basic provisions and a bottle of mulled wine into the waiting boats and Dennis and Feorde eased us out through the ice flow coming down from the village. Once free of the ice we motored down river at good speed and tucked in just by the steps to lower camp. 
Heading up to come down
We said goodbye to our boat drivers and then Holly, Bryony and Claire produced a fantastic supper whilst we started sorting what was to go where and to which camp. By 9pm it was getting cold again and whilst the sun dipped it got pretty cold putting a crust on the snow around camp.
First sight of the Lower Camp for 2019
Whilst I've not seen the most openings here I'm certainly happy to see boats collecting us and not snowmobiles. There are still large amounts of snow and ice to get off the banks and out to see. There are also areas that are still yet to break but we have more time ahead of us and I'm relieved it's not as cold and frozen as 2017... The forecast is for both increased temperatures and heavy rain both of which melt the recent surface snow and consequently lift the water level and get things moving. 
The daily inspections begin
More excitements tomorrow as people join the throng and we start the process of bringing in dry supplies. Right now Sasha and Bill are up at the village inspecting everything in store. I think the river is rising!

Jack Selby