Kharlovka Fishing Reports 2003
The Kharlovka Report – Final Week ending 13th September 2003
As all good things must end one day we have come to the conclusion of this magical season. Our final gathering of fisherman consisted of 10 lively Norwegians which were split into two groups each enjoying a half week with us in camp. Along with our 5 new American friends who were here for the duration, we had daily average team of 10 rods fishing the beats. After a seasonably cool period last week which provided outstanding sport on the rivers, our final guests of the year unfortunately stepped off the helicopter on Saturday into an arctic Indian summer. While very pleasant to fish in, the salmon defiantly took notice of the change in conditions. During our first few days air temperatures jumped back up into the low 20′s C (70′s F) bringing the water up with it to around 12 degrees C. Then to complicate matters we had a brief cold snap on Wednesday. With the waters still warm it was just enough to put the fish down further and produce thick fog which temporarily delayed our the Norwegian groups from changing over. By Thursday morning our extended summer had again returned. Nothing good ever comes easy when your salmon fishing at the extremes for without the challenge the experience would be routine. Despite the unwelcome conditions the rods persevered locating a respectable 95 salmon on this our final week of the season.
Why is it that we can all look back on our first salmon and recall nearly every detail? That unforgettable moment was at hand many times over this week as five of our aspiring rods graduated to the next level along our northern rivers. First up to bat was our father – son team from America as they scored big on the lower Litza each landing their first fish weighing in at 18 and 22 pounds. After tasting success, the next morning I decided to take the enthusiastic young Billy on a personal tour of the canyonous beats upstream. Quick learner! Armed with his new and improved 80 foot double spey cast and his own hand tied bottle tubes the rookie succeeded in tempting three nice fish to the beach before lunch including a powerful 22 pound hen and a cracking fresh grilse. Pleased with their progress I continued on downstream to meet up with more of my countrymen near the tent pool. I arrived to good news as Tom had been successful with his first three midsized salmon. It had been a great day. At precisely 7:00pm we all loaded up in the helicopter to pick up the rest of the team. When we dropped in on Billy’s beat we found him up to his chest waders bent into another serious fish on the other side of Spawning Pool. With the added pressure of a crowd and the waiting chopper he hastily battled his 26 pounder to Volodya’s net. It was like a scene out of a Bond film! Screaming and hollering with excitement they jumped in their Russian dingy with all their equipment and ‘rowed like hell’ for our bank. Two of the guides and I met them as they approached. With the speed of a formula I pit crew we promptly sorted out the kit. From start to finish the whole operation took no more than 10 minutes. Virtually speechless, Billy managed to admit ‘This is what life is all about!’
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete with a record 8 gold medals to do well on the Three Rivers, but it sure helps! After a three year absence pursuing his various interests our Norwegian friend Bjorn was back for some more of his favourite autumn trout fishing on the Upper Kharlovka. He was accompanied by his friend, the international known spey casting instructor Trond. With no more than a flick of his wrists the Norwegian talent sent his shooting head flying more than 40 meters across the home pool. I had to agree with his guide Valentine as we watched him giving demonstrations to the rest. Truly gifted, his casting was compared to a ‘Russian love song – sweet music’. Early in the week the deadly trio took to the reindeer trails on the upper most Nicu beat in search of the elusive tundra brown trout. They came back beaming with stories of some 40+ brownies weighing from one to six pounds. Relaxing after the great day, I asked the Olympian how much ground they had covered. Upon referring to the wall map we discovered they had worked nearly 8 km of the upper drainage. Compared to the 15000 km he used to do in a years training this was a mere walk in the so called Kharlovka park. As Bjorn obviously knows, practise makes perfect for the next day he returned for another crack upriver with a new mate Rune. The result was much the same, only the second time in addition to their outstanding bag of respectable brownies, the team intercepted four midsized salmon.
Special mention also goes to our Scandinavian friend Tomm who took a stroll of his own around the National Park area of the upper Kharlovka. Thanks to his patented green highlander tube, beautifully directed spey casts and Vasili’s guidance, the team did extremely well on their visit finding six salmon including an 18 and 28 pounder. No more than five casts after the big one was netted Tomm hooked into something really serious. It was on a total of 3 seconds as the monster shot up into the air along the far bank catching the slack line around the reel. Later that night in the lodge, when I asked the experienced Norwegian how big he thought the great fish was, he pointed at the mount above the door of the 42 pounder! Not finished yet, the next morning he found himself doing business with a bright silver 22 pound Osenka which was obviously coming in with the tide on the Island pool of the lower Kharlovka.
And then there was Jens! I’ve nicknamed him the ‘Norwegian Poacher’. This man was obviously born to salmon fish. With a lifetime of experience including six years on the Three Rivers of the northern Kola, Jens was a true inspiration to the rest. I’ve seen very few anglers with his ability to read the river. In addition to providing the entire lodge with his special monkey haired variants, he also accompanied his friends on two very memorable Litza campovers. Not surprisingly Jens led the team’s 15 fish charge landing two silvery Osenkas from the Litza Falls along with a 23 and a 26 pounder in the ruff water below the legendary Flat Stone pool. In the cool evenings under the dark arctic skies, it was Russian B-B-Q’s, vodka shots and fish stories around a big open fire. Skol! While the others might have thought they were crazy the Norwegians were actually in their element!
We are proud to say we gave it our best shot to break the 2000 mark in the Kharlovka catch records however, with Mother Nature at the helm it was simply out of our control. Despite the difficult conditions on our last week, records were still broken as the Kharlovka camp finished the season with an amazing final tally of 1963 salmon to rod. We would like to give special mention to all those who managed to ‘out wit’ our truly colossal fish. With countless number of salmon in the 20 and 30 pound classes this season there are simply too many names to mention however, it would be unfair not to give a moment of the spotlight to Ian, Martin and Nico our newest members to the exclusive ’40 pound club’.
Without question the catch records have been truly impressive, however as many of this season’s rods will testify, it’s the near misses with the ‘unlandable’ fish that somehow managed to escape us which will burn brightest in our off season memories. For now its time to let nature takes its course. Under the close watch of our team of Special Forces our rivers will now flow undisturbed allowing these extraordinary fish to complete their remarkable journeys. With the par count more than double what it was three years ago we must now wait with great anticipation for next season’s returns.
Here today and gone tomorrow, like a time lapsed video the arctic summer is nature’s race against time. Both fisherman and wildlife alike we all migrate here to enjoy the rewards of life in this, one of the last great unspoiled wildernesses. To be able to escape the boundaries of modern society and return here to this angling heaven has truly been a priceless adventure, one that is not easy to explain except to those it needs no explanation..
To conclude I would like to say ‘Bolshia Spaseeba’ to our dedicated team of Russians who helped make this wonderful experience possible for all us. To the pilots and engineers who brought us all back safely to camp, to the hard working beautiful ‘devushkas’ who served us with a smile, to our weathered guides who led us to the Big One, to Luba and Sasha for making us all feel at home on the Litza tent camp, to the security force for keeping our rivers safe, to Per, Vasili and the builders for their skilled efforts improving the camp and to the rest – mechanics, technicians, scientist, and the fish inspector. Let us not forget Victor, Lena, and Tayna for helping us all alone our way and last but certainly not least for paying special attention to the details Volodya Kulagin as director of operations. While there is always room for improvement the team deserves congratulations on a job well done!
Until next the ice breaks – Das Veedanya!
The Kharlovka Report – Week ending 6th September 2003
Autumn has defiantly arrived in the Arctic Circle. Cool winds, brief rains, sleet, light snows, you name it we’ve fished in it this week. While we are very relieved to have lost the fog, gusty winds have driven the air temperatures down to 3-8 degrees Celsius (36-46 F). The rivers have also chilled to around 7 degrees C (44 F). Water levels remain steady at 6 cm. on the home pool gauge.
Last Saturday we were delighted to welcome of latest multi national team of rods to the Kharlovka camp. The countries represented here this week included 10 anglers from England, Ireland, Bosnia, America, and the Czech Republic. On the first evening we all gathered in the lodge where it was immediately apparent as all of our guests cracked a beer at the same time that this was going to be a fantastic week. ‘Na Zdarovia!’
‘The Big Chance’, lets face it – it’s what makes fishing the Three Rivers so special. Everything but predictable, our rivers are the great leveller. This week our friends rose to the challenge landing an exceptional 161 salmon including 16 over twenty and five – 30+ pounders! As always there was several heart breaking stories of the giant that slipped away.
Early in the week I had the pleasure of spending the morning on the Middle Litza with my new friend Joel. With nearly 40 years between us we teamed up on the left bank of the Tent pool. Except for the great river side conversation, it had been a slow windy morning. At this point we were casting as much for exercise as in hope of hooking a salmon. With the air temperature dropping we went to an intermediate line and my favourite Willy Gunn tube. I can remember telling Joel – “Never under estimate the power of the Willy Gunn!” He made a great cast into the strong upstream wind, as the fly swung through the very tail of the pool, it stopped. There were several substantial head shakes and then it was off. I said, “That was a big fish!” I received the standard answer – ‘I don’t think so’. After two lousy attempts that were knocked down by the wind Joel managed to duplicate that magic cast. The fly stopped again. I said “This is that same big fish!” Joel replied, “I really don’t think so.” At the same moment a huge dark submarine shot up out of the water. “Oh my god – It’s a 40 pounder!” It was a great thrill to watch my new friend speechless as he planted his boots and held on for dear life. A restless energy seemed to fill the beast. Zing went the reel as it leapt and slalomed around the boulders in the extreme tail of the pool. One minute it was right in front of us, the next well into the backing downstream. He said, “I don’t care what we have to do! I’ll swim down if necessary!” Time passed. This was a tug of war of epic proportions as Joel tried desperately to keep his prize from escaping down into the rapids below. Helpless, Volodya and I watched from the top of the ridge. After an hour and 10 minutes later Joel’s hands were numb and his fingers white. Towed again to within eye sight, the great fish departed on another run and the hook finally pulled free. Volodya and I lowered our heads as all hope vanished down the rapids. Joel started laughing uncontrollably. He said listen boys, “I knew 30 minutes into the fight we didn’t have a chance. If I would have beaten that fish I might not ever come back. Now there is no question you’ll see me next year!” While Joel might have lost the battle the war wasn’t over! The next day we helicoptered him 30 miles up river for another shot at the big ones at the 3rd Waterfall on the upper Kharlovka. He proudly returned with a 114 cm, 30 pound cock fish which broke his personal best by 11 pounds. Congratulations Joel! “Don’t worry – I’ll be back!”
What do you get when you cross stiff arctic winds, swift currents, multi sea winter salmon, wild casting, and a strong Czech? A new record that’s what! Martin, the gentle giant, succeeded in destroying his T and T, two camp Sages, and his partner’s new Loomis all in the first three days. Sasa managed to snap another two himself. Don’t worry my friends after all rods were made to be broken!
I’m starting to come to the conclusion that all the Irish are great fisherman! It appears to be in their blood. Jonathan and Stephen set the early pace Sunday grabbing 17 salmon before running out of time in the Secret pool. Along with Jonathan’s own special shrimp variants, their bag of tricks included some fancy casting and a never give up attitude. Last week these two didn’t need luck as the duo released a very respectable 43 salmon.
There is something about Tuesdays on the Eastern Litza. This week our team landed a sporting 35 fish before returning exhausted to a hot Kharlovka sauna. It has to be noted that the Czechs and Irish are true sauna fanatics as they were late to dinner nearly every night this week.
Anyone who says that the fly doesn’t really matter hasn’t tried Mark’s Welsh bottle tubes lately! One afternoon I met up with the father son team of Michael and James. Exhausted after a successful morning including a 20 pounder from the Military pool I managed to persuade James into giving it one more try in the newly named Reindeer Rapids. I invited him to try the pockets with his favorite tube for 15 minutes. No sign of life. We then switched to the Mutts Nutts. First cast – third cast – eighth cast – After the fourth fish including a 20 and 25 pounder that we tailed in mid stream without a net, I had the courage to tell him that I had already taken 6 salmon from the same rapids on my walk down! Stunned James and I staggered back into current for another 20 pounder and two smaller fish. In total an amazing 12 salmon were subdued on the great fly in about two hours. Sworn to secrecy James is now a believer! While there is no substitute for an original, similar versions popped up over the week including the deadly ‘Sasa special’ which our Bosnian friend routinely tied every night in the lodge. It should be told he caught nearly all of his salmon and a 9 pound sea trout with the orange and black wonder.
Special mention also goes to Vladimir who landed one of the largest salmon of the week on the fifth cast of the morning into the Upper Tent Pool. The great fish which tipped Valentine’s scales at 32 pounds was caught on a tiny size 12 green butt. Quite satisfied with his record performance the Czech returned to the tent camp for some soup, vodka and eventually a nap. It appears that dinner in Stockholm will be on Vladimir!
Our last day was truly epic as the team landed a total of 36 fish. The amazing thing was that only 5 of them were grilse. We are also very pleased to announce two more personal best for Michael and Vladimir that weighted 32 and 30 pounds respectively. Great way to finish out the week!
The race is on with the Rynda camp to see who can break the 2000 fish mark first. We are catching more of the bright fall Osenka fish every day. The largest salmon are becoming conveniently aggressive to bigger flies. With the tundra quickly changing colours and the recent viewings of the Northern lights in the dark Arctic sky we remain very optimistic for our final week of the season!
The Kharlovka Report – Saturday August 30th 2003
Life in the Arctic is an unpredictable ever changing saga, one that moves at amazing pace. The long white nights of the summer have quickly come to an end We are presently losing 8 minutes of light a day on the northern Kola Darkness now shrouds the tundra for nearly 6 hours a night Fall is without question upon us. Cool rainy days, patchy yellow-green birch and the red tipped grasses are but few of the reminders. Earlier this week we saw the moon for the first time this season. We are anticipating the Northern Lights on the next cool clear night.
Short but sweet, it was worth the wait! Held back by the military, soaked by heavy rains, and grounded by the fog, seven first timers to Russia enjoyed every minute of their brief visit to the Kharlovka camp. Wednesday and Thursday saw heavy rains and thick fog leading to a 15 cm rise in the rivers and the rods being deployed on foot. Rising waters and cool temperatures made the fishing difficult as many of the salmon were seen running in the lower Kharlovka. Despite the adverse conditions four rods landed 10 salmon within walking distance of camp.
Nothing seems to faze the Eastern Litza. Four of our lucky guests were no sooner flown in when the weather closed in again. The difference was this time they were stuck where they wanted, in ‘paradise’! Fit as mountain goats, the young Scots did well to keep up with their guide Valentine who led them on a tour of the lower river. Derek stated at the beginning of the trip that he was only here for one thing and that was a 30 pounder. His dream came true within hours on a long cast into the Ledge pool. ‘From a rock only Valentine can get you to, I put a long single spey across the far tail of the pool. I knew he was there. The fish took my small black ally nearly the second it hit the water. After a lengthy battle I was very relieved to see my 42 inch, 30 pound cock fish slide into the net. I got what I came for and much more!’ It should also be noted that Derek broke off a 35-40 pounder in the same pool as he tempted fate with 10 pound test. Bryan decided to continue on after seeing his mate with the large fish. Some time later he returned mumbling with a story of a 50+ pounder he spotted in the Spawning Pool. The fish was believed to be running upstream. In all team Scotland eventually ran out of time landing a total of seven salmon including a bright mid sized Osenka.
The fanatical Irish bothers liken their short experience to ‘True heaven on earth!’ They’ve been saving for two years to fish on the Northern Rivers. Fortunately they had the 24 hours of their life on the lower Litza. The Tent pool area needs a rest now that the boys are finished. Peter did most of the damage landing 5 good salmon on his own specially tied yellow and red allies including a 20 pounder in front of an audience at the camp. Young Stephen took the hint finding 5 fish of his own downstream in the pockets around the Reindeer pool.
Special mention goes to our new Italian friend Paolo who doubled his lifetime salmon catch during his brief 24 hour visit to the Eastern Litza. Armed with a box of his own large creations Paolo and his guide Volodya wisely decided to fish big and deep during the off weather conditions. Nobody said it was going to be easy. After dozens of fly changes and nearly 16 km. on the reindeer trails between pools Paolo weighted and photographed 7 Litza salmon including a personal best of 18.5 landed just into dark. ‘It was a good week packed into two days!’
I would also like to mention our new friend Icelandic Thordur who skated micro tubes with great success. Unfortunately the large multi sea winter fish of Russia were too much for his lite tackle as he lost the two largest fish of his life from small pockets below the Secret pool. With unfinished business, I guess we will see him back next year!
Understandably six of our guests chose to leave the group and return via Moscow on Monday. But all good things come to those who wait. From Stockholm to Murmansk to Moscow and finally to the “Three Rivers”, this was a journey that none of the remaining seven of us will ever forget. Bonded by the adventure, amazed by the hospitality and exhilarated by the fishing we all anticipate next season’s reunion with great enthusiasm. ‘Das Veedanya’ Until the next time!
The Kharlovka Report – Saturday August 23rd 2003
Due to heavy fog fisherman across the Kola Peninsula were delayed leaving last weekend. By lunchtime on Sunday the visibility had improved allowing the transfers to commence. The normally quiet Murmansk Airport quickly became overrun with anxious anglers. The good news was our guests from the Northern Rivers had their own jet waiting on the tarmac for them. Connections were promptly rescheduled and accommodations provided for in Stockholm.
Better late than never, on Sunday we were delighted to finally welcome our newest team of rods to the Kharlovka camp. We began this week with a song as 6 merry Welshmen led by John and his harmonica along with 5 amazed Englishman quickly made camp their own. Within moments of raising their respective flags, I was deemed an honorary Welshman for the week.
It’s been a long hot summer here in the Arctic and it now appears the seasons are starting to change. With the exception of a few warm hours Wednesday afternoon, the air and water temperatures have been consistently cool ranging between 9-12 degrees Celsius (48-54 F). The first two days of the week rods experienced very unsettled weather including patchy fog, strong winds and intermittent rains. As a result the team hit the reindeer trails and went to work on the lower 9 km. of the Kharlovka.
Within hours of touchdown Roger set the ‘big fish’ tone for the week landing a 21 pounder fromHomepool.Lindsay also started well taking a 20 pounder of his own on his very first cast into the tail of the Kharlovka falls. Before Monday evening everyone had found joy as the team skilfully located 15 salmon close to camp. Along with several fresh run grilse near the sea pools there were 6 fine salmon in the 15 – 22 pound class.
There are few things in life more enjoyable than fishing the Eastern Litza! By mid morning Tuesday the visibility had improved allowing for an afternoon flight to the rested river. ‘Two a day’ Frank, as he is now known around camp, pulled his weight landing a couple of beauties out of the Snowbank pool on the lower Litza including the first Osemka of the season. These impressive fish are designed by nature to spend the entire winter under the ice. It was bright chrome, covered in sea lice and weighted in at 16.5 pounds. Special mention also goes to Sportfish Danny who found three nice salmon in the tent pool area along with a near miss at the net with another 25 pound Osemka. The father – son team of Eric and Allan had a magical day of their own. It was age before beauty as Eric found his joy on the legendaryFlatStonepullinga22pounderfromthefamouslie.Unfortunately, less than an hour later and only a meter from his Russian guide, the hook pulled out on second monster estimated at 35 pounds that wasn’t meant to be. Allan fished in awe around his father finding four smaller salmon of his own.
Back by popular demand, we flew seven of the team over to the mighty Litza on Wednesday. This was without question one of the best fishing days I’ve seen on the river for several weeks. Young Vasili took command of his Welshman leading them into 11 salmon on the lower beats. John did most of the work landing 8 of the fish in the pockets around the Reindeer pool including a 24 Osenka just moments before the helicopter arrived. Not to be outdone, ‘Big Alex’ put his guests over the fish as well. Tom, who had never fished for salmon before likened the whole experience to the ‘University of Salmon fishing’. Put immediately to the test, he froze up on his first opportunity clamping down on the line as a 35-40 pound ‘Torpedo’ made way with his Willy Gunn. Richard was quick to take note making sure not to let either of his monsters go including a 24 pound sea liced Osenka from the Secret pool and a outstanding 31 pounder which was found in small pocket nearby. Receiving high marks from Alex the team finished their education sliding a total of 10 fish into his net. By the time the day was finished, along with several burning memories of what could have been, the rods had mounted an impressive catch of 34 salmon.
Special mention also goes to our old friend and professional Welsh fly dresser Mark who kept us all going with his dry humour and spectacular creations including micro bottle tubes, specially died variants and the now legendary ‘Mutts Nutts’. ‘Why I asked Mark and got the reply “Because it works like the dogs bollocks!’
We had several twitchers in camp last week. Some of their discoveries included Great Northern Divers in the falls pools and the unusual Alpine Accentor spotted by Frank near the Litza tent camp. Another rare sight some of the rods enjoyed during lunch in the lower canyon was the Red necked Phalarop. Also seen riding the thermals along the canyon rims last week were Golden and White-tailed sea eagles, Gyr and Peregrine falcon.
Nothing good in life ever comes easy. These are true flyfishermans rivers. The fact that huge salmon are showing in nearly every pool only adds to the attraction. While we have had plenty of bright moments the unpredictable arctic weather has definitely depressed the catch for this week. Our success can be attributed to extreme hard work by our team resulting in 86 salmon. Along with numerous tales of the one that got away, the serious fish were divided between 8 of the rods ranging between 20-31 pounds. Well done to Eric our most senior member as he showed us what experience is all about landing four of the great fish averaging 23 pounds. We now have 1670 salmon entered in the Kharlovka book. With three weeks remaining I sincerely believe we will break the 2000 mark before the end of the season. The wait is finally over with the Osenka run officially under way we remain very optimistic for the final days of August!
This week I was truly in the company of perfect gentleman. I would just like to thank our new friends who made our memorable musical time around camp almost as enjoyable as that on the water!
The Kharlovka Report – Saturday August 15th 2003
Leaving the scorching western summer behind, an anxious team of rods arrived last weekend very relieved by our current cool arctic conditions on the Northern Rivers. For nearly three weeks the Kola Peninsula was dominated by stable high pressure and record hot temperatures. What started out as an above average snow reserve quickly came to an end under the relentless heat wave. While the deep cut Litza is still flowing strong, the waters of the Kharlovka are running nearly 10 cm lower than this time last season. The great news is, like everything else here in the arctic, change is quick. For the last ten days now air temperatures have coolly ranged between 9-15 deg. C (48-60 F). Water temps are now stable around the 12 degree mark. The conditions were absolutely perfect until the fog rolled on Thursday morning.
Due to a lack of visibility the rods were delayed from flying until late this morning (Sunday) however they will be delighted to find our private jet ready and waiting for them at Murmansk Airport to transport them in style to Stockholm without further delay. On the way they will be able to study every international flight out of Arlanda for the next 24 hours and we will accommodate all those who cannot leave today. The days of bus rides into Finland & Norway and months of recriminations over costs are long gone for our guests.
Our ten guests this week included a pleasant international mixture of Scots, Irish, English, Welsh and American. In addition we were delighted to have Monte from Forbes Magazine, along with a good friend and very talented artist/author James (on assignment for the New York Times), and also Haken, a Northern Rivers veteran and internationally respected Swedish photographer. This team of media professionals went straight to work on the overnight experience of a lifetime at the Eastern Litza. Armed with their cameras, single handed rods, green stoneflies, and little orange shrimp with pheasant collars they eagerly took to their assignments! Nearly 24 hours later we picked them up exhausted along the Snowbank pool on the Lower Litza. Their mission was definitely a success. It was boy’s night out, Russian style, on debatably the best salmon river in the world including barbequed Reindeer kebabs, Vodka shots – the works! The bonus was the young team also found 8 salmon, two averaging 20 pounds from the Flat Stone on light tackle, not to mention those five beauties that got away. Short but sweet, the next morning they were collected by Peter for some chopper fishing on the Upper Kharlovka and then on their way for a sampling of Rynda hospitality.
Team Kharlovka was not to be outdone mounting impressive catches of there own. Blessed by the weather for the first four days, our 10 guests landed an impressive 82 salmon. Then the dreaded FOG moved back in grounding the helicopters for the last two days. Not surprisingly this team of experience anglers pushed on finding another 15 fish closer to home. Including the 8 Litza salmon for the Forbes team we are pleased to report a sporting week of 105 salmon.
The Eastern Litza is more than just a river, it’s an experience. It’s a place where you can be a kid again. “To register a ‘Litza Slam’ you must land at least one salmon over 20 pounds along with a 5+ pound brownie or sea trout. Fall in wading the pool of your choice. Climb and traverse a minimum of 5 km of tundra. Later finishing up at the tent camp with traditional Russian soup, several vodka shots and a hot streamside shower before slamming down into the bed of your tent!” This is was its all about!
While it might be true that good things come to those who wait, on the Eastern Litza the best fish go to those who can cast! This week the Ledge pool has proven to be a bottomless pit of large salmon for our longer rods. Tony was the first to accept the challenge pulling four fish from the distant pocket including two personal bests of 20 and 24 pounds. On Tuesday, Terry had the big single spey working, tempting 6 more salmon from the lie. John cleaned up behind him as the Irish duo showed us the way landing 17 salmon overnight. Ranger fans Jock and Jamie started their week right landing 12 fish with small flies on the Lower Litza. Bob unwillingly donated his entire fly line to the mighty river when his large fish went ‘Baka’ (Bye-Bye) out the back of the falls pool. All in all, Tuesday provided the best action as the team managed to bring 28 fish to the scales including six serious salmon in the 20 pound class!
Special mention also goes to our father – son team from America. We always say there is a learning curve on the Northern Rivers. We now know that size 8 thin wire trout hooks have no place on the shark infested waters of the Lower Litza! Later in the afternoon Tom wisely pointed his son Patrick towards the CrackPooldownstream.After an argument with the guide about whose fly they should try, the famous Green Bomber was correctly selected. An epic battle ensued beginning high upon rocks. Eventually control was regained and the salmon was landed well downstream weighing in at 22 pounds. Patrick said it was the first time he’d ever been yelled at for landing a fish, let alone the best salmon of his life!
Without question the Kharlovka provided excellent action as well this week! On Monday, Tony adjusted to his jetlag by napping on the Lower Kharlovka for nearly four hours while Richard did most of the work. They return acclimated landing a total of 6 salmon including a 21 pounder for Richard skilfully taken from Mark’s Pocket. The home pool has also come in handy this week giving up 8 fish including one 26 pounder, three sea liced beauties of 11, 12 and 20, along with a close call with a 40 pounder named Hercules!
Camp managers have their moments as well! Mine arrived on Thursday while researching the Kharlovka canyons. I came to the conclusion that they are definitely there landing 3 nice fish in the mid teens along with a 103 cm cock fish that was later estimated to be 27 pounds. What really made the day was the special one that got away. I had been successfully skating small tubes all morning when this mouth surfaced in the tail slowly swallowing my last cast. I swear it was smiling at me when he ate it. I figure I had it on about 15 seconds. I stood there helpless as the fish powered straight up the middle of the run bending my line through the water in its wake. My tiny double eventually pulled out some 250 feet up river. Never had a chance!
The fishing outlook remains very favourable. A great aspect of low water fishing at this stage of the season is the fact that the salmon are attracted to surface presentations. Hitched tubes, flies and Bombers remain deadly options providing anglers with outstanding visual satisfaction. Other hot patterns this week include the Thunder Flash, the Ranger Mascot, Temple Dogs, Black and Yellows, don’t forget dark copper tubes and our very own Green Northerners.
Despite our sudden change of weather the summer foliage still dominates the tundra. Purple thistles, blue bells, and bright yellow flowers are just some of the flora one encounters walking along the reindeer trails. The silver birch are without question in full leaf. This is also the peak of the mushroom season as the Russians take advantage picking buckets full for their delicious soups. It will soon be blue berry time.
It is easy to be relaxed when the weather is good and the salmon are taking nevertheless, I would like to thank our guests for the great pace this week. Along with the hard work on the water this group understood the importance of the Russian Bana (sauna). Fired by salt cured driftwood logs that have washed up along the beaches of the Barent sea our friends made it a ritual to sauna at least once every night this week. Slokam Parim – Light steams!
August is all about light rains, darker nights, and large aggressive salmon including the mighty Osemka run.We have great reason to be optimistic for next week!
The Kharlovka Report – Saturday August 9th 2003
On Saturday we were very pleased to welcome our latest team of 13 anglers to the Kharlovka camp including eight English gentleman, four experienced Swedes, and one adventurous American. For the third week running our guests have stepped off the helicopter into an arctic heat wave. As one guest put it, “It’s never a good sign when your Kola guide greets you in his sandals and track shorts saying welcome to the Sahara!”
It was obvious from the very beginning we would have our work cut out for us as temperatures over the weekend reached a summer high of 33 degrees C (88 F). Naturally the rivers followed suit rising up to the near critical temperature of 24 degrees C (75 F). Thankfully the winds switched over Sunday night funnelling in cool air and precipitation from the north. By the next morning air temps. were down drastically to around 13-14 C (high 50′s F) as was the water which dropped rapidly back to 18.5C (67 F). This was the trend for the remainder of the week creating an inversion between the warm water and the cool air. As we all know, besides being far from ideal conditions for fishing, it is also a recipe for FOG. This added to the challenge as the lack of visibility meant the rods had to be deployed most mornings walking along the lower 11 km of the Kharlovka. By mid-afternoon the conditions had generally improved to the point where the anglers could be air lifted to beats further away. Over the course of the week the cool air and covered skies dramatically improved the fishing as water temperatures eventually dropped back down to the perfect temperature of 12 degrees C (54 F).
“If your going to be stuck somewhere, I can’t think of any better place then on the Eastern Litza.” Michael and Charles were the first victims as Monday’s fog resulted in what they proclaimed to be “a truly magical adventure”. After a successful days fishing including several smaller salmon, a 17 pound cock fish, one lost monster, and a rejuvenating hike alone the tundra our friends arrived late to the Litza tent camp. What they didn’t realize was Luba was standing by with an open bar and the best Salmon steaks this side of the Urals! “They were lightly battered and cooked to perfection in a light oil. Luba proudly served them to us. Upon seeing our smiles she said, ‘may all your dreams come true!”
Then there was Anders. The Swede set the river on fire Wednesday landing 14 fish on the upper Litza. When asked how he did it, he said in his broken English “My body was made for fishin’ and drinking beer. I also have to give credit to my guide Valentine, he’s a serious wader and knows where to point me!” I must admit the young Anders was a master spey caster with great agility. On his two day drop in on the Litza he managed to land 20 salmon including 6 in the twenty pound class. Among 13 anglers, he alone managed to land an impressive 1/3 of the total catch last week! The truly amazing thing is he how he slept in until lunch on two of the days!!
While it can not be denied that last week was seriously demanding, the efforts of the rods did not go unrewarded. Charlie from America, compared it all to an ‘Outward bound experience for seniors’. Despite the complications posed by the weather, the team did amazingly well landing exactly 100 salmon including several personal bests! Our success has to be attributed to the extreme hard work by the pilots, guides and rods alike.
Other highlights this week included Peter’s battle with a 27 pounder in front of the trout camp at Kharlovka National Park. The large salmon was skilfully enticed by one of Peter’s own creations called the ‘Stunroe’ which entailed the clever combination of a stoat’s tail and a Monroe Killer. They also took a number of brownies of 1-2 kilos!
On the last morning after the umpteen beat change due to poor weather, Charles wisely decided to spend his last hour on the right bank of Home pool. Michael, his fishing partner reported that Charles and his guide Valdoonican (or Volodya) had been arguing about why he had to cast from the same rock for anotherfiveminutes.They settled on a few last casts in the same area which to everyone’s surprise but Volodya’s provoked a wrenching take followed by a magnificent fight and eventually a 22 pound cock fish. “We have to give Valdoonican credit. We gave him hell all week and he never even flinched!” Which brings up another camp rule – Always listen to your guide!
Special mention should also be made to our new friend John who received a mark of 10 from his guide Kolya for his dive into the Lower Canyon. Having gone in over his head, he promptly received the shirt off his guide’s back and a escort back to camp. “At least we know the life preserver works!” John was also incidentally a rare Englishman who to truly came to appreciate the long standing tradition of the Russian Bana (sauna)!
We also had a very important discovery project in the works last week where within hours of arriving to the camp Saturday evening we successfully supplied and deployed our Swedish mapping team to the upper most reaches of the Kharlovka drainage or Nicu beat. Their mission was to float down mapping and fishing the upper 25 miles of the river. The team was led by Per, our Northern River’s ‘guru’, friend and qualified fisherman Harald, Rolf the tundra expert, and Dima, our camp scientist. Five days and 40 km later they arrived back in camp. After a shower, sauna, hot meal, and a couple of stiff drinks, I finally got a chance to visit with them. You could tell by the look in their eyes they had had the trip of a lifetime. We were very pleased to hear their trip was a success, that this team of experts were able to come together and spend the quality time they needed to properly research the Upper Kharlovka. I’ve seen the sketching. We are all anxiously anticipating a new and improved map for next season which will help us to put this vast arctic territory into better perspective.
I would like to give special thanks this week to our news friends who under the circumstances banded together as true gentleman and sportsman, turning the unpredictable conditions into a very memorable artic adventure!
The Kharlovka Report – Saturday August 2nd 2003
A team of 12 dedicated British anglers arrived at Kharlovka on Saturday and quickly made camp their own. In addition to the normal shock of being helicoptered into this dramatic arctic tundra landscape, the rods were equally amazed with our current heat wave like conditions. Under a stable high pressure system, air temperatures this week soared into low 30′s nearly every afternoon. As a result the rivers are now running warm around 20 degrees Celcius.
Small snow patches are still found about the tundra as the rivers are presently dropping about 1cm. a day.Over the last week we are down nearly 15cm on the home pool gauge allowing many of the larger salmon to negotiate the previous hydraulic barrier at the first Kharlovka falls. Not surprisingly the upper beats provided the majority of the action this week.
When the conditions are poor and the river is low and clear, then is the time to prove the abilities of the angler. This week our success can be attributed to extreme hard work by our team resulting in 100 salmon being led into the nets. Again were happy to report that more than half the group was able to record personal bests.
While there are many stages between complete success and total failure, our friends this week must be commended for their creativity on the water. Fishing techniques have been extremely varied including presentations from the depths to the surface, with flies large and small, from the plain to the gaudy, swung, dead drifted, or worked, we’ve tried it all.
Neil stirred everyone imagination on the first day when he tempted a cock fish measuring 105 X 55 cm. Special thanks to the deadly green bomber and ‘Big Alex’ who teamed up to subdue the 31 pound monster after an exhausting half hour in the tail of Kharlovka falls. I managed to catch up with Neil later in the morning. He was still sitting in the same place smoking his pipe, studying his surrounding. He said, “I’m done! You don’t have to worry about me any more. Just going to relax and enjoy my week now.”
Then there was Rob, the enthusiastic beginner. Within an hour of being dropped out of the helicopter at Guys pool while learning the finer points of spey casting, he hooked into his first salmon. It was instantly apparent that he was a natural for Tarpon fishing as his Russian guide screamed at him to stop setting the hook! Quite a site from a distance as all three of them seem to be jumping at the same time. As if it were meant to be, the silvery 14 pound hen eventually reached Oleg’s net. Thoroughly satisfied with himself he proclaimed the experience to be everything he had hoped mumbling; “now I see!”
The Eastern Litza, as one angler put it is, ‘A walk on the wild side’. Time and time again our guests are claiming it as their favourite river of all time, and for good reasons;
Ron and David are now believers as they put in a 14 hour session on the great river. They finally reached the tent camp around midnight. David said it was the kind of river you could just sit beside and stare atallday.They worked hard coming up with a half dozen salmon. Unfortunately the big fish seemed to be coming short with the bright conditions and were never landed.
Mid week the father-son team of John and Jonathan took to the rugged terrain of E. Litza. Led by youthful enthusiasm they were determined to fish every pocket of the impressive river. Their efforts were rewarded as they returned with an overnight catch of 14 salmon including an 18, 17, and 15 pounders in less than an hour out of the Lower tent pool. “Being out there by ourselves was one of the greatest experiences of our lives” the father later told me.
Our good friend Michael has had an epic week as well where in addition to many hours of helping out the team with their spey casts, he’s skilfully showed us the way landing 5 serious fish in the mid twenties.
In recent weeks several of our guests have been aphid bird watchers. This week’s sightings included Rock Ptarmigan cuvees, a golden eagle, and the abundant gulls, jaegers and terns. Teal, Pintail, and Wigeons have been common at the estuaries while the Whooper Swans and Bean Geese have been spotted on their nightly flybys. In addition, the wildflowers appear to be giving it one more burst as the bright days have brought out a spectrum of colour across the tundra.
Fishing in August should be fantastic as the summer salmon begin to slow up and the ‘Mezheen’ (middle or between) run starts to enter. These are 10-14 pound (2 year) hen salmon and are the precursors to the mighty fall run ‘Osemka’ fish. We are also anticipating next weeks opening of the Kharlovka National Park, Twin Junction, and the Third Waterfalls beats. Lots to look forward to!
In their words:
Having worked in the high Arctic of Canada for a season, and having skied across from the North cape of Norway to Bode on the Arctic Circle (through Finland and Sweden), and having fished from my youth in New Zealand, the Northern Rivers of Russia have been a lifetime goal for me – I have not been disappointed!
After Sunday supper, I went for a quick go in the home pool where I received a massive take and then a huge fish (by my standards) leaping and careering everywhere – especially downstream. I held it as tight as I dared but 100 yards of backing had gone before I waded ashore and a further 50-60 more went before I steadied the fish short of the next rapids. I slowly wound my real and self down on the 97 cm. cock fish which eventually weighed in at 22 pounds. What a finish to our first days fishing.
And then there was the Litza adventure where a giant fish came 3-4 times to my fly before slowly closing its mouth. I waited for the pull and then ? of a second later tighten, a huge surge and the battle was on. I held it as tight as I dared (not being trained on handling Arctic monsters) and for 20 minutes guided the fish between snags and boulders as it fought, leapt and struggled to get off. But getting round the big rocks meant I had to let out 10 yards here and 5 more there. Eventually it was 50+ away and intimate control was no longer possible. A final surge, a rock and snap – no fish – only memories of 25 minutes battling with the monster salmon (guide estimate at least 30 was at least pounds). Maybe next season!
Coming towards the end of a Kharlovka week, I will say nothing of the fishing for the others have said it all already. But I go home with many close up photos of the wild flowers which should earn brownie points with my wife who is very keen on such things and will no doubt identify them all. Then there are the birds, not the impressive ones like the sea eagles but the little brown and grey jobs. I’m pretty sure the one feeding on sorrel seeds by my hut was a Lapland bunting. There are so many LBJ’s about one can never be sure. Finally as an ex-military man, I can truly appreciate the super organisation that makes this such a well run operation ‘in the field’ (even if it is four star) and the slickness of the helicopter service. Plus, of course, the medical service for which I personally can say “thank goodness”.
Michael concludes with his version of the events on the upper Kharlovka;
Ascot for racing; Wimbledon for tennis; Henley for rowing. These names are the Mecca for their individual sport and synonymous with that sport. To these illustrious places can now be added Kharlovka for salmon fishing. I am lucky enough to fish all over the world and there is no question in my mind that the Kharlovka has proved itself to be the most consistently big fish salmon river anywhere. Yesterday I fished the waterfall pool with Justin, the camp manager. He and I go back several years and I have been with him in Iceland and another river in Russia. He is, in my opinion the best and most natural salmon fisherman that I have ever met and that includes my old friend, Hugh Falkus. (Please Hugh do not turn in your grave; if you fished with him you would agree with me!!) The conditions all week had been bad. The weather was more like the South of France and the river was low with a high water temperature (over 70 F) The salmon were loath to take any of our offerings. When all is doom and gloom I am a great believer in being unconventional. Justin and I found small backwaters where the salmon congregated whilst waiting to run the falls. In my bag I discovered some huge Red Francis Icelandic salmon flies. These are used in the gin clear waters of Iceland’s rivers where the fish can be seen and fished for individually. This practice I decided to try in the Waterfall Pool. I managed to spot a huge fish lying quietly by a rock. I cast the heavily weighted Red Francis (It looks rather like a small carrot!) well above the fish and let it come down in a dead drift. The fish totally ignored it. I cast again and the fish trembled. The third cast it butted it with its nose. By this time I was shaking with excitement and could hardly cast. “Come on.” I commanded myself, “You’re supposed to be a professional.” Again I flicked the fly above the fish and this time there was no hesitation. He grabbed it in a fury, turned and swirled away. I tightened and, after a considerable battle, landed him amongst the rocks. He turned the scales at over 25lbs. Using the same method I caught another 4 fish that morning: 2 of 20lbs, one of 17lbs and a small (!!??) one of 10lbs. Justin had one of 29.5lbs. Where else in the world could one achieve this? If I had been fishing in Scotland in similar conditions I would \have been lucky to have even had a tug on the line and would probably have spent most of the day in the pub trying to catch the barmaids eye!!
The Kharlovka Report – Saturday July 26th 2003
We were delighted to welcome 10 Americans, an Argentine, and a Swede to the Kharlovka camp on Saturday. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly our international guests bond into a team, all with the common goal of hooking the fish of a lifetime.
This week started out much the same as we finished the last, with a massive party. Unclear whether our new guests were challenged by the tales of the Irish and Scots last week or were simply very happy to be in Northern Russia amongst friends, the Americans, mostly New York Anglers, quickly set the social pace. One of our Russian guides made the comment “They sure seem to be enjoying themselves. They are the loudest group I’ve ever heard!”
Unfortunately our new friends arrived to heat wave like conditions. Although our rivers are located 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, air temperatures for the week ranged between 12 and 30 degrees Celsius which affectively brought water temps. up to 18 – 19.5 C. for the last five days. Bright sunny days accompanied by warm gusty southern winds made the going a bit more of a challenge this week. As a result we have been fishing with everything in the box. The most productive patterns remain small hitched tubes-flies presented on long leaders, however many a salmon has recently been taken on Bombers, Sun rays, and even 3 inch copper tubes.
While the current hot spell has made a noticeable dent in the snowfields a considerable reserve still remains. Water levels over the past week have steadily dropped at a rate of 2 cm. a day until Thursday night’s freak thunderstorm which brought the river right back up to where we started the week at 25 cm. on the home pool water gauge. This is of course great news for the anglers on the Kharlovka as the heavy flows coming off the falls will push the fish back into the upper canyons. Thus far, only a small percent of the most powerful fish have been able to negotiate the strong currents and 10+ foot leap required to move into the upper reaches of the Kharlovka drainage. Although large fresh fish continue to move into the lower river we are anticipating the August opening of Kharlovka National park and exploring the upper river.
The Current conditions have driven the Reindeer into great herds has they escape the insects in the breezy costal valleys of the Northern Kola. The herds are observed on a daily basis as the rods are helicoptered down the coastline of the Barents Sea to their beats along the E. Litza. Other sightings reported this week include Ptarmigans near the Snowbank pool on the lower Litza, a pair of minks snacking on salmon par near the Washing Machine pool and the loud ruff-legged buzzards hunting in the upper canyons.
Spey casting is all about beautiful loops and easy action, laying the fly out to a distance. Our Americans guests seem to be fascinated by it. Many an hour was spent this week refining our skills. Progress was clearly made as our team, despite the hot conditions have done fantastically well to reach 135 salmon landed with more than half the team recording personal bests.
The Eastern Litza with its big rocks and deep clear runs has fished fantastic all season. The word has obviously been spreading about our Litza ‘Hilton’ tent camp where Luba and Sasha have been charming our friends on a nightly basis. As a recent visitor Peter from Moscow put it “What could be better than a 20 pounder with your eggs Benedict!” This was not only Peter’s first salmon but the first time he’s ever been fly fishing.
Indeed the art of casting seems to depend on skill, innate feeling, delicacy of touch and sometimes a bit of luck! Wednesday morning Andy or ‘Carolina’ as he’s referred to around camp rolled a perfect first ‘set up’ cast, no more than 20 feet, into the shallows of the Spawning pool on the E. Litza. With great precision his Swedish fly, named Perfection, landed in the mouth of a 110 X 65 cm. cock fish weighing 35.8 pounds. The battle which ensued was equally amazing as Andy’s line never seem to be pointing where the fish was jumping. How he landed this giant we’ll never know.
Other E. Litza achievements this week include Lars’s performance with his Swedish fly selection on the upper beats where he landed 11 fish averaging 16 pounds. Pat and Steve’s Litza falls adventure also deserves mention where in addition to a three hour nap, 11 more salmon were landed including a 24 pound personal best taken on a bomber. Let us not forget Tom and Tucker who had their chances as they said ‘Das-Vidanya’ to three 20+ pounders which escaped out the back of the Litza falls rapids. New camp rule – Never give them backing!
The Kharlovka was not to be outdone for there were many epic battles here as well last week.
Early on Tom and Vasili set out for ‘the rock’ in the middle of the rapids on the tail of the Kharlovka falls. After countless fly changes, the deadly green bomber came out resulting in a 45 minute contest with a monster. Vasili, without his net close by, skilfully tailed a great salmon in mid run which was measured at 107 X 60 cm. and estimated it to be just over 30 pounds. Upon returning to camp the guide commented on how lucky they were they didn’t have to swim down to Guy’s pool in pursuit it! Tom couldn’t have agreed more.
Carlos also enjoyed ‘a morning on the rocks’ at the Kharlovka falls pool that neither one of us will soon forget. We arrived to witness a good number of large salmon showing but for reasons beyond our understanding they were ignoring the normally lethal skated fly. Trial and error led us to a big white bomber and eventually to an upstream-dead drift presentation. For approximately two hours we thought we had found the answer as Carlos proceeded to loose five big fish on the trot. After some strong words about what to do when the fish eats it, he proceeded to set the hook on the next three as if he were bass fishing’ landing in revenge a 24, 22, and 18 pounders.
On Thursday night Lars arrived back in camp but instead of his normal routine of showering before dinner he went straight for the bar. Concerned, I rushed over to hear his story. Lars had that 1000 yard stare! He said it went 50 meters up then 200 meters down, jumping all the way! With both hands above his head he shouted, “It was 40+ pounds and silver – truly the fish of my life!” This story was confirmed by ‘Big Alex’ as the fish was eventually lost when it left the bottom of Guys pool on its way down into the bottom of the Upper Canyon. Lars proudly made up for the big lose on the last day by landing a 34 pounder in the Dream pool.
Even success on the Northern Rivers has its limits. As many of our guests this week will agree it is the lost fish that stay longest in our memory and seize our thoughts whenever we look back. Even the best of fish when landed will someday be forgotten, but it’s the stubborn fish that after a mad battle, has beaten us and left us shaking with adrenaline, is hooked and lost again in many a story to come.
THE KHARLOVKA REPORT – Week Ending Saturday, 19th July 2003
Fishing is as much about anticipation as action and another full house of American, Scottish and Northern Irish rods arrived in camp wide eyed and stoked on tales of previous escapades on these mighty rivers.
They were not to be disappointed…
Weather conditions fluctuated widely over the week with air temperatures between 9.9 and 23.2 degrees and water similarly moving between 13.8 and 17.2 degrees. We had everything from baking Sun to torrential rain and all variations thereof. On the 18th July the river rose 15cm as a result of Thunderstorms and today July 19th is running at 29cm on the gauge a fabulous summer height. There is still so much snow on the tundra that it is likely to last all year and water levels will never be an issue.
Fresh fish some of considerable size continued to enter Kharlovka and Litza throughout the week and 20 fish exceeded 20 pounds with 3 over 30 pounds for a weeks total of 239. Fish were at times very susceptible to surface offerings and the hitched fly resulted in some spectacular action. Some fish jumped clear of the water and engulfed the fly as they re-entered, a technique that somewhat nullified the strike and non-strike debates around the table.
A considerable head of fish is now holding below Kharlovka Falls but the continued high water levels are maintaining an effective hydraulic barrier with only the very largest fish holding station in the main torrent pool. As soon as the level drops to around 15cm fish will run opening up the fabulous wilderness fishing on Upper Kharlovka. We are keenly anticipating August fishing on the top beats of a similar calibre to last year with the usual stock of big fish well spread throughout.
Highlights of the week have included 75-year-old Ted grimly battling a 20 pounder on a single-handed rod at Kharlovka Falls. A story that lost nothing in the retelling courtesy of Philip.
John’s “wee frown” as yet another huge fish threw the hook on his much loved Eastern Litza, “What am I doing wrong?”
Rory and Trevor jointly entertaining during light lemonade of an evening, was Elvis really that bad and is thumb wrestling still in vogue?
The soon to be legendary Litza Lockdown where two full teams tested Tent Camps hospitality suite overnight (courtesy of heavy fog).
Andy backstroking down Home Pool (Why is there always an indiscreet witness?)
And of course Michaels thirty two pounder from Julian’s and the resulting “one thousand yard stare” at Dinner a private privilege to those who have tangled with serious fish.
On the nature front large concentrations of Reindeer are beginning to build closer to the coast as mosquitoes multiply on the lower Kola Peninsula pushing them North. One herd of several thousand animals took 30 minutes to pass buy Kharlovka Camp. A beautiful golden bear is resident in the vicinity and the birdlife is still spectacular with skeins of bean geese passing high overhead each evening.
This week we had a party of true fisherman on true fisherman’s rivers and therefore proper appreciation and due reward were the results and one can only marvel at the continued capacity of the rivers to recognise steady application of effort. The majority of the party again caught their largest ever Atlantic salmon, a tremendous achievement!
THE KHARLOVKA REPORT – Week Ending Saturday, 12th July 2003
As the Kharlovka and Eastern Litza rivers moved into Summer we waited with bated breath to see if we could follow up on the previous weeks outstanding fishing. Not only did we sustain this but our happy and sociable group exceeded it despite a days delay in starting due to fog at Murmansk.
Our experienced team of English, Spanish, American and Irish rods went to their task with vigour and 10 of the group exceeded their previous personal best Atlantic salmon. Particular mention must go to Nico who battled and landed an awesome fish of 40 lbs in Lower Canyon, Kharlovka. The fish was a fresh run hen with dimensions 117cms long and 58cms girth taken on a Temple Dog tube fly and ably landed by “Big Alex”.
Other fish of note other than above included 35 fish over 20lbs and 6 over 30lbs. The total catch for the team was 285 fresh fish for the 12 rods.
The activities of Pedro and Jaime were closely followed by their fan club at home (Eduardo). Bob, Skip, Brendan and Leigh showed that rock hopping and mountaineering skills have not been forgotten on the East Coast whilst James and Robin were treated for severe Eastern Litza fever for which there is no known cure! Old hands Nico and Sue and Dick and Jim ploughed their usual furrows showing us all how to do it with style when it really matters…
Over the course of the week the air temperature fluctuated between 5 and 22 degrees and the water between 7 and 12 degrees. This led to anglers following the fish up and down the water table with everything working from 3 inch Sunray Shadows on sink tips to size 12 Green Butts half hitched on the surface. Fresh fish of all sizes have continued to pour into the system and both rivers are fishing at full steam from the waterfalls to the estuaries. Latterly this week a significant grilse run has developed on the Eastern Litza and these exciting fish are giving great sport to our light gear aficionados with the recognition as always on these great rivers that a thirty or forty pounder may be only a skated fly away!
A substantial number of fish are now resident in Waterfall Pool on Kharlovka and given the correct combination of water level and air temperature we expect to see the first of our big fish testing the falls any day now. We still have a substantial snow bank and are assured strong water levels until the seasons end in September. Our expectation is for small flies and light lines to come to the fore in the coming weeks and better than even chances for some monsters in the reduced flows and more manageable fighting conditions.
The wildlife are catching up on the late start to the season with young everywhere on the tundra. Sightings this week included unusually a cow Elk (Moose) with 2 calves on Upper Litza and another Wolverine encounter this time on Kharlovka. Many remote lakes now have resident pairs of Whooper Swans and Pomeraine and Long-tailed Jaegers with their Tern like flight are common sweeping the open ground for careless lemmings and other small creatures.
A RYNDA RECORD – 7th July 2003
It is much easier to find happiness at the “Three Rivers” if you have fished some of the more prolific rivers. Then when you come here you have developed a reasonable degree of skill and, more importantly, know that catch numbers are not an enriching experience. It is companionship in beautiful natural surroundings combined with the pursuit of one of the most exciting adrenaline producing sequence of events known to man. The finding, hooking, playing and finally landing a serious salmon by fly in interesting heavy water followed by the tale to be retold amongst friends. But even this can be overdone if you catch half a dozen or so in a day. What really keeps the magic going is the chance of something “great” or dare one even think about something “awesome”.
We say here at Rynda that a “nice” fish is 15 lbs+, a “good” fish is 20 lbs+, a “serious” fish is 25 lbs+ and a “great” fish is 30 lbs+. At Kharlovka & Eastern Litza they will say the same except that hitherto they alone have been able to boast of “awesome” fish of 40lbs+. The Rynda record was set by Mark last August with a “great” fish of 37 lbs taken from Peter’s Pocket. Rynda, the most beautiful and interesting river in the world, is now in the “Awesome League”.
Today Monday, 7th July 2003 the record was broken by Peter with a fresh cock Atlantic Salmon of 42 lbs measuring 117 cms (46″) by 65 cms (25.5″). It was taken in Norway Pool on an original Brown SunRay Shadow given to him by Ray’s son Mark from the Laerdal. The salmon did not rise to the fly it came out of the water and attacked it in the middle of the pool so that we knew it was well hooked and at least a “great” fish. Kola Lite guided a shocked Peter through a thrilling one hour battle whilst Lawrence enjoyed the whole performance. With difficulty we managed to confine the fish in a shallow bay whilst Kola crossed the river to retrieve net and scales. It was weighed with difficulty four times to our total amazement when each time the scales hovered around 20 kilos with net. None of us had ever seen anything like it. Truly “awesome”!
This fish is the record fresh run silver salmon caught by fly on the “Three Rivers”. The event follows the extraordinary feat of Martin on Kharlovka last week who caught and landed four fish averaging 28 lbs (40/30/28/18) in an afternoon on the same fly given to him by Peter. The record for the biggest fish at “Three Rivers” was set by Adrian last August at 47.5 lbs at Flatstone on the Litza. We are now waiting for some lucky person to take the first 50 pounder. It is likely to be well over 4 feet in length!
Since the beginning of July we have been averaging about 40 salmon and grilse a day at Rynda with the five best at 42, 32, 30, 29 & 28 lbs. Kharlovka & Litza are doing even better with three 40 pounders and numerous 30+ fish as you will see in the weekly report. Last week the “Three Rivers” took 512 salmon and grilse and they will do even better this week. After the three day Arctic Summer the weather has settled back to air temperatures of 5/8°C in the morning with the water varying between 10 & 12°C. We still have a snow bank so that the rivers are at a nice height. Simply great fishing conditions allowing for the best July fishing ever. It will be yet another record year.
THE KHARLOVKA REPORT – Week Ending Saturday, 5th July 2003
After one of the coldest and most uncomfortable days fishing on Sunday we jumped from the depth of Winter to the height of Summer in only a few hours. This incredible transformation meant a rise in daytime temperatures from around 4°C at the beginning of the week to nearly 30°C from Tuesday to Thursday. Thankfully that evening it then dropped like a stone to around 8°C for the final two days. Water Temperatures rose steadily from 7°C to 15°C and the river level remained steady all week due to snow melt.
Due to these extreme conditions we only had one day to contend with sinking lines before changing entirely to the surface even using hitched flies and bombers. Martin had a day most fisherman can only dream about on Sunday landing four fish reading 40, 30, 26 and 18 lbs all from Guy’s Pool on the Kharlovka. His secret weapon was the Sunray Shadow. Unfortunately for me he did not keep it secret for long and a serious supply of Sunrays were distributed to most rods the next morning. That day 35 out of 40 fish took the Sunray! Hugo has his fish of a lifetime also on Sunday. Whilst dealing with the last of the kelts in Julian’s he landed a 35 lbs plus cock fish covered in sea lice. Then on Thursday Ian came in with another huge fish of 40 lbs this time from Island Pool. It is wonderful to see that these great fish are still running our river. You would normally expect the large fish to be caught in the waterfalls by now. I am sure with a little more luck more fish of this size would have been caught but, as normal, they bent hooks and broke lines whilst heading off for the Barent Sea!
Despite the Caribbean conditions we recorder the huge total of 250 for the week.
Saturday, 28th June 2003 at Kharlovka
Summer has still to arrive! Considering the cold conditions this weeks multi-national rods have done fantastically well to reach 168 fish landed. Sunday brought a glimpse of warm weather when the air temperature reached a pleasant 13°C only to be shattered the next morning by 5-6°C which lasted the rest of the week. The water reached a temporary high of just over 8°C, fell to 6°C and is currently 7.5°C. Due to the lack of wind general conditions out on the rivers was comfortable.
As a result we are still fishing mainly sinking lines and large tube flies although intermediate tips have produced good results also. Temple Dogs, Thunder & Lightening and Comets have attracted the majority of fish.
Eastern Litza is now fishing its entire length right up to the waterfall and as usual is producing many fish in the twenties. The Duke had an incredible day on Litza hooking and loosing five serious salmon at The Waterfall. He then landed his largest fish ever of exactly 30 lbs in Upper Tent Pool. Just 10 minutes prior to that from the same spot he lost one that Valentine clearly saw to be over 40 lbs. At 77 years of age a truly great sportsman and inspiration for us all.
Yet again Home Pool at Kharlovka proved to be the best. Volodya had his usual Camp Manager’s hour on Saturday afternoon and landed three fish of 23, 22 & 16 lbs. Craig had a Wednesday morning with 5 fish up to 30 lbs. Francois caught the fish of the week and of his lifetime when he struggled with and eventually succeeded in landing a 35 lbs salmon from the “Big Fish Spot” in Home Pool.
Stop Press: William & Bill, the Duke’s minders, have just returned from Litza after overnighting with 15 fish up to 24 lbs. This morning Craig conquered Guy’s Pool with a fresh male of 31 lbs.
Kharlovka Days by Roger and Julian – 22nd June 2003
Someone should set up a tackle shop here in the wilderness – over the week we broke 4 rods, destroyed 3 reels, numerous lines & tips (luckily we had big Jim of Rio fame to replace the lines) and we got through enough flies to make us all have to rush off again to the grown up boys toyshop.
It is not all downside though – between our multinational party we landed 115 salmon of which 4 were over 30 lbs and 35 were between 20 & 30 lbs.
Finally we found a new pool – Big Mac – after it produced 3 fish of 35/30/19 lbs.
Good crack – Hope to see you next year!
End of Week Report – Saturday, 21st June 2003
An incredible day on Thursday saw 27 fish landed and numerous tales of losses. Home Pool came up trumps when Kristian broke his 30 lbs barrier with a beautiful sea liced male and Julian caught a 35 pounder from the newly christened Mac?s Pocket on Litza which earlier in the week yielded a fish of 35 lbs by John. The Waterfall finally came a live for David when he caught 7 fish for the day and opened our seasons accounts on Guy?s Pool and Upper Canyon below. Friday produced similar results which proves what we thought regarding a slight increase in water temperature encouraging the fish upstream.
We ended the week with a magnificent 115 on the back of far more pleasant fishing conditions. The wind abated and the temperature reached the dizzy heights of 10°C one afternoon allowing the river to rise to over 7°C and only dropping 7 cms through the whole week. Next week we hope to open the upper part of the Litza and get down to some serious fishing business. The Litza Waterfall and Flatstones should hold some huge fish now and I hope to report on someones fish of a lifetime in a few days.
Great Fishing at Kharlovka and Litza – 18th June 2003
Spring is slowly arriving. The buds are now on the trees and will be in full leaf when we get a couple of warm days. The fish have sensed this too. Kharlovka is now fully open from the waterfall to the sea.
Our first sealiced fish were landed up there by Roger on Sunday. Being slightly later, the downstream beats on Litza are now producing great results with the entire river probably opening within the next few days. Air temperature has crept up to 9 degrees, the chilly winds have disappeared and the water temperature is approaching 7 degrees. All this has lead to a notable increase in fish numbers and catch rate. We have had an amazing twenty two bars of silver weighing over 20lbs so far, most of which are covered in sealice. Homepool is again proving to be the best Atlantic salmon hotel in the world.First of all Roger (27lbs), then Curt (26lbs) and yesterday Richard (29lbs) were fortunate enough to experience its five star service.
Not to be outdone, Litza served up John with a 30 pounder followed by Curt with one at 32. With two days of the week to go our total is at 66 and with the Barents sea monsters still arriving there could be some titanic battles yet.
Kharlovka report for the week of 7th – 14th June 2003
Settled weather is not normally what you would expect in the Kola Peninsula. Generally no two days are the same. Unfortunately last week it settled down to freak cold conditions. We have rarely seen temperatures creep above 4°C with a northerly wind bringing in occasional light snow in from the Barents Sea. As is to be expected the salmon have been reluctant to enter the river and slow to respond with water temperatures between 4 & 5°C. The water level is excellent and will remain so for a good proportion of the season because of the snow bank spread around the tundra.
Volodya has been the start of the show showing his local knowledge by coaxing a sea liced 35 pounder out of Home Pool. Mikael and Julian both lost fish of this size also in the Home Pool. In Mikael’s case it broke his 40 lbs leader and he is quite clear it was the biggest fish he has ever hooked here. John and Colin also proved how difficult it is to land these Russian submarines when they returned to camp shaking their heads.
Of course most of the fish have been taken in the Lower Kharlovka but in the latter part of the week they were moving closer to the Waterfall. It was sad for the departing anglers to note the temperature rising passed 8°C as they left and to know the whole lower system will fish next week. Eastern Litza is slightly later than Kharlovka but, to the writers good fortune, showed promise with a 28 pounder covered in long tailed sea lice from Military Pool on Monday following the loss of another large at Tent Pool.
In these cold conditions fishing has been slow and testing but we landed 38 fresh fish and hooked as many that “got away”. The largest proportion have been around the 20 to 25 lbs mark resulting in an average of about 18 lbs.
We could do with a spell of warm weather to bring in the fish and please the fishermen. It is too early to say for sure but we have every reason to expect a good season.
Kharlovka report for the week of May 31 – June 7 2003
34 salmon to 10 rods, five biggest: 35, 30, 29, 28, 27 pounds. Average weight was just under 19 pounds.
As I write these lines from the Kharlovka Camp Lodge on Friday evening, four rods are still out fishing. We just sent a helicopter down with a late picnic dinner for them. Such are the enchanting powers this river applies on it’s visitors- it is ever so hard to reel in and call it a day….
The week has been a tough, mainly cold and to some extent also a testing event. The river has been moderately high but very cold with water temperatures going from just under 2 to about 3.5 degrees Celsius in the mornings. In spite of the cold water it started off in magical way when David, of Irish fame, came back on the Sunday with fish of 18, 35 and 30 pounds from Julian’s. All so fresh that there was a salty smell about them. David broke his personal record twice that afternoon. No less than 5 out of 9 rods raised their personal bests.
On the Monday our two David’s sampled the lower Litza and had one fresh and sea liced 20 pounder from the Reindeer with a cracking 28 pound Osenka to follow it. On the Kharlovka Anders and Ian had nice fish from the lower Pools.
Tuesday was slower with only some unusually small fish, all 10 pounders, caught. Brian had his first Russian salmon. Three were caught in all, with an additional 18 pounder expertly caught from the Island.
Wednesday saw a shift in the weather with milder winds and rise in the water temperature. 7 fish were caught of which Anders had an impressive brace in the Barrel of 27 and 24 pounds. I was lucky to get a 29 pounder from the same pool earlier in the day. Ian, one of the David’s, and Andrew also had nice fish.
Thursday was Neil’s and Ander’s day. They had a brace each with fish of 22,14 and 26,16 pounds each, all from Julian’s and the Island. Two osenkas were caught at the Litza.
Friday. Andrew just returned with a happy face after having landed a 24 pounder down at the Island. Ian had an equally large fish from Rock Pool where Gary later got a 22 pounder from this bank to add to his nice fish from the Barrel earlier in the day.
All in all the rods have worked hard to be rewarded with fishing of a kind that looks bleak only when compared with the two previous opening weeks here on Kharlovka. The late spring and with cold winds, icy water and even some snow would have killed all fishing in most other places. The big fish are here again and the first few days of warmer weather will reveal how many they are. I sense that the records will be broken again – in 9 years out here I have never seen the fish return in a more round condition. Fish of 101 cm weigh in at 29 pounds – that is an enormous condition to a salmon. “Big fish” David caught a 48″ (forty eight inches) kelt below the island. That must have been a +50 pounder when it arrived last spring, if it was in anything like the condition of the fish we have seen this week. It makes one check the leader for windknots a bit more often….
The camp is very active indeed. The new houses are underway and I am impressed by craftsmanship and speed alike. I think all of you that will come from now on will be equally impressed. Olga and the rest of the kitchen staff are turning out fantastic food that kill all ambitions of loosing a few pounds when out here. The guides are “on” as usual – in short: It is with great comfort I turn the camp manager’s keys over to Neal tomorrow. Thank you Kharlovka for adding another great week to our lives!!
PS. When doing the final editing of this report at Saturday noon I can see how “Big fish” David is fighting a big fish the other side of Home Pool. (it turned out to be 26 lb) The Kharlovka Company’s private Stockholm-Murmansk flight is fantastic – rather than leaving camp in misery at dawn we all can fish for an extra half day with full helicopter service to then leave the camp in style after a good lunch. Superb! DS
1st June 2003 – Opening Day on Kharlovka:
This year the first super fresh silver salmon on Kharlovka were taken by David in Julian?s. He was happy enough to land the first fish at 18 lbs, extremely excited to take another at 30 lbs and was then shocked and exhausted after landing his third at 35 lbs. What a wonderful achievement for the opening and all accomplished through a light snow blizzard with air temperatures ranging 1 – 3°C during the day and the water rising from 1.5 to 2.8°C. Meanwhile Anders successfully opened Litza with a beautiful 18 lbs fish out of Snow Bank having lost one of about 35 lbs. Full reports will follow at the end of the week. We just wanted you to know that despite the recent cold spell both Kharlovka and Litza are officially open for some serious business. The forecasted air temperatures are up to 6°C Monday; 10°C Tuesday; 12°C Wednesday; 6°C Thursday & 9°C Friday. That is just about right – It would not do to spoil everything with a major flood.
There was great excitement at Murmansk Airport on Saturday when our first flight came in from Arlanda, Stockholm. Everything went off perfectly and the first Kharlovka guests had a good time. They kindly allowed us time to enjoy with them an airport champagne party. Hugh came in for the day along with all his new chums and supporters from Stockholm airport and nineteen very large bags! The authorities knew we were responsible for starting a new dimension for tourism in the Kola and attended in force. There was a wonderful air of celebration throughout the airport. The Heads of Murmansk Airport, Customs, Immigration & Murmansk Mercantile Port all came for what was a double celebration because it turned out 1st May 2003 was the 65th Anniversary of the Murmansk Region. Of course one of us felt obliged to make a suitable speech.
Tuesday, 27th May 2003
We visited Kharlovka Lodge yesterday to find a beehive of activity on the re-building programme under the general direction of Voldya and Litza Vassily. They are being very clever about it to minimise our inconvenience and we think you will be pleasantly surprised. After a good lunch with the workers we set off to look at the water which was 0.5°C.
Unlike Rynda, the Kharlovka River was not in flood. It is a highly fishable very full river. Of course both rivers are now the subject of the general air temperature but the Rynda (see Rynda page) is more about its lake system whereas the Kharlovka is more to do with its snow bank. The flat area (below the steps where the helicopters land) is completely covered with only a shallow stream of water and one can fish Home Pool by wading out to the grass bank. We were just able to land on the island at Island Pool and all around there is highly fishable water. From the air Barrel, Rock and Julian’s all look perfect.
In summary water conditions are ideal for spring fishing on the Kharlovka and will remain so for the first guests as long as we are not hit with a prolonged heat wave which would cause a flood. The mid-day air temperature today, Tuesday, is 11.0C the water temperature has risen to 1.2°C. The weather forecast looks good. The snow bank is about 20% better than last year and, fingers crossed, it will be a good June fishing.
We will start to test fish tomorrow Wednesday 28th May. Last season the first salmon was caught by Dima at Julian’s on 29th May.
At Last the Season is Upon Us 15th May 2003
Things are looking good for another great season. The important factor for salmon runs is the continuing slow but steady rise in the sea temperature. Meanwhile we have the best snow bank for five years with many days of temperatures over 10 degrees C behind us with the forecast of more to come. We expect the ice to break in the next few days and it seems certain we will open with the first 10 rods on 31st May so that the “fishing guarantee” will not be required this year. These first fish are in amazing condition. Last season the first three weighed 29, 26 & 30 lbs and each one took over an hour to land. In fact the 26 lbs fish entertained Jamie for 1:50 hours but we think he was going for an endurance record!
The Fishing Managers will try to keep you posted through the website on the fun and games through the season. They are at Kharlovka Per for Week 23, followed by Niall for Weeks 24, 25, 26 & 27 and then Justin for the remaining 10 weeks. For the 7 week season Tim will manage Kharlovka Park. Kola Lite will be Fishing Manager at Rynda through out the season. PCP will be in residence at Rynda all the time, popping over to Kharlovka from time to time to make sure you are all happy and in one piece. Gordon will come and stay with us for 5 weeks. Finally Hugh will come over for two weeks to continue his fishing lessons otherwise holding the fort at Eynsham. All of us are always on the email.
We are already in camp getting things ready for you. This is the year of the big building programme. There will be 10 new single cabins and 2 new double cabins all with their own bathrooms. Per has thought of every detail for your (and his) comfort with armchairs and heated cupboards etc. – All quite ridiculous in the middle of the tundra. You can see his layout drawings in the new “Fishing & Living” page. We are really concerned about upsetting your harmony with all this building in such a confined space and we do hope you will forgive us for the odd inconvenience. We have brought in Vassily of Litza to supervise the project as, apart from being a miner and bear hunter, he is also a master builder. The old cabins have already been helicoptered to the side to make way for the new which will be completed at the rate of one a month, starting beginning of July.
There will be many new faces this season with a full house in all programmes. 190 rods at Kharlovka, 158 at Rynda and 79 on various wild brown trout tented programmes making a total of 422. Through the Kharlovka Park project we will be roving over some 1.5M acres giving us control of poaching way beyond the traditional salmon waters. The concept of ownership is not really valid in these parts without control, authority and presence.
We have a long waiting list for next season and some promises have to be fulfilled. At the end of each week during the season we will ascertain with you who would like to return in 2004 and fairly soon afterwards make up the final composition of rods for 2004. It is important that you indicate your desires to one of us before you leave or otherwise accept we must give others an opportunity to come in.
Moving away from the agency world to operate as a private estate has been an exhilarating experience. We have really enjoyed being in direct touch with you all. We love the “Three Rivers” which are our sole interest and we are dedicated to your happiness there. We are trying to develop a new and more efficient administrative approach but inevitably we have learnt from experience how things could have been done better. I am sure you will all agree that Hugh has done us a fine service but both he and I will look forward to constructive criticism in camp so we can make things better. The first flight of our jet will leave Arlanda as scheduled on at 12:20 hours on Saturday 31st May 2003 and we are all rather excited about this. Check in is the same as any other flight in a small Terminal 2 where you will see our Flight No. JZ7052 displayed like any other. The difference is that you just need a visa and passport to get on. The same goes for the SkyCity Hotel. You are expected. I suggest you check in early and meet chums in the bar one floor up inside customs.
Well that’s it for now. Victor and Volodya send you their best wishes. All the usual Russian staff will be in camp to welcome you after their “hibernation”. Here is to a fabulous season but let’s face it we will all be happy if it is as good as last year. I wonder whether this will be the year of the first 50 pounder.
See you soon – Peter