Kharlovka Fishing Reports 2005
Starting with the excitingly high snow pack reports of last winter – to our unseasonably hot early spring, leading to the rapid river run-offs – to our cloudy cool summer days including a record week of rainfall, taking the river up some 41cm – to the normally cold autumn conditions that never quite materialized until the very end – As usual, it has been a season of extremes here above the Arctic Circle.
With the last of the crazy weather now behind us, it has become very clear that Team Kharlovka has had a tremendous season. Hindsight (and of course the internet) allows us all the opportunity to look back and again savour those fishy days gone by;
Hundreds of Big silver moments, countless ‘life fish’ and P.B’s, broken fly lines and splintered rods, hooks failing, reels exploding, bomber attacks, boulder chases and the dozens of swimmers (hair wet!), bears – wolverines – and eagles, the Northern Lights displays, huge tundra browns – It is all, Magic for the senses. The Northern Rivers are undeniably the hottest ticket on the Kola!
This season the troops accounted for a very respectable 1413 salmon. The big fuss this year however, was that Team Kharlovka was proudly able to hold onto a hefty 17+ pound average through the first 466 silvery fish! Some 249 of these beauties were between 20 and 29 pounds – with another 39 of 19 pounds. In the serious to colossal category, while none of the dozen or so 40-50+ giants have been beaten recently, the boys (and girls) did manage to haul in 22 greater than ‘the big 30′. The ‘silver prize’ of the season must however, go out to Jason’s Litza and Chris’s Kharlovka – bright 38 pounders, which were both skillfully and unforgettably enticed by the deadly hitched Bomber.
It would not be right, to close the season without a last fishy tale or two, in order to tide us all over until the ‘Silver’ runs again;
There is always a bit of controversy when team Scotland helicopters into camp. I thought big brothers were suppose to take care of the family? Jamie and Andrew’s little sister, Morven, was in ‘Big silver trouble’ from almost the minute she arrived. Fishing with her trademark red ‘Poka-hauntis’ bandana, covered in luck, the young university student was quickly realizing why she had studied and worked so hard when she found her life fish coming to the net in the Litza Falls. Then for a final dose of satisfaction, Morven proudly hoisted her 21 pound sea liced hen above her head, as to be in plain view of her drooling brothers across on the far bank.
Fortunately the Scot’s story does not end here. Brother Jamie obviously hadn’t thought the consequences through. Bringing the little ones on a Big salmon adventure like this is bound to change their lives, turning them into addicts for life. After hearing their stories upon retuning from their camp-over, I’m afraid that there is very little hope for them now. In fact, this Scottish clan should be ashamed of themselves for pulling in those 16 Litza salmon, especially since 5 of them were fat silver Osenkas, with the one stretching Big Alex’s scale to a long tailed sea liced – 24 pounds.
It didn’t take our Norwegian friend Per long to get into trouble either. Within hours of being helicoptered into the Litza on his first night, Per’s green brass was soon being savagely attacked by a 30 pound Tent pool crocodile which was lying wait in the middle of the run. Three days later, after just releasing a ‘silverish’ 20 pounder back into the Classics, Per was again getting a serious beating from another angry heavyweight. Following a lengthy battle through the rapids below Snowbank, Per watched anxiously as his estimated 35-40 pounder splashed about at will – rolling over the nylon numerous times in the process. With Andre poised in perfect position with his net, the mighty salmon came within reach several times, refusing on each approach to lift its powerful head and be captured. After an undetermined amount of time, the inevitable finally happened as his #8 double hooks straighten, pinging free back at him. Not that any of us felt sorry for Per – For as we all know, it is always better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all!
We would also like to send out a special thanks to Jen’s (and the young Flekke) for keeping this team of Norwegian ‘poachers’ and Scottish clansmen on track throughout. To Phil – Johnny – Erik – Christer with their 20+ pound achievements. And finally to the brothers Jeff and Peter, who in memory of their mother, each had 20 pounders out of the same pool.
Normally Peter comes over for dinner with the Doctor on Wednesdays however, for the last 2 weeks he has shown up with a MI-8 full of Rynda guests and staff. Warm fire, spectacular view, music, BBQ, strong drinks and appetizers everywhere, good company and a lot of exaggerating – We’re talking Kharlovka house party! You would have to see it in action, to truly believe it, as we look forward to some serious entertainment with you all next year.
To conclude, we would again like to say ‘Bolshia Spaseeba’ to our dedicated team of some 60+ Russians who without question went out of their way to make this wonderful experience possible for us all. Now that your suites and our Saamii Indian BBQ teepee are finished, we are planning on redesign the main lodge for next season which may include an open fireplace and more thoughtful seating arrangements for all your late night misbehaviors. There will also be a few subtleties to the Litza tent camp, like gravity-flush to the “world’s greatest Loo.” Nothing on the Kharlovka ever stands still for long, just as we reach a plateau it is time to start climbing again. For the team here, as well as for many of our guests, we are already looking forward to coming ‘home’ again next year.
The Arctic season – Truly nature’s observable race against time. Both fisherman and wildlife alike, we all migrate here to enjoy the rewards of this last unspoiled wilderness. To be able to escape the boundaries of routine and return to this angling paradise is nothing less than therapy for the soul. As the land of the midnight sun prepares for a long winter’s sleep, it is time for us to depart and let nature takes its course. We remain dedicated to protecting these, the last of the wild Big salmon rivers. Under the close watchful eyes of our team of Special Forces, the ASR will now rest undisturbed once again, allowing these extraordinary fish to continue on their remarkable journeys.
From Russia with Love!
Kharlovka report – Weeks 35-36: 11-Sep-05
Sure is lovely Indian summer weather we’ve been having lately – Right? Beautifully bright autumn mornings superseding afternoon cloud with light isolated rains. For some two weeks now, gusty warm southern winds have held the daytime temperatures above 15 degrees mark. While millions of stars and the incredible Northern Lights now dance in the nearly 7 hours of Arctic darkness, our warm windy days have cancelled out any of the ‘cooling effect’ that our rivers would normally receive this time of the year. Even though it was to be followed by the clearest of days, we finally had our second hard frost of the season on the Friday late week. With just a few precious days left, our rivers are still running a warm 10 – 12 degrees. Basically, it has just been too pleasant here on the far north coast for the serious numbers lately.
Nevertheless, no matter what the ever – changing conditions are doing up here, with so many large fish in the rivers this year, there is always bound to be a few stories floating about the lodge each night.
Was it ‘Lady Luck’ or possibly the ‘pheromone factor’ again? While both of these may have played a part, the guides attributed it to their solid Spey casting skills, willingness to listen and their relentless desire to always beat the boys! With everyone on their best behaviour the previous week (a very relative term around here this year) Elaine and Janette went on to show us all how it was done, teasing 3 of the largest fish of the week to the net – all proudly weighed in the low 20′s. When asked about the freshness of these fish, the trio were said to have been ‘beautifully champagne pink with diamonds!’ All jokes asides, it was a true pleasure to have these sophisticated ladies gracing the duck boards of our remote salmon reserve.
Along with all the spectacular colours of the Arctic autumn there has also been a Bit – o – Silver around recently. Despite our warm river temps, there have been plenty of reports off the lower rivers describing small shoals of bright 15 to 40 pound multi sea winter salmon powering up through the system. Speaking of Power – just ask Big Dave who intercepted a cracking fresh sea liced beauty of nearly 20 pounds in the Litza pockets below the lower Tent pool. As the silver marvel rocketed about in the pool many of the other large residents clearly began to wake up. Before Dave left ‘the bucket’ that day, in addition to landing two more nice manageable ones, he also went several rounds with another silver nightmare that simply – wasn’t meant to be. Now tacked up on the wall, in the ‘close calls’ section above the bar, is Big Dave’s ruffed up piece of shorten nylon, which appears to have been sharpened to a point. See you again next time..
A more recent story in the works here mid week, was that of Peter’s grand opening for his new Kharlovka house, in which 50 of his close friends and family were all helicoptered in for the big celebration. After saying a few memorable words to christen the special occasion, three rockets were then shot over the home pool as Peter simultaneously went to cut the big red ribbon. Then as the cheering subsided, a voice shouted up from the mighty home pool below – It was Fish On! As if scripted, the early entertainment was to be provided by the boys of team Kharlovka as our new friend ‘Peter Colorado’ delighted the crowds with his very impressive 32-pound spectacle.
A honourable mention also goes out to the always-rowdy team Ireland of Ian – Billy – Sam – Bob – Paul and Gregory. There are occasionally a couple of rookies in the group that have never done anything like this before, who are on the ‘trip of a lifetime’ from the moment they arrive. Last week, those two had to be Paul and his mate Gregory (the snoring legend). Having lost their wading boots somewhere before the trip, these two showed up ready to take on the most challenging rivers in the world with their new replacement trainers. After getting these two properly sorted out, they went on to set a nice ‘fish or two a day pace’ through the rest of the week. Stop Press! On the final evening, Gregory and Paul came back having accomplished their ‘lifetime ambition’ recording a last 21 pound monster male and also a final 20 pound silver Osenka hen for the records.
And then there were the Kharlovka veterans of Ian and Billy. In addition to being one of the top team’s with Billy’s mid teen’s Litza – fresh – Osenka, along with Ian’s nearly ‘two fish a day streak’ including a Dream pool 20 pounder, in the end however, it was Ian who received the perfect 10 for stubbing his toe on a small lip and diving head first, with his rucksack on, into the Military pool.
As Bob and Sam will surely attest to – Never forget about the Pockets! While Sam had several nice ones for himself, it was his mate Bob that was giving out the lessons late week on the lower Litza. After pulling out 7 incredible fish out of the Reindeer Rapids using the same orange Pot Belly Pig, his guide Volodya then mistakenly flipped the chewed Irish luck charm into the river. Following a good ‘baullicking’ for his guide, Bob managed to scrounge up another red Pig, which unbelievably produced another 5 salmon including a 26 pounder to ice off the record day.
A Big Stop the Press! On the last evening Alistair came with fantastic tales of two straightened hooks along with the one that ‘did not get away’, which tipped Big Alex’s scales to the record fish of the week weighing in at a serious 33 pounds.
We would like to give special thanks to our friends, both new and old, who under the circumstances banded together as true gentleman and sportsman, turning the unpredictable conditions into a very memorable artic adventure! While the rewards can be extremely high here on the far north coast, no one ever said it was going to be easy.
With our last week of the season now upon us, the weather again appears to be changing. Winds have recently shifted seasonably over to the Arctic north finally cooling our rivers back down into the welcome teens. Chill the place down a bit more and then cover us with cloud and the rivers could explode! Stay tuned – for our big silver finish..
Kharlovka report – Week 34: 27-Aug-05
Oh – Mother Nature can be cruel sometimes! After a soggy previous week of slowly rising rivers, our latest band of wild Welsh arrived primed to camp, ready to take full advantage of the recent spate conditions. Unfortunately, before the weekend was over, unseasonably warm – dry winds (gusting relentlessly from the south at approx. 30km/hr) were dragging in a steady high-pressure system, along with bright sunny autumn skies – that would be with us for the remainder of the week.
Fortunately though, we had a very experienced team of merry Welshmen that had seen it all before. Making the very best of the challenging conditions, the team paced themselves nicely through the bright windy beats, returning each day thankful for their hard earned catch followed then, by hours of nightly song. As all the Russians here on camp can attest from the last couple of years with this group – What do you get when you have more than 5 Welsh fishermen present at the bar? A bloody misbehaving choir, that’s what!
Despite all the wind knots and smashed hooks, wind-burned faces, and afternoon tundra naps along the banks – Our old boys did exceptionally well again to manage 53 salmon. As always, the numbers only tell half the tale, for in addition to the multiple memories that everyone landed – 11 special fish were again over 20+ pounds. While there were a respectable number of beauties that made it into the net here over the recent days, an unnamed friend – starring down at the river summed it up best commenting, ‘My 20 pounders were truly great sport however, it was the silver 30+ monster which shot the rapids that seized my memory and stole my sole! These are the type of fish that keep you humble, honest and coming back for more.’
Tight Lines Danny, along with his fly tying master partner Mark, were back again for their annual Kharlovka adventure. Both landing salmon on nearly every beat, it was Mark who lost the first monster out the back of the Lower Canyon fishing a pattern called ‘the Element’, in which his 16 year old daughter hand tied to win the 2005 Welsh student innovation award. The next day it was Danny’s turn, where after pulling out a sweet 20 pounder from the Litza Secret pocket, he next decided to go for a swim down the ledge pool. Crawling up on the bank like a soaked Labrador, Mark and young Vasili shouted up from below “Don’t worry – We would have grabbed you on your way by!”
Mark, who was badly injured previously while in the line of duty as a U.K policeman, has never been one to back down to a challenge. That night while fishing the far bank of the Litza Tent pool, Mark’s Element was again swallowed up by something very serious. The difference this time, was the fish was over 30 pounds and bright silver! Unable to run after the bad guy any more, Mark was again standing his ground fighting for his life. With the looming rapids below, it soon became apparent to Vasili that this one was going to be too much for the retired, 18 stone cop. Handing the rod off like a baton, the young Russian was quickly in amongst the rapids freeing the line from the boulders. In the end, Mark was briefly reunited with his prize some 200m down at the lake. Standing high up on the rocks, they watched helplessly as the great salmon daisy chained, round and round in an eddy below. After an undetermined amount of time, the hook eventually pulled free. In the aftermath, it was Mark who had to consol Young Vasili, for as far as he was concerned – ‘Just having tasted something like that, was worth the price of admission!’ Although both Danny and Mark lost silver monsters that will never be forgotten, they were however, successful in the end, each landing a brace of hard earned 20 pounders.
Fish Tech Dale who has 40 years experience as a professional coarse and tournament trout fisherman decided to leave his bait at home and go in search for the ultimate challenge. After several humbling days in the wind to start, Dale was soon enough pulling in his first life changing salmon on fly, weighting in at an impressive 22 memorable pounds off the Upper Litza. The next day fishing the newly named Bach Pool (Welsh for small pocket) on the Lower Litza, Dale was again realizing what he had been missing out on when his 18 pound silver Osenka (covered in sea lice) came shooting out of the water. Once on the bank, they took some ten photos with his new fancy digital and like handling a large – strong bar of soap, not one of them really came out.
And then there was Lindsay who with 50 years of salmon experience claims to have seen the largest fish of his life on the Lower Kharlovka. With Peter present for dinner, Roger said, “Yes, there were a couple of great silver fish moving through but (pointing to the massive wood salmon carvings in the lodge) there is a dark cock fish larger than those down in the Julian’s pool! While the 50 pounder managed to elude Lindsay this time, he finished completely satisfied with whole experience including a manageable 22 pounder off the Litza Dream pool to tide him over until the next time.
Honourable mention deservingly goes out as well to the rest of the gang of Glyn, Roger, John, and Bob who all won hard fought battles with their 20+ pounders.
In addition to the big fish landed here last week, this team of veterans also gets our consumption award of the season. After being invited to the bin for a bottle count several mornings followed by multiple knocks on everyone’s door, eventually leading to a nameless fisherman’s four-minute kip during his short flight to the lower Kharlovka – We made a pact early on (to almost no avail!) that we would all try and control ourselves. No matter who we all pretend to be in the workplace – Boys will be boys when they come to camp! Speaking for the entire group, Roger said with his vodka glass held high – “What makes it special are the memories of the experience, hard work, camaraderie, the pursuit, and the team effort exploring nature at its finest!”
It’s that time again. The birch now shakes a green-highlander yellow in the long afternoon sun. Silvery fat Osenkas ranging from 15 to 40 pounds are beginning to crash their way up the Northern Rivers. We are expecting the Northern Lights display any time as the moon and stars now grace the dark Kola sky for the first time in more than 3 bright months. With only a few weeks left -Stay tuned for the exciting finish still left to come!
Last week 21 rods fished the Atlantic Salmon Reserve. 15 were participating in the ASR Youth Programme. 18 anglers landed their personal best ever. The largest salmon were 32, 31, 26 & 25 lbs. There are 46 young people participating in programme this season. The 20 oldest (av. age 28) are visiting Kharlovka and the youngest 26 (av. age 22) Rynda. As the tundra develops its autumn glory all of us are infected by the energy and enthusiasm of young people and share with them times of extreme happiness. If you want to join next season you need to read “ASR Youth Program” on this website and put in your application for the special weeks. Further, next year we will make available to regular rods a limited number of places in other weeks so that they can bring a sibling on special terms according to age on a rod & cabin sharing basis.
Kharlovka report – Week 33: 20-Aug-05
Under special invitation from Peter and the ASR our new friends, Gennadi and Elena, from the Moscow Fly Fisherman Club, were welcomed into camp last week for a brief yet memorable visit. Operating one of the largest fly fishing stores in Moscow (or in Russia, for that matter) spending nearly all of his free time pursuing his hobby as a fresh water biologist with his fly rod – It should be duly noted, that these two have an obvious passion for nature.
First fishing the Northern Rivers as one of the pioneer guests, some 14 years before, Gennadi had no trouble remembering his experienced guide Big Alex. Commenting on his opening day back in the river, “I’ve caught many nice fish over the years however, I’ve returned here looking for the One!” Before the weekend was over, it was of course ladies first as the outdoorsy Elena, with her sporting single-handed rod, succeed in dragging out a hard fought 23 pound new P.B. from the Litza Reindeer pool. The next day was Gennadi’s turn, fishing tirelessly to a rising monster up at the Kharlovka National Park. After the umpteen fly change, the Russian finally offered up a small irresistible ‘Red Butt’ and his long awaited battle was on! Zing – went the reel on his light tackle set up. As if the salmon had been resting for the last two months, the dark beast splashed about the pool at will. With Big Alex as his wading stick, Gennadi finally captured what he had returned for, weighing in at an impressive 31 pounds – 107 cm. By midweek, our new friends were being swept away again by Peter to enjoy the rest of this special northern reserve.
In addition to the touring Muscovites, were six excited ‘first timers’ to the Kola experience, including 5 keen young men along with Bryan, the more experienced Englishman. This team of new friends were promptly brought together tundra style, bonding very quickly over the weekend, as thick fog rolled up the Litza valley trapping the 3 groups in the big salmon paradise. Evening fog-ins at the tent camp, afternoon thunderstorms followed by a good soaking, slowly rising rivers, along with consistent brisk northerlies, were all the norm last week – as the arctic tundra adjusted to the rapidly changing conditions. Considering the cool temps and the amount of rain-mist-sleet that blew threw here, plus the fact that we only had half the normal number of rods working the beats, our boys did exceptionally well landing 53 salmon. Again the numbers don’t tell half the story, for more importantly were everyone’s quality moments that will never be forgotten. While there were a few extras that should have been in the net, which unfortunately resulted in snap-offs and the odd tear, most of the team managed to again improve on their personal bests.
An honorable mention goes out to Florian, the young German who along with Brian, his new west coast English mate of nearly twice his senior, together had no idea what to expect when they joined forces to take on our challenging rivers. After being ‘good and stranded’ due to helicopter grounding fog for two separate Litza camp-overs, which resulted in more than a dozen salmon – a new 22 pound P.B. for Florian – 2 broken rods – and a countless number of lost flies, these two eventually emerged from the extreme weather as friends for life.
And then there was Property Piers and Financial Andrew, the young Londoners on the move. Leaving the hectic big city life behind, Piers on only his first night in the Arctic was already pondering his career choices. Two days later, fishing his own hand made creations, he was dragging a 20 pounder out of the secret pool to tie his personal best. An expert at sealing the deal, Pier finished well going on to break his P.B. two additional times on the last day with his 21 and 22 pounders off the middle Litza. Meanwhile, his partner Andrew wasn’t doing all that shabby himself finishing off with a brace of P.B. – 18 pounders. Not sure if it was the dose of fresh northern air, the remoteness and stunning beauty of the tundra, or all the nice salmon they landed, as these two charged through the week enjoying every last second.
Both shaking their heads and mumbling at the same time, hard working Lancaster Lads Jonathan and Colin, were like two deer caught in the headlights, on their first trip to the wild north coast. After a few artistic snaps with the new digital camera to capture the breathtaking Litza Falls, Jonathan, thought right, ‘I’ll just have a little dabble with me fly here in the tail by the rocks’ – when whack! In his words “Up from the back lip launched an elephant. It came a meter out and the tail was still in the water! – Then sploosh.” (with a bit of spit). Remembering the tales from the dinner table the night before, about all the lines that had been lost down the falls, Jonathan instinctively held on for dear life. Meanwhile young Vasili, who had just gotten Colin sorted out on the far bank, immediately jumped into the dingy for an attempt to rescue the situation. Irritated with his special ‘side stain pressure’, the great salmon then shot the falls picking up momentum like a freight train down the swift currents. Faced with a million giant boulders before him, Jonathan stood his ground and decided to work the reel. 100, then 200 meters, finally the reel handle smashed into his black and blue finger a final time, snapping him off with ease down below. It was a classic case of – Das Vi Danya!
By midweek, all the excitement had finally taken its toll. With a tweaked lower back, Jonathan was forced to stay in camp on his final days, being nursed back to mobility by the Russians. One man down, Young Vasili and Colin picked up where his spent partner had left off, going straight back out with his own ‘magic fly’ (that does the trick) to break off another couple of lesser giants. Late one night around the bar, it was agreed by all that ‘You don’t deserve to land serious fish like that until you have first worked your way through the teens and twenties.” In the end, Colin was most humbly satisfied with his several new 14 to 16 pound P.B.’s. See you both again next year.
Above the arctic circle, Autumn doesn’t ask – It just arrives! Despite our sudden change of weather, summer foliage still dominates the tundra. Purple thistles, blue bells, and bright yellow flowers are but a few of the hardy left poised along the reindeer trails. While the silver birch will soon be golden, we are definitely well into blue berry time and with all the recent moisture, the mushrooms are now everywhere.
As well, there seems to be a noticeable increase lately in the activity of the local Arctic birds of prey. Early one morning, there was a Golden Eagle spotted feeding beside the Kharlovka water gauge. Later that same day, during some evening spey-casting lessons in home pool, a Gyrfalcon swooped across the run only meters above our heads. A pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles spotting along with a brave photographed Northern Hawk Owl on the middle Litza, Ruff-legged buzzards and Sparrow Hawks relentlessly patrol the upper cliff faces – Summer is over and the wildlife is clearly getting restless.
Kharlovka report – Week 32: 14-Aug-05
Not even the local Russians really have a clue what the far northern weather will do here next. After agreeing as a group over the weekend, that autumn has finally arrived – “You can smell it in the air!” – Monday then came around and we were back under the grip of record high pressure leading to additional week of Arctic Indian Summer. By late week, temperatures had topped out at nearly 30 sunny degrees and 20 in the warm rivers.
Driven by wild expectations of landing the ‘Big one”, with their sunburned faces, and knackered sore muscles, it was like they say, “Youth – springs eternal!” Last week 11 keen young anglers participating in the ASR Youth Program plus Roger, the fatherly voice of experience, all hit the reindeer trails, eager for that Russian experience of a lifetime. Giving it their best shot to fish and party around the clock, the team’s hard work and enthusiasm eventually paid off – leading to 95 salmon on the week along with scores of personal bests. Overall, it was an extraordinary social gathering that was far beyond the numbers.
Bear sightings, a enormous bright silver break-off in the Lower Canyon, salmon attacking bombers, Big Alex “towing me across the river by the scruff of my neck” – Team Kharlovka is plain and simply – a story factory.
Last week, it was a father-son ‘Dream trip’ for our new English friends Roger and Will. With more than 25 years salmon fishing on all the best British beats back home, Roger was simply flabbergasted from the very moment he set foot into this northern salmon wonderland. In awe of everything – from the unique flora and fauna, including our huge plentiful salmon, to the immense size of the ‘Russian gravels’, to their equally impressive guide, Big Alex – Roger simply never stopped talking the entire trip! With a vodka shot glass stuck to his hand, ‘ol Rog’ kept the young lads captivated nightly until well after the generator would shut off.
Before the first weekend was over, in addition to completing our Upper Litza obstacle course including two personal bests triumphs of 22 and 26 pounds from the fishy Flat Stone – Roger was already claiming to have learned more tricks than in a lifetime with locals back home. Every night he seemed to be breaking another P.B. – with his biggest, most caught in a day, best battle, most released, first on a hitch, and so on – and on! Fishing his own home made jobs such as the Q-tip and hair, that we promptly named the ‘Roger-Dawg’ or his other curious handed rigged ‘Orange car part’ with jungle cock, this old boy simply charmed us all. Yes, we know Roger, the vodka definitely does taste better and everything’s much bigger here in Russia’s far north.
With Dad chuffed to bits all the time, it was somewhat of a challenge for the young Will (or anyone else for that matter) to ever get a word in. Will wasn’t bothered in the least though, especially after landing his first sea liced 13 pound salmon ever on the fly. Following this first fish he said, “I just hope it would be sunny the rest of the week so I can get some great shots of the old man having so much fun!”
Honourable mention also goes out to our other four international youths travelling from Switzerland, Ireland and Wales. Now living in Geneva, Rene, who by trade has a serious eye for locating the precious gems, was back with us last week on his second trip searching once again for that prized Kharlovka Silver. Chipping away nicely through the week, Rene made the most of his Litza expedition landing 5 salmon that day including a couple of chunky 18 and 20 pounders. Stop the press! On the last cast of the trip, standing beside the Kharlovka home pool gauge, Rene, by his own admission, got shock of his life as he was dragged out the back of the run some 200m below. With great skill, the young man prevailed in the end, proudly lifting up his 105cm – 32 pound ‘life fish’ for the gathering paparazzi.
Thanks as well to the Swiss Michael, with his boxes of tasty chocolates for all, who managed to reel in a handful of smaller ones along the way. And then there was Damian who, with the luck of the Irish, seemed to come back with a bigger smile each session eventually finding his ‘pot of gold’ in the form of four good Lower Kharlovka salmon including 12 and 20 pounders on back-to-back casts. In addition to losing a great fish to an unfortunate broken hook, this young lad had the northern salmon lesson of his life. Fishing along with the Irishman last week was his Welsh neighbour Adrian, who is now our latest member of the Kharlovka swim team. After gaining confidence early on with a P.B. – 12 pounder, the young Welshman went on to average one good swim (yes – hair wet!) and nearly a salmon brace a day including the first official fat 18 pound 90 X 50cm sea liced Osenka – fall run salmon of the season!
And then there were the beer guzzling British Midlands posy of Brett, Simon and Roly. After a great day’s fishing, and with a little of help from the camp manager, this lot had no trouble emptying the top shelf of the cooler each night. While Simon, with his disintegrating waders and the family man, Roly, with the bright orange fishing cap, battled hard through the week with their guide Kola landing multiple nice salmon, it was Simon’s tundra green bomber – 17 pound sea liced beauty out of the Litza Falls that deserves that special silver notice. Equally keen with the pen, writing articles for T&S, as he was with the spey rod, Brett got his dream story on the Litza Dream pool with his old friend Dima landing his 24 pound P.B. on a severely tweaked #12 Red Butt. Then, for a bit more substance to add to his future article, he next hauled in a cracking sea liced 17 pounder a couple of pools later.
Due to some flight complications with their returns back to Copenhagen, Our Danish friends from the previous record week were delayed in ‘Kharlovka paradise’ over the weekend. Without an immediate solution and with extra suites to spare, Peter, who enjoys turning tragedies into triumphs, telephoned ahead inviting the young Danes to stay on free for another week. Literally speechless the ‘poachers’ went straight back to work. Using the few remaining giant surface patterns that had given them so many memories the cloudy week before, the Danes found the new clear sunny conditions to be much more challenging. Nevertheless, the deadly trio managed to put another couple dozen salmon on the books including additional 20+pounders for each before their last Chernobyl Ant finally died – ripped to shreds.
The subtle autumn signs are now everywhere – faint yellows and reds have started to appear, tundra berries and mushrooms are being gathered by the bucket load, reindeer are again disappearing to the south. With the dark of night quickly approaching to cool the season off, our large coloured salmon are beginning to get restless. The fishing report for the Northern Rivers remains very favourable as ‘Osen’ in Russian means Autumn, we will soon be pulling in the fresh highly prized ‘Osenka’ – Fall run salmon. Stay tuned!
This first August week could be considered the finest fishing week in the history of the Atlantic Salmon Reserve. 314 fish were landed by an average of 24 rods of which 7 were participating in the ASR Youth Program. This is exactly double the number of fish in the same week last year. Of even greater significance is that the total weight of fish landed was up 140% or 2.4 times as much. There were 36 serious salmon of over 20 lbs with the best five at 34, 32, 28, 28 & 27. The Northern Rivers Company is responsible for managing conservation and environmental protection in the ASR in association with Murmanrybvod and has the endorsement of the NASF & ASF. NR are six years into comprehensive 10 year salmon and wild brown trout program covering the entire watershed of nearly 2.0M acres. We share your excitement about the future.
Kharlovka report – Week 31: 6-Aug-05
Photo by Jens Lund Adamsen
Were you a believer? Never underestimate the mighty Kharlovka! Following a very soggy previous week, Mother Nature has recently smiled on us once again. Ooh – What a difference a few centimetres and degrees C can make. The very day our unlucky previous guests left, the river dropped 5cm on the home pool gauge and also cooled down a perfect 5 C, to our present temperature of 13 Celsius. Down 5 and 5 – that is all it took for our rivers to basically explode, providing our guests with a genuine late summer Bonanza!
Line burned fingers, broken reels, shattered hooks, multiple swims – It has been an action packed week of high drama here in the far north. Over the last 7 days, Team Kharlovka, comprised of 9 very lucky young men and women, manage to put the record week of the season on the books catching and releasing 148 unbelievable salmon along their exciting way. To put all this into perspective, in addition to more than a dozen personal bests (P.B.’s) that kept getting broken, the team had a huge week dragging in 28 serious fish larger than 20 pounds – two were in the 30′s. While the core team was only 9 internationals, there were 5 additional Brits that showed up late from other tundra adventures, eventually chipping 10 salmon into the cause.
Certainly no shortage of stories around here lately!
Photo by Jens Lund Adamsen
Back again with us on the Kharlovka was our favourite Scottish ‘family affair’ of Colin – Rosemary – Lizzy (20) and Edward (17) showing up with everything this time, except their half dozen lost fly rods! “Can you?” the father nervously questioned in the Murmansk airport. Everyone could lose all their kit and the answer would still be – “Yes – of course.” On the very first evening, it was age before beauty with Mom and Pop returning from the Litza Falls with 7 cracking opening salmon. With the pressure straight off, their early success included a personal best – 28 pounder for Colin and another 26 P.B. for Rosemary. From there on out, it was mostly Mom and young Edward with the hot rods, leading the clan onto a smashing 35 salmon before it was all over.
Maybe it was the pheromones? Or possibly it was the way “She fluttered her eyes at Big Alex” said Colin! However it was, Rosemary landed the three biggest salmon of her life in the mid twenties. While young Lizzy battled hard to the end, landing several smaller ones for her cause, it was her little brother Edward who, besides being more than a foot taller this year, certainly had some magic of his own. Along with showing up for breakfast later everyday, this young man managed to triple what he had caught the year before including a couple of new 17 and 21 pound personal bests. The moral of this story is – Never teach your wife and children how to fish, for they will no doubt soon become better than you! While there is no question that Colin is completely ‘Mad’ – he is also in serious trouble. The whole family is hopelessly addicted to salmon fishing – and now, only big ones will do! Don’t worry Colin, we will be saving your same suites for you next year. *** Stop press! On the last evening, the family returned shattered, yet still on speaking terms, from their Litza camp out, resulting in 7 additional fish for their revised total of 42 family salmon – including a record breaking 34 pound ‘pay back’ fish for good old Dad.
Also with us last week was our enthusiastic young British contingent of Simon and Ted. It is called the ‘learning curve’ up here for a reason. Back on his second trip, it appears that young Ted, who is a noble school teacher back home in the U.K., has learned his lessons well tricking twice as many fish to the net this year including a crowd pleasing – 1 meter long, 24 pound stunner out of the tail of the home pool. And then there was his partner Simon, who definitely has a serious case of salmon fever ever since he started fishing over a year ago with his 6 hard earned U.K. salmon. After finally giving up at midnight on the first day with 5 Kharlovka fish (nearly doubling his life total) including a new P.B. of 15 pounds – Simon eventually settled into the bar that evening – with that ‘This is where I belong!’ – look in his eyes. In the end, the young Brit nearly doubled two season’s effort on his local waters back home, upping his P.B. to a solid 20 pounds on the last cast of the trip. Bitten for life – Stay tuned, to hear what these young lads might have to sell to get back here again next season.
It is truly a great concept, how Peter has created the affordable young fly fishers program giving the under 35 fanatics the opportunity to enjoy – some of the finest salmon fishing on the planet. Last week our Danish twins, Anders and Thomas, the ‘fishing machines’, kept their unstoppable guide young Vasili on the move a relentless 18 hours a day. With their single handed rods, special Danish Jerks, Chernobyl Ants and Glenntana Spey flies, and also considering the fact that it took the last two years for the brothers to save enough ‘doe’ to get here – the two twins were quickly labelled as ‘double trouble’! Their big expectations were met with hard work leading to 30 summer salmon including more P.B.’s of 24 and 27 pounders. On their last Litza day, Anders nearly had his short rod ripped from his hand as an estimated 30 pounder dragged him 200m down out of the Snowbank pool eventually sending the young Dane to his back in the river (hair wet!) trying to catch up. After an undetermined amount of time including several backing wraps around the rocks, the obvious cock fish eventually broke him off only meters away from the bank. Skol!
Stop the press again! With less than one hour left on his fishing license Friday night, Thomas double hauled his Chernobyl Ant across the dark home pool waters. A few strips later and he was into 110 centimetres of pure Chaos! Fishing both banks, there were four other anglers in the pool at the time, everyone immediately reeling in to run down after the fleeing Dane, whose angry salmon had just shot out the back of the home pool. With some 200m of backing out on his single-handed rod, Thomas was sprinting to keep from losing it all. Banged knee and bruised shins – The pursuit finally ended in a side pocket approx. 600m below camp, adding one last 32 pound sweet memory to the list.
Honourable mention also goes out to our good friend Jens. With some 25 years experience including helping to create the FFF chapter – Denmark, this Dane understands what it means to fish with the best. With the equally talented Valentine at the helm, the team ripped through the week eventually gaining our coveted ‘Poacher’ status after returning from the Litza with their 10 fishy tales. By the time it was all said and done, the skilled Dane had tempted in four great 25, 22, 21, 21 pound memories and in addition, lost an ‘unmovable’ monster that will never be forgotten, following a lengthy tug-o-war battle above the Third Kharlovka Waterfall. Jens also gets our Big ‘silver-blue’ mention of the week, as one of his beautiful 21 pound Litza hens was covered in sea lice!
Special mention goes out as well to Andrew, Dermod, Jacque, and Julia who were out on the tundra most of the week camping, fishing, trolling and partying – not necessarily in that order. When the drink finally ran out and the last piece of salami was flipped to the camp mink, Peter decided it was time to give them a helicopter E – vac out to join the fun at Kharlovka. While the tundra adventure was said to be, ‘a magical – unforgettable experience’, coming back to our warm beds and hot showers, was definitely the icing on the cake.
This guy obviously has his priorities straight. Retired – has fly rods – yearning for adventure, Trevor has realized that life is short and is now searching for the ultimate challenge. When you sign up for 3 weeks a season with us, you are bound – to be granted a few ‘special favours’. Last week after landing several nice Rynda salmon including a 28 pounder with the camp manager from Reindeer crossing, Trevor decided that he would like to finish his week with a bit of Kharlovka – Litza. Under orders from above, I was then instructed to make his day on the upper Litza resulting in back-back-back 21 pounders including an additional fatty in the mid 20′s that straightened our size 12 secret. Who knows, maybe we will get Trevor back to the Northern Rivers for – 4 weeks next season!
Our condolences go out to our 3 diehard salmon rods Adrian – Michael and Karl who fished diligently through our warm rising rivers the week before. Hard to believe, what a difference a few inches – degrees can make. With the cooler autumn conditions quickly drawing near, we are understandably optimistic for every precious day we have left.
Stop Press: Monday, 1-Aug-05: Great news here! After one and a half days fishing with only 10 rods we are at a total of 43 salmon – biggest ones so far include 28, 26, 20, 25, 27, 23, and 20 – half of the team has already broke their personal bests. Rivers and temps are dropping.
Kharlovka Report – Week 30: 30-Jul-05
The weather game – We play it every day here above the Arctic Circle. All last week on the Kharlovka, it was Up – Up and away! Rising an average of 4-8 cm a day, our mighty river has come up an unbelievable 41 summer centimetres (16″). Think of the northern Kola tundra as a giant natural sponge – drenched over an endless boulder field, once it becomes saturated, it is all runoff. Never before has the home pool gauge come into such morning focus.
t is not hard to imagine, that a prolonged mid summer spate of this magnitude could present serious challenges. As the immense Kharlovka drainage filled up, many of the warm stagnate side pools along with noticeable amounts of suspended summer rock algae were added to the mixture, resulting in rapidly increasing temps and that darker, peaty coloured water. Before week’s end, the river was more than twice it’s previous size with a water temp of 20.5 degrees.
To put all this water talk into perspective, we started out the season on June 4th with a solid 68cm mark on the home pool gauge. Then after dropping to a concerning record low -11cm on the gauge the previous week, we eventually levelled out with a home pool reading of 30cm. Curiously enough, this was the same amount of water we had in the rivers, at the end of our second week of the season, back on June 16th! While this might have been just what our beloved salmon needed, with vast new amounts of fresh cover to now hide themselves in, it made any chance of hooking up – extremely difficult.
One of the many great things about operating with ‘The Salmon Eccentric’, along with three helicopters to range over this vast 2 million sq. acre Arctic wilderness, is that when the freak heavy weather blows out the lower systems, you still have a few million ideas waiting for you upstream. When the going gets tuff, ‘the Tuff’, jump in the chopper and start hunting for hefty tundra browns! Thankfully, due to multiple late business cancellations, there were only nine guests on the team last week. Even better yet, was the fact that our six American friends, with their tubes of single handed rods and boxes of trout flies, were primarily here to fish the untouched creeks anyway.
Leaving Wall Street behind – our East Coast American Trout posy of Harvey, Nick, David, Ladd, Harald and Dr. D. decided to do things the civilized way. Wide eyed rookies, fascinated by all things Russian, the boys were helicoptered all over the tundra only be brought back each night to their deluxe 4-star Kharlovka accommodations, with our hot food – regular saunas and most importantly, the Bar!
Instantly, there were emails being beamed home – “From Russia with Love!” With their Chernobyl ants, Hopper-droppers, Club Sandwiches and bead-headed everything’s – American leap-frogged – pool to pool down miles of virgin untouched Kharlovka and Litza tributaries. With the recent push of water, the fat naive northern browns never saw them coming. Nearly every day, the American’s came back all talking at once, with reports of 25-50+ fish each! The average size was said to be about 18 inches, mostly weighing between 2-3 pounds, with the largest stretching the scales to 7 and 9 pounds. In addition, an unfortunate Char found its way deliciously into the pan of one streamside picnic. By the end, and with Peter present, it was proclaimed by the lot to have been “The most exciting fishing adventure of their travelled lives.”
Even with two of the greatest salmon rivers in the world, left basically to split between our couple remaining salmon rods, with the rising warm coloured waters, the odds were stacked heavily against us. On the first day, towards the beginning of the deluge, Adrian, our reigning Litza record holder (47.5 lbs. – 2003) – managed to add another 30 pound Kharlovka monster to his ‘big fish list’ off the National Park beat. Honourable mention also goes out to our charming new German friend Karl, who with his faithful guide Volodya, battled hard to the end landing a handful of small silver ones and then losing an unfortunate ‘unknown’ around a rock on the last day. To be honest, with the relentless rising waters last week, overall the salmon fishing was simply – hard work! While all our guests, including the American trout bums, caught several nice salmon over the course (several of them their first ever) – sometimes it is more in the ‘adventure’ than the numbers.
Fishing is a way of understanding the world. If you are a philosopher at all, you realize that one of the many reasons that fishing is so great, is that it is – unpredictable. That way there is exciting anticipation from start to finish. The wonderful thing about the Northern River’s experience is that you could always be – just one cast away from the ‘Adeline rush of a lifetime!’
Don’t worry salmon fans – as we all know, what goes up must come down. With the clearing rivers beginning to recede and cooler darker nights quickly creeping in, we will soon have the advantage once again. By the way, our 40 pounders are historically most vulnerable in August – stay tuned for what will happen next..
Note: In the first half of season flyfishers in the Atlantic Salmon Reserve have landed 237 “serious” salmon of 20lbs plus with the best five at 38, 38, 36, 33 & 33 lbs.
Kharlovka Report – Week 29: 26-Jul-05
Every once in a while, here on the edge of nowhere above the Arctic Circle, your bound to get a serious blast of weather that really mixes things up. Last weekend we started off under partly cloudy skies and mild temps. Then high barometer Tuesday came pulling up hot dry southern winds, soaring bright temperatures in the low 30′s, and the odd sunburn for those who weren’t prepared. By Wednesday the river was up to a concerning season high 20.4 degrees, with an all time low -11cm reading on the home pool gauge. That afternoon, the winds switched to the fridge north bringing the air temp down to an incredible chilly 4 C and along with it, a dense blanket of helicopter grounding fog. In Scotland it is know as ‘dreich’ – in Russia as ‘jshopa’ – However you want to call it, fog equates to the dreaded ‘Plan B’ here on the Kharlovka, as our boys marched away from the misty camp that morning. Violent thunderstorms and heavy rains ensued, raising the river a much need 14cm overnight. By Friday the conditions had finally come refreshing right as the rising rivers eventually levelled off with stable air and water temps of about 12 C.
While this could be a classic case of your should have been here next week, our new northern friends made the most of it on all fronts, landing a respectable 113 fish for their cause. Nine of our twelve internationals landed 20+ pounders here last week.
Returning as our reigning vodka champion, Big Andy ‘Carolina’ was back again with us last week on the Kharlovka. The obvious difference this season was instead of finishing a box of the frozen liquid with his buddies on the first night, he decided to opt for the straight silver. With his shot glass turned up side down, Nyet – Spaseeba!” Carolina marched away from the tempting Scots on the first session, returning with an opening 22 pounder for the log. A man on a mission, the next day he had two more in the fresh teens off the lower Kharlovka. Then five more nice salmon again the next, between Guy’s and the Lower Canyon. Andy’s lucky timing seemed to be perfect throughout, eventually becoming ‘stranded’ with his guide for short 2 days with the mighty Eastern Litza all to himself. By the time he and Big Alex made it back to camp, they had secured top rod honours including his 7 lasting Litza memories – “I can’t think of a better place in the world to be stuck.” Poor Andy.
But come back you will – with his big rod – flies and even bigger dreams, the elusive Kola prize was simply too tempting for our most senior member Montok Joel. After losing an epic hour and ten minute battle the previous year with his ‘life fish’ estimated with its 3 passes near the net, at 45+ pounds – ol’ Joel was back for Litza revenge. While it simply wouldn’t be fair to jump straight in to the exclusive 40 pound club without first scaling through the 20′s and 30′s. Joel left more than satisfied this season dragging in over half dozen nice salmon including 28 and 25 pound consolations from the froth of the Kharlovka and Litza Falls – Still with unfinished business, I guess we will be seeing ol’ Montok back again next year.
Another curious story last week was that of young James and Sean who, thanks to a BA baggage blunder, arrived to Murmansk with nothing but attitude. As we all know, Peter loves a crisis! With the problem promptly radioed ahead, the next thing we knew, the Kharlovka helicopter was being ordered to shut down at Rynda. “Kola!” shouted Peter “Get these poor young lads everything they might need and them some!” With kit to spare, James and Sean charged through the rest of the week landing several 20lbs plus salmon with the best at 26 lbs.
Honourable mention also goes out last week to the always spirited, team Scotland. You wouldn’t want to run into this lot pissed in a dark ally. As rugged northern water projects engineers, all with Popeye’s forearms, leather skin and hard weathered grins, Graham – Davey – Allan – Alex – Wattie – and Darkie deserved to be commended on their incredible finesse last week. First there was Darkie, who kept his guide ‘Coca – Kola’ on the run, going for three swims (hair wet!) before landing his second salmon ever on the lower Kharlovka. Then it was the Big Boss Allan raising his personal best to 20 pounds on the lower Litza. His mate Alex quickly followed the captain’s lead, with a record 22 pounder out of the secret pool on a Mutt’s Nutt’s variant. Next Graham, with the aid of his guide ‘Volodka’, came back with a good sunburn along with two beauties averaging 20 pounds from his Litza adventure. And last but certainly never least, Wattie’s record smashing 20 pound firecracker, which jumped nearly two meters out of the river to the delight of Davey’s waiting digital camera. In the end, 5 of the 6 Scotsmen managed to break their personal bests.
It’s always nice to have a Swede on board to bring the rest of the nations at the dinner table into balance. Martin with his stealthy single handed rods and sparse ‘Scandy’ fly patterns might have been the top rod if the seasoned Scots hadn’t handicapped the young Swede early on with a late night session of whiskey and fish tales. In the end, Martin fully recovered landing 4 great Upper Litza fish including the salmon of the week at 108cm – 35 pounds. Steve and the legendary Valentine completed the international trio that overcast day, long distance releasing, two – 30+ pounders after exhausting half hour battles. Stop press! On the last evening, Steve returned to the lodge emotionally shattered from the best days fishing of his life, recording 5 last Litza memories including personal bests 24, 25, and 33 pounders. It was reported that after Steve landed his last monster, he threw his rod to the ground, a tear dropped from beneath his glasses as he shouted – “I’ve finally done it!” Nothing great ever comes easy my friend!
Up and down, small plastics to big and heavies – we tried it all. Depending on which direction the wind was blowing and more importantly how hard, our guests had the majority of their success on small flies and hitched tubes. Thunder stoats – Monore Killers – Pot Belly Pigs – and sparse tubes were notable standouts, with the Scots ‘Brownie – Greenie’ – Baldy Headed tubes – and small black jobs also deserving a curious mention.
Nearly one month on from the summer solstice, we are presently losing approx. 8 minutes of Arctic light a day. Cooler dark grey nights have led to better sleeps amongst the guests and staff alike. Not knowing which way to turn with all the crazy weather, reindeer herds in great numbers still race up and down the banks of the lower rivers. Late week, one of our many armed ‘night patrols’ came back with amazing video footage of an encounter between two large brown bears on the lower Kharlovka. Towering high on two back legs followed by a signalling stomp down to all fours the large bear worked his way along a reindeer trail eventually punching the lesser bear from his path. Wolverines seem to be everywhere these days as yet another was spotted just up from camp. Purple and white summer flowers are now having their turn along the remaining tundra marshes.
Following the cooling temperatures and much needed rains of late week, we are all looking forward to taking advantage in the coming days ahead.
Kharlovka Report – Week 28: 19-Jul-05
High summer has arrived to the far north! It was obvious from the very beginning, as our latest international team of 14 from Sweden – Norway – Scotland – England – America and Canada choppered into camp with all windows down, only to be greeted by eight giant sunburned Russians, that we most likely had a tricky week ahead.
Over the weekend air temps soared into the scorching low 30′s. Naturally our rivers followed suit, quickly rising up to an equally shocking 20 degrees. Even more concerning, for this time of year, is the water levels which are currently flowing at -11cm on the home pool gauge. Bright sunny days accompanied by warm southern breezes made the going extra challenging, until a much needed mid week rain storm finally materialized to freshen the situation. All things considering, Team Kharlovka had a pleasantly social time of it last week landing 119 fish along the way. Like most weeks here, more than half the group managed to top their personal bests. In addition to a couple of awesome moments, that dipped the scales into the mid 30′s, last week our friends hauled in another 14 fish over 20 pounds to add to this season’s growing list of great salmon. Including the many grilse caught over the past couple of weeks, the mighty Kharlovka retains an overall season average of 15.1 pounds.
Big salmon, Bombers, and Beer – The Canadians must be back again! With boxes of spun Newfoundland deer hair, ranging through all the colours of an ice cream shop, Chris and Brian consistently mesmerized the resting salmon from their depths. On the opening night, Chris equalled the season record, tempting a 38 pound crocodile out of the Lower Kharlovka Canyon on his 3.5 inch white and orange cigar bomber. By midweek, our northern friends were breaking more records, each returning to camp with the now famous ’1000 yard stares’ from the incredible 17 salmon they had netted on their Eastern Litza camp over. Reindeer rapids, Tent pool rapids, Military rapids – the salmon were simply unable to hide from these two. In addition to all the nice fish they had landed, it was their brief encounters with the two 40+ pounders that truly set their eyes a gaze. As the old saying goes, “It’s not the size of the wand but, more with the magic of the performer!” Highly skilled with their short single-handed rods, along with an exceptional ability to read the water, Chris and Brian amazed us all to the final flight, going on with their assortment of dry flies, to become top rods again for their second season in a row. Here in the far north, due to supply and demand, we are now pedalling the rare green tundra bomber at some 10 bucks a pop, so make sure you all come with several of these answers in your box!
Also with us last week, for their first Russian tundra adventure, were six excited Americans who simply couldn’t wait to get their hands on the silver. Fascinated by the many Russian traditions, including their nightly injections of frozen vodka, team USA fought hard to the last breakfast bell with 5 of the 6 improving on their lifetime personal bests.
First there were the young bucks – Alex and Noel, who partied hard to the end, landing their largest salmon ever in the high teens, on the Lower canyon and National Park areas of the Kharlovka. Next up was Johnny ‘Carolina’, with his 8 inch cigar and smooth southern twang, pulling in his 22 pound silver glory off the upper Kharlovka. Then on the final afternoon Johnny hooked into something that would change his life for ever. He pointed to the biggest salmon on the wall in the Kharlovka lodge and proclaimed with confidence “Mine was definitely bigger!” Unfortunately ‘Carolina’ lost the battle some 100m below the Kharlovka Falls after a 25 minute battle. See you next year my friend!
Then there was Ben and Duane, our west coast ‘odd couple’, who entertained us all with their off the wall antics. We could tell the minute they limped off the helicopter, especially Duane with is 14 knee ops and two titanium joints, that this was definitely a job for our head guide – Big Alex. After getting his hair wet, following a refreshing swim in the Julian’s pool on the first session, Duane returned dry to camp a couple of days later from the upper Kharlovka, with his fish of a lifetime weighing in at a ‘green bombery’ 32 pounds! It was reported that Big Alex shouted “You must run!” – then Duane yelped “I can’t – I have no knees!” the next thing he knew he was being carried the last 50m down the rapids. To go with their bundle of brownies, including some 20 – 20+ inchers along with several nice salmon in the teens for his partner Gentle Ben, these two both deserved silver stars for completing our arctic obstacle course.
It was clearly obvious at first sight in the Murmansk airport, where surrounded by some half dozen huge sticker covered water proof containers, weighing more than 150kgs, that our crazed friend Yngve, the Nikon pro, was back with us on the Kola. Complete with his dry suit, mask, and fins, along with his multi-mega pixel digitals, this Norwegian specialist was in the thick of the action all week. Taking some 10+ GB of photos a day, followed by stunning evening slide shows, Yngve kept us all visually amazed to the end. Every great party needs at least one Norwegian in the group, even the beer guzzling Canadians were impressed – Shotgun!
Honourable mention also goes out to team Scotland, who led a valiant charge through the start of the week, finally stepping it up a notch in the late innings. Michael and David returned from their Litza dream with 6 lasting fish tales. While David banged away consistently throughout – it was Michael who had back to back to back – 20+ pounders to finish things off. Meanwhile, Justin was kept in focus all week as one of the many subjects of our extreme Norwegian photographer.
Twice a year for the last 4 seasons, Fast Eddy and Smooth Alan were back with us again for their annual arctic pilgrimage. For the first couple of days it was a “My grilse was larger than your contest.” Then it was Alan reporting a unique ‘Litza theft’ as Fast Eddy was able to sneak out a rocket 42m cast from just upstream, pulling out the salmon Alan and Kolya had been working on down below. Next day, Eddy proudly returned with his tales of a fine brace of bright fresh 12 pounders. One of them was reportedly an unbelievable 3 cigarette – hen fish, that jumped 6 times and went some 100+m into his backing as it left the back of the Litza Red Cliff.
And last, but never least, there was our Swedish friend Anders, who besides picking up some new bomber tactics from the Canadians, also managed to twice catch the same 27 pound – 101cm cox from the home pool.
On the nature front – Reindeer herds now line the Barents coast in the 1000′s gearing up for the long summer days ahead. Midnight anglers opposite the Lower Litza Tent pool were lucky enough to observe a massive bleached Wolverine scouring along the rocks. Migratory birds, along with a vast variety of unique tundra wildflowers, are presently visible in their most colourful numbers of the year.
While there is no question that we need some serious rain soon, with so many large salmon now concentrated in the oxygenated runs, the fishing outlook remains favourable. A special aspect of the low water fishing for this time of the season is the superb surface action that often results. Hitch tubes, tiny odd flies and a variety of tundra bombers remain the most deadly options, providing all our anglers with outstanding visual satisfaction. Other favourites last week included double beaded stones, Harry’s blue charms, and the elegant Lady Amherst. As the late week temps cool back into the teens and the barometer begins to slide, we are forever optimist about what tomorrow will bring.
Note: The Kharlovka Lodge records show that the total weight of fish caught by 8-Jul-05 was 34% up on the previous year by the same date.
Kharlovka Report – Week 27: 9-Jul-05
Joining us last week for their annual arctic opportunity on these magnificent Northern Rivers were 14 old friends travelling from the countries of Sweden, Wales, England, America, Spain and Russia.
Without question this has been a very curious season so far. First summer came instead of spring, melting away one of the best winter snowpacks since the Kola opened. Then the rivers dropped away extremely fast. Meanwhile as we rolled into summer with the longest polar days of the year the temperatures just kept getting cooler and cooler. Keeping in mind that we are presently fishing in low autumn flows with spring temps our guests did respectably well to beach 132 fish last week. While many grilse are starting to arrive, we are still holding onto a super overall salmon season average of 17.3 pounds.
Due to consistently cold northerly breezes of late, the facts are that many of the larger fish have simply been coming short. Nevertheless team Kharlovka always finds a way through -
Last weekend as the previous guests flew away to Murmansk, Bamboo Jim and Tackle Tom jumped back out of the helicopter to begin their second week with a Saturday all of their own up at the Kharlovka Falls. As we returned back to camp in the early afternoon with the new lot of guests, it was clear to us all by the look in their eyes and by the way they were waving their cane rods around in the air, that they had started off exactly where they had left off the week before. To go with his half dozen serious salmon from the previous 7 days, Tom quickly added one more 27 pound fish of a lifetime to his tally, which was basically fought off his Bogdan reel flexing both Tom and his bored out cane to their limits. Along with many ‘gril’ and a few so called teenagers to boot, Jim kept pace to the final flight landing 3 more 20+ pounders himself on his light bamboo setup. Led by their famous Russian guide Valentine, who most nights jumped off the helicopter strumming his net like a guitar “Rock and Roll – baby!” – These ‘brothers in cane’ entertained us all to the end landing nearly 40 fish during their two week arctic journey.
Back as well, for the second half of their double feature, was long time kola veteran Ian along with his partner Yorkshire Phil. Without question these two certainly had the knack for hooking in to big trouble. Ian obviously didn’t learn his lesson the week before where after losing a giant 40 pounder along with half his fly line in the Litza Reindeer Rapids he then decided to go 10 rounds early week in Julian’s pool with another dark unlandable 40+ named Mike Tyson. Following some 20 minutes of crashing about through the pool, Mike was finally able to free himself again in the late rounds. In the aftermath, Phil couldn’t have been more delighted with the result for after first locating, naming and then casting some 1000+ times to the monster the week before, Ian unbelievably was in to this heavy weight on only his second cast.
Two days later, Phil was probing the shark infested waters at the head of the legendary Flat Stone pool with his trademark copper Campbell’s Fancy, when he crossed paths with yet another 40+ pound heavy weight contender promptly named Frank Bruno. Standing high above the rocks on the left bank Vasili, Ian and Phil were all in awe as this coloured monster attempted to part the rapids, shooting off down stream visibly awakening several other huge resting salmon from their lies. In utter chaos the pool had finally come alive! Phil managed to hold on for more than 10 minutes before Bruno delivered a knock out punch finally snapping him around a boulder some 100m down at the tail of the pool. As Phil sat on the bank in a state of shock, his faithful guide young Vasili said “Big fish seem to like you Phil – If you don’t smile your never going to land one!”
After a lunch break to reflect, Vasili and Phil were moving down towards the secret pool area when they spotted some small fish showing in the tail of an unnamed pocket above. Phil then called his mate Ian ‘grilse slayer’ down and joking, told him, it was his turn now and to have a go at the great salmon they had just seen move. Suspicious of his partner’s renewed generosity, Ian stepped in with his small stoat’s tube and to everyone’s surprise was instantly into a bright hot 20 pound hen. Upon returning with their fishy tales to the lodge that evening, the joke was on Phil as Ian, along with a string of grilse, recorded his 20 pound glory which was caught in the newly named ‘Bad Decision’ pool of the upper Litza. Also worthy of brief mention was Ian’s 42″ x 20″ – 31 pound cox salmon for the road on one of his final days in the tail of the stream at the Kharlovka Falls.
It was a great pleasure to team up with old friends Nico and Sue last week for their Litza adventure. Following a slow cold morning which was in Sue’s words “As quiet as a Trappist monastery on Good Friday” we all decided to break early for some hot chicken soup and a vodka shot. After filling our bellies, followed by a couple of winks – along with a last chance in one of the ‘world’s greatest loos’, we were off again across the boulders down river towards the lower pockets. Eventually their good attitudes, patience and skilful casting began to pay off finding a warm micro climate in the Snowbank area. Within one hour, Nico and his guide Big Alex found two nice fish in the Reindeer Rapids while Susan was more than satisfied with her iridescent “granny” sized grilse. With one hour left to spare, we decided to go for it crawling our way down for a few last casts in the Military pool. “O.K. Sue Good Friday is over – I know your exhausted but we have 20 more casts to make this a day you will never forget.” With no more than 15 feet of line out on her second or third flip into the run our #12 silver stoat come to a violent stop in the fast current at the head of the pool. Terrified of what her strong fish might do, Sue stood frozen on the rocks watching helplessly as her moment splashed about at will. While we are not actually allowed to talk while great fish are on line somehow, after a long silent 15 minute tug of war from the same spot, Sue was able to drag her bright fresh 15 pounder close enough for me to tail it in a small back eddy. After a big hug and a “This is the best fishing day of my life.” remark, we collected our shattered nerves and crawled back upstream making it to Snowbank 5 minutes before our helicopter pick up. These troopers went on the next day to catch 6 more nice fish off the lower Kharlovka including Nico’s second 20+ pounder of the week. In addition to a couple more 5 pound silver sports cars for Sue, she also managed to go 20 minutes with Mike Tyson back down in Julian’s before the hook unfortunately pulled free. Best of luck next week on the Rynda to you both!
And then there’s Anders! After being turned away with visa problems on two separate weeks this season, we received an email from the young Swede saying “Visa is now sorted – If I don’t fish I will die!” Of course Peter took pity on the lad telling him to get to Russia asap and that he would send his personal helicopter to pick him up when he arrived. 24 hours later, via St Petersburg, Anders was finally home at the Kharlovka camp. Following a slow first day of fishing for the young wonder with only 4 salmon, in typical Anders style he then decided to sleep off his jet lag the next day until lunch. “Where’s Anders?” they all asked at breakfast. Don’t worry I said, he will be up by early afternoon and have 6 on the bank before dinner.” I was wrong – walking away from camp with two bananas and several chocolate bars he and his new guide Sasha came back with 9 amazing afternoon stories including a 92cm and a fresh 101cm – 27 pounder! With 8 more days to go, stay tuned, to hear how this one turns out next week.
Honorable mention also goes out to Los Tres Hermanos – Jamie, Pedro and Manu representing team Spain who were back with us on the tundra for their 3rd season on the trot. While several of the cold days and bad conditions made the going challenging for our southern friends Monday and Tuesday definitely belonged to Spain with the three brothers landing a very respectable 18 fish for their effort. Stop press! On the last afternoon, Pedro and Jamie returned from a full day on the Litza Military pool landing 10 final salmon to finish off their week.
As for the situation up at the Kharlovka Falls -
For more than a month now great numbers of large salmon have been running up and down the lower 8kms of the river. Evidence of this lies within our tagging program, as a few of the first 589 salmon that were recorded this season have recently been captured again. In addition, we have enjoyed several weeks now with fantastic action between the Falls and Guy’s pool as the salmon were taking well and seemed to be spread out all the way down through the fast water pockets below. Then suddenly, at the start of last week, the bulk of the fish had moved up below the falls.
The experienced Russians, most of them with some 13+ years here in camp, all said that the salmon always go over the Kharlovka Falls on the first or second week of July. Early sceptics this year however, were questioning whether it might have more to do with the water levels and temperatures that the early July weeks commonly offer. For the last three years the salmon have gone over the falls between July 5th and July 15th with water temps never cooler than 15 degree and with at least a 10cm reading on the home pool gauge. At the end of last month, as both the water levels and the temps dipped into the single digits, many of us were wondering if the temperature would be high enough or if there would be enough of an hydraulic assist from the water coming over the falls to help the large Kharlovka salmon make the leap into the upper drainage.
Conditions and theories aside, the Russians were right again. While there had been a couple of sightings earlier in the week by our nightly security patrols of large salmon going over in the middle of the night – on July 3rd, with a cold water temp of 9.6 degrees and a reading of -1cm on the home pool gauge, the salmon unexplainably began in mass to jump the falls. Even without this season’s bubbling upcurrents the larger fish are having little trouble making the 8+ foot advance.
Earlier this week we sent our camp scientist Dima along with tundra Tim and big Andy three miles above the falls on a recon mission to intercept the advancing fish. In addition to several fat tundra brownies, they found three good salmon of 20, 21, and 22 pounds along with several other close calls. Hard to say how many great fish got up earlier however, over the coming days we look forward to sending the first team up to the third waterfall in hope of finding a dark 40+ pound monster.
For all our guests here last week, that hooked into their unstoppable silver dream fish, raising your adrenaline to maximum levels, only to moments later be left devastated as if you had lost everything worth living for – Shakespeare said it best with his comment “It is always better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all!” See you all again next year!
Kharlovka Lodge Summary: June 2005
432 salmon landed – Average weight 17.7 lbs – 34% over 20 lbs – Best 38 & 36 lbs.
Kharlovka Report – Week 26
Let’s face it, escaping to the far north is what dreams are made of. Once you have tasted it you too will no doubt become addicted for life. A ruggedly beautiful, unspoiled and remote place so far removed from our normal routine that hopes and expectations are nearly boiling over by the time you all arrive to camp. No matter what you have accomplished in your life, helicoptering in across Russia’s northern most tundra is obviously just the therapeutic humbling experience that brings us all back into focus.
After a weekend of unfortunate delays due to some Swedish bus driver who obviously needs a new alarm clock and then with the quickly deteriorating foggy conditions along the northern Kola peninsula that almost trapped us all for a night in Murmansk, our latest team of 13 British and American friends were extremely relieved to finally throw down the kit in their own private Kharlovka suites.
No week has really been easy this year, like soldiers dressed for battle our guests have marched the rugged banks working extremely hard for each and every hook up. The bonus these days however, is that the silvery stakes remain tantalizingly high. Team Kharlovka started out the week at a blistering pace seeing Sunday as the best day of the season so far. Before the weekend was over the team had already accounted for 40 fish including a record 14 salmon in the 20-30 pound class! Under mostly cloudy skies all week, the daytime temps began to ease down into the single digits creating an inversion between the air and the low warm rivers which were flowing at an early week temperature of about 14 degrees. With the water levels slowly dropping from 15cm to a current level of 2cm on the home pool gauge the fishing got more and more challenging as the week went on. Then by Thursday late week everything seemed to come right again as both the air and the water temps equalled out around the 12 degree mark. This appeared to be just the recipe that the big boys like as the team accounted for another 10 giants this day over 20 pounds – 5 of them were in the serious 25+ category including an awesome fish at 32 pounds.
While nothing great in life ever comes easy especially when it comes to reaping the rewards here above the arctic circle in the end team Kharlovka did amazingly well keeping the streak alive totalling another 120 fish for their cause. The overall average for the season is still at staggering 17.3 pounds! To hold onto figures like this means that for every 10 pounder we record in the fishing logs we need another 25 pound monster to make up for it. Last week alone we had 40 over 20 with 15 of these in the serious 25 and up category!!
Even after a dream trip like this, upon returning home to the normality of life the details of your Russian adventures will soon be lost in the midst of busy schedules. However, a few of the quality moments will stay with us for a lifetime and we will forever be recalling the memorable characters, broken personal bests and of course the awesome ones that got away.
Tom and Jim from America’s Pacific Northwest travelled half way around the world last week returning once again to this remote knob of tundra and salmon. Bamboo Jim, our most senior member with more than 50 years experience as a fisheries P.H,D along with his good friend Tackle Tom with his wading boot thermometer set up, dozens of gadgets – fly boxes along with their equally crazed yet highly skilled guide Valentine joined together to set the big early curve for the week. Within hours after touch down the first afternoon this deadly trio had 3 on the bank averaging 18 pounds including a beautifully bright 26 pound hen fish which Tom claimed to be the nicest salmon he had ever seen. The next day, these old boys accounted for 8 more great fish off the Kharlovka falls beat including a couple monster 24 and 27 pounders and several more teenagers that Jim took on his light bamboo. Then again it was age before beauty as these three passed their Litza test each returning with a brace of 20+ pounders. The only thing that slowed Jim down last week was an early morning slice in his waders while fishing in the Julian’s pool on the lower Kharlovka. As Jim filled up like a balloon in the middle of the river, things then went from bad to worse as he then broke a rod on a final cast. Following a 55 minute hike each way, Jim at 72 years old went full circle eventually returning later that day to land a well deserved salmon in the mid teens back down in Julian’s were all his troubles had originally started. Battered but far from broken these fishing legends went out in style on that perfect Thursday as Tom amazed everyone for a final time sliding his small hitched wonders to the tune of 22, 22, 27 , 32 pounds out of the rapids between the falls and Guy’s pool. As icing on the cake Jim added one last 22 pounder himself fishing down behind with his incredibly sporting 9 foot – 6 weight bamboo. When asked by the others what their secrets were they simply said “We Muddlerized them!” Following the first half of their two week adventure as top rods, this senior team showed the rest of us young bucks what experience and a great attitude are all about. Stay tuned for what they might pull out of their hats next week.
Good mates Ian and Phil had such a great time last season with us that they also decided to come back again for a double two week session. After taking one glance at all the great salmon recorded in this year’s Kharlovka fish logs they instantly decided a small wager was definitely in order. “What’s it going to be – overall tonnage, total number of fish, or best average?” These two went back and forth all week each landing serious salmon in the mid 20′s however by the end of the halfway mark, while Phil had a solid 28 pound entry in the book, it was Ian who had pulled slightly ahead with his 6 best fish averaging in the low 20′s. Also over the course of their first week in camp each managed to let something awesome go. First Phil lost a bright silver beast estimated somewhere in the mid 30′s after a 5 minute battle in at the tail of the falls. The next day Phil fished all day to a 4 footer named Mike Tyson, which he eventually persuaded only to twice kiss his fly. Later on it was Ian’s turn who returned to the lodge that evening with the now famous 1000 yard stare as his 40 to 50 pounder which jumped 6 times right in front of his partner Phil and young Vasili eventually snapping Ian’s spey line as nothing was stopping this train from leaving the bottom of the Reindeer rapids on the lower Litza. In the aftermath, Phil shouted “Holy $#%&! That fish was as long as Justin and as wide as you Ian!” Stay tuned to hear how their escapades finish up next week.
On a serious photographic mission for Orri and the NASR, young Randy from America was with us last week on his world tour to photograph the world’s top salmon rivers. With his map, lunch box and a 60 pound backpack full of camera bits this young mountain goat took to the reindeer trails capturing a super collection of magical moments from all 4 of these special Northern Kola Rivers. It was a great pleasure to help our invited guest last week in anyway possible to further the NASR’s noble cause of educating and protecting this greatest of resources.
Our steady eddy team of Bill, Simon and Big Alex led a consistent charge through the week with each averaging a solid brace a day. Congratulations to Bill who on his second straight season appears to have the knack for landing 29 pounders. Also to our American friend Peter and his guide Vasili who went on to break his personal record best several times over with his wonderful string of 22, 26, 26, and 28 pounders. And last but not least to Gerald and Nick who returned late the last night with 6 last fresh Litza memories of their own.
More than worthy of honourable mention over the last several days was good old team Scotland. Starting with Philip who on the final cast one day off the rocks near the Kharlovka falls became the newest member of our exclusive 30 pound club. Meanwhile his mate Neil was also able to find in reason for coming all the way to the far north down in the rapids below the falls improving his personal best to a fresh 28 pounds. And finally for Scotland was Andrew’s who with his “I thought it was a trout the way it sucked my fly below the surface!” fish that eventually materializing into another sea liced 101cm personal record dipping the scales to 28 pounds. Without question the percentage is very high however it is a shame we don’t have exact figures on how many of you salmon fanatics out there that have broken your cherries up here on these incredible rivers!
Despite our present low summer flow situation in our rivers overall Mother Nature has been very kind to us so far this season. Large sea liced salmon continue to arrive daily on the tides with nearly all the deeper pools in our rivers now holding generous concentrations of fish. Still nobody saying it has been easy as our guests have been forced to use lighter tackle with longer nylon casts and smaller patterns with their lighter wire hooks. Throw this season’s remarkable run of fresh monster salmon into this equation and occasionally something must give. Just ask Ian who will be going home with memories and a half of fly line or Paul who straighten out a #8 double at the Kharlovka Falls or Gerald who wanted to smash his $500 reel after a second large salmon raced into his backing seizing it in the process. The key to success over recent days continues to be a combination of finesse, presentation and determination. Floating lines with hitch skaters, bombers, muddlers, and a variety of small flies and tubes remain the most effective however a few of our creative ones have added additional highlights to the books flipping nymphs up the streams and dragging the depths with large tubes.
There are noticeably more reindeer along the Kharlovka and Eastern Litza this season obviously due to the early summer conditions on the southern Kola. Following these great herds within a kilometer of the Kharlovka camp last week on the other side of the washing machine pool our guests spotted a wolverine one day and then a massive golden brown bear from the helicopter the next. 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 lower canyon and the loud ruff-legged buzzards hunting above our friends in the upper canyons. As this seasons pleasant summer weather rolls on we are – as always optimistic for the many big silvery days still left to come.
The Big Fish Bonanza Continues:
In the first three weeks of the season rods in the Atlantic Salmon Reserve fishing Kharlovka and the Eastern Litza have landed 337 Atlantic Salmon to an astonishing average weight of 17.3 lbs even accounting for grilse. 32% of these were over 20 lbs and 69% over 15 lbs. The ASR as a whole, including Rynda and the Zolotaya, has produced 553 salmon including 12 fishing of over 30 lbs with the best at 38 lbs.
Kharlovka Report – Week 25
With the Kharlovka and Eastern Litza rivers moving rapidly into summer our latest team of 13 international friends from the countries of China, Japan, Malaysia, America, and England arrived high on adrenalin anxious to see if we could follow up on the previous groups outstanding results. Every week it becomes more obvious as the same faces keep showing up season after season. Escaping to this final frontier is clearly as much about anticipation as achievement.
Over the course of the week air temperatures varied from a cool 4 degrees to shockingly bright highs in the high 20′s. Following suit was the water which started at a modest 10 degrees eventually rising up to 17 by week’s end. To begin with our rods endured freezing cold northerly winds followed by a blast of summer mid week and then finally exposed to a good soaking including afternoon thunderstorms to finish things off. Not surprisingly, the barometer was up and down like a yoyo all week. Water levels have dropped away unseasonably quick this season down to a present level of 11cm on the home pool gauge. Going back through the records we are now approximately 35cm lower than this same time last year.
Never mind the unstable conditions that Mother nature unfairly threw at us lately as team Kharlovka again battled through totalling another 117 salmon for their effort. In spite of a few sporting grilse which have recently begun arriving with the larger fish, our rods continue to maintain an outstanding overall average weight of 17.3 pounds. This season’s train of big summer salmon are still rolling in as the team accounted for another 32 fish in the 20+pound class including several silvery fresh monsters that stretched the scales at 38. 33, 32, and 30 pounds.
As always, many of our friends left behind a few curious fish tales that no doubt deserve retelling;
All the way from the Big Apple our father-son team of Bob and Jason hopped on a helicopter for the bonding session of their life over at our remote Litza tent camp. Led by youthful enthusiasm they were determined to fish every pocket of the legendary river. 24 hours later they returned to the lodge having obviously been infected with a sever case of Litza fever! They said we didn’t catch many salmon – only 6, however we decided to shoot for quality instead. Starring off across the tundra as if still in shock, young Jason with only a mere 25 years of experience under his wading belt said “I had fished all day with more than a 100 splashes to my hitch Green Bomber when suddenly a true monster crushed it in the Tent pool. After screaming at the sight of his enormous salmon Oleg, a recently retired Kharlovka guide who was busy at the time preparing some reindeer hamburgers for them in the mess tent dropped his spatula for a net and scales and then briefly out of retirement, bounded over to assist the young lad. After some time including a heavy weight half surface in the middle of the run, Jason eventually led his great foe to the net becoming our new Kharlovka Bomber record holder with his bright 112cm 38 pound cracking hen fish! In absolute awe over the whole process, Jason’s only concern was on immediately returning his great fish to the water. Unbelievably through all the confusion they were only able to take one semi blurred photo of the epic moment before returning the silver record back to the depths.
Extra special mention also goes out to the father Bob who besides turning his son onto a passion which will last a lifetime, managed that same day with the help of Vasili to land a 33 pound silver beast as well upstream on a tiny #12 black and red flee.
If what they say is true and attitude is everything, then this week’s prise certainly goes to Harald and Olle along with their guide Dima. After a slow cold start to begin with this team timed it perfect for their early week arrival to the E. Litza. Having previously fished several of the top spots on the Kola, Harald and Olle suddenly found themselves dropped in on the Dream pool of their favourite river of all. Within no time Harald and his Sun Ray Shadows were being put to the test as his fish of a lifetime took hold in the tail of the run. Big Dima stood a top the rock eventually nodding his head in content commenting “This silver wonder reminds me of Natasha for with her stunning beauty she also possesses the power to bring one to their knees!” In the end, Harald was finally able to bring his dream to the net pulling the scales to a personal best of 33 pounds – 110cm. Far from finished, by the next day this team of good friends went on to find another 10 great salmon averaging just over 18 pounds.
Now that the Kharlovka camp is in tip top shape for the season, Volodya and I decided last week to take a few deserved casts one morning to test out the state of the home pool. Knowing it like the back of his hand Volodya of course struck first landing an impressive 96cm – 23 pounder on his first pass through the pool on his own black and yellow secret. Over the next hour and in plain sight of about half the Kharlovka construction crew who by the way acted like they had never seen a camera before, I was able to finish off the mission with a proper Kharlovka brace of consecutive silver bars weighing in at 25 and 29 pounds. After recording more than 100 of these monsters in the logs this season we both figured that we were well overdue!
And then there was Mikael – Some people were simply born to salmon fish! After only being home for seven days, mainly to celebrate a very important wedding anniversary, our Swedish friend was back again last week for his second opportunity of the season. In typical form, Mikael had little trouble finding the fish. One late evening while working his way back to camp he hooked into a true challenge in the Lower Kharlovka Canyon. Having already landed more than fifteen 40+ pounders in his lifetime Mikael had only moments with this great fish before his thoughts immediately turned to his new top of the line digital camera which was on the rocks some 100m upstream. With more than a half dozen other rods and lines to spare he decided to take the chance wedging his Loomis between the rocks ever so carefully so that the reel was still free to spool. Moments later with a slightly sprained knee he was back with his camera relieved to see his rod still jammed between the rocks with some backing left on the reel. He then began to whined down following his lost salmon out of the canyon into the lake below. With his Russian guide Kolya and his friends Chris and Collin out of service upstream on the other bank, Mikael was left alone to finish off this story himself. Recording a length of 108cm along with a string of photos, this fish was later conservatively estimated at 30 pounds by our camp scientist. Not surprisingly, this inspirational fishing Icon was the top rod again by a long way on this his second week of the season.
Our Asian friends Tji and Sugia stirred everyone’s imaginations as well over the recent days as they returned with big tales of their 12 Litza salmon. One evening, Tji with his chin held high and a slight grin on his face appeared to be floating down the duck boards has he approached the lodge. “Well – how was it?” we asked. As if prepared for the question, Tji answered “I didn’t even catch a fish yesterday under 20 pounds! This Kharlovka is unbelievable however the E. Litza expedition is one of the most ruggedly special things I’ve ever done.” In total he went on to account for 7 large salmon averaging an unbelievable 20.2 pounds including 27, 26, and 24 pounders. When asked what his secret was he just shook his head and said “I don’t know – my guide Valentine ran the whole thing like clockwork. All of a sudden I would be on some rock in the middle of the river hooked into another 20 pounder!” Meanwhile the famous Sugai who was back in camp for his 12th season was doing some deep wading of his own with his old friend Val totalling 5 more great salmon for the deadly trio including a beautifully bright 27 pound hen fish from the lower Tent pool.
With the far northern tundra quickly moving into full summer foliage there is now a spectrum of flowers and tall green grass blanketing the lush valleys. For the last two weeks 1000′s of reindeer have been spotted atop the tallest rocky points above both the Kharlova and Litza rivers as to receive the most of the northern coastal breezes. In addition, migratory bean geese, whooper swans, and eider ducks are now racing to lay claim to the Arctic’s numerous lakes and streams. And last but not least, it wouldn’t be fair not to add a few dreaded mozies to this list of recent tundra sightings.
Back on the tackle front, while its true that we started off the week using intermediates and light sinking tips, by Monday’s warm up and with the exception of the Falls pools, it was all floaters from there on out. Due to the present low summer water levels in our rivers anglers are now experiencing great surface action on small hitched patterns, Sun Rays, Muddlers, and of course the deadly Green Bomber! As a result, the low flows have also led to more manageable fishing and fighting conditions. Poised optimistically for next week, chances are good that one of our guests will soon find that first 40 pounder of the season.
Kharlovka Report – Week 24
Last week we were again reminded of just how fast things can change here above the arctic circle where following nearly a month of summer like conditions, spring thankfully blew back in to pay us another welcomed visit. Our latest group of 13 British guests helicoptered into camp last Saturday to bright sunny skies and warm air temperatures in the low 20′s (river 12.5 degrees) with a water level of 49cm on the home pool gauge. It was imminent Sunday evening however that change was certainly in the air as the breezes suddenly shifted to the north. Come Monday morning the air temp was down to 12 degrees and there was a faint cloud bank beginning to appear far to the north. By the time we had finished our eggs and bacon the temperature was down to 5 degrees pulling in with it a dense fog bank that proceeded to blanket the drainage. With the intense sun now off the water our friends then began to get down to serious business. Over the next 6 days under mostly cloudy skies and nearly perfect temperatures of 8-10 degrees, team Kharlovka managed to total a very respectable 130 salmon. Like the week before, the overall average size remains impressively high at 17.9 with the largest fish of the week weighting in at 33 and 32 pounds respectively. In total there were 44 salmon landed last week in the 20+ pound class!!
While it is true that all our friends had their chances with the big salmon last week, as usual several special stories stood out above the rest;
Team Scotland led by Jock, Jamie and Tom along with their new recruit Murry were back again with us last week for their annual dose of big salmon fun. Leading the way with their trusty guide Valentine, Jock and Jamie fished hard all week each averaging a brace of fresh salmon a day. Using flies patterns such as Red Pot Belly Pigs, Fast Eddy’s, and the patriotic Green Highlander this team worked exceptionally well together.
Not to be out done, the other half of team Scotland with Tom and Murry had a few huge days themselves. After returning early in the week from the Litza with 4 nice salmon ranging from the mid teens to the low twenties the Scots decided to really make the most of it the following day up at the Kharlovka Falls. That evening as their helicopter landed to pick them up, their guide quickly explained to the pilot that fishing was simply too hot and that they would prefer to walk back to camp. Hours later at 2:30am they finally stumbled back into lodge for a well deserved whisky with accounts of the 8 great salmon they had battled over the day averaging just under 20 pounds.
Battered and bruised Tom did his best the next morning at the breakfast table to recount the tale of his sea liced 23 pounder that decided to shoot the tail of the Kharlovka Falls ripping off some 200+ meters of line in a matter of seconds. Tom was said to have been bouncing over the rocks as fast as he could when his guide Young Vasili over took him like an Olympic relayer snatching the rod like a baton from his hands on the way by. Several moments later Tom was finally able to catch up to end the great chase in the head of the Guy’s pool!
With intensions of introducing his son into this great sport properly, it was a true pleasure to have perfect gentlemen and first timers to Russia – Nigell and Charles with us last week. After their opening day on the Kharlovka it was all smiles from there on out where in addition to Nigell’s first multi sea winter Russian Salmon of 24 pounds, Charles his son had just landed his first salmon ever weighing in at a fresh 17 pounds. That night back in the lodge there was a big celebration complete with champagne and Vodka for all. Being one of the first to congratulate the young lad on his big day, team Scotland said “Charles this is a huge day for you! If you can remember this celebration tomorrow then you haven’t done it properly my friend!” Before staggering off to bed that night he rose his glass a final time to his father and also to the skilful guiding of his new Russian friend “Volodka!” Charles went on to enjoy another 7 salmon on the week including 4 fish above 20 pounds. Not bad for a rookie!
Also worthy of mention last week were our good friends Mark and Trevor. Reluctant to give up any of his secrets, Trevor set the early big fish mark for the week in the unlikely Amphi theatre pool landing a serious 108cm fresh cox fish of 27 pounds and then again a few days later with a fresh Litza 25 pounder which were both caught on his own hand tied Trevor specials. Mark on the other hand seemed to have the knack for locating 21-22 pounders landing some 4 on the week in addition to another half dozen in the mid to upper teens. Stop press! On the last evening Mark had a outstanding final salmon of 117cm – 33 pounds walking back to camp at 10:00pm in the Upper Canyon!
After many years of fishing in Iceland, David and Richard with the help of Big Alex and their box of Red Francis flies, enjoyed the best salmon fishing of their lives last week. In addition to many nice fish each in the mid teens, these fanatical fisherman made the most of their big fish opportunities as well. David scored first managing to keep his 28 pound 104 cm monster from going out the back of the Litza falls. The next day it was Richard’s turn with a 24 pound sea liced beauty of his own from the challenging Marks Pocket’s. After skilfully leaping from boulder the boulder and managing to avoid the various obstacles during the fight, Richard was so overwhelmed with the sight of his second largest fish ever that after the release he waded straight back in up to his head getting in position to cast again. The next day this team went on to set the Litza standard for the week returning with great tales of their unbelievable 13 salmon they had found including a few great fish of 32, 26, 22, 22, 20, 19, 19 pounds! As icing on the cake, David had one final long tailed sea liced memory for the road of 26 pounds on his last cast of the trip with the helicopter approaching for his final transfer back to camp. Congratulations again!
Last week we had a couple of characters in here that had simply broke the mould. Back on the Kharlovka for the umpteen time, seasoned veterans William and Bill were like a couple of kids in a candy shop not knowing what or who to go for first. Never without a wise crack to keep the rest on their toes and with solid spey casts to back it up these two led the charge all week. Early on I had the pleasure of refereeing one of their sessions at the Kharlovka Falls. First Bill decided to handicap William by lending him some of his 8-year old nylon. Moments later Bill was hooked up with a fish that shot the falls eventually snapping him some way down. “I tell you – It’s like fishing with the bloody Joker!” He decided to get his friend back by quickly changing nylon and then monopolizing their guide Vasili for over an hour on the right bank helping him land his next 2 salmon. Meanwhile poor Bill was left to struggle with his fish all on his own.
Next, things really got interesting as Peter helicoptered in unannounced to pay a visit to his old pals. After hearing about their joy and all the tricks they had been playing on each other, Peter said “Right, give me 10 casts before we have lunch to even the score.” With fresh memories of last weeks big fish triumphs from our Irish friend David and his deadly Ice Maiden – Peter knew exactly what he wanted to use. Not that we were counting but, probably less than 15 casts later Peter was hooked into something very solid. Following several violent head shakes this serious fish dangerously moved about freely for the next 40 minutes in the thick water at the tail of the Kharlovka Falls. By this time team Scotland had come running up from Guy’s pool to see what all the commotion was about. In the end Peter was dancing atop the rocks eventually dragging his salmon from danger to the head of the run. With 3 guides poised to assist and 4 digital cameras at the ready, his girthy 26 pounder finally hit the net. The next hour was full of laughter, fish stories, hot soup and candy bars as good friends sat rehashing past glories.
At this point however, William and Bill were far from finished as we sent them over the following day to overnight at the Litza. After a short break for the rest of the group from their shanigans, the next day they returned having landed an astounding 12 salmon averaging just over 18 pounds. It was noted that they could have probably used another guide for they had lost another 6 near the bank because their guide Vasili was simply unable to be in two places at the same time.
On the tackle side of things our rods continue to have best results using Intermediate lines and light sinking tips. Many – many different fly patterns had their moments last week however yellow and black bottle tubes, Kharlovka Krills, Laeradal Sun Rays, Red Francis’s, and Willy guns were notable standouts. As the temperatures continue to slowly rise along with the receding water levels now at 26cm on the home pool gauge it is clear that we should be on floating lines within the next few days. Now under the full moon and with the increased tides on the way, we have good reason to be optimistic for next week!
EXTRAORDINARY OPENING DAYS AT THE ASR: 15 Jun 05
The opening catch returns in the Atlantic Salmon Reserve are excellent this year. Comparing the same 12 days (4th June through 15th June) in 2004 against this year Kharlovka rods have landed 179 salmon (up 43%) and Rynda rods have taken 81 salmon (up 42%). The average weight of the Kharlovka fish was 17.9 lbs whilst the Rynda fish were their normal 15 lbs. The best five fish at Kharlovka were 36, 30, 28, 28, &27 whilst the best five at Rynda were 33, 31, 31, 31 & 30.
Kharlovka Report – Week 23 Sunday, 12 Jun 05
It’s that time again! Large salmon are now arriving in good numbers with every tide. After a strong arctic winter with plenty of snow pack the Kharlovka ice finally broke up on May 18th. By the 25th the water levels had peaked running across the bottom steps on the way down to the lower helicopter pad. To put this in perspective the river nearly crested the rocks at the top of the home pool reaching some 200+cm on the gauge. With the long winter now behind us ‘spring fever’ is once again upon the great of the Atlantic Salmon Reserve.
Fishing for spring salmon has to be one of the most exciting and anticipated times of the year for the serious angler. The conditions on the Kharlovka were basically ideal when our first 12 rods showed up for Opening Day on June 4th. By the end of the week the team had accounted for an outstanding 90 salmon with a very impressive average weight of 18.2 pounds! This is incredible 91% increase on the 7 days starting 4th June last season. In total the team landed 7 fish of 19 pounds and 31 salmon greater than 20+ pounds with the largest fish of the week tipping the scales at 36 pounds.
While consistent pods of big fish were seen coming in on the tides last week with the warm water temps the salmon only seemed to be pausing briefly on the lower rivers before pushing on up the rapids towards the middle river. The home pool became a serious hot spot three to four hours after the tidal change. Not surprisingly, fishing the home waters turned into an after dinner ritual every evening. By mid week nearly half the team was complaining about their line burned fingers and black and blue palms from trying to hold onto these monsters.
While there were plenty of highlights for all the guests last week David’s story truly stood out from the rest. After staying up all night in Stockholm talking fishing with the local Swedish gurus followed by a series of short kips on the his flights north across the tundra, this hard working Irish farmer and cold water Kharlovka veteran surprisingly arrived to camp no worse for ware. Then with a full belly of warm Russian soup he carried on that opening afternoon being the first of the season down through the pools of the lower Litza. Come evening as the helicopter returned it was clear that his excitement and anticipation had finally caught up with him. David had just enough energy left in him to record what would be the first salmon of the 2005 season. Holding a meter and a half piece of ruffed up 35 pound nylon in large swollen farmer fingers he was barely able to mumble the tale of his fresh 116cm – 36 pounder which was hooked in the tail of the Military pool and then after a half hour chase-stumble finally landed down in the sea pool. After passing out that first night in his suite for a well deserved sleep David awoke Sunday morning charged up again for his big week ahead. Armed with his owned hand tied Ice Maiden tubes the Irishman went on to set the big salmon curve for the week landing 10 great salmon with an outstanding average size weight of 23.9 lbs!
With his trademark leather cap, now covered in long tailed sea lice and giant salmon scales, along with a backpack full of the latest pro camera equipment and also a few fly boxes that you would kill for – Mikael is simply one of the best in the business. Oozing confidence, this Swedish legend managed to find the salmon no matter where he went. We usually don’t allow fisherman of his calibre in on the peak weeks however after paying his dues for the last 9 seasons here on the Kharlovka, this year we’re making an exception. See you again in two weeks my friend!
Whether it’s your lucky hat, a favourite fly or the way you enter the river, all fisherman are superstitious to some degree. Stein and Anders from Norway have taken all this one step further, “First you must dip your hat in the river and give thanks. Next you should offer her half your whiskey stash and have a toast in her honour.” The following day after explaining this to the rest of the group over dinner, Stein alone out fished all the other groups on the lower Kharlovka landing 5 fresh beauties ranging from 15-25 pounds. Later that night back in the lodge he said “Let that be a lesson – Its all about respect for the rivers.” Two days later the Norwegians set out for an overnight adventure to the Eastern Litza. Half way through their trip they were calling back to the Kharlovka lodge to order another bottle of Whisky for they had already landed 6 fresh salmon that day 19 to 26 pounds!!
Other highlights last week included Chris’s opening day long tailed sea liced 22 pounder which was caught within eyesight of all his mates on the lower Kharlovka. The following day Chris was at it again fishing down through Guy’s pool upstream when he found a string of healthy Osenka weighing in at 12, 15, 17, 18 pounds.
Also worthy of mention were Patrick and Robert who with their “never give up Russian guide Vasili” worked hard all week and were dually rewarded by averaging a couple of nice salmon per day. Unfortunately late in the week Robert lost the biggest fish he had ever had on after a 20 minute battle in the Snowbank pool of the lower Litza. Then the next day he let another one go in the sea pool of the lower Kharlovka that was estimated at 40 pounds. With unfinished business I know this team is already looking forward to the next spring.
First timers to the northern tundra, Steve and Michael might have started out a bit slow however they turned it up towards the end of the week by waving off their helicopter pickup on the last two evenings and electing to fish their way back to camp. Once again hard work paid off with the two combining for a half dozen more salmon to finish off the week.
Our new friend Beau who is a fanatical steelheader from America arrived a virgin to the Atlantic Salmon Reserve. After scoring a ‘hat trick’ on his first afternoon with three nice fish in the mid teens he said he had already passed his expectations for the week and it was all bonus from here on out. Having success with fly patterns such as the Intruder and Skagit minnows, Beau eventually found his fish of a lifetime weighing in at 24 pounds on his last afternoon at the Litza Tent pool. “This place is unbelievable!” He proclaimed shaking his head on his final walk to the helicopter. See you again next season!
As a result of our warm spring conditions for the last couple of weeks the foliage as begun to explode on the Kola with the birch trees going from bud to leaf in a matter of days. The ptarmigan also seem to have been caught off guard with their still snow white plumage now sharply contrasting with the various new tundra colours. Small reindeer herds with their new dark calves along with black mink are being spotted as close as the far bank of the home pool.
The encounter of the week however definitely goes to Michael from the U.K as he was fishing the Military pool on the lower Litza when he spotted a large wolverine approaching. Somewhat terrified and with no more than his spey rod to defend himself Michael simply stood frozen in his tracks. The wolverine came within 30 feet before climbing onto a large boulder and catching Michael’s scent. After a brief stare down it was then off straight up the hill and out of sight. Little did Michael know at the time but these rare creatures are known as the doctors of the tundra as they search out the sick or wounded animals of the tundra.
On the tackle front last week, in addition to our big spey rods we started off using medium to heavy sinking tips accompanied by large 4+ inch tubes. However by Monday on the lower rivers the team had switched down to lighter type II-III tips and smaller flies. Further upstream with the heavier flows, deep lines and large tubes remain the answer. By mid week more and more reports were coming in about salmon that were coming up and taking the fly soon after it had hit the water. Fly patterns varied greatly last week as all the colours seemed to have their moments. Special mention goes out however to the Norwegian’s Green Parrot, the Irishman’s Ice Maiden, English Willy Gunns and also Mikael’s Swedish Black Green Helmut. All of these patterns were tied on medium copper tubes with 2-3 inch wings.
Compared with recent years we have had several very mild weeks of spring conditions to begin this 2005 season. Air temps last week started out about 5 degrees C gradually warming each day to around 15 degrees by week’s end. As a result the rivers continue to drop away fast and are now flowing at a daytime temperature of 10 degrees. Current water levels on the Kharlovka are running at 52cm on the gauge which despite the large winter snowfalls is actually now 6cm lower than this same time last year. However, unlike last season there are many snow banks that still dot the northern tundra. Fingers crossed for the temperatures to drop back down over the coming days as forecast!
A message for SkyCity, Stockholm – 20:00 hours, Thursday, 2 Jun 05
In the few days before opening day it can be very difficult to answer in a satisfactory way a determined stream of questions about the “weather” which are effectively questions about “how good is my week going to be?. Well here is hope for the deserving.
Last Monday Volodya reported the water level just over the bottom step at Kharlovka falling 2/3 inches a day with the water temperature at about 2C. He has been with yours truly for the last two days in Murmansk and has just got back to camp. He sent the following HF message at 17:00. “Air Temp. 14C, Barometer 757mm and Water Temp. 4.5C. The landing area between Home Pool and the steps is now clear of water and the river nicely full.” The weather forecast is OK for the next 10 days.
Why should some people be so lucky? I hope Beau is now satisfied with the answer he wants. One of us will beat him to the river in a MI-2 on Saturday and looks forward to greeting you all off the helicopter in time for a quick lunch and then some fishing. Try to get to bed early and behave some of the time!
Kharlovka: 20 May 05
It’s that magical time of year again, the ice has broken and we are all on the starting blocks ready to go! I am currently engaged on my ring around of guests ensuring that everyone is properly equipped and advised for the season ahead.
We have a super snow bank on the tundra and now all we need is a controlled run-off to ensure perfect conditions in the season ahead. Over the last 5 years Dima has recorded progressively higher counts of juvenile fish in the system with the outgoing smolt count in our funnel net at excellent levels. I was also speaking to Orri today and he is extremely optimistic regarding the amount of MSW fish feeding in Greenland waters this winter. In previous seasons we have had as many as fifty fish over 30lbs so fingers crossed for a similar show in the weeks ahead.
As usual we will kick off with big tube flies and sinking lines but it is wise to remember that the lower Litza and Kharlovka are shallow rivers and it’s all about controlling the swing and fishing the fly as opposed to bouncing the bottom. There will be a significant amount of kelts dropping back and rods will face the usual situation of working out if they are connected to a fresh fish, kelt or Osenka!
THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ALLIED ARCTIC CONVOYS: 8-10 May 05
Some 300 British Veterans, in the presence of HRH Prince Andrew The Duke of York accompanied by The First Sea Lord, Sir Alan West, gathered together with their WWII Russian allies in Murmansk for a series of moving services, ceremonies & receptions. The goodwill shown to the British by the Russians was simply tremendous.
Dr. D.S. Allen, Ph.D.
the Veteran Leader
After numerous toasts
they danced to the music of
Petty Officer Ashley Phoenix, 83.
Convoy PQ14 May 1945
Northern Rivers was proud to participate by organizing and sponsoring a British Embassy, Moscow and Consulate General, St Petersburg reception at the Arktika Hotel for some 500 allied veterans and dignitaries that started at 12:00 hours. The veterans were entertained by numerous official and spontaneous emotional speeches over a nice lunch. We shall never forget the sight of British and Russian veterans, resplendent with their medals, dancing to the music of Glen Miller. People seemed so happy we did not have the heart to bring it to an end until well after 15:00 hours.
HRH Prince Andrew Duke of York
Yury Evdokimov, Governor of the Kola Region
with Vice Admiral Mikhail Abramov,
Commander of the Northern Fleet
The Governor with the First Sea Lord,
Sir Alan West
Victor Koretsky and Peter Power were invited to a reception aboard HMS Sutherland in the presence of HRH and attended by the Governor and the High Command of the Northern Fleet. Afterwards Peter was invited to a private farewell dinner hosted by the Consul General, George Edgar, where HRH kindly pointed out in his closing speech that lasting Anglo-Russian friendship would be sustained by organizations such as Northern Rivers with their fine tourist and environmental activities.