Kharlovka Fishing Reports 2007
It has been an extraordinary season for big fish. With two more weeks to go, the rivers of the ASR have already produced 42 great salmon of 30 lbs plus with the best five at 46, 45.5, 38, 37 & 36 lbs. At Kharlovka & Litza 16.5% of all fish have been over 20 lbs – One for every 6 fish caught!!
As you will read below the fresh silver Osenka’s have started to arrive. It is a glorious time to be here on the North Kola Coast. We predict this season will be 12% up on 2006, which follows an increase of 17% last year and 13% the year before. It is generally accepted that the ASR Conservation Program is a remarkable success. The parr count figures for 2007 will be published in October but we already know they show a sustained increase.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 37 ending Friday, 14-Sep-07
We’ve been going on about the crazy weather around here all season. Its now safe to say that from the British Isles, through Scandinavia, and certainly across the exposed northern Kola Peninsula – It has been a most unpredictable ride since our first icy days way back in May. The huge cold spring was then followed on by one of the coolest wet summers that even our senior Russians had ever seen. While we probably don’t need any more reminding of the freak floods back home, even Norway was reporting their soggiest season for the last 100 years.
Thankfully, when you fly up to the far north coast, “normal or routine” is not what you are hoping for. Usually after a couple weeks of high summer and warm temperatures, we would then be looking for a bit of fog, as the temperatures this time a year drop back down into the chilly single digits. This season we had more cold gear testing days back in June and July then we have had during the whole of our lovely Indian summer finish. The last three weeks of this season were filled with scattered showers and mild temperatures hovering around the 10 degrees C mark. While the fishing was still very good towards the end, the Big aggressive salmon and Osenka factor would have certainly been much higher if the water temps had cooled below a mere 8.5 degrees C. Finally, on our last morning of the season, the Kharlovka home pool showed a more seasonal reading of 6.5 C.
Last week we decided to go out in true northern style inviting everyone over to the Kharlovka camp and making our last finale into a magical Three Rivers experience that none of us could possibly ever forget. Gathering all the boys from Team Scotland, Ireland and England under the same fishy roof, we were obviously in big trouble from the very start. With up to three helicopters taking off all at the same time, we scattered the boys each morning with a massive deployment through the nine beats of the three great rivers. Straight through to the very last spray cast, the magical waters of the Eastern Litza never ceased to amaze us, giving up a final 5 over 20 plus another couple of 30+ers for the road. And like we always say, “Never underestimate the mighty Kharlovka!” as she always comes through with the big silver, giving up several cracking Osenkas between 15 and 25 pounds. However, due to her warmer waters and those 1000 fishy pockets, it was our proud sister Rynda last week that deserves nearly half the overall credit.
While all the nations that were assembled around our great table had their undeniable moments lately, it was the large northerners from Team Scotland that will be going home shouting the loudest. Arriving in their kilts, they proudly paraded down the duckboards and into our humble camp. Unbeknownst of their arrival for obvious reasons to the staff, the guides must have spotted them as they piled off the helicopter and not surprisingly all quickly disappeared. With names like Darky ” Watty ” and Baldy, you certainly would not want to be on the wrong side of a bar fight with this lot. Thankfully the big boss Allan landed his 30-pound P.B. on the very first night so the rest of Scotland could relax and enjoy the ride. Before they got back to camp, Allan’s partner Dougy wisely decided to go for a wander, staggering 50 meters out of his tent for another stunning 30-pound P.B before the happy lads were helicoptered back to camp.
However, the big character last week for Scotland had to be Watty, the gentle giant with the massive grin. With all the finesse of buffalo, Watty reportedly crashed about the pools. “If I would have only been able to turn on the video a few seconds earlier!” his guide Kola laughed, as he rolled the footage for us all of his good friend swimming back out of the shallows. Using his graphite rod like a wading stick, with his vest blown up around his ears, Watty could do little more than laugh uncontrollably into the camera as he knew this shot would most likely be sent around the world. The next day after drying out his kit along with what was left of his pride, we popped another cylinder into his vest and he was off claiming the day as – Kola payback time. Managing to stay on feet for the entire day, Watty fished diligently down through the pools of the lower Kharlovka until suddenly silver lightning struck in the Island pool at exactly 18:30 on the incoming tide. Obviously not aware (or reminded by his guide Kola) that the helicopter has orders to shut down and wait if you are battling the fish of your life over 25 pounds, the now serious Scot lowered the rod and gave his great salmon all he had. With 5 minutes to spare, Watty was now grinning with the last of his teeth for the camera once again, proudly holding up his new P.B. Osenka that including all the long tailed sea lice, weighed in at a most satisfying 25 pounds. They finished off their day like a scene out of a bond film, kissing the silver goodbye for another year and sprinting 75m up the hill to their waiting helicopter.
As for Team Ireland and the English lads, there were certainly a few highlights worth mentioning here as well. Along with all the strong accents, beer drinking, and the hours of poker, Team Ireland also managed to pull in a couple new P.B.s including a mighty 20 pounder for the 77 year old Ken, and a spanking fresh 20 pounder that put a smile on Michael’s face for the remainder of his trip. As for the outnumbered English contingent, it was the young Charlie that definitely stole the show. Along with cleaning up on several occasions at the late night poker table, this lucky 19 year old also walked away with his half dozen Russian salmon ever. However without question it was Scotland that showed us all how it was done, breaking six old personal bests with big Allan’s 30, Dougy 30, Darky’s 18, old Bill’s 22, Watty’s fresh 25, and Kenny’s first 9 proper Russia salmon ever up to 16 pounds.
Without a doubt, it has been a most exciting season filled with drama and great parties. It is still hard to believe that 1 out of every six fish was over 20 pounds and that we landed nearly 50 greater than 30. We are also going to have to do a better job keeping track of the staggering number of mounting P.B.’s – its getting ridiculous. We are think about 85% of our guests over the last 10 years have at some time or another broken their personal record and many loyalists will have done so several times. We really ought to do a survey on this. And let’s not forget about the hundreds of stories, maybe 75 broken rods, the dozens of severed lines and all those broken hearts. No matter which way you choose to spin it, coming to the Kharlovka is simply the big silver adventure of a lifetime.
And finally, although it is quite obvious that Peter enjoys taking care of you all – it is the staff and what goes on behind the scenes that make the whole operation run safe and silvery smooth. While Peter has made many a great decisions during his time here in Russia, probably the most brilliant decision was to go completely Russian that has made the greatest difference. Our last Honourable mention of the season must surely go out to all the hard working Russians that make this all possible — to Annya and Natilia who served us all with a smile (not that any of you ever had a chance) – to Anton and Lena who have risen to delicious new levels in the kitchen – to our experienced guides who carry you through the week – to our exhausted cleaning ladies who always seem to be on the go – to the pilots who bring us all home safely every time – to security force who stalk our beloved banks – and finally to Volodya and the 10 or so other workers wandering around camp all with special jobs of their own – Our fishing caps come off to you all!
There are undeniably many special rivers scattered around the world, however very few are truly as unpredictable as ours. Thankfully, these great Northern Rivers run through our lives and shape our thoughts. This is a place for believers only, where your skill and imagination set the limit on your big silver possibilities. Intimidating and mysterious, they present us with a challenge that we obviously all need. Salmon are a celebration ‘ it is now time again to let them rest and do their thing for another year. But remember our protection team watch over them until the ice freezes over in November and, believe it or not, they start again in April on snowmobiles to prevent ice fishing. The Atlantic Salmon Reserve is a truly remarkable conservation program as well as a great fishery.
Until the Ice breaks and the Big Silver flows again…
The Kharlovka Report: Week 36 ending Friday, 7-Sep-07
All over the world, autumn is undeniably a most special time of the year. This fact however becomes more intense the further one travels towards the poles. Here above the Arctic Circle, there are greater contrasts, as everything seems to happen at twice the normal speed. This is the season of colours, from all those golden-yellows and stunning reds, all the way through to our crocodile salmon browns and that bright-silver blue.
Our northern weather has been simply fantastic around here lately. The odd frosty night filled with those unbelievable dancing lights, followed on by several lovely clear blue mornings. Come midday, layers of grey fishy clouds would appear raising the spirits of both angler and salmon alike. Rainstorms and giant columns of cloud were admired far upstream. It wasn’t until the very end, that we finally had that gear testing day just to remind us all where we were at. Nevertheless, our rivers flowed fresh throughout the week at a perfect 9 degrees C with a stable level of 9cm on the Kharlovka home pool scale.
What do you get when you invite Eddie to put together a party of some of the most educated young men in the United Kingdom, all of them great friends, to come fishing for the Big one on Russia’s exciting northern coast – complete and utter chaos – That’s what! Never tired and always ready, there was simply no way that we could have been prepared for this lot. From the moment they arrived, actually probably even going back to their night before in Stockholm, this team of 25 to 35 year olds were on a collision course for high adventure. Talking perfect sense up to around midnight, the vast majority of these boys had never seen anything like it. All wide-eyed and raring to go, straight through the week the lads set a blistering pace both on and off the rivers. As one of them put it, on the last evening, ‘Why waste time fishing anywhere else when you could come to Russia where big things always seem to be happening”
While the highlights were definitely all over the place, the first story that has to be told belongs to D’Arcy. Salmon fishing with his family back in the U.K several weeks a season for the last 30 years, this man had sadly managed to catch an unmentionable few. By the time he had finished up with us, he was nearly speechless, going many times over his previous life’s catch. They aren’t calling him ‘D’Arcy the grilse slayer’ anymore as last Thursday evening he was moving around our camp like Elvis, singing about his 4 salmon of up to 24 pounds and the other 30+er that he lost on that last cast of the day. D’Arcy is clearly now hooked square in the scissors and has already put his pounds down for a spot again next season.
‘I could have stayed up there trout fishing for a month!’ One young lad shouted as he jumped off the helicopter. The upper Kharlovka draw could be one of the best days of your life. While we understand that you are here for the Big one, it can also be good to sometimes go with the flow. Time and time again they return from the upper tundra with an amazing gleam in their eyes. 10 to 20 beautifully spotted browns, reindeer starring down on you, bear tracks near the berry patch, and an amazing feeling that you are the only ones left on this planet. This was the fishy scene one day last week for all the lads, as they searched for their gold bead-heads and anxiously waited for their turn.
While the trout fishing around here is certainly in another league, the mighty Kharlovka has become famous for its huge multi-sea-winter salmon. Last week it was Bofty who was the first one to come bouncing into the lodge with his big fish strut. Unable to control his smile, it was quite clear to us all that something great had obviously happened. After finding a reasonable 21 pounder the day before, he was bursting over with the news of his monster 30-pounder. And then there was that big fish Dan who proudly proclaimed on the Wednesday evening after dinner, ‘This is ridiculous ‘ I’ve had a 20+ pounder on everyday!’ Landing 3 out of the 5 with and average weight of 23.5 pounds Dan will surely be back for more. And wait just a second: Let’s not forget Charlie, who has passionately circled the globe fishing since he was eight. After telling us that he has landed many salmon however it was the big ones that always seem to elude him, we tried to explain that these rivers were for believers only. Perfectly on cue the next morning, after one well placed spey cast across the Guy’s pool, Charlie now also has a better understanding what power is finally all about shattering his old P.B. with a massive 117cm ‘ 35 pound cock fish. And last but certainly not least, our Big Silver award goes out this week to Mike who landed a spanking fresh 27 pound Osenka off the lower Litza.
Now that the smoke has cleared and we’ve totaled up all the damage, there were actually 10 personal bests set here last week. Congratulations should actually go out to them all as Tom, Ed, Adam, Mike, Bofty, Alex, D’Arcy, Mark, Dan and Charlie will all be flying back with new bragging rights. Besides their most satisfying 105 salmon that they pulled together to land here on the week, and the trout and char fishing bonanzas adding up to some 75 tundra-brownies along with several beautifully coloured char, there was also a whole lot of misbehaving and three ripping parties. In fact Peter on crutches had to fly over personally on two separate occasions just to see what all the noise was all about. By Thursday of late week he had obviously given in, as we stoked up the fire up at the Kharlovka house, cranked the music and socialized another amazing arctic night away.
While the spirit of autumn along the far northern coast is almost unexplainable, sometimes the pristine wilderness speaks even louder than the numbers. Arctic flowers are now just a memory of the past. The birch don’t seem to know which way to turn as the Kharlovka now shakes a golden yellow, while the Litza is still glowing green. Most of the small birds have wisely flown south to look for warmer fields. We all sat in awe during a Litza lunch as a falcon dove down onto the ptarmigan that unwisely decided to flush. Mushrooms have all been frozen and no longer have a chance. Reindeer have now scattered into small bunches wandering slowly to the south. The Pilots fly back with deep purple hands stained by the 5 kilos of berries they are picking everyday. Returning one evening we hovered down only meters above a dark brown wolverine as he lumbered across the colourful tundra. With plenty of large silver recently spotted skipping its way up through the systems, we are looking forward to next week’s big finale of the year.
Kharlovka web report ending Friday 31-August-2007
Here above the Arctic Circle, it never ceases to amaze us just how much the weather seems to dictate our fishy lives. The season seems to be finally catching up with us around here. While things might have started out on the summery side, by early week we were sanding down the duckboards after our first good frost of the fall. Dancing curtains of mysterious green and blue lights filled our northern sky. Clear, crisp autumn mornings were regularly followed up with stiff ocean breezes along with dark heavy clouds. With the barometer fluctuating like our coastal tides, encouraging spatters of rain were frequent through the first part of the week. It wasn’t until the very end, that the conditions really started to turn evil. During our last two days, the winds galled from the north, driving in hours of belting rain. By the last casts, our rivers had suddenly risen 14cm overnight, and are presently flowing at a seasonable 8.8 C on our Kharlovka home pool scale.
They dominate the cold waters of our hard icy spring and are also able to finesse them out with a tiny fly towards the end. Big blonde lads with hardy livers tell their tales here well into the night. Marching like mountain goats along the trails, they can undeniably cover water with the best of them. Last week we knew there was going to be big silver trouble from the very start, as our ol’ Norwegian friends piled off the helicopter, quickly claiming our once peaceful Kharlovka village again as their own. Celebrating the first salmon ever for three new believers, a huge fish on the middle Litza, a big silver break-off on the lower Kharlovka, an honest 29 pound Osenka, plus and additional four more 30+ers, throw in a Viking birthday party ‘ And now it is clear. Our camp will definitely never be the same.
Although last week’s crazed bunch quite happily manage to land some 94 highlights, there were not surprisingly a few moments that, like always, seemed to shine through brighter than the rest. Our first unforgettable, yet most honourable mention goes out to the ‘west coast character’ – Jan. After explaining to us (several times) that he has fished for salmon for the last 38 years, we were still able to eventually silence him with a stunning 33 pound – new P.B. off the middle Litza. And let’s not forget Frank, who including his 22 salmon on the week, managed to find a 32 along with a most silvery 24 ‘ that will most certainly keep him satisfied until the next time.
While age nearly always comes before beauty here on the far northern coast, this week it was the young 21-year-old Andreas that set an undeniable example to the rest. With fresh memories of his previous 21 P.B. here with us only three weeks ago, the young caster knew just what he had to do. His big day came when his fishing partner unwisely decided to stay back and sleep one off. Having all the pools from the Kharlovka falls to camp for himself, the sneaky young lad set out with Dima, his single-handed rod and a pile of those deadly Francis tubes. Nine hours later he was back with a story in his eye, just waiting for his turn to tell. Sporting a deep purple moustache, he held his glass high and proceeded to rattle off the numbers. Turned out there were nine salmon on the day, including a 21 and the big 30 pounder. They say that a glass or two of wine is actually good for you, however we cannot be sure how catching such a large salmon at his young age will affect him in the future. One thing is for sure; while we are certainly not that worried, this is exactly how hopeless fishing addicts are born.
Day in and day out here on the northern rivers, there is a blissful sense of unpredictable, controlled chaos going on. Probably the greatest thing about fishing up here, besides your toasty suites and personal drying closets, is truly never having an idea what could possibly happen next. Without question, Big Tom’s recent story surely sums this fact up louder – and much bigger than the rest.
On Tuesday of last week, we can recall a large bald man with an optimistic voice skipping off to the helicopter for his overnight on the Litza singing, ‘All you have to do – is Dreeeaam’. Starting off that morning on the Dream Pool corner, Tom and Karl leap-frogged their merry way down through the pockets of the middle Litza. Exhausted and fishless but far from being beaten, they took a short break at the ledge pool and refueled with some tasty-hot Russian soup. With their batteries recharged they again clamoured over the Crack pool and down to the fishy waters of the Rugged Rock. Throwing tight loops across the pool with their Guideline heads, Tom had little idea at the time that his next cast would change his outlook on life forever.
Flipping out his own hand-tied black and green with a little yellow ‘ Whatsit, a dark Litza monster suddenly inhaled Tom’s fly. Angrily and with a force that he had never imagined, his beast slalomed about the large boulders of the pool. Not going to let this dream song get away, Tom played the great salmon with all his might. They said that the fight went on for some 30 minutes, however from the looks in their eyes afterwards; they actually didn’t have any clue. Eventually they managed to just barely slide the huge salmon into Sasha measly net. Tom was obviously shaking and very weak in the knees. With an unexplainable feeling of relief they all stared down speechless, in big fish awe to be further shaken by the realisation the fish was tagged. Extreme elation turned to progressive concern as they watched Sasha trying to remove a deeply embedded hook without damage to the fish. Their emotions were then in turmoil after valiant efforts failed to revive this great fish. Big Tom and the Great salmon sat motionless in the water.
Back in camp our scientist confirmed that this was actually the same great salmon that our friend Chris had landed on the 11th of July – a kilometre back downstream in the Tent pool ‘ which was under measured and weighed on the river at 120 cm & 42 lbs. The undeniable length was 123 cm with a weight on the digital scales of 20.57 Kg or a whopping 45.25 lbs. Tom’s catch would have been at least 45.5 lbs fresh in the water and it would have been at least 46 lbs when Chris caught it. Peter will formally apologise to Chris next season with the presentation of a ‘Nic’ mount in belated celebration of his achievement.
Stop the Press! ‘ While Big fish Tom probably doesn’t deserve another for quite a while, he came bouncing up the stairs one more time on the last evening with our first silver Osenka shots of the year ‘ This last one was caught up at the Litza Falls, had long tailed sea-lice stuck all over its back, weighing in at a most honest 29 silvery pounds!
The tundra has begun to fall silent. Reds, greens and golden-yellows bring additional colour to our days. Long shadows remind us that the end is drawing near. The black of night, our first twinkling stars, and those amazing northern lights now sooth are thoughts shortly after dinner. With the much-needed rains and our cool flowing rivers, we have great reason to be optimistic about all the silvery possibilities that surely lie ahead.
Kharlovka web report for week ending 24-August-2007
After this season, nothing that Mother Nature could throw at us should come as any surprise. Spring was hard and late, then summer seemed like it was never going to appear and now the relentless sun simply won’t leave us alone. Oh well, such is the magical unpredictable life we live here above the Arctic Circle.
For the third week now in a row, extremely bright conditions have pounded down on our shallow rivers. We are not really sure if our Kharlovka barometer gauge is even working anymore for it has been stuck on high for weeks. A light casters breeze and the odd wispy cloud have been the only relief in sight. While our days dancing along the boulders have certainly been undeniably beautiful, the boys have had to work hard again to bring their prize to the net.
We are not really sure if it was the luck or the persistence of the Irish, however Team Ireland definitely came ready to play. Top honours went out last week to the fair skinned, strong accented Casey clan. Although Eugene might have had a nice streak on the middle beat, and the young JP was undeniably skilful with the Sunray, it was father John who ended up showing us all how it was done. After a few nice grilse out of the Litza Waterfall, John decided to take his Red Butt’s down to the legendary Flat Stone. Feeling almost obligated to pull something great out – John went straight to work. Starting things off with a hot 20 pounder, he then took a moment to refuel with some reviving hot soup. John’s next stunt was a solid 25 pounder out of the tail of the pool. And for his last trick of the day, John hooked into a really serious problem, which ended up spooling him out the back of the pool ‘ backing and all! These are the type of fish that keep you humble, honest and coming back for more. A classic Litza Das-Veedanya..
Let’s face it, once you have landed a few it is really all about chasing your dream. Last week may have been challenging however, once again nearly half the group will be going home bragging of their new hard earned Kharlovka P.B.’s. We are not talking about Peanut Butter and jellies here ‘ we’re talking about the biggest salmon you have ever seen. One by one ‘ and sometimes two or three a day, we are slowing checking you all off our big salmon list. Congratulations and another raise of our shot glasses goes out to Alistair and his massive 28 ‘ Jack’s 20 followed by another of 26 which was the icing on his silver cake – David, who went speechless after his 28.5 – John with a secret 25 ‘ and the young Charlie with the largest 29 and 30 pound brace of his now made life.
Driven by wild expectations of landing the “Big one”, with their sunburned faces, and knackered sore muscles – Youth truly does spring eternal! With nearly half the group taking full advantage of Peter’s most generous young anglers program, last week our camp was bubbling over with enthusiasm. While all the lads will be leaving here twice the fisherman they arrived, Charlie’s story shone through brighter than the rest. Having fished for salmon since the eager age of eight, including many an outing with his grandfather along the fishy river Why, the emotional Charlie had no idea what lay in store for him.
Although we all remember Charlie arriving here with a bright smile, he will now have a huge Litza grin stuck on his face for the rest of his life. This lucky young man’s trip was actually made on the very first evening after one well positioned cast into the challenging Reindeer rapids. Now connected with a monster, Charlie decided to take a quick swim (hair wet) to freshen things up. Thankfully our head guide young Vasili was there to strong arm him out by the scruff of his neck. Back up on the dry boulders, Charlie watched in awe as his Litza dream crashed around the pockets, somehow connected to his measly size 14 Red Butt. ’20 blissful minutes’ were said to have pasted by before he finally drug his new record 105cm ‘ 29 pound salmon to the net. Thanking the mighty river for her gifts, Charlie had found what he came for within a matter of hours.
Two days later, the content young lad was back on the middle beat enjoying the Ledge pool when lightning struck again. This time armed with a copper killer his line suddenly went stiff. Seconds later there was dark angry Goliath jumping through the air. Drama followed for an unknown amount of time as the salmon threatened to shoot down the rapids to certain freedom below. Already trained in big fish tactics, Charlie managed to slip his way to the bank. With a great final heave, the young man had done it again, breaking his only days old P.B. with a beautifully ugly 107cm ‘ 30 pound cock fish. Going far beyond his huge smile, a silver tear rolled down his cheek as the proud lad hoisted up his moment for the snapping cameras. Charlie wandered around hopelessly for the rest of the week shaking his head and mumbling, ‘I just can’t believe it!’
On the wildlife front; there seems to be a noticeable increase lately in the activity of the local Arctic birds of prey. Starting with a brave Ruff-legged buzzard that does not like to leave his roost when we fly into the upper canyon, two a pair of white tailed Sea Eagles were spotted on several occasions circling the ridges above on the lower Litza. Early one morning, there was a Golden Eagle observed feeding beside the Kharlovka water gauge. Later that same day, during some evening Spray-casting lessons in home pool, a Gyrfalcon swooped across the run only meters above our heads. ‘ Summer is just about over and the wildlife is clearly getting restless.
As we scribe our tales this Friday evening, the winds of change are again on the blow. Dark misty clouds have replaced our bright blue situation. Our barometer gauge most certainly does work dropping back down to the floor. With the black of night quickly approaching to cool the season off, our large coloured salmon are presently on the prowl. The report for the Northern Rivers remains very fishy as ‘Osen’ in Russian means Autumn, we will soon be pulling in the highly prized ‘Osenka’ ‘ fat silver fall run salmon. Stay tuned!
Blessed with the fishing finesse of a Norwegian, combined with most of the constitution of a hardy Fin, all the while behaving with the charm of a cultured Swede – Last week it was Icelanders and Englishman gracing the banks of the mighty Kharlovka. Looking into their icy-silver eyes it was plainly obvious from the very beginning that these Vikings were here to fish and party hard. Between the strong English youth and our new friends from the arctic north – huge predictions were being put down before we ever left the VIP zone of Murmansk airport.
Under a variety of partly cloudy skies ranging from an autumn blue all the way through the fishy shades of gray, anglers enjoyed another week of Sami Indian summer. With a gentle southern breeze at their backs, temperatures hovered pleasantly throughout, ranging from a perfect 15 to a brilliant 20 degrees C. Water temps remained fairly consistent all week meandering up and down between 15 and 17 degrees. All the while our rivers continued to slowly drop away, going from 10 down to a late season reading of 1cm on the now naked home pool scale.
Anyone who says that salmon fishing is mostly about luck – obviously can’t cast! Late summer here on the Northern Rivers should really be for believers only. While the challenge is always there, this is the time of the season that things actually begin to get a bit more technical. Hitched, bombed, skated – stripped, twitched, and teased – Our last group of fishing addicts knew just how to play the salmon a tune. Many carrying single-handed rods, sporting fly boxes that were truly to die for – this skilled team seemed to understand something about reading the water. As opposed to simply moving down three at a time, throwing it half way over there and forgetting about it, these boys danced confidently about our rivers. Three casts in front of the rock, switch to a hitched tube, mend downstream, now strip, switch again and bang!
We are pleased to report that this week’s highlights were big – silvery – and plentiful as the team skillfully casted their way to a most pleasing 119 salmon.
Three days into his arctic fishing adventure, young Harry came staggering in along the duck boards. With much of his hair standing straight up, cracked dry lips and that 1000-yard stare, it was plainly obvious to us all that Harry had seen the great silver light. “This is ridiculous – I’ve had a 20+ pounder everyday so far.” Poking about through his kit, he then produced a moist digital camera. “The best news of all was that my last 24-pounder was covered in SEA liced and was without question the most stunning thing I’ve ever seen!” It was said to have pushed up a meter of water before savagely attacking the fly. Shaking his head – flipping through his prized pics – reaching for a cold beer and trying to catch his breath all at the same time, he finally proclaimed, “I have been totally – LITZED!”
And then there were the two hopeless fishing addicts of Hordur and Vali. Credited as being top fly-tiers in Iceland, let there be no mistake, these two could also move like a couple minks along the river. From those Golden Killers to their sneaky Green Icelanders – with an endless selection of sparse colourfully dressed flies and boxes of small tempting tubes, the salmon on their beat never really had a chance. Without getting too hung up on the numbers these two Icelandic talents went on to find almost half what the entire team had landed the week before. If there ever was going to be a fly-fishing Olympics, these two would certainly be difficult to beat.
One evening around the dinner table as the chatter soften to a dull roar; Vaughan was suddenly overheard bragging from his end of the table. Humbly giving less than half the credit to his guide for rightly choosing a tiny silver stoat, Vaughan seemed quite proud of his two upper Litza salmon which weighed in at 20 and a cracking fresh 26 pounds. After a customary raising of the vodka glasses by the group, Yngve, who owns the best river in the west of Iceland (the Haffjardara), then decided to speak up – “That was very nice Vaughan, however while you were busy messing around with your two respectable fish upstream, I was battling a couple of 26 and 28 pound problems of my own further down river.” It turned out that playing musical chairs each evening around the dinner table, so that we could all learn from each other’s deadly secrets, was certainly a great idea. Interesting tales from the past, multiple exaggerations mixed with an onslaught of bad jokes kept the boys raising their glasses well into the night – Skol.
The birch now rustles a green-highlander yellow in the cool morning air. Huge piles of purple scat and large footprints (as one guest put it – fresh only 10 minutes old) are now spotted along the beats upstream. Buckets full of berries and bags of mushrooms are currently showing up in our kitchens. A welcome twilight now settles in around 23 hundred hours sending the salmon and our happy campers into a restful daze until we wake to try again tomorrow.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 32 ending Friday 10-August-07
After a late icy spring that was followed on by one of the chilliest-wet summers ever known here, we then all agreed about week ago that autumn was surely settling down upon us. Now seven days into an unexpected Kola heat wave, it has become quite clear that our local forecasting ability still has a long way to develop. Arriving with a fresh lot of good ol’ English mates, we should have been able to recognize the signs from the very beginning. Flying in on an arctic fishing camp to find a group of large white Russians, all with their shirts off kicking a flatten football around, should have been our first good indication. Not that we have had much great weather around here this season to compare things to however, last week was undeniably beautiful from our most anticipated start to the breezy finish.
Fishing under fantastic blue skies with a warm southern breeze at our backs, all week the boys casted their way through the beats like champions. While a touch of Sami Indian summer was probably just what our fast running rivers needed, over the week the relentless sun ended up taking us from one extreme to the other. We started with both the air and rivers measuring out at a perfect 15 degrees C. Before we released the hitch from the last bomber, the rivers were flowing at a concerning 20 degrees C. After a full week with air temps hovering up to the mid 30′s, water levels dropped away quickly going from a strong reading of 23cm down to a meager 9cm on the now exposed Kharlovka home pool scale.
The salmon logjam has finally cleared up at the Kharlovka Falls. Held back this summer for an exhausting three extra weeks, the last of the mighty salmon gave it a final big push to go over before the window closed again for another year. Early in the week, with the water conditions just right, anglers sat up at the memorizing falls and watched in awe as up to several large salmon a minute came leaping past. Less than 48 hours later the vast majority had disappeared. Those that remained trapped below the now impassable barrier have begun to start moving back down the river looking for the best of the autumn lies. Before the week was over, there was a report from the trout camp (located some 30 km above three waterfalls upstream) that a large dark salmon of possibly 40 pounds had fallen for a tiny bead-head nymph. Using a measly 5-weight rod with no more than 7-pound test, the angler could do little more than smile as his pleasant surprise busted him off with ease on the very first drunken lunge through the surface.
Every once in a long while it is simply too nice here for any serious numbers. While many of our giant salmon might have been on a bit of a holiday last week, we still managed to add several more of our experienced lads to the growing Kharlovka P.B. list. First honourable P.B. mention goes out to Nigel, who with a long powerful cast across the Litza Ledge pool managed to land his green Highlander tube square into the mouth of a lovely 20 pounder. Next it was bombers away for John the surgeon off the Lower Kharlovka. Steady with the rod, John showed great patience not to lift too early into his 24 pound P.B. as it chased his brown bomber across the surface of the Rock Pool. And then there was Mike, who after 30 minutes of following his dreams up and down the boulders along the Snowbank pool finally managed to put his angry 25 pound P.B. into Sasha’s net. While Mike was definitely pleased, it was reported that Sasha might have been even happier than he was. Let’s not forget about the Kim and Tim show, which was most cleverly hosted by their guide Kola the barbarian. Managing to turn just about everything this week into a laugh, Tim will most likely be signing up again for next year leaving stuck 3X over in a respectable 20 pound salmon rut.
They don’t call him ‘big fish Eddie’ for nothing. Back on his second trip this season, Eddie found himself into the fish of a lifetime early one morning in the Upper Dream pool. Following a good 25 minutes of splashing about near the tail of the run, Eddie fought hard not to let this opportunity slip away. With his rod bend nearly double, he was eventually able to get the head up on his 105cm ‘ 31 pound hen salmon, sliding her safely into Big Alex’s net. Just to put the exclamation point on his trip, ‘big fish’ went on to land the first 28-pound crocodile off the upper river pools of the Kharlovka National Park. After nearly 10 seasons here on the Kola, Eddie was certainly chuffed to bits to break his old standing 27-pound P.B. – twice in just three bright sunny days.
While a few of our fishing guests might have a hard time explaining how they got so tan -
Our last bright highlight of the week must go out to all the sunburn Russians that are now parading their redness here around camp. Living half of their lives under a depressing arctic darkness, you can just imagine how important it is for them to soak up every precious ray while they can.
If you can’t beat them – join them. While the strong gales of Friday evening might have kept our Kharlovka House party back down in the lodge, our spirits never wavered. As each received his long glass of Gin and Tonic, smiles and chatter began to fill the air. Under the long shadows of the late afternoon arctic sun, teased in by the tantalizing smells of marinated reindeer steaks, all the while being reminded of the good old days by the Erik Clapton ‘ our adventurous friends joyfully socialized and shouted the last of their northern hours away.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 31 ending Friday 03-August-07
Strolling into the new VIP lounge at the Murmansk airport, we were able tell straight away. All laughing and shouting at once, groups of large fair skinned men sat anxiously gathered round. There were tens of beer cans, snoozes, and rollies scattered about the tables. Glowing orange Guideline, Loop army gear and those fishy Loomis patches seemed to catch your eye wherever you looked. Finally we had the call to go and suddenly there was chaos. Scrambling for their kit, half drunken bottles splashed to the floor. Then there was a mad rush for the loo. Soon after the massive rotor blades began to turn, a confident yet serious stare washed over their faces. All sat up straight, they began to optimistically gesture back and forth. It wasn’t long before their customary bottle of drink was passed round and round the fusel lodge. In no time at all, we were touching back down at camp as each quickly scurried off to his old familiar Kharlovka cabin. Last week it was plainly obvious from the very beginning that summer, along with the hardy Vikings, were now again back home with us on the northern Kola ‘ Skol!
It might have been short but it sure was sweet, as perfect blue skies and soft temperatures accompanied the fisherman throughout the first half of their adventure. The brief dry spell was certainly what the doctor ordered as our swollen rivers responded quickly leveling off some 10 much needed centimetres in just the first three days. This ended up being more of a drop than was achieved during the previous three weeks combined. However, our pleasant situation was not all that surprisingly short lived, as late afternoon towards the middle of the week; the dreaded winds of change began to blow in yet again. That evening the Arctic skies turned an eerie purple mist. All night long heavy rain pounded down on the saturated northern coast. Splashing off again through the reindeer trails, our anglers blissfully crawled back into rivers that were now sadly 10 centimetres higher overnight. Under partly cloudy skies, we finished things off with a barometer that was jumping up and down like a yo-yo and strong southerly winds that continued to attract the odd late afternoon shower.
First honourable mention this week must go out to the four young Viking fishing machines of Andreas (20), Simen (15), Petter (14), Carl Jr. (11). While young Carl was without question the big story last season, winning his 40 minute battle with a 34 pound monster off the Kharlovka Falls – this time around top honours had to go out to the talented Andreas – who by the way is skillfully capable of some 50m with his shooting heads and not surprisingly a young casting prodigy currently working with the Guideline Power team. Having landed approximately 30 salmon a season since he first started to blast out a line at age 11, we were happy to say that his impressive averages were now quickly beginning to mount up. Landing several nice salmon nearly every day, Andreas helped lead the way eventually breaking his ‘old’ Norwegian P.B. with a satisfying 21 pounder.
And then there was Simen, who at only 15 years old was already taller than many of the veterans here on camp. With silver in his eyes, dressed in all the latest kit, Simen was happily out on his first salmon fishing trip ever. Casting genes were obviously this boy’s blood, as he was throwing a good 25m by the end of the weekend. With both his proud father and grandfather looking on, this young man also went on to land several nice salmon nearly every day including an outstandingly fresh 21 pounder off the tide on the Island pool. Before it was all said and done, Simen managed to go a couple better than that, upping his new P.B. twice more to 24 and finally 26 pounds.
Let’s not forget the bear of a boy – Petter. Several pieces of bread covered in a half stick of butter, to go with his massive bowl of sugar-coated hot cereal, followed by a couple of fried eggs and that pile of crispy bacon ‘ it certainly took some doing to fill up this young man’s size 12 wading boots. Although Petter had plenty of success landing a couple nice salmon every day, we might have over nourished this young Viking, for unfortunately he ended up pulling the hook out of his shockingly fresh 30 pounder less than a meter from Valentine’s out-stretched net. Don’t feel too sorry for any of these young lads for they will be back in just two weeks to test their skills again.
And then there was the unforgettable Trygve story. After going some 42 days without a salmon this season in Norway, Thursday was finally Trygve’s day. While spate conditions are normally not what you want, you never really know what is going to happen when you cast your fly down through the Kharlovka Falls. Gazing across the brown bubbly water, Trygve decided to forgo messing around on the surface and wisely went straight for his trusty three-inch copper Willie Gunn dredger. Moments later he was smiling at a beautifully fresh 8-pound sea liced salmon. Standing in exactly the same position, Trygve chucked a few more across the deep water. Before he really had a chance to absorb the last, he was pulling in another fresh one of 14 pounds. Thanking the river for her gifts, Trygve dipped his hat in the water and took a seat, inviting his friend Vidar over for a go. Forty-five minutes went by but all he could manage was a couple of soft pulls.
Finally moving down, Trygve assumed his same position on the rock. Confidently stripping off the line, he was sure that there had to be one more with his name on it. Not more than five casts later, Trygve’s rod was bent double. It didn’t take long for him to realize that this was the one he had always dreamed of – as 35 pounds of bright silver came flying up into the air. Trygve cranked down on his drag and managed to hold the great salmon close for an exhausting 35 minutes. Eventually it rose to the surface where his guide Volodya was waiting like a hawk. Stabbing out through the deep water the giant silver salmon splashed about in the net. Everyone instantly agreed that it was over 120cm long, weighing 35 to 40 pounds. While the fish was still crashing about, suddenly the fly broke off. Volodya reached for his scales, as the powerful salmon stuck the tip of his nose through a small hole. A few more thrashes later and it had finally ripped its way to freedom. Understanding that big fish sometimes don’t like to stick around for the photo, Trygve claimed the day as ‘the best of his life.’
All in all and despite the freak rainstorms that continue to give our salmon a definite advantage – we always tend to have a magical time here. Considering that a quarter of the group had never fished before and that another third of the boys were under 23 years old, the jolly team pulled together to find a most satisfactory 148 salmon on the week.
Currently the water is flowing at the 23cm mark on the home pool scale with a temperature of 15.2 degrees C. While the Kharlovka River is once again too strong for the salmon to make it through the falls, we are most pleased to report that a small percentage of the most powerful salmon did manage to struggle through during the brief window earlier in the week. Evidence of this was provided by Vidar and Trygve, who battled three monsters up in the Kharlovka National Park. Unfortunately, after jerking off several 10m spurts of Trygve’s fly line, he was again abruptly broken off leaving the mystery open so far this season – as to just how powerful the lonely salmon of the upper drainage truly are.
The confused soggy tundra is beginning to retreat. Berry stains now mark the backside of the lazy angler. Arctic flowers that never really had a chance, are turning to seed. As the birch rustles through the crisp evening air, the birds have all gone silent. A noticeable twilight now settles in just after supper. While we might all be simply too knackered to notice, we don’t believe that we have yet reached that long awaited point of pitch dark. Thankfully and without worry, we will all anxiously be stripping line off again in the morning without a clue of what could possibly happen next.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 30 ending Friday 27-July-07
Living in a world where practice makes perfect, life can soon start to become boring and routine. Thankfully, for those of us searching for a bit more mystery and something to seriously challenge us, there is salmon fishing on Russia’s far northern coast. Here, the mighty rivers really don’t care what you have achieved previously in your life. No matter how expert you might think you are in you field, or how much wealth you managed to acquire in that last deal ‘ the great Northern Rivers hold us all humbly to the bank on the same level.
For the last nine weeks – we have been going on about our crazy unseasonable situation. While ‘nice’ conditions are probably the last thing we should expect or hope for flying in on an Arctic fishing adventure, this summer has certainly been the soggiest that even the most experienced here on camp can remember. From spring’s late arrival and the substantial amounts of snow and ice – to the cold foggy days of our so-called summer – to the rain and drizzle that never seems to stop ‘ our rivers have flowed fast and chilly straight the way through.
Besides the freak three-hour downpour early week on the upper Litza which drove the already swollen river up 15 additional centimetres overnight, our overall conditions lately have been some of the mildest that we have seen thus far. As the tundra never even came close to dying out this season, our last seven misty days were still enough to hold the Kharlovka River from dropping more than a mere 1cm a night. While the Kharlovka did manage to fall a meager 8cm over the week, the Litza River barely settled back down to where it started out. Without question, all this rising water has now begun to take its toll. Besides the parade of fresh grilse ‘ the handful of bright teenagers and the odd sea liced 20 pounder that continue to stroll in along the banks, the vast majority of our large spring run have simply disappeared beneath the dark heavy flows.
We currently have a logjam situation building up at the Kharlovka Falls. Usually every year between July 5th and the 15th, as the water levels drop to a summer reading of between 10 – 18 centimetres on the home pool scale; thousands of salmon begin to leap their silver way into the upper drainage. Our research indicates that on the average season, 50% of the most powerful stock would normally be able to negotiate the impressive 3-meter jump. Now almost two weeks off the norm, nearly every salmon in the mighty Kharlovka seems be stacked up below the bubbly white water and all ‘ With one priority on their mind. Until the thunderstorms begin to ease upstream and the water drops another 10 to 15 centimetres, the vast majority of the salmon will continue to keep their heads down and conserve the energy.
Normally by late July, the Kharlovka River has dropped away enough to block off any further hopes that the salmon might have of making it over the first waterfall. As soon as that door closes the remaining 50% of the salmon then begin to roam up and down the river looking for suitable lies to do their business later that fall. While the action last week might not have been all that fast and furious on the lower beats, we couldn’t help but be optimistic as we swung our colourful temptations across the thousands that were still trapped under the high water conditions of the pools upstream.
With large salmon rolling around everywhere on the upper Kharlovka, you would have thought that Piers, our resident Northern Rivers flora expert, might have known better than to cast into Guy’s pool without first checking his drag. Slapping his Sun Ray across the run, it wasn’t long before he had awoken a 30+ pound sleeping giant. With his line suddenly ripping off his reel, the large salmon bounced around towards the heavy tail of the run. His guide Kola then screamed at Piers to apply a bit of pressure to the reel. Without a rim to palm – frantically twisting on the ‘Hardly’ drag, his big chance shot straight through to freedom down the powerful rapids into the safety of the upper canyon below. Lucky to have only lost the salmon, Piers licked his wounds as he reeled up the 100+ meters of slack line. Now faced with a Litza overnight coming up the next day, Piers – with a scared look in his eye, pleaded with us for a proper Kola Salmon reel. That turned out to be a smart move for two days later, both he and his new Finnish friend Esa, returned most satisfied with their 11 Litza salmon ‘ including a 32-pound P.B. for Esa and a consoling 20 for Piers.
And then there was the always rowdy, hot cereal loven, beer-drinking boys from Northern Ireland. Now into his fifth season here with us on the Kharlovka, Bobby appears to have learned his lessons landing three with an average weight of 23 pounds. Richard however, who seems to be stuck 3X over with us on the 20′s, finally had his chance to taste the big time. Staggering down with his mates after dinner to the misty home pool, he launched his Willie Gunn bottle across the run. Drawing back quite quickly through the middle, the line suddenly went very hard. Rolling over the surface to let everyone know exactly what they were in for, Richard’s 40-pounder obviously must not have liked what he saw. Before the Irishman could reach the bank he was starring at his backing and a big problem heading quickly downstream. Unfortunately, Richard panicked and begun to crank down on the drag. Not realizing the power or the probability that his great salmon would stop at the back of the pool, Richard finally twisted one turn too many and broke him off for good. Walking up the bank shaking his head, his guide Valentine simply said ‘What a shame my friend! One of these years you are going to learn.’ It looks like we will be seeing Richard back for more big fish lessons again next season. Stop the press! On the final evening Richard pranced backed into the lodge with his Irish head held high claiming 7 last salmon including a new well-deserved last inning P.B. off the Flat Stone that weighed in at a very pleasing 26 pounds.
Fortunately, the silver joy never tends to be too far away from the tears here, as our next deserving tale has to go out to Chris. As anyone who has ever been to the impressive Eynsham Estate can tell you, keeping the gardens ‘ duck – goose reserve up to Peter’s high standards, has to have taken years of dedication along with the greenest of thumbs. Last week at Peter’s invitation, Chris gave the weed eater and shovel a break to come see what the big salmon fuss was all about. After landing his first four ever, including two new impressive P.B.’s of 17 and 22 pounds out of the Litza tent pool ‘ Chris is now obviously a devoted believer. Soaking up every second of his dream trip, Chris has ‘never known time to fly by so fast.’ We do hope that he enjoyed himself, for it sounds like Chris will be flying straight back to help sort out the unfortunate flood conditions back home.
And then there was Lawrence who appears to be one of those hopeless fishing addicts that simply can’t get enough. Back on his second trip of the season, Lawrence is obviously still being haunted by the colossal salmon he lost earlier this June running 75 meters above the Island pool – along the now famous Lawrence Bank. This time the young man showed us all that experience does count and that lessons can be learned as he went on to break his old standing 20-pound P.B an impressive 5X over with a 21, 22, 22, 25 ‘ finally raising his new mark up to a most respectable 28 pounds.
Our last honourable highlight surely belongs to the smiling Swedish brothers – Rikard and Krister, who with everyone gathered around the Kharlovka dinner table shouting their heads off on final evening, received the last big fish toast of the week to their new 25 and 29 pound personal bests. All in all, and despite the big flows in the river, the whole team did surprisingly well again to find 144 salmon. Along with adding another half dozen more to the legendary Kharlovka P.B. list, there were another 18 salmon between 20 and 32 pounds.
Soggy fishermen tell their long tales gathered round the crackling warm fire. Tiny waterlogged mushrooms are doing their best to push up through the wet tundra. Reindeer running the trails keep spreading further to the south. The occasional bit of faint yellow now catches your eye through the birch. As our polar days fade away, the subtle signs of autumn are beginning to creep their way in. Currently losing some 15 minutes of twilight every day, it won’t be long now before we are sleeping under the stars for the first time in over two months.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 29 ended 20-July-07
Let’s face it there are very few pass times that depend on the conditions quite as heavily as fishing for Russia’s elusive multi sea-winter salmon. With respect to this season’s unpredictable weather, we have undeniably been on a wild arctic ride ever since the very first casts. Flying in last week to unfairly inherit five days of rising rivers, our latest bunch of salmon fanatics turned up yet again on the brief promise of mild stable skies.
At first, it appeared that our long lost summer had finally arrived and just maybe the saturated tundra would finally begin drying out. While we never take much interest in your printed forecasts, we do take notes when the pilots have something to say. Their advice was to soak it up while we could for very soon, things were going to get complicated- yet again! As they rarely make predictions, we all pretty much considered this one to be inevitable.
Come Sunday morning, air temperatures were reading in at a buggy 28.5 degrees C. Overnight, water temps shot up four degrees to a concerning 18 degrees C. Meanwhile our swollen rivers were now flowing swiftly at 40cm on the Home pool scale. By midday, the winds were draining from south like a hot blow drier. Before long we were looking over our shoulders at the massive cumulus that were stacking up like skyscrapers upstream. Then all of a sudden, the winds switched over to Arctic north and the real-feel dropped some twenty degrees in twenty minutes. The rivers suddenly felt like a warm bowl of Russian soup as the mists began to blur our vision of pools below. Two massive cells proceeded to collide over the far northern coast. Ominous thunder began to rumble through the valleys. Fisherman along the riverbanks quickly reeled up and took shelter under the giant hanging boulders. Seconds later, with the rain pouring down, lightning proceeded to pepper the high ridges. Consequently that afternoon, the Litza River swelled some 15cm.
Two days of cool drizzle followed. By mid week, after 10 straight days of rising, the intimidating rivers were running off coloured and unseasonably huge at 46cm on the home pool scale. Curiously, this was the same amount of water that we had rushing through the drainage back in late June. Foolishly thinking that we might have seen it all, the warm dry winds began to gale again from the south. After enjoying a brief morning of sunshine, the high clouds were once more on the change. Fishing out our last couple of days under misty skies, our situation finally began to level off.
Needless to say, the salmon were not very amused by all this. Pushed back from the falls, stuffed into the Mirror pool, and spread across the tail of the Military ‘ the unusually high summer flows concentrated the fish into the remaining soft water pockets of the rivers. Many of the pools along the powerful Eastern Litza simply became unfishable.
Undeterred by Mother Nature’s dirty tricks, the boys hammered away eventually tallying up an exhilarating 123 salmon on the week. While there was certainly no shortage of spanking fresh grilse running up the shallow banks, thankfully the heavy dark flows also pushed a few of the monsters into the fishable margins. To go with our five new P.B.s, and the couple of respectable 37 and 32 pounders, we also had our share of near misses that ended up on the brink of silver greatness.
Our first honourable break-off this week goes out to Dr. Mike – a hopeless fishing addict that was just here three weeks ago. It appears that the good doctor was allowed back for second week providing he brought along his better half ‘ Shirley, his most understanding wife of 30 years. After tucking the fiery Shirl into her Litza tent at 23:30 and whispering sweetly that he would be back in an hour, Mike set off for a few last relaxing flicks into the Mirror Pool. Somewhere in the middle of his ten salmon strikes, a clean silver giant latched onto his hand tied Shirley Temple Dog. After leaping up out of the water to get a good look at Mike and Vasili perched high on the rocks above, the angry salmon tore off down around the corner of the lower tent and Doctor Mike was joyfully off to the Litza races.
Clamouring down through a field of boulders, he finally caught up to his great salmon taking a short break in the far tail of the pool below. Exhausted and full of hope, Mike pulled hard to bring his dream back to reality. Then like so many big fish stories, Mike was suddenly left with nothing as once more his line dangled free in the current below. Feeling a bit lost and somewhat devastated, Mike persevered that night going onto land a couple of consoling grilse.
Eventually returning around 4:30 that morning, Mike attempted to sneak back in on his lovely wife who was still waiting up for him in the Tent. Thankfully Shirley was beginning to understand Mike’s addiction for that same morning out of the Dream pool; skillfully lobbing her bomber down though the run, Shirley was soon into her first salmon ever. With a smile on her face and a wee glint of silver in her eyes, Shirl proudly lifted her fresh grilse up for the snapping cameras.
The other top break-off blurb of the week has to go out to our new friend Joe. His only mistake was casting his Cascade tube upon the shark-invested waters of the Military pool. Suddenly hooking up with the largest salmon that he had ever come across, Joe was into his backing in an instant. After encouraging his angry foe nearly all the way back – it then shot off again towards the far side of the run. Prolonging the inevitable, his feisty salmon nervously circled the tail of the boulder-laden run. Then giving a few last summer-salts as if to say a final good-bye, his big story ripped out the far channel, quickly heading back to the sea – it was a classic Litza Das Veedanya. Helplessly stuck on the far right side, Joe was able to hold on for another seven memorable seconds before finally losing the lot ‘ line included. Let this be a valuable lesson to us all ‘ Never under estimate the possibilities here on the Northern Rivers!
It certainly wasn’t all tears around here last week. One evening, Alan came running into the lodge waving his camera’s memory card around frantically in the air. After quietly gathering up everyone he could find, it was P.B. Show time for the proud Yorkshire man – as the shots of his 111cm ‘ 32 pound went round and round the Kharlovka dinning room. After finally having to pry the special big fish hat off his swollen head, Alan was back at the top of the table the next night going on and on about his cracking fresh 27 silver salmon.
Other interesting stories included Matt, who after finessing 9 acrobatic grilse off the Litza, jumped off the helicopter and decided to finish things off right – with a 34 pound Kharlovka home pool giant. Then there was good old Mike, from the Midlands, who after 20 years of trying finally broke his long standing P.B. with a most satisfying 20 pounder off the Upper Tent. A very honourable mention must also go out to our new 82-year-old friend Leslie, who managed to break his P.B. late week out of the Golden Pool – fulfilling all his salmon dreams with a stunning 24 pounder. And last but far from the least, there was the bomber throwing Canadians, who with their modest 9 footers – single handedly, pulled 26 salmon from the massive rivers.
Life here above the Arctic Circle has always been for believers only – A fantastic place of speed and contrast where hardy gentlemen escape to test their limits. As we quickly approach the end of our 45 polar days ‘ we have now pretty much accepted that summer has passed us by. At the moment, there is no good reason to believe that our rivers are going to start dropping anytime soon. Nevertheless, one of the greatest things about fishing these great Northern Rivers is having no idea what could possibly happen next.
At the ASR we have now landed over 1500 fish of which 52% have been 12 lbs+. The best five were 42, 38, 37, 36 & 34 lbs.The Kharlovka Report: Week 28 ended Friday, 13-Jul-07
Welcome to the edge of Russia’s Arctic tundra, a dream place where unrealistic expectations are consistently challenged, where predictions and forecasts have no relevance ‘ a mysterious paradise where huge salmon glide through powerful currents eventually losing themselves amongst the million boulders. If variety is truly the spice of our lives, then it easy to understand why we dream all year about fishing on the exciting northern coast.
We do realize that there have been several previous attempts to accurately describe our complicated local conditions however; last weekend was truly one of the most interesting changeovers we have experienced so far. It all stared out early last Saturday, as the entire northern coast of the Kola awoke yet again, to that dreaded murky haar. As if time had suddenly stopped, there was a dark stillness in the morning air. Helicopters across the region were subsequently grounded until 18:30. While most of our anglers were thoroughly shattered from the previous week’s 221 salmon and quite happy to simply reflect back in the lodge, the unstoppable William managed to sneak another couple 17 and 27 pounders out of the home pool.
Then on a moments notice, waving goodbye to the staff out the windows of the helicopter, we were again lifting back off into the northern mist. Three thousand feet up and the sunglasses came out, as we floated along a white carpet – eventually touching down square in the middle of the Murmansk heli pads. Needless to say, due to our late arrivals and with all the weather uncertainties, the Stockholm jet unfortunately had to be held back for the night. In fact, our guests from the Northern Rivers were the only fishermen to eventually fly off the Kola that weekend, as the Finn Air flight was already long gone.
Having lost one day to bad weather, our anxious friends arrived the next morning from Sweden and were quickly shuttled off to the camps. Flying back along the wild arctic coast we could all tell by the dark clouds blanketing the sea, that we would again be challenged by the weather. Come nine o’clock that evening, with one lucky team of Americans now thankfully tucked away on the Litza, the temperatures sank into the low single digits and the dreaded fog was again all around us. The visibility was so poor that for the next two days the boys didn’t even dare to ask if we were flying to the Litza. Meanwhile, with the entire river to themselves, our two American friends Bob and Richard casually pulled in their first 18 Atlantic salmon ever!
This is now the point in our report where we again say ‘God bless the Home pool’, as the local waters provided another half dozen great salmon averaging 24 pounds during the morning fog delays. Fishing through the wet morning air, Jock certainly made the most of his situation – landing a fresh brace of 22 pounders. Taking a well-deserved midday break to power dry the kit in the inviting Kharlovka lodge, followed by a reviving bowl of soup and sensible short kip – Team Scotland then wondered back down to the Home pool to haul in another 20 pounder for Tom before finally retiring with a cold beer and a wee dram to the hot Russian sauna.
The next morning it was Dr. Joe that was on standby in the Home pool of the mighty Kharlovka. Before too long, Big Alex was calling back up to the lodge on the radio. Bolshoy Riba! Big Fish – Bring the camera! As the paparazzi gathered, we could all tell by the size of their smiles that something great certainly must have happened. Approaching the riverbank to investigate, an awesome salmon suddenly exploded from the firm grip of Big Alex. Thankfully he was able to quickly regain control of the beast, going on to proudly hoist up their 115cm – 37 pound cock fish for the flashing cameras. Tragically this was only the fine doctor’s fifth salmon ever (with all of his previous landed here during his first two days) ‘ And surely he was now ruined for life. There may still be hope for Doctor Joe, for that evening at the dinner table his big fish reality began to finally sink in, going on to declare this as- ‘One of the most memorable days of his life.’
With so many large salmon cruising about this season in the Northern Rivers, we can now tell the minute you get off the helicopter how great your day was. Peering down through the birch, we could see Lloyd’s grin the minute he came off the helicopter. Next came his guide Sasha, with his arms stretched wide, giving that unmistakable big fish sign. Standing with our steaming cups of tea under the dripping veranda, Lloyd soon came dancing in along the slippery duck boards. It was obvious in his big fish strut that he was now a believer. Properly soaked from head to toe, Lloyd proudly rattled off the numbers ‘ 110 by 56 – weighting in at 31.5lbs. Not bad for a young man from San Fran who had his first Spey casting lesson that morning at the breakfast table!
Then suddenly there was a tremendous cloud burst on the Wednesday mid afternoon, as 20 minutes of hard rain poured down onto the saturated tundra. Like the crescendo of a grand old orchestra, 10 long seconds of impressive thunder then rolled across the north coast as if to say a final goodbye. At that moment, the breezes switched to the south, temperatures were all of a sudden 10 degrees warmer, and the midges began to multiply before our eyes. With the skies now glowing a hot peach, we gladly ripped up the old fishing rotor and gathered round the table in our waders. Thankfully salmon fishing is a gentlemen’s sport and as long as everyone was going to get to go to the Litza – there was not going to be any arguments’ Without a second to lose, we promptly deployed four fresh teams back to the lost river. Not surprisingly, it was Litza chaos that ensued, as her rested waters were quick to liven.
First honourable Litza mention has to go out to our good ol’ friends – Nico and Sue who, with the aide of their ox-like guide Dima, ended up setting the river a blaze. Armed with her hand tied green and black Finnish Strikers, the charming Susan was into a near record on the third cast into the Litza waterfall. Measuring in at 105cm, Dima was only able to stretch the scales to an honest 29.5 pounds. Moments later, Susan and her trusty guide were teaming up again to pull in a 21 pounder. Then, after being one of the lucky few to spend the night at the Tent camp, they finally returned shattered with 17 more lovely stories for the grandchildren back home. Two of these salmon weighed in at a solid 28 and 29 pounds for Nico – coming out back to back from the challenging Ledge pool.
Anyone who thinks that lighting never strikes twice has obviously never fished the great Eastern Litza. Under a drizzly early morning sky, Chris and Sean began to fling their Sun Rays across the inviting waters of the Tent pool. It was Sean that felt the first great thump. Then a few unforgettable seconds later there was a massive 40+ splashing about near the far cliff. Meanwhile, standing only 15 meters away downstream on the same bank, Chris lifted almost simultaneously into another tremendous strike. Totally out of control, Sean’s huge salmon then began to nervously circle the pool. Fortunately without a clue what he had on, Chris’s heavy weight continued to sulk deep – occasionally tugging back firmly on the line. For a moment, there was great concern that Sean and Chris might cross paths when all of a sudden Sean’s fly line went hopelessly taught deep along the far bank of the Tent pool. Then almost as quickly as the massive salmon had appeared, Sean’s huge silver dreams were all but a memory.
Finally with a bit a room to now manoeuvre in the pool, Chris coolly stepped up to the plate and caught the first glimpse of his salmon’s enormous tail. ‘The fly appeared to be stuck in miles upstream.’ Playing a patient game of tug-o-war, both Chris and his dream fish eventually began to tire. After giving away Millions of pounds during his illustrious career, it finally appeared to be Litza payback time for good ol’ Chris. No one dared to say a word, as the monster salmon was dangerously lifted to the surface. Probably not understanding that this one would go round the world, young Vasili stabbed at the great beast with his humble net and the game was finally over. They all dropped to their knees in awe. It took two guides to control the beast as they proudly stretched the tape to 120cm. With cameras flashing, the scales were then held high to a reading of 42 pounds. After a final photo and a big kiss, Chris finally let go.
While we definitely had our share of joy last week, there was also a lot of serious weather about. The sun did eventually poke its way through the fog and thunderstorms however, there were actually only two days all week that we were able to take off on time for the Litza. The rivers have been slowly rising for the last 5 days (up 17cm on the week), finally leveling off on the Friday at 37cm on the home pool scale. All things considering, the boys did incredible well to find 144 salmon during their short exciting run.
Last week Kharlovka rods landed 221 salmon & grilse which was an astonishing 67% over the same week in 2006. The recorded catch for the ASR as a whole was 421. The year to date total is up 11% and the late season conditions indicate this is heading for 20% over the next few weeks. We have now accounted for 22 salmon of 30 lbs+, 201 of 20 lbs+ & 422 of 15 lbs+.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 27 ended Friday, 6-Jul-07
While this certainly is not the first time and it definitely won’t be her last, Mother Nature has tricked us once again. Although most of the Russians are now wading about with a pronounced ‘farmers tan’, the bright sunny skies and balmy temperatures of late last week now seem like a distance southern holiday.
Flying in across the memorizing tundra, we all suddenly took notice of the ominous dark wall of Arctic weather advancing towards the north coast. A few moments later, with anticipations soaring understandably high, and we were touching down again on the Kharlovka heli pad. After enjoying our hot soups and absorbing the all important safety briefing, we moved quickly to stay ahead of the looming weather situation now creeping up on us from the sea. Scrambling for extra layers, packets of sinking tips, and those special flies you had set aside – we promptly packed up the big MI-8 with our anxious anglers and flew away to the long awaited fishing beats.
A short time later, with four groups now spread down the isolated pools of the Eastern Litza, that inevitable cold low-pressure system began to shift in from the Barents Sea, going on to cloak the Northern Rivers in a thick heavy fog that would linger for the next four days. Our first Saturday night at the Litza tent camp, including the helicopter crew and staff, we ended up accommodating for 19 stranded happy campers. Highlights included BBQ steaks, plenty of salmon on the fly, snoring for England in the tents, and an unmentionable number of vodka shots – And not necessarily in that order!
Come Sunday, Mother Nature began to take pity on the worriless anglers. Eventually opening up a brief window in the weather every late afternoon for the next three days, allowing us to at least change over our guests from the Litza camp. While nobody was longing for the sun, a mere 200 meters of visibility would have been nice – enabling for us to properly stretch out the troops along our sister river’s salmon laden pools.
Nevertheless, there are certainly worse things in life than being fogged in on Mighty Kharlovka. Just ask the lucky Irishman John, who without question had the two most exciting salmon fishing days of his life pulling out 6 fresh Kharlovka silver bars with a stunning average weight of 25 pounds! Unfortunately we were not able to further expand on John’s story for after landing his last fish (shattering his old P.B. with a 32 pounder), he was unable to complete any more coherent sentences for the rest of the week.
And God bless the Home Pool, where a 20-pounder before breakfast these days barely raises an eyebrow. After giving up a couple last week, and a few more the week before, William and Adrian were the latest two believers respectively hauling in 31 and 32 pounders. For the unstoppable William, who by the way sets out in our arctic weather with a smart button up dinner shirt layered only by his trademark 10-year old rain jacket, Aquaseal ridden waders and a pair of very tired wading boots – it’s all about chasing the silver. After a couple more 20′s out of the Home pool to put a smile on his face, the next day William returned soaked yet completely satisfied with another 106cm – 32 pound Kharlovka beauty – his fifth 30 plus here on the Northern Rivers over the years.
Let’s call it Big Wednesday, as things finally began to come very right. Waking for the first time all week with the air temperature warmer than the water and a cloud ceiling of at least 201 meters, we again packed up the big helicopter and headed back to the tranquil waters of the great Eastern Litza. Under a gentle covered sky, with suspiciously mild temperatures and without so much as a breath of arctic wind, it was now Litza Payback time. Within hours the guide radios began to crackle up and down the river – 28 pounds, 26, 25, 23, 22 — broken line on the Upper beat – snapped tip near the tent – angler swimming after a monster in the Flat Stone – It was obvious that we were now back in silver heaven. From the legendary Bombers, to the elegant Sun Rays, to the Russian’s Golden Killers, to a small humble Green Butt – Our rested salmon never had a chance. By the time the first drop of vodka hit our shot glasses that evening our merry friends had accounted for an unforgettable 58 salmon.
Big Wednesday was such a hit that we decided to do it again Russian style the following day. With their overnight kit, video equipment, and an underwater camera – Six good Russian friends were then spread out amongst the boulders of the Litza river. By chance, that evening Peter happened to be flying about near the lower beat when he decided to touch down to see how everyone was getting along. He suddenly took noticed of his friend Boris starring down at his hand, contemplating life beside the riverbank. After lowering down onto a suitable rock nearby, Peter could now see that he was holding a large double hook that had been straighten flat. Glancing at each other with a half smile, Peter said “What a shame – it appears that you have lost your 40 pounder. (pause) – Right! Now pull your self together I’m flying us all back up to the tent camp for BBQ steaks!” Over several bottles of cold vodka, the tent quickly began to warm as they went round and round the table reliving the stories of their 27 salmon they had landed that day. Understandably Boris, who was still clutching his Litza souvenir tightly in his hand, would have gladly given up his respectable half dozen (including the 28 pounder) for a mere second chance at his unforgettable Litza freight train.
Although we might on occasion tend to go on a bit about our Arctic weather, hopefully we should all know by now, that it is always better when we have to work for what we want. Undeterred by the soggy unflyable conditions on the first half of the week, our latest band of fishing rogues did surprisingly well again to chase down 221 salmon. Including the four most recent, the Kharlovka camp alone has now accounted for a most notable 19 great salmon so far this blustery season in the 30-pound class. Not to brag too much however last week totals were a whopping 67% up on this same week last year.
Temperatures in Kharlovka Home pool are currently reading in at a fishy 10.9 degrees C, with stable flows of 30cms on the scale. Along with a few large snow packs, which still lie hidden amongst the north face, the tundra is still totally saturated. River levels should remain healthy for the foreseeable future. Despite the lack of sunshine thus far on the forgotten north coast – the tundra is now a lush carpet of green shoots, yellow flowers are stretching for the sky, and the birch forests are beginning to thicken. Ptarmigan dressed in their summer camouflage now dash between the ferns with their tiny chicks in hot pursuit. Songbirds feasting on Stonefly quickly disappear into the cover with something to finally sing about.
In the rivers of the ASR, as at 29-Jun-07, we have landed 755 fish. 17 of these have been over 30 lbs+ with the best at 38 lbs. 9% of the salmon have been 25 lbs+, 24% – 20 lbs+ and 48% – 15lbs+. The average weight of the salmon stands at 15.5 lbs.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 26 ended Friday, 29-Jun-07
While everyday life may be somewhat routine and to the south, thankfully here on the Kola’s far northern coast daily life is anything but predictable. For the last five weeks now, our late spring weather has been simply ‘bloody awful’. From the finger numbing sea breezes to the relentless damp character building days, we have joyfully fished our way through it all. Unbelievably, the first half of last week we endured the most challenging conditions thus far of the season.
It all started out on the Saturday morning where after waking up to a thick blanket of helicopter-grounding fog, a small party of fishing addicts rushed back down for a few last flicks in the home pool. Several spey casts, plus a bonus salmon later, and we were all on our way once again. Without further ado, our last lucky bunch went straight through Murmansk check in and were now safely on their way home.
Meanwhile, our new eager arrivals were being entertained in the recently improved VIP airport lounge when suddenly we received ‘the word’ and once more, we were all on the go. Taking advantage of a fortunate sunny gap in the weather, we didn’t hesitate getting everyone straight back into camp. Before we could finish our soups and organize the tackle, the arctic winds had shifted yet again. With anticipation now spilling over, we moved swiftly to deploy the boys to their long awaited fishing beats. Little did we know dropping off Tom and Woody along the dark waters middle Litza that it would be the last we would see of them for the next three days.
Come Sunday breakfast, with the temperatures still stuck in the single digits and the barometer plummeting to new lows, it was obviously going to be an extra-layer kind of day. Some 12 enduring hours of heavy spring rains followed. Not surprisingly, half the soaked anglers had been driven back to camp before lunch. For the first time any of us can remember, the last hardy sole eventually dripped his way back into the lodge clearing the mighty river by four o’clock mid afternoon.
The sound of rushing water was everywhere as the thousands of reindeer trails flowed like small tundra creeks. By Monday the freak rains had slowed to a chilly drizzle as the rivers eventually leveled out some 30cm higher overnight. What followed was the most exciting salmon fishing so far of the season! That evening after finally pulling Tom, Woody and their 27 fish stories back from the Litza, along with the Kharlovka bonanza that day, we were recording 66 fresh salmon into the weekly log. Incredible 17 of these entries were serious fish between 20 and 30 pounds.
This appeared to be Mother Nature’s grand finale for almost overnight the cold gray days of spring had disappeared and summer was suddenly now upon us. Warm southerly breezes and shocking blue skies were the latest problems. Scrambling for our hitched tubes, sun cream and the bug dope, we all made the most of our new pleasant situation. Before it was all said and done, with the last green highlander clipped from their lines, the boys had combined for an exciting 190 salmon on the week. Is it now becoming safe to say, that there definitely appears to be more large salmon lurking about in the Northern Rivers this season as 41 of the this week’s catch were again over 20 pounds – not including the half dozen honest 28 to 29 pounders, there were another six salmon greater than the big 30 tempted here last week.
First honourable mention goes out to Gerald who from his London office really does dream all year about the Kharlovka. Arriving with his printed forecasts and spreadsheets of every statistic known to the history of this week’s fishing, we were most pleased to see Gerald returning Wednesday evening with a silver twinkle in his eye and that giant Litza smile. Along with the 13 nice salmon memories that he shared with his partner Richard, Gerald returned all grins and most satisfied with a memorable 28 pounder. While Gerald had landed a previous P.B. 28 pounder with us before, this was a fresh silver reminder of just how great the big salmon truly are.
Stewart is another one who just can’t get enough fishing. After 10 pleasurable seasons here in Russian waters, Stewart’s big moment finally came out of the Litza Snowbank pool. He could tell from the very beginning that this was the one he had always been waiting for. Finally they brought the great fish to the net making Stewart the newest member of the exclusive 30-pound club. With the bright sun shinning down, Stewart proudly adorned the white cotton gloves. Cradling his precious silver prize, he smiled for the cameras before finally letting go for another year.
And then there was the charming David who with plenty of experience under his wading belt managed to break his old Kharlovka P.B. of 25 pounds an unbelievable four times last week! Along with his four salmon in the low twenties, David went on to battle a respectable 26 pounder along with (most honest and honourable) back to back two – 29 pounders! While one could never expect to hook a 40+, we have a strange feeling that with unfinished business, we will see David back again next season.
The last heavy weight story of the week has to go out to our American friends Peter and Jamie. While we were certainly sympathetic to their poor weather situation making it impossible for us to get them camping on the Litza, we never really felt too bad for Peter, who coming down the Kharlovka on Sunday and Monday, went on to land a thick silver brace of back-to-back 33 pounders. It wasn’t like his partner Jamie was just standing by taking pictures, for he as well, will surely be going home bragging of his 22 – 23 – and 30 pound achievements.
All story telling aside, summer has finally come to the forgotten north coast. Morning Home pool air temperatures are now reading in the 20′s. While the rivers are still flowing strong at 49cm on the home pool scale – the river temperatures have shot up from a mild midweek 6.7C to a current reading of 13.6C — (25cm up and 2 degrees C warmer on this same time last season). There as been an explosion of green growth overnight across the tundra. Songbirds, large herds of reindeer and the first yellow flowers now bring additional joy to our day.
In Week 25 we were two rods short and yet 173 fish were taken being 25% up on last season and 28% above the five year average. So far this season 55% of all fish have been above 15 lbs and 26% above 20 lbs. The average weight of the salmon has been 16.3 lbs with the five best at 38, 34, 32, 32 & 31 lbs ‘ PCP.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 25 ended Friday, 22-Jun-07
From the bright midnight sun, to the rapidly transforming tundra, to the enchanting return of the multi sea winter salmon ‘ The northern Kola is without question a mystical land of contrasts. Here, every aspect of the Arctic life seems to have an extreme challenging nature. A place so special that once experienced you will never be able to get it out your system.
All with justifiably big silver hopes and dreams, our latest group of charming old friends returned once again to the Kharlovka primed and ready to get straight back to where they had left off. Starting out under misleadingly bright blue skies, the team blissfully had little idea what actually lie ahead. By the next morning everyone was putting their sun cream and bug dope away, as the gray cold north and reality began to settle back down upon us.
Currently fishing through the solstice under the longest days of the year, summer is still nowhere in sight. Water temperatures went from 6.7 degrees C on our first casts – to a weekly high of 9.1C. As the weather turned colder so did our rivers – finally leveling off approximately where we started with a reading of 7.1C degrees on the home pool scale. Looking back to this same time last season, we were splashing about in the warm rivers with temperatures of nearly 18 degrees. With both the air and the water hovering, the vast majority of the time, in the cool single digits, snow melt has recently been slowed to a crawl. Testing our Spey casts all week out of the northeast, the most consistent weather factor for us lately has been the persistent arctic winds. While there are still plenty of good snowdrifts along the north face, the rivers levels have been slowly dropping to a present mark of 36cm on the home pool scale.
Although our Arctic conditions have been somewhat gray so far this season, the fishing continues to progress at a most silvery Record pace. Despite being a couple of rods down due to a last minute cancellation from Wall Street, our guests did incredibly well going 23% up on their previous season’s total landing 173 salmon. In addition to strong numbers of midsize summer fish in their teens, and the six ‘ 19 pounders – the troops fought long and hard for another 30 great salmon in that admirable 20-pound class ‘ with the largest landed fish of the week coming in at a solid 32 pounds.
Finally our first crisis! It all started out when David rang us up in shock from the Stockholm airport explaining how his baggage had gone missing and that he had nothing! An assuring voice answered back from the far north ‘Worry not my friend. We will see you in camp.’ With that Peter hung up and sprang into action. Before David had probably left Sweden there were four assistants gathered in Peter’s house each making separate checklists. By the time David touched down in Rynda, we had assembled some 20+ kilos of necessary kit – all the way down to his smart new dinner shirts. Missing his luggage less with every salmon he landed, his nightmare quickly began to fade. Finally after returning with his fishing partner Jeremy from their Litza overnight adventure claiming 12 salmon up to 23 pounds ‘ David looked at us kindly and said ‘You can write this in your reports ‘ Naked man comes to the Arctic and has the fishing holiday of a lifetime!’ Not all that surprising considering how Peter thrives on turning disasters into joy.
Also worthy of mention was our old friend – Home pool Bill, whose story seems to epitomize the whole Kharlovka experience. Three very humbling sessions went by for William without landing a salmon during the day, yet every cold bright night after dinner he would be rewarded for his efforts with a late fish out of the Home pool. Never losing faith, William’s day finally arrived up at the Kharlovka Falls where after six successful seasons on the trot, ol’ Bill had his most memorable morning ever. Undeterred in the canyon by the cold swirling mists, Bill landed five unforgettable salmon averaging 23 pounds with the big one weighing in at 30! Hopelessly addicted, Home pool Bill never gave up flogging the local waters until his fishing licenses expired, landing at least one salmon every cold night after dinner until he was finally restrained and the helicopter finally took him away!
Peter’s late week stunt somehow managed to slip its way into the reports as well this week, where due to the Wall Street cancellation, he finally managed to put in a mere four hours on his inherited fishing beat. Perched high above Sergy’s rock, with his guide Sasha now level with his knees, Peter began to drive his huge patented Sun Ray across the windy tail of the Home pool. For next two hours he had salmon crashing after his fly ‘ finally pulling in three most satisfying salmon up to 18 pounds. The next day, after meeting in camp for most of the morning, Peter flew over to the Litza Waterfall for a couple of quick flicks before joining his friends downstream for a Tent pool BBQ. Within moments he was again cranking down on his Bogdan drag doing his best not to become another right bank statistic. In fairly quick succession, and again with the famous Sun Ray, Peter skillfully managed to bring two great fish of 21 and 25 pounds back from the certain freedom of the big rapids below. His comment: ‘Five good salmon in two and a half hours is more than enough for a day’.
However, our top honourable mention this week must go out to the magical pools of the great Eastern Litza. While cold air continues to howl in off the Barents Sea, the Litza River has simply been on fire. Tuesday it was our old friends David and Jeremy with their 12 up to 23 pounds. Then on Wednesday it was Tarquin and Ilya returning with a record 27 fish overnight including the salmon of the week for Tarquin out of Lower Tent pool weighing in at a respectable 32 pounds. The next day it was Ivan and Charles telling the stories back in the lodge of their special Litza seven including back to back 23 ‘ 22 pounders for Ivan. And finally, it just would be right not to mention that Ivan managed to it again on the last day breaking his P.B. up at the Kharlovka Falls with a beautiful 28 pounder.
After all these big silver stories ‘ one wonders what may happen when we finally start warming up!’.
The catch return for the Kharlovka & Eastern Litza Rivers is 56% up on the same period last year. In the second week 50% of the salmon landed were 20 lbs+ with the five best at 34, 32, 32, 30 & 30 lbs. The largest, and personal best, was caught by David who pioneered these rivers with the late Roger Hughes in 1992.
The Kharlovka Report: Week 24 ended Friday, 15-Jun-07
With all those big fresh fish stacked up in the lower rivers last week, one couldn’t help having huge expectations for what surely was to follow. Wait just a minute though, as we all know, salmon fishing thankfully isn’t always that obvious and convenient. Just when you start to believe that it’s finally on, we are so often profoundly met by some humbling reply. It would be hard to deny that in fact, one of the greatest attributes to the silver king is its unpredictability. Nevertheless – young and old, rich and poor, we all forgot ourselves along the rivers banks last week contemplating this pleasurable mystery.
One thing is for certain though; here above the Arctic Circle our weekly weather conditions do play a very significant role. While we’ve all heard about your dry-early season progressing to the south ‘ here in the land of the midnight sun, spring appears to be coming along at her own northerly pace. River temperatures began the week at a hopeful 4.4 degrees C ‘ slowly creeping their way up to 6.7C by week’s end. With the exception of a few warm hours of southerly breezes, the air temperatures remained in the high single digits the majority of the time. Come midweek we thought the barometer gauge in the lodge had completely broken when it suddenly fell to a season low. Not surprisingly, steady spring rains followed raising the already swollen river up an additional 4cm overnight. Throw in some dense fog and a few cold northerly gales and I think we’ve just about summed it up.
Putting this all into perspective, we are simply a week late off the recent norm. River temperatures are currently four precious degrees behind this same time last season. In addition, the water levels are presently reading at 61cm on the home pool scale, which is 20 heavy centimetres higher than normal with plenty of impressive snow banks still left to come.
Undeterred by the character building spring conditions, our boys spey-casted their way through a most satisfying 85 salmon on the week. It has always been more a matter of quality over quantity here on the Northern Rivers as again 26 of the fish were over the 20-pound mark. While 9 of this weeks guests admitted to already taking their personal best previously here with us, David’s 32 and Fritz’s 22 pounders were the latest to go down in the history books.
Fortunately around here we never seem to be short a silver story about the great fish that jumped and ran you all over the place only to eventually succumb to your great skill and the guide’s quick net. Take the Home pool factor alone this week, where the first 12 fresh salmon landed there had an average weight of 20.2 pounds. Going hard against the current, this week’s honourable mentions go out to all those salmon who played us along for a while before inevitable busting off, leaving us with little more than admiration and a good story for the boys back home.
First there was David, Richard and Big Alex who obviously couldn’t be trusted. Their problems began early week in the Litza Snowbank pool when after already losing a great fish estimated in the mid twenties, Richard was suddenly battling something much more serious. With Big Alex parting the water like a giant boulder they carefully worked their way through the current back to the bank. While it is always safety first here, by the time they began running, the fish was already halfway down the rapids on its way to Military pool. For a few moments there it appeared that Richard might even get spooled. Unfortunately, something had to give and all of a sudden there was nothing more than a memory.
Two days later the threesome decided to jump the fishing rotor and work their way down from the Kharlovka Falls. This turned out to be a smart call as they officially opened up the upper river. Along with a promising long tailed sea liced 16-pounder, David hooked into a real monster in the fast waters of the upper canyon. With few alternative options, he cranked down on the drag and did his best to keep the fish in the pool. Great salmon however, have a way of doing whatever they want as this fish ended up disappearing down the impossible rapids below – never to be seen again. Don’t feel too bad for them though as they finished up with a fine silver brace of 19.5 pounders when they finally reached the home pool that evening.
With the late afternoon high tide quickly coming on, Rae stood perched above a giant boulder surrounded by deep fast waters of the Litza Military pool. All of a sudden he began getting a tug every other cast. A few long under hands later, Rae was into a great salmon. Doing everything right he spent a good 15 minutes seemingly under control. Just as we started to think about the camera and a net, Rae’s certain 20+ pounder gave a final head shake snapping the fly straight back, as if it were simply teasing him the entire time. Two casts later he was into a modest 10-pound conciliation fish that did little to heal his wounds. Unshaken by events, Rae’s guide young Vasili came out with his normal response ‘Good ‘ now cast again!’ Two times the fly came around and at the end of both there was a gentle pull. Three times lucky and the rod was doubled over again. With fresh memories of his last humbling experience Rae played this noticeably heavier fish with the utmost of care. Then without notice, we were all suddenly shocked at the sounds coming from his reel. Three ‘ 30 meter bursts reeled off before anyone could move. Arm and arm, Rae and Vasili set off down the river as if they were late to the wedding. 200 meters below the Military rapids, Rae’s line went taught amongst the big rocks in the middle of the river. Hoping that they still had a remote chance, Vasili set off into the rapids with his giant net as a wading stick. After freeing the line from several boulders he eventually found himself starring down at a possible silver 40 pounder. With the line in his hand, Vasili raised his net to attempt the impossible. What followed was that unforgettable sound again from Rae’s reel. With Vasili now temporarily out of the picture, literally swimming back to the bank, Rae did his best to keep the fish in sight. We finally caught up to Rae with his great salmon miraculously still on in a small pocket just up from the Litza estuary. Exhausted and for once speechless, Rae gave a final heave lifting his resting salmon from the depths. Coming to the surface we could all see that it was a giant silver cock fish with a temple dog stuck just below the upper lip ‘ when POP! The tube suddenly released and the great salmon sank slowly back out of sight. Fortunately Rae is a sportsman who after an understandable verbal release simply smiled and marched slowly back to the helicopter nodding his head. After all, it is hard to be too disappointed when presented with the chance of a lifetime.
We are doing our best to keep these reports brief. You can blame this week’s on the fishing…
The Kharlovka Report: Week 23 ended Friday, 8-Jun-07
Last week here on the Kharlovka we enjoyed a camp full of jolly veterans. Nearly everyone in the group had at least four seasons with us, some even six. However there were four old boys amongst us last week that were true fishing pioneers to the area. Dating back to their first visit in 1992 – Mike, Simon, Julian, and David had an impressive combined total of some 42 seasons here on the Kola. Big silver stories went round and round the dinner table last week as unbelievable tales from the early days of chaos and adventure captured our imaginations well into the bright Arctic nights. While many things have definitely changed and improved (currently approaching an almost ridiculous level of standard) one thing still drives us all back up to Russia’s Northern Rivers. It’s obviously the unquenchable passion for quality salmon fishing in one of the world’s last remaining pristine environments. This is truly a place where anything could and usually does happen.
Nothing makes the Russian’s on camp laugh more than when one of our guests shows up here in the spring believing in his printed 7-day Internet forecast. The pilots will even tell you that this far north along the sea it is very difficult to predict the conditions beyond six hours. Calling for calm warm conditions throughout couldn’t have been further from last week’s truth. Actually the weather along the northern Kola has been all over the place lately. Although we have had our warm moments, even a spot of sun one morning early week briefly driving the temperatures up into the high teens, the vast majority of the time was spent under very windy, cool-damp conditions.
River temperatures started out the week at a chilly 2.7C, slowly warming up to a more promising 4.5C by week’s end. Meanwhile, after falling 6cm on the first night, the Kharlovka River flows only managed to drop another 7cm during the whole rest of the week finishing up on the last day at a reading of 84cm on the home pool scale. To put this into perspective we have 27cm more water than this same time last season with good amounts of snow pack still left to come.
Thanks primarily to seven extraordinary years of dedication by Peter to wipe out poaching along these Northern Rivers it is now becoming more and more difficult to mention all the great salmon moments happening here. A fresh silver 20 plus pounder just doesn’t make the headlines anymore. You now literally have to be dragged out the back of your pool by a ‘colossal’ personal best to get any mention at all. Even then it would be redundant to mention some 65% of you because you’ve already landed your biggest salmon ever here with us.
Nevertheless, there were actually so many highlights this last week that it’s not going to be easy to narrow them all down. Despite being seriously tested by the howling gales our latest group did exceptionally well tallying up 51 salmon on the week. In fact 25 of those fish were over 20 pounds – five of them were over 30! Possibly the best news of all last week was how well the silver was spread amongst the guests as 11 of the 12 rods ended up landing at least one greater than 20 pounds.
Our first honourable mention goes out early week to the Rock pool on the lower Kharlovka giving up 6 stunning silver salmon over two days including Robert’s 23 pounder – young Simon’s 25 – Phillip’s 26 – Mike’s 30 – Martin’s 32 and finally experienced Simon’s 32 pounder. And then there was the morning that three rods all hooked up at the same time on the lower Litza. Sending the guides into a pleasurable panic, remarkable all three of sea liced fish eventually found a net weighing in for Simon at 19 pounds – 25 pounds for David and 28 pounds for Martin. By midweek Julian, who happens to be one of the few honoured with a pool named after him here and one of the last who desires any more notoriety, quietly pulled in a massive 105cm 32-pound fresh Litza salmon.
Come Thursday the Lower Litza was on fire yet again as Dave enjoyed the afternoon of his life. Beginning to fish for U.K. salmon in February of ’68, some 39 years ago, Dave arrived to Kharlovka with a modest personal best of 16 pounds in hopes of upping his biggest to 20 pounds during the week. Patience was definitely his virtue where just after the midday high tide things began to get very interesting. Finally Dave took any pressure off equalling his old P.B. with a bright fresh 16-pound hen. A short time later he was into a new P.B. – that including the half dozen sea-lice weighed in at a very pleasing 18 pounds. What happened next was pure Litza magic as Dave’s line stopped yet again in the dark heavy water. With adrenaline levels running high, Dave pulled hard for some 20 minutes to keep his obvious record from slipping away. Finally he was able to cap off his unforgettable day by lifting up his 110cm – 30-pounder record for the snapping cameras. Unfortunately we were unable to meet all old Dave’s expectations for all he came in hoping for was a mere 20 pound salmon.
It is apparently becoming more and more difficult to write these summaries until the very last cast has been made here on the Northern Rivers as David T., who after a record 12 seasons now with us, landed his biggest salmon ever on his last afternoon of the week weighing in at a most silvery 34 pounds (109cm X 59cm). And finally it would be difficult to leave out Turbo Mikael who alone managed to pull out 7 impressive salmon over the 20 pound mark.
If you all thought this week went well – the temperatures in the rivers still haven’t reached 5 degrees – we just caught our first fresh fish in home pool on the last evening – and the birch buds are just coming on — stay tuned for what might happen next!
In the first 30 minutes Marc landed his first Atlantic salmon at 27 lbs and in the last hour Steve broke his 32 lbs Rynda record with a 38 lbs salmon but Lawrence may have lost the “big one” hooked at Julian’s and then fought from the escarpment 20 metres above the river at Kharlovka Island Pool when the backing broke. The next day, two kilometres down river in Sea Pool, a guest hooked and retrieved the line with the fly that hooked the great fish.
By the way Lawrence is a brilliant fish painter. He did this life size one for the Rynda 42 lbs 42.5″ record. If you would like to get in touch with him try firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: +44 (0)7971 000 120
Each with his own thoughts and anticipations, we all sat starring down out of the helicopter at the endless amount of snow-ice and tundra passing below. A hard-cold reality quickly began to settle in as we made our final approach over the mighty Kharlovka. While nothing but massive arctic rivers were a certainty at that time, everyone arrived wide-eyed and optimistic about the big silver possibilities that lie ahead.
After a late-slow start into the 2006 winter, the northern Kola Peninsula managed by the opening day of this season to accumulate into a 10-year high snow pack. The big difference from past years was the cool temperatures of 1-5 degrees C during late April and early May – delaying any chance of a quick snow melt. This season the Kharlovka river-ice began to break up on May 14th. Since this date we have seen a gradual warm up with air temperatures ranging from 5 to 15 degrees C during our mild opening week on the river.
Simply stated the rivers have been flowing huge and cold. Water temperatures have slowly risen from a frigid .7 up to 3.5 C during the first week. After dodging floating ice chunks on the opening day, the river flows held consistent for the first half of the fishing week at 124cm on the home pool scale. To put this into perspective, last season we started out at a modest 75cm on the same home pool scale – some half-meter lower. We began our first week this season with the river reaching just into the Home pool forest. Below camp there was 30cm of hard current flowing over the lower helicopter pad. We were jumping out onto the home pool rock to take the daily measurements. Come midweek on Wednesday, the Kharlovka finally started dropping going from 124cm to 117cm overnight.
Happens all the time – where the guy who has the most fun in town steps out of the helicopter and straight into the fish of a lifetime. All Murmansk Marc needed was a bit of cold fresh air and 10 minutes on the right side of Julian’s pool before he was battling our first Fresh 27 pounder of the Kharlovka season! Steve (one of the best casters in the world today) kept pace with his American friend landing a beautifully fresh 21 pounder off the swift waters of the Litza Military pool.
With water temperatures now up to one degree C. Derek worked hard to pull in his two Osenkas of 15 and 18 pounds from the Litza Snowbank pool. Along with his partner Rob – the proud team Scotland combined for 6 nice salmon during the week ranging from 15 to 20 pounds.
However, without a doubt, the story of the week came that same afternoon when something very serious drug Lawerence out the back of Julian’s on the right bank. Cranking the drag down as they ran, his Russian guide Kola decided it was far too risky with all the snow-ice along the river-bank to follow the great salmon further directing Lawerence up onto the reindeer trails. Before he knew it he was up to where the helicopter lands, some 75 feet above the right bank of the Island pool. With the other fisherman in awe on the opposite bank, Lawerence tried his best to keep up the chase. Out-of-control – his dream was clearly heading straight back to sea when the inevitable finally happened as Lawerence’s gel spun nicked a bit of ice along the bank far downstream instantly breaking him off. While Lawerence might not have agreed, his story was a nice reminder to the rest about the ‘Unlandable Fish’ that frequent these rivers!
Along with the nightly after dinner sessions back in the lodge and the surprise house party with Peter up on the hill – our 10 guests had a very enjoyable opening week resulting in 16 memorable salmon along with new friendships that will never be forgotten.
Stop the Press… On the last afternoon the group jumped off the helicopter all giving the big fish sign and nodding their heads. Turns out that Steve had one last Kharlovka memory for the road weighing in at a fresh 38 pounds (110cm). Things only get better for Steve as tomorrow he will be switching camps to Rynda for another week of silver fun.
Despite all the big conditions to start it never ceases to amaze one how fast the Arctic season truly progresses. Currently under the polar days of 24-hour sunlight, more than half the snow seems to have already melted. Don’t get the wrong impression though because there is still plenty of deep white scattered about. In fact from camp there are a few 2-3 meter snow drifts visible above up the far bank of the home pool, which will surely be around for several more weeks to come.