Kharlovka Fishing Reports 2010
SEASON SUMMARY to 31st July 2010 TOGETHER WITH EXCITING NEW PLANS FOR 2011
We have just completed nine of the most wonderful and happy weeks in the ASR despite the decline in fish numbers of 15% against our 5 year average to 2009 and the most varied and difficult fishing weather.
The reason is that it has been a great year for big multiple sea winter salmon on all the rivers of the ASR. Against 2009 (a great year for total numbers of fish), this season we still managed to land about the same number of 18lbs+ fish however, more importantly, there were 9.8% more 20 lbs+ fish and an amazing 24.6% more 25 lbs+ fish.
Indeed at the end of this period the average weight of salmon caught at Kharlovka & Litza was an astonishing 15.8lbs (against 14.1lbs for 2009) and, even including grilse, ended at 13.8lbs.
This year the best 3 fish to date at Kharlovka & Litza have been 42, 37 & 36 lbs and on Rynda & Zolotaya 36, 34 & 32 lbs.
In summary the ASR, in a poor year for numbers over the Kola Region, has come up “trumps” and delivered, week by week, that essential ingredient of fabulous memories readily available to all in the presence of the regular few who inspire us with fish of a lifetime bringing us back in the certain knowledge that one day it will be “me”.
The philosophers tell us an essential ingredient of happiness is timelessness which applies to us when absorbed in our wonderful world of fly fishing amongst kindred spirits in harmony with nature. For me the last decade has flashed by organizing our “fun and games” and enjoying your companionship. Now I find myself with Justin preparing next season which will be my 14th.
We have come up with a rather ingenious plan to reduce the pressure on our valuable salmon during the autumn period and improve the quality of the fishing. We intend to start on Saturday, 28th May and will operate for 11 weeks in the traditional way except that the 11th week will be set aside for the ASR Youth Program. All the rivers will then be rested for two weeks. We will start again on Saturday, 27th August by operating the “Three Rivers” program so that one of the rivers will be rested at all times. See “Index” above for details.
For some time I have been concerned about the pressure on our salmon during the autumn period. This idea was inspired by Mikael when he said at the end of the “Home for Salmon” film “I like what they are doing here. The fish are in the focus it’s not the people”. Long live the ASR!
Final Kharlovka fishing summaries for September 4th – 18th
With a suitcase full of DVD’s and silver glint in his eyes, Justin thanked the Russians for another unforgettable season and set off for America to spread the good news about our special “Home for Salmon”.
This left our good friend Sean in charge of refereeing and keeping track of all the big fish action for the next week. Obviously shaken by a few of the monster salmon along the way, not to mention all that late night socializing back in the lodge, it has taken us several days to decipher the results.
Over the opening weekend, the guests braved cool northern winds leading to the first light snow of the season. While the casting proved to be challenging, the chilly waters led to some fantastic early results. Highlights from the first half of the week included Krista’s lovely 20 pounder that she found above the Kharlovka Falls. Krister made believers out of them all with his 22 pound bar of silver from the Litza Falls. It was also reported that Conolly was very thirsty after landing his new P.B. 25 pounder from Lower Tent.
Come Monday with the weather warming to perfect, the boys managed to swiftly shake off their weekend hangovers to locate a couple of the best salmon of the season! While everyone in the party was pleased for Amanda and her first memorable salmon ever, it was her boyfriend Richard (who has quite irresponsibly fished the ASR 10 times before) that ended up stealing the limelight – improving his old 20 pound Kharlovka P.B. to a massive new 41 pounds. Along with giving him the run around and bending his rod double and refusing to budge – His guide Andrey managed to keep big fish Richard calm throughout the epic battle by lying to him, suggesting that “it was merely a nice fish of about 20 pounds.” “How did my tiny Willie G find its way into such a large hooked jaw’”
This next story is about a lucky man named Grandpa Michael who was on his first exhilarating trip to the ASR. Fooling about one glorious morning over on the Liza, old Grandpa got into some serious trouble when his big bright salmon suddenly charged down through the Tent pool and got wrapped around a boulder. His guide Volodya, who he preferred to call Vladivostok, bravely waded out to free the line. Finally Grandpa’s buddy Randal showed up to assist by telling him to put a bit move pressure on the great fish which only ended up making things worse as it shot away leaving Grandpa with a couple of burnt fingers. With the salmon now on it way out of the pool Gramdpa had little choice but to hand his spey rod off like a baton to Vladivostok and Randle who carried on the chase down into the lower tent pool. An unknown amount of time passed. Just as Grandpa and the great salmon were all arriving near the net – the line snapped. Thankfully Vladivostok, who has been guiding here for the last 18 years, scooped it up like a large silver butterfly before it could escape. Weighing in at a bright fresh 36 pounds (109cm), this was the “Fish of a lifetime!”
And what about our father – son team of Gerald and Harry’ Needing to come to the ASR two weeks a season now to get his annual fix, Gerald thankfully out witted his new 31 pound P.B with his trusty Sun Ray Shadow in the Litza Flat Stone pool. Obviously inspired by his dad’s big crocodile, Harry proclaimed, ‘to really want to catch a 20 pound salmon!’ In the end the young lad’s hard work paid off and the hole in his waders was forgotten as Harry somehow managed to chase down a bright fresh 26 pound Osenka that had blasted most of the way down the rapids below the tent pool. Satisfied, Harry is now off to Newcastle to read Geography and
drink brown ale.
It was also reported that even though Alf somehow managed to hook up with Conolly’s salmon as it shot down past him through the Reindeer rapids, that Conolly would go onto land his 26 pounder – improving his P.B by an additional pound over the cracker he had had earlier in the week. Richard, the Swedish arm-wrestler, surely deserved an honorable mention as well for his 25 pound osenka out of the Kharlovka Falls. And last but not least, it had been a tricky week for Randal whose highlight of the week had been landing Grandpa’s 36 pound Osenka. Thankfully Randal never stopped believing and went onto land a 27, 21, 20, and 11 pounders for the road on the final day. Even though many of them had been here before, 10 of the guests ended up breaking their P.B.’s before it was all said and done.
And finally a few thoughts from Mikael Frodin on the last days of the 2010 season;
I stumbled onto the helicopter exhausted yet excited for one more chance on the mighty Kharlovka. I look back over my shoulder, the late autumn has the camp in a firm grip, the colors are fantastic, sparkling like a newly tied Thunder & Lightning or Willie Gun. I can smell the winter in the air, the first snow is close and the fish are moving down into the shallow spawning grounds. For me it was fantastic to have been here for the opening week and now almost 4 months later back again to close these majestic rivers down for another season.
We arrived in camp with high hopes after a fantastic previous week with fish over 40 lbs and a new shining osenka record of 36 powerful pounds! We brought back the warm weather to camp with 15 Celsius and a mighty low pressure it sure was a strange change. Our group was a mix of veterans and newcomers; Swedes, Norwegians, Germans and a couple of hard core Russians. Our first afternoon and opening day gave the group several 20+ pounders and also a few lost osenkas. The spirit in camp was high and the fishing seemed to be great as ever.
The fish and surroundings blended us with a palette of colors that I have never seen before. Salmon anglers all over the world love broad shiny sides, sea lice and fresh run Salmo Salar. But the power and beauty of a September male is just astonishing. They dress up for their biggest fight in life, to the dance on the spawning beds, a dance for life and death. Nature has dressed them up to be as powerful and beautiful as possible – they have a charisma of nature at its best!
As the week went by it was obvious that we were affected by the big pressure change, and also possible the sudden rise of the water temperature. The fishing was tough and to crack the code on how to fish the pools were not easy. Every day the group came back with fish caught on everything from the smallest little fly to the longest nastiest versions of the classic Sunray Shadow. Fish were caught on dries and skated flies and also on sinkers deep down under the fastest water. The fishing was challenging but also rewarding as always on the Kharlovka and Litza. Big fish, fantastic runs, broken leaders, tears, laugh and tragedy – all the ingredients of a fantastic fishing week were there – even if we had to fight hard for them. There were many highlights; one of them was 21 year old Martin come back from Litza with a big smile and great photos of his new personal best. The mighty male weighed in at 37lbs and was probably the most beautiful fall salmon I have ever seen.
Among the highlights was also Brian ‘king of bombers’ with a series of nice fish, tempted to the surface fooled by a skated little deer hair fly. Extreme sportsmen and Norwegian veteran Yngve hooked his 20 lbs Osenka on a short line in Barell pool’ the fish showed how powerful they can be and left Yngve alone, defeated, shocked staring on his slack line… Thomas caught his 25 pounder on the same place – twice! The take was hard and solid and the turn so fast that he thought he lost it, letting me on the other side know that – this was a good one! Thinking he was snagged after losing his fish he pulled his rod and surprisingly found out that the fish was still there – oh boy, some of these fish sure can fight! Jeremy, peters old friend showed that experience are essential , coming back every day with a fish or two – Willie Gun was his weeks favorite. Johannes our German ASR virgin just fell in love with the place – I wouldn’t be surprised if we will eagerly cast our sinking lines together in June. Our Russian friends that have visited the ASR several times before came back one of the last days from Litza with several big fish from Tent and Lower Tent and a couple of Osenkas from the tail of the Snowbank pool. Another highlight must be when H’kan Norling opened his fly box for our glorious leader Peter. He was like a starving kid in a candy store leaving with a handful of flies that surely will give him many wonderful fish in the future. Personally it’s hard to say what my highlight was, the fantastic 25 pound osenka that jumped away from me on the Mickey Mouse pool in Litza or the huge colorful male that took me down from Golden pool through almost all of the Washing Machine before it finally defeated me!
Despite the luxury camp and superb helicopter service the last day Mother Nature showed us who’s really in charge up here. Thick fog settled in over the valleys and our little group of seven fishermen, guides and Russian helpers were stranded on the Litza. As this was the final day of the season and the tent camp had just been taken down, we resorted to a cozy slumber party in the two small houses – the atmosphere was high and the laughs were many- in true ASR spirit! The tundra had us in its grip. The next day we left with a humble feeling and gratitude to be able to visit this true wilderness where nature is always bigger than man.
We have a long winter in front of us. A winter of fly tying, planning, looking at pictures and dreaming of June when it’s hopefully once again possible to meet the tundra and the rivers we love so much. For me it will be my 20th anniversary week and who knows what exquisite salmon adventures these great rivers will enrich me with next’
Until the ice breaks!
During the final two colorful weeks of this spectacular autumn season the guests managed to combine for a splendid 167 salmon – 31 of these fish were greater than 20 pounds – six of them were larger than 30 pounds (including that bright fresh 36 pound osenka) and let’s not forget about Richard’s grand 41 pounder!
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, Sept. 3rd 2010
If there is one thing that all fishermen have in common, it must be our infatuation for the really big fish. And as the great Northern Rivers have become a Mecca for giant multiple sea winter salmon, last week they traveled in from around the globe to live out their fishy fantasies here on the mighty Kharlovka. Representing the countries of Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Norway, Switzerland, and the Russian Federation they all marched straight down the duck boards and united together around the fireplace in the lodge. For the first several minutes there was a noticeable silence as they sat there with their beers in their hands starring up in awe at the large salmon carvings on the wall. It was obvious why they had come and within moments they were suited up in all the latest gear – ready for battle!
Thankfully there will be no need to go on about the crazy weather again this week as the far north coast seems to have settled into a wonderfully cool autumn pattern. Periods of light rain and drizzle were followed on by moments of sunlight highlighting the spectacular colours of the northern tundra. Frosty mornings quickly melted away as mild southern breezes lifted the afternoon temperatures to above 10 degrees C. Although the river temperatures have been on the chilly side for this time of the year, the near perfect conditions led to some fantastic results.
The question last week was whether to break down all the big fish news by the different countries or by the variety of rivers that they found them in’ As usual the twins, Thomas and Anders from Denmark, who were returning to the ASR on their seventh and eighth visit, set a blistering early pace with their measly single-handed rods. It was a glorious Sunday to remember for Anders after going 30 minutes with his 9-foot rod to eventually land his P.B. 32 pounder out of the Secret pool. Upon kissing that one good bye, he flicked his Brown Fly back into the pool and was straight into another 18 pounder. Wading places that most of us would not dare, the twins combined for a cool dozen Litza salmon during their first three days. While both of twins would surely be picked for an Olympic team, it was Anders that ended up doing the most damage. Along with another nine salmon here and there on the Kharlovka and Rynda rivers, he proved to be quite the photographer as well – going onto to land – photograph – and release a big fresh 21 pound Osenka – All by himself!
Young James did Northern Ireland proud through the Tent pool area of the middle Litza starting off with a 12-pound sea liced Osenka. He followed that bright moment up the with another 12, a lovely 16, and finally a pleasing 21 pound P.B. that made it all worthwhile before being hauled off to the Kharlovka and Rynda rivers to try it all over again. Things just continued to get better and better for good old James where on the Thursday he had some serious fun pulling in three more beauties including the fish of a lifetime and new P.B. 33 pounder. O yes, on the final afternoon James had another 26 pounder for the road!
And lets not forget about Arnt, Trond and Ole, a couple of impressive Vikings and some of Norway’s strongest men. While big Arnt (who is the number one ranked arm wrestler in the country (4th in Europe) with the thickest wrists that any of us had ever seen) is still learning about the finer points of flyfishing – it was big Trond (who had previously rowed for Norway) that ended up breaking his P.B with a couple of 23 and 27 pounders. His other big buddy Ole (who was another one that you would have wanted on your side in a bar fight) also went on to win his P.B. battle with another 27 pounder! Skol!!
Meanwhile back on the mighty Kharlovka it was Tony who was breaking records for England with his 20-pound salmon out of the Lower Canyon. Also batting for England, was James the veteran who landed three the first day up to 20 pounds and then another five salmon the next day on the upper Kharlovka that ranged to his new P.B of 30 pounds. Upon returning to camp that evening James wanted to borrow the sat phone to call up his fishing mates and remind them how stupid they were for not joining him! Thankfully he returned from the Litza absolutely speechless after landing a huge 105cm bright fresh Osenka that was estimated to be between 25 and 30 pounds!!
And what about Spain’ Following on from Luis’s successes the week before who landed a brace of 20′s along a third dark monster of 28 pounds, our new amigo Juan managed to top this stunt with a ‘muy grande’ 36 pounder which he caught on his big clever stone fly nymph out of the Kharlovka Golden pool.
It has simply been a big fish bonanza around here lately! Now that the smoke has cleared and we’ve totaled up all the damage, the team managed to combine for a very satisfying 106 salmon on the week – in addition there were another 15 great salmon over 20 pounds and four more that were larger than 30 along with 12 personal bests that shattered here again last week. However, while the large salmon continue to add up in the Kharlovka book, it is seriously hard to beat the magic of the late autumn tundra. This is the season of colours, from all those golden-yellows and stunning reds, to our crocodile salmon browns and those bright-silver Osenka blues – throw in some the freshest air on the planet and the spirit of autumn comes alive.
Kharlovka Web Report for the week 34 ending Friday, 20-Aug-10
Last Saturday as the big blades circled to a stop and we stepped out of the helicopter, a giant golden eagle swooped slowly across the valley over the Home pool sending them all scrambling for their cameras. It was obvious from the very beginning that this was going to be a week to remember. With the coast of the Barents Sea blanketed by dark misty clouds along with crisp autumn air temperatures in the high single digits, we quickly assembled the team to make our plan of attack.
What a difference a few days can make here on the northern tundra! After a long hot summer of extreme weather, we can finally say that the conditions are back in the anglers favour. At last, it is getting dark at night and the water temperatures are back down to a cool 8 degrees C. Including the additional 20 centimetres of rain the rivers received the previous week, and those two glorious days in the middle when the sun popped out for some great photographs, everything seemed to come just right for our last lucky group of tundra adventurers who by the way, could not have been more excited. Their time had finally come!
After a hot bowl of fish soup and a safety briefing, we dispatched a mixed group of six – British, Spanish, and Wyomingites over to get lost on the Litza for the first half of the week. Meanwhile the other gang of 10 Norwegian Vikings wasted no time spreading out through the middle Kharlovka. Before they all had their wading boots laced up and disinfected in the bucket, the radios were already crackling down at the Home pool. After the first couple hours of low light fishing into dusk, the Norwegians had landed six including a pair of new P.B.’s at 17 and 19 pounds.
All with cold beers that seemed to be attached to their hands, this was a fine group of Norwegian gentlemen who laughed the week away like a bunch of schoolboys – Skol! While all the Vikings managed to find nice salmon during their first half on the Kharlovka, it was Guttorm, Tommy and their fearless group leader Calix with their 20, 23 and 26 pound P.B.s to start the big show. Trond most certainly deserves a quick honourable mention as well for not getting the rod ripped out of his hand by a cracking nine-pound sea trout that nearly took all his backing and straighten the hook.
On Tuesday afternoon we swapped the groups over between the two rivers and made way for the Litza rumours about a crazy couple from Wyoming. This next short story is about poor old Hal and his lucky gal Connie. Completely addicted to fishing, Hal made the big mistake last year of bringing his lovely wife Connie here to the far north coast to introduce her to the most extreme fishing adventure that he could think of. Unfortunately for Hal’s wallet, his plans quickly backfired though, as Big Alex took Connie under his wing and converted straight over to Atlantic salmon for life. Last week Hal and Connie wandered back into camp again for the second season in a row more determined than ever to find their dream fish. Turned out that Hal had been training for round II on the mighty Kharlovka since leaving last season and had lost 35 pounds! As lady luck would have it, sweet Connie ended up blowing all the boys away with the first, stunningly fresh 18-pound sea lice Osenka of the season. To put the exclamation point on her case, she backed that stunt up with a couple more amazing 21 and 26 pounders. When asked about her secrets, Connie replied “I just to whatever Valentine tells me!” Although poor Hal managed a bit of revenge later in the week by swapping rods with his wife to land a P.B. 20+ pounder of his own, we are afraid that this adventure is going to cost Hal for many years to come, as they or should we say Connie, has already made their bookings again for next year.
Other early stories from the first half of the week over on the Litza must also include the 15 salmon Charlie and Christian managed to take including the 19 pound P.B. for Christian and a 24 pound “lovely hen” for Charlie. Still obviously aroused by Spain’s world cup performance, Luis stepped straight into the tent pool one fine sunny morning while his eggs and bacon were still being fried up back in the tent, to pull in a wonderful 28-pounder – reminding the rest of the weary campers that the early bird gets the worm! And let’s not forget about Paul’s stellar performance where after being blanked on a famous river back in Scotland the season before, Paul landed his first three salmon ever on his first three Litza days weighing in a 5, 17 and 20 pounds.
Additional highlights from the second half of the week included a third 20+ pound salmon for Luis from Spain. Hal deserves a silver metal for landing his 20+ pounder out of the challenging Washing Machine pool. And then there was our long lost team of Vikings who all returned mumbling and big fish gesturing on the final night. Turned out that nine of the ten Norwegians had broken their personal bests over the week. Kjell seemed to be speechless and then started losing everything after pulling in a brace of 21 and 26 pounders out of the Flat Stone. And then there was Rolf who went on to celebrate his 29 pounder well into the night – Skol again! However, it was Tommy who had the biggest grin after winning his Flat Stone battle with a couple of angry 26 and 36 pound cock fish! In the end, after all the beers had been drunk and their fishy stories told, the two teams managed to combine for a most satisfying 93 salmon on the week. Not to brag however, there were a total of 14 personal bests broken here last week along with 18 salmon that were between 20 and 36 pounds not to mention all those that were lost. One sad day Trond thought he had hooked the bottom so he turned around with the rod over his shoulder and hoisted a 40+ pounder to the surface before breaking it off!’
A peaceful autumn silence has fallen across the northern tundra. Reds, greens and golden-yellows bring additional colour to our day. Long shadows, the pitch dark of night, mushrooms and those tasty berries remind us all that the end is drawing near. With the grey misty days and our cool flowing rivers, we have great reason to be optimistic about the silvery possibilities that surely lie ahead.
Kharlovka, Litza & Rynda Report Week 33 for the week ending Friday, August 13th 2010
Managing expectations for most guests coming to fish Kharlovka and Litza is an almost impossible task. Tales of epic battles fought, both won and lost, permeate every week of the season and it is with those thoughts and aspirations that our mixed team from Norway, Russia, Denmark, Scotland and ‘Yorkshire’ arrived this week. The exceptionally low-water conditions of the previous week came to an abrupt end with a jump in the water height that had reached a low of -17 cm to a very reasonable +5cm. Despite this the water temperature at the outset of the week was a worryingly warm 17.4C.
This week consisted of both a tundra walking week for the Norwegian party and a limited helicopter week for the rest. As such the two teams deployed to the Litza and the Kharlovka camps for 3 days each. Warm, almost tropical winds, on the first evening suggested a return to the conditions of mid-summer however by the following morning this had changed and four days of decidedly cold and unpleasant wet weather set in with some very strong winds to challenge even the most determined casting. Over the course of the week the river rose to a high of +12 cm and then fell back to +8 cm whilst the water temperature dropped from 17.4 C to 6.0 C. Such seismic changes resulted in a tough initial three days however it did nothing to dampen the spirits (or the thirst) of the assembled parties.
The first mention in dispatches must go to Vladimir, the 12 year old son of Boris, who ended up wearing a Willie Gunn double (hitched) in his eyebrow (no fault of his own)! The doctor was dispatched by MI8 from Kharlovka to Litza tent camp to perform the delicate removal without a flinch from young Vladimir. His suffering was to be rewarded with his first ever 6lb salmon from Flat Stone. Boris understandably delighted went on to show Vladimir what could be done with experience and skill with a further 4 salmon that day including a 20lber. Jan from Denmark armed with his single-handed rod and a hitched single secured a 2nd 20lber from Flat Stone.
Jan with a 20lb Fish caught and 12 year old Vladimir with his first ever salmon
Johnny, a veteran of 9 Tundra trout weeks, who had previously declared salmon fishing ‘to be boring’ had been won over to the ‘salmon-side’ on a Rynda trip in 2009. He returned determined to win over some more converts with a team of high-spirited Norwegians and it was not long before they were all getting their hands wet with equal gusto. Rune picked up a personal best 20lb fish from Tail of Canyon whilst Christian, who he had invited to join him for the week and who had never salmon fished before caught his first ever, a 10lb fish from Home Pool at 11 pm the following evening. By the mid-week changeover day, despite the tough conditions the satisfied battle hardened smiles told a story beyond what was reflected in the catch returns for the book. (It should be noted for the records that although Johnny may still be a trout fisherman at heart he happily declared by weeks end to be a ‘firm believer in the delights of the ASR ‘Salmon’.
The limited helicopter teams set about the entire Atlantic Salmon Reserve with significant vigour. Two raiding parties were dispatched to Rynda to see what was happening on Thursday and Friday. Of note Nick found action in beautiful Prunella Pool with 3 fish including a 16 and an 18, lost a good fish below Eagles Nest and raised others on a sunray shadow. Meanwhile Yan continued to work away with his riffling hitch and picked up another two salmon on his walk down from Reindeer Rapids to Rupert.
Ura netting a fish for Nick from Prunella on Rynda
Whilst this was going on Vladimir and Boris trekked the length of the Little Kharlovka in search of Trout. Although maybe not as cold as on some days Boris did take the opportunity to go for a quick inadvertent swim! They also treated the team to some delicious freshly caught Sea Trout sashimi caught the previous day below Kharlovka Sea Pool….despite receiving a facial sand blasting whipped up from the beach by some punishing Northern winds blowing in from the sea.
As is often the case the fortunes really started to turn as the week drew to a close. Philip who notched up his 9th visit to the ASR lost a good fish in Golden Pool before going on to Home Pool and catching 4 salmon in quick succession, all on a Green Butt whilst his partners Jan and Nick watched on with growing degrees of envy! Almost as quickly as Philips run of luck ceased Nicks started catching a further 4 fish, all to a Green Butt and all on Home Pool left bank. Jan who had now seen 8 fish landed opposite him had to wait an agonising 4 hours before his turn came and secured the final fish of the week at the tail of Home Pool.
The Norwegians!-Celebrating in style at Litza Tent Camp
Given some tricky conditions and a voracious appetite for Vodka which included more than a couple of war wounds the team tallied a very respectable mixed bag of Trout, Sea Trout and Salmon from the combined beauties of Kharlovka, Little Kharlovka, Rynda and Litza. It would have been hard to find a better team to deal with the conditions and totally in keeping with the adventurous spirit of the tundra adventure weeks. Thank you all for your very entertaining company.
Justin Maxwell Stuart (locum camp manager)
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, July 30th 2010
After well more than a month now of exceptionally warm sunny weather, last week demonstrated that when it comes to salmon fishing on the far northern coast, conditions are truly everything. Following last Friday’s windstorm of the decade, which had the force to uproot patches of hardy birch, our latest group of salmon junkies arrived under dark cloudy skies all fired up and ready to go. Air temperatures during their first half the week were basically perfect, ranging through the middle teens during the first couple of days, along with a refreshing water temp that was back down to 13 degrees C on the Home pool scale. Although the water levels continue to slowly drop away, the combination of near perfect conditions led to some fantastic first half results.
Early highlights included Richard’s three salmon on the opening evening, dancing back into the lodge a couple hours later to declare that his adventure was already made before we had even gotten started. Things were about ready to get a whole lot better for Richard, and his fishing partner Richard, returning back a couple days later, after camping out over on the Litza, with 9 more fishy stories including a couple fine 21 pounders for them both. And let’s not forget about the charming father-son team of Niall and Dr. Rory who operated well together along the middle Kharlovka, going onto extract five satisfying salmon up to 17 and 21 pounds. Xan and Edward probably deserve a quick mention as well for releasing 15 salmon on their exciting Litza overnight including that nice big 26-pound P.B. crocodile for happy Xan.
Marina seemed quite chuffed as well, taking five lovely salmon out the remaining pockets of the middle Kharlovka including her wonderful new P.B. of 20 pounds. Speaking of Personal Bests, we had better mention Yorkshire Eric and his 22-pound surprise out of Rock pool. Or, how about our new Russian friends, Dimitry and Sergey, who picked eight out of the Home pool down to Grilse Stones including a kissable 22 pound P.B. for Sergey. On their final day, they wisely decided to take a five K stroll down the little Kharlovka creek, rounding up nearly 100 tundra brownies and one glorious silver grilse – along their merry way!
It didn’t seem to take very long to convince Doug and Gerry from Canada either. Wielding around their single handed rods, with their 20 plus years of Newfoundland fishing experience, both Gerry and Doug eventually went on to break their P.B’s as well with respectable 21 and 25 pounders. Like Primetime, the boys had put nearly 90 blessed salmon into the nets by the half time bell!
Unfortunately, Wednesday came around and along with it, staggering record summer temperatures of 33 degrees C in the shade. By evening, the temperature in the river had shot up to a concerning 20 C. Needless to say, we all sang the big fish blues that day! However, as we were rounding them all up for dinner that night, a thick blanket of fog advanced up the river, dragging along with it, air temperatures that were amazingly 25 degrees cooler which instantly refreshed our memories of where we were all actually at. Barely able to see our hands in front of our faces the next morning, we proceeded to spread the boys out through the pockets of the mighty Kharlovka for the remainder of the week! Considering the wonderful fishing results during their first half, not to mention the staggering conditions during their second, we all had a marvelous time combining for 135 salmon on this unforgettable week.
The first signs of autumn are just beginning to appear. Wildflowers are certainly on their way to seed. The little brown birds are beginning to go silent. Faint patches of green highlander yellow now catch your eye amongst the birch. Red leaves are popping up between the heather. Unripe cloudberries tempt the anglers strolling along the trails. Dark gray skies, the first sighting of the moon, along with distant rolls of thunder helped us all to sleep and dream wildly through the night. Crazy things have been happening around here lately. As the silver continues to roll in and our conditions continue to baffle, we are on the lookout for a few seriously large situations – that will surely be waking up soon!
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, July 23rd 2010
Speaking of the weather, it appears that 2010 is shaping up to be an unforgettable year of extremes for us all. From the concerning amounts of snow and ice that accumulated during the long, dark winter months, to those record cold spells across the northern latitudes, to our early arctic spring that nearly melted the entire lot away before we even arrived, to our previous six weeks of relentless high temperatures here, not to mention today’s wind storm of the season – The crazy conditions are beginning to take their toll.
Although the skies are starting to darken up again and it is currently sprinkling down on us as we scribe our fishy summaries, last week, the boys battled through extremely low river conditions with a reading of negative 4 centimetres on the Home pool scale, along with some very warm water temperatures that were again in excess of 18 degrees C. In addition to all the bright sun, air temperatures soared up in the high 20′s every afternoon. Then for our weather finale of the week, it blew the gale of the season on their last day with gusts in excess of 100 kilo meters an hour. Needless to say, the majority of the large, multi sea winter salmon have been keeping a low profile lately, patiently waiting for the unpredictable weather to flip back around.
There are however, worse things in life than flying into one of the most beautiful places on earth, under fine sunny skies, to have a go at something great. While we did manage to bring a few of the big ones up out of the depths to have a quick look at our Sun Rays and Bombers, the vast majority of the large salmon were simply not in the attacking mood. That did not stop the father and son team of Allan and Rasmus though from picking up their new P.B.’s of 20 and 22 pounds. Dr. Sean, Franz and Dr. David all seemed to have that magic touch as well, going onto to land their large salmon of the week at 27, 28, and 29 pounds. Thankfully, our latest group of friends had seen it all before and understood that some of the most memorable fishing adventures are made up of far more than simply numbers. By the time we had packed away the kit for another year, the team had totaled up 112 salmon on the week, which should be more than enough to keep them all charged up until we see them back again, the next time around.
And, if you can’t beat them – then join them! There are very few spectacles in nature more pleasing then to sit quietly on the rocks and enjoy the salmon leaping through the bubbly wrath of the Kharlovka Falls. Sometime each season, between early July and mid August, when the sun, moon and stars are aligned just right in the northern sky, the window opens up for the salmon to leap the falls. Obviously enjoying the warm summer temperatures and the low water conditions far more that the rest of us, it appeared that every blessed salmon in the river was stacked up like cordwood below the Kharlovka falls. While this natural wonder of the world didn’t do much for our fishing results on the day, it was nothing less than a miracle to see so many of the biggest and best of the stock disappear into the upper river, to later spawn peacefully on their merry way.
A family of black furry minks wisely decided to go for some swimming lessons in the Kharlovka Home pool, while we rested in the shade along the bank. Those delicious orangey-red cloudberries are beginning to sprout up along the reindeer trails, however they are still far from being ripe. Enjoying the gale force winds to end the week, the reindeer were finally located all huddled up together along the coast, atop the highest hill. We have just received word from the security guards down along the coast, that there is a nasty storm beginning to brew at sea, along with some cooling temperatures that are allegedly in the forecast. With plenty of massive salmon in the system this season, we remain optimistic for what surely lies ahead – Bring it on!
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, July 16th 2010
Coming off a tricky, barometric week of veritable conditions here along the north coast, our latest team arrived just in the nick of time before the weather began to close in again on the delayed state of the Murmansk airport. Loading up the helicopters at a record pace, we were then treated to 20 additional minutes of flight time, returning far to the south around the thick foggy coast of the Barents Sea. All of a sudden we found ourselves on the remote headwaters of the upper Kharlovka, which put a smile on all our faces, as we followed the fishy currents some 40 kilometres back down into camp.
As the helicopter made its final approach, Tom and Mirabel, who had just completed a wonderful week over on the Rynda, clambered out of the Home pool and rushed over to greet their son Toby, who was just flying in to join them for their second week here on the Kharlovka. As the big blades circled to a stop and the metal door swung open, Toby crawled out and Mirabel flung her arms around her son, proclaiming that we that they had just hauled in a stunning 28 pounder only moments before!
Although the dreaded fog had cleared away by Sunday morning, and our good friend Michael had landed yet another 27 pound monster out of the legendary Home pool, we were about ready to get rained on like cats and dogs. Pouring down on us with some of the greatest force of the season, it looked certain that we were surely heading for a spate. Unfortunately for the Litza, which has been flowing a little bit lower than normal for this time of the year, all the precipitation turned out to be local as the rivers continued to slowly drop away straight through the week. In addition to celebrating the World Cup victory for Spain, we should also mention Russia’s famed Fisherman’s holiday to go along with our pleasing weekend catch of 32 salmon including those six great fish that tipped the scales from 20 to 28 pounds!
All fired up and ready to go, we leapt out of our beds Monday morning to find that the dark fishy clouds had melted away with the fiestas during the night, sending us all scrambling for our oils and sprays. Shsharka Bila! It is never a good sign up here when you wake up to find nearly the entire Russian staff moving about in their shorts and old military tank tops. Little did we all know, however high summer had just arrived and with it, some of the hottest temperatures of the season – along with barely enough wind to survive. Over the next few days, the boys had to work hard for their successes as the river temps soared up to a concerning 18C. During the heat wave, many a large salmon was spotted rising up through the water towards the fly with its mouth open, only to suddenly stop about six inches shy of the warm surface – before slowly disappearing back down again into the cooler depths below. Thankfully, the weather did eventually flip back around late week with a welcomed day of 40 to 50 km/hr gusts along with air temperatures that were all of a sudden back down to 10 degrees C.
Despite our bright sunny state of affairs and all their unexplainable arctic suntans, there were also were plenty of highlight to keep the boys smiling. Like our new friend Richard, who has certainly been around the old fishing block before, proclaiming to have had one of his most memorable days ever with his hitched Silver Willie skating down through the streamy water below the Kharlovka Falls – hauling in four beauties ranging from 16 to 21 pounds. A couple of sunny days later and he was at it again, tempting in a most pleasing 25 pounder out the Lower Canyon. Then there was Michael, who has been here several times before and knows to never stop believing, going on to land well over a dozen fine summer salmon including a couple of memorable 20 and 27 pounders. However, it was Carles that led Spain through the Kharlovka Cup, pulling in five in a row one day down through the Reindeer rapids including a triplet of 19, 20, and 20 pounders. And then there was calm cool Alexey, our man on the ground in Moscow, who was certainly proud of his 14-year old son Alex for landing his first three salmon ever – finishing off with an unforgettable new P.B. of 22 pounds! Their friend Genya was so impressed that he is hoping to come back and guide for us here next season.
And, we don’t call him Big fish Jim for nothing as our old friend from America produced the shots on the final evening – wooing us all with his terrific 110cm – 34 pounder. Last but not least, there was the short story about Young Toby, Sporty Tom and Sweet Mirabel, who along with their ‘slave driving guide’ Andrey, survived their family adventure landing more than a couple dozen salmon along the way including a few impressive 24, 24, and 28 pounders for the 18 year old, a worthy 28 pounder for good old Dad, along with a most satisfying 20 pounder for Mum.
Considering our Caribbean like conditions to start and the fact that three of the lads went on to land their very first – several salmon ever, and also the fact that we were a couple rods short of a full team – the boys did well to total up 124 salmon on this glorious high summer week.
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, July 9th 2010
What do you get when you introduce a couple of fine Spanish amigos to a pair of proper English gents and then mix them all together with a room full of Russian fly fishing fanatics’ A grand celebration – That’s what – Nastarovia! Without question, every season more and more of the locals here are getting hooked on our beloved sport. Thankfully, our latest multinational team bonded together early on, and then often after that, turning the adventure into a high energy experience for us all.
Coming off a weekend of promising rain including an additional 20cms in the rivers, the boys wasted no time slapping their flies straight into the water. Before we could reign them all back in for dinner on the first evening, after only three hours of fishing on the beats, they had pulled in a staggering 20 salmon – kick starting the show off with a promising bang. Unfortunately, the intense arctic sun popped out the very next morning and we were in for several tricky days of veritable, changing weather. Bright mornings were followed on with white puffy clouds that were ushered in and out by the barometer, which moved up and down through the week like a yo yo. Although the breezes kept us all fresh, they seemed to be coming at us from a different direction twice a day. Temperatures ranged from 10 degrees C up to an unfair 33 degrees C and once, it all happened within the same day. While normally the weather systems tend to settle in for a couple of days, last week Mother Nature simply could not make up her stubborn mind.
Our water conditions were a bit puzzling as well, where after surviving the last couple of weeks with concerning low water levels down into single digits, we somehow managed to finish off last week with more water in the rivers than we had when they first arrived’ Without any real local precipitation to report, there must have obviously been some good rain storms rumbling on further up into the tundra, which kept the mighty Kharlovka flowing through the week above the 20cm mark on the home pool scale.
Speaking of our famous Kharlovka Home pool, Big Dimitry wasted no time jumping straight in on the first Saturday evening sliding six nice salmon in a row into Andrey’s net including a eye opening silver brace of 20 and 23 pounders. Then a couple of days later, his trip was made returning back to the lodge with some stunning photos of his new P.B. 30 pounder. And while they may have been a bit knackered from their previous week over on the Rynda, it is always a pleasure to see Leonid and Boris back again here with us on the Kharlovka. This time around they combined for some nice mid-sized salmon including a trio of 20 pounders. Other highlights must also include my brace of back-to-back, bright silver 23 pounders taken one fine sunny morning out of the home pool. Although they were both crackers, one of them was extra special, wearing a tag from when we first caught this salmon back on July 16th 2008. After analysing the scales under Dima’s microscope, we realized that salmon number 1909 was an amazing 10 years old and was returning in bright fresh condition to spawn for a for a second time!
Let’s not forget about our old friend Simon either, who was back again on his tenth visit to the Kharlovka, adding a few more hard earned salmon to his big fish log of 25 and 26 pounds. And, just as Spain deserved to win their world cup semi final last week, so too did Enric and Pepe merit every last one of their two dozen salmon here last week, especially since half of them were greater than 15 pounds including an impressive 33 pound P.B. late one evening out of the Home pool for Enric.
If you can’t beat them – join them! Surely Yuri and Ivan deserve an honourable mention as well for leap-frogging five kilometres down the little Kharlovka creek, landing some 50 tundra brownies up to just over a kilo. If Ivan wasn’t thoroughly impressed with Yuri’s performance yet then surely pulling in a 34 pound monster where the Little Kharlovka creek confluences into the home pool to end the day – must have tipped him over the edge!
As we all know by now, no matter what the unpredictable conditions may be up here, the mighty Kharlovka always seems to produce the big highlights. While almost half the team have been coming to the ASR for several seasons now, the majority were here on their very first visit and were just learning about the finer points of Spey casting off the giant, hook-destroying boulders of the challenging north coast. Using patterns such as King Tsars, Black Toobs, Green Uplanders, Golden killers and of course, the Sun Ray Shadow, last week’s team managed to pull in a respectable 124 salmon on the week. It must also be said that, there were certainly many more fish hooked than actually made it to the nets. Nevertheless, the boys managed to make up for any loses with extra long nightly saunas along with some epic socializing back in the lodge. ‘Fishing is about pleasure!’ The Russians proclaimed. ‘There is no rush to do anything. You must make the most of every precious summer day.’
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, July 2nd 2010
While it is true that nearly 80% of our guests have been coming here to the ASR for many years, most of them returning every season, last week more than half of the team choppered into camp wide-eyed, not having ever experienced anything like this before. And even though they had read all the printed information that they could get their hands on and sought after the advise of other ASR veterans who have been here many times before, most of them had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. Needless to say, expectations were at a boiling point from the very moment our latest bunch stepped off the helicopter and skeptically marched down the duck boards into camp.
Oh – Ye of little faith! After surviving another weekend of warm muggy temperatures including that one bright sunny Sunday on the Litza where very few precious salmon stayed on the hook, we finally managed to get the show rolling Monday morning with the return of those dark fishy clouds. One by one, they strolled back up into the lodge with their Tall tales of all the big salmon they had landed. Although it may have taken a bit longer than usual, by the end – we had made believers out of them all!
As many of the boys will now attest, there is without doubt, a steep learning curve associated with our Northern Rivers. Considering all the giant boulders, and the large multi sea winter salmon, not to mention the extreme weather conditions – this is like the world cup of salmon fishing. Thankfully, along with all the big numbers again around here, our team of mostly rookies will also be leaving with a few new tricks up their sleeves.
In between the evening exaggerations around the dinning room table, the word ‘Hitched’ seemed to keep popping up throughout the week. Hitched tubes’ How marvelous! Why should the salmon in Scotland be any different’ Maybe it has something to do with the peat’ One of them commented that, the fish there have probably seen so many more flies that they must have recently evolved not to rise up to the surface any more’ What’
Besides all the interesting gossip around the table last week and the constant praising of our guides, other highlights must include the Sun Ray Shadow – if you were only going to bring one – this would surely have to be the fly. Just ask our new friend Matt, who skated in six up to 23 pounds one dark cloudy afternoon down on the lower Litza. Or how about Yorkshire John along with his old mate Tom, the mountain goat, who ripped in eight one day up to 25 pounds with their Sun Rays, leap-frogging down through the pools of the middle Kharlovka. In fact, Yorkshire John was so impressed with his results that he decided to pull the same stunt again two days later going down through the pools of the Lower Kharlovka. Even though Y.J. seems to salmon fish for a living and can rarely be reached in his office, this would turn out be a day to remember as he scribbled down the details of yet another six salmon including his impressive trio of 27, 28, and 29 pounders! Understandably only wearing a half smile that evening, it will be the giant 40+er that he watched jump three times, going on to nearly touch it with the net as the fly pulled out which, will most likely give him big silver nightmares for some time to come. ‘It made these salmon here on the wall – look like tiddlers – Damn it!’
All rested up from slipping away early to bed, good old Tom, the mountain goat who will be turning 68 soon, sneaked off to the Home pool one morning. We found him before breakfast sitting out on his porch gazing up into the sky obviously contemplating the meaning of life. We questioned, ‘How did you get on down there Tom” Barely comprehendible, we deciphered that he managed to land 22, 28, and 33-pounders. Stop the press! On the final day Yorkshire and Tom crawled back up the stairs having landed 11 more including another four of 20, 22, 24, and 28 pounds. And Yes! – They took every single one of them on their trusty Sun Ray Shadows. The truth is that nearly 40% of the 192 salmon that the team managed to pull into the net here last week were seduced by this simple yet attractive pattern.
While every day is a good day here on the mighty Kharlovka, many of them can be great! It did however take the entire first weekend to convince the cynic Rupert of this though. Glaring down at the fishing rotor with a gloomy face, he unbelievable said ‘You mean I have to spend another three days on the Litza this week” Pulling out the black pen, we threaten to take his fly rod away for good and send him out cod fishing for the rest of the week. Thankfully he returned from the lower Litza the very next day with his tail between his legs after catching six bright fresh salmon up to 25 pounds. If that didn’t make a believer out of him, then he was surely convinced a couple of days later after landing another six off the upper Kharlovka ranging from 17lbs. up to his new personal best of 29 pounds. And for the icing on his big piece of humble pie, he thankfully came back nearly speechless from his second round on the Litza after breaking his P.B. yet again with six more salmon up to 26 and 31 pounds. Throughout the week, leading him places that he didn’t think possible, Rupert quite rightly gave most of the credit to his guide young Vasiliy who was said to have been crossed between a gorilla and a gazelle. It just doesn’t get any better than that my friend! Next season, Rupert will probably bring a camera with him’
A few other brief honourable mentions must also go out to Tim along with his guide Val for finding that 30 pounder in the Upper Dream pool. And, it just wouldn’t be right not to mention Patrick’s 20-pound hat trick of 20, 24, and 26 pounders. Like money in the bank, Matt put seven in a row up to 20 pounds into Big Alex’s net with his sneaky Highlander Cone. Then for his finale, he broke his P.B. once again on the last day with a sweet 31 pounder. Brent and Sally had a lovely time of things pulling in a cool dozen including four over the big 20 mark. And last but certainly not least, there was our good old friend Gerald who dreams about coming back to the Kharlovka for some 51 weeks a year with his box full of Sun Rays, going onto land 19 salmon including a silver brace of 20-pounders – in addition to a fine 28 pounder to tide him over through the long winter months ahead. Along with another five grand salmon larger than 30 pounds, and the fact that all the lads but one had their 20+ers, this will certainly go down as an unforgettable week for us all!
Late Thursday evening the sky suddenly went very dark. A few moments later there were bright flashes of light outside our windows. Impressive rolls of thunder soon followed on echoing through the valleys. Like music to our ears, raindrops pour down onto our fishy dreams straight through the night. By the time we opened our eyes and crawled out of our cozy cabins the next morning, the rivers had risen up by a blessed 20cms. While this might not have been the preferred last day condition for our last gang of fishing hooligans, it was exactly what the doctor ordered for the next!
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, June 25th 2010
Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for! After battling through a couple of cold tricky spring weeks up here to open the season, we have experienced days on end of bright Arctic sun almost ever since. Although the unpredictable weather did begin to flip back around into our favour late week, including that one refreshingly cool rainy day that reminded us all why we brought our fancy new Gore-Tex wading jackets, it must be said that we have had more than our fair share of swift southern breezes along with some very warm temperatures up into the high twenties. Oh well, such is life sometimes up here along the magical northern coast of the Kola Peninsula.
Thankfully though, the majority of our guests don’t come here in search of large numbers of small fish – It is the unique opportunity to experience something Great that attracts our fanatical bunch.
Last week it all started out with Jeremy, who tried his best to contain his big fish grin, as he returned back from the middle Litza with stories of his 106cm sea liced 31-pounder. This turned out to be yet another personal best for Jeremy who has been slowly stepping up the big fish ladder here on the Northern Rivers for the past 15 seasons, previously landing several great salmon of 30, 29, 28, and 27 pounds. At this rate, he just may find that mythical 40 to 50 pounder over the next couple of visits.
Good old James was the next one to be spotted with that silver glare in his eyes returning from his overnight adventure to the Litza Tent. Turned out that after three spectacular leaps into the air along with a few good circles around the pool, that James was able to successfully contain his 104cm – 30-pounder in the Upper Tent pool.
Other highlights must include our good Russian friends Vladimir and Anatolly. While the experienced Vladimir is fishing his way across the prime time weeks of the northern Kola Peninsula again and will be going on to the Rynda next week to join up with his charming wife Svetlana, last week he introduced his friend Anatolly to his first fly fishing adventure ever here on the mighty Kharlovka. Together with their guide Vasiliy, this trio proved to be quite a force to reckon with where besides the couple of dozen nice fish they located in the teens, they also managed to combine for a cool half dozen salmon that were larger than 20 pounds – including three great fish of 28, 32 pounds along with the big salmon of the week at 112cm X 61cm 37-pounds for Anatolly. Needless to say, poor Anatolly is now hooked for life.
And then there was Hans who had no idea what to expect on his first experience here to Russia. One bright sunny afternoon we received a frantic radio call here in lodge from his guide Valentine who was chasing after Hans, who was chasing after a large salmon that had dragged him down out of the Amphitheatre pool just above camp. Without hesitation, we packed up the camera gear and sprinted off to the home pool to join in the big fish fun. Like a circus trainer leads a tiger into the cage, Hans cautiously led his beast from one trouble spot to the next before finally arriving down into the Home pool some 30 minutes later. Not wanting to let this great story get away, Hans struggled to pull in his resting salmon from the fast waters at the top of the pool. As it approached the shallows, Valentine lifted the net from below instantly cracking off the handle as if it were a toothpick. Thankfully, going into his 20th season here on the Kharlovka, Valentine has witnessed all this funny business many times before and instinctively reached out for the other half of the net before the bright fresh 103cm 30-pounder had any chance to escape. With the paparazzi quietly in position, Hans let loose his emotions and screamed out many things for joy that could simply never be put down in print…
A few days later Hans, Valentine, and this time Engrebret were at it again over on the Upper Tent pool. Blasting out his trusty Green Highlander like a golf pro hits a drive, all of a sudden Engrebret had located what he came for. The salmon shot up towards the heavy rapids at the top of the pool, then deciding against that, came straight back down almost just as quick, nearly beaching itself along the far cliffs only to end up in Valentine’s new heavy duty net less than five minutes later. Confidently smiling away upon their return back to camp, we asked, ‘What happened over there” as Valentine moon walked by playing his net like an air guitar. ‘You should go ask Val about it, as he can act out the story for you far better than we ever could!’ That fine day Engrebret broke his personal best with a stunning 111cm X 61cm – 36-pounder.
Traveling over from Aspen Colorado for the first time to see what all the big fish fuss was about here on the northern Kola, our new friend Robert will be returning home with plenty of stories as well. Robert was obviously a very quick learner for after warming up with solid 18 pounder for his first Atlantic salmon ever, the next day he ran into serious trouble down in the Litza Military pool. Upon catching a quick glimpse of something extraordinarily thick and silver only to be horrified moments later as it shot off again towards the boulder field on the far opposite bank, Robert deserves special mention for eventually hauling his great salmon safely back to the net. Gazing down at its impressive silver girth, it was not all that surprising that they initially estimated the fish to be much larger than it actually was. Stretching the tape to 99cm and then around to 68cm – this was one of the fattest 32 pound Litza salmon that we have ever seen. To give you some idea, Mikael’s 42-pound monster from the previous week was 118.5cm by a mere 64cm in the middle.
Thankfully, along with all their spectacular suntans, not to mention our seven proud new additions the Kharlovka 30 pound club or those other dozen plus over twenty pounds that ranged to 28, 28, 27, and 25 pounds – whose stories will unfortunately have to remain untold – the team had a most memorable time here combining for 151 salmon on the week.
Who knows what may happen next’
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, June 18th 2010
On the back of a rather cool blustery start to the season, we touched down in Murmansk last Saturday to bright sunny skies with warm temperatures in the mid twenties. For the third week on the trot, our eager guests have leap off the charter and took one good look around at the lush green forests thinking we have arrived back to paradise at precisely the right moment in time. However, before we could get them all calmed down in the VIP lounge, rumours along with their printed weather forecasts of yet another cold stormy week began to circulate the chatter. Lucky for them, it is impossible to predict what might happen next up here along the far northern coast.
Nobody seemed all that surprised come Sunday morning as they ventured out into the light rain mixed with snow flurries along with a low morning temperature of just two degrees C. Thankfully, what was supposed to be a week of cool nasty weather only ended up sticking around for the remainder of the day. Besides that one other morning downpour, which lasted just long enough to freshen up the lads, we enjoyed a beautiful week of mostly sunny skies with mild temperatures in the mid teens to low twenties and virtually no wind. Alleluia!
Let the good times roll – it’s prime time again on the great Northern Rivers! Although we finally received the extended spell of decent conditions that we have been praying for, the rivers still had a bit of catching up to do with the season. Normally (if there is such a word up here above the Arctic Circle) at this point, the salmon would be spread nicely through both the rivers, beginning to stack up from the falls pools down. Although the mighty Kharlovka River was in just such a state for the arrival of our latest guests, the cool mysterious waters of the Eastern Litza would still be a few days behind. While the vast majority of the silver was seen splashing its way by, it has to be said that consistent runs of large salmon were spotted coming through on the tides on both rivers straight through the week.
Last week’s highlights were big and plentiful with almost everyone in the gang locating that satisfying 20+ pounder. Dr. Richard will have plenty of stories to entertain the patients with when he gets back including his bright fresh 27 pounder off the treacherous right bank of the Home Pool. Even though David had a half dozen good salmon including a cracking 23 pounder on his Sun Ray Shadow, it will surely be the three other monster salmon that he broke off that will linger the longest in his memories. Karl’s hard work paid dividends in the end, as he will be returning with several fine photos of his 23, 24 and 26-pounders. Our good friend Mark certainly deserves a quick mention as well, landing well over a dozen nice fish including those six grand salmon that were 20 to 28 pounds. And we don’t call him Home Pool Fritz around here for nothing as our smiling German friend stayed true to form locating a couple of wonderfully fresh 27 and 30-pounders to keep his spirits up until we see him again next year.
Let’s not forget about Fast Eddie along with his partner in crime Alan either, as these two shot out of the blocks on the first evening and basically never looked back until they were completely knackered later in the week. It was reported that in between the dozen or so in the mid teens along with Fast Eddie’s stunning pair of 27 and 28-pounders, they were often caught power napping stretched out across the tundra in the late afternoon sun. One fine day, Alan woke up with a spectacular suntan and made the fatal mistake of flicking one last cast into the tail of the Snowbank pool. With the drag cranked up to full and the sound of the approaching chopper, Alan deserves a silver metal for landing his fresh 28 pounder in less than 10 minutes.
And God bless the Litza! For many of us, it is simply the best salmon river in the world! Although the super Swede Mikael most likely considered this flying into the lower Litza last Tuesday morning, he was about ready to get a reminder that he would never forget. With his friends and the guide watching on in envy from the opposite bank of the Military pool, Mikael blasted out his trusty Phatakorva tube far across the rapids. Swinging through the fast water near the top of the run, suddenly all hell broke loose and Mikael was hooked up with the Big one. Initially moving around the pool with easy, rubbing his 45-pound nylon on any boulder in its way, the great fish suddenly turned up stream into the fast moving water. Showing off his skills, Mikael held on tight for some 30 minutes while the mighty salmon fought hard against the heavy currents. Figuring his leader was nearly shot and with memories of the last two great salmon he broke off here only two weeks ago, Mikael finally managed to finesse his big silver prize into a calm pocket along the bank. Thankfully, after 18 previous visits here to the Northern Rivers, this veteran has learned that you never go anywhere up here without a camera! After a few hectic moments of realizing that he would not be able handle this great fish and operate his professional cameral gear by himself, then frantically trying to figure out where the self-timer button was on his little backup pocket job, Mikael somehow managed to hoist up his 118.5cm X 64cm – 42-pound sea liced salmon and smile for that all important shot. Not to brag, however over Mikael’s illustrious career, this was his 20th salmon greater than 40 pounds – Congratulations again!
Considering all the nice weather and good company up here last week, not to mention the 138 salmon that the team pulled together to catch, it was a shame to see it all end.
The long awaited signs of summer are suddenly all around us – Tiny flowers are sneaking up along the banks – stoneflies crawling across our waders – little brown birds singing for joy amongst the leafy birch – eagles and buzzards circling just above them on the afternoon breeze – the wolverine that went for a swim along the lower Kharlovka – the small brown bear waiting patiently down at the Barrel pool for the reindeer herds to arrive to the coast. With the rivers flowing nicely at 21cm on the Home pool scale along with perfect water temperatures of 10.9C, in addition to the substantial snowdrifts that still lie tucked away beneath the northern face, we should have another magical time here again next week.
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, June 10th 2010
Where the tundra meets the sea above the Arctic Circle, you simply cannot do anything about the pace of the season – especially attempt to predict it. Stubborn winter-like conditions seemed reluctant to give up their grip last week along the far northern coast of the Kola Peninsula. Considering we finished up our opening week of the season with a very promising water temperature of 6.9C, you can just imagine our frustration at the half way mark of the second when we pulled the thermometer out of the Kharlovka Home pool with a meager reading of only 4.2C. While cold drizzly rains along with intermittent flurries of snow are not all that uncommon up here – any time of the year, it was the non-stop freezing winds from the north that took the greatest toll. Besides wrecking havoc with our Spey casting, the storm-like conditions led to big waves at sea, producing large amounts of suspended silt along the coast, which no doubt had an affect on the momentum of our long awaited spring salmon run.
However, singing and joking into the wee hours of the morning without a care in the world, not one of them would have preferred to be anywhere else. Thankfully come Wednesday morning, the conditions tilted back towards our favour as the guests enjoyed a most welcomed bright calm day with temperatures in the mid teens. Before we could get the boys deployed that morning we were already receiving news from our security guards stationed in the estuaries that good numbers of salmon were spotted coming through on the early morning tide. Throughout the day, pods of fresh fish were reported running straight through the pools of the lower Kharlovka. Thankfully the team managed to pick a few of them off as they splashed their way by – nearly doubling our overall catch for the week on that one memorable warm-sunny day. Although it blew another gale, rained and spat a few flakes for us again on Thursday, Mother Nature showed pity on their final day leaving them all with envious thoughts of the hundreds of large silver salmon that were obviously now coming in. On the final day, the team put more into the net by lunch then we had caught during the first three character-building days combined.
Last week’s highlights must include my plump 96cm 22-pounder which was the first fresh salmon of the season taken from the reliable Home Pool. David managed to do Scotland proud pulling in a Kharlovka brace of 23 and 22 pounders with his optimistic Baxter’s Babe. Besides landing a couple of fine 22.5 and 23 pounders on his Bertie Dastard, Deeside Ken (who is turning the big 50 this week) went 30 minutes with a silver monster on the lower Kharlovka that he estimated to be between 17 and 18 kilos after seeing it on the surface for the third time. Unfortunately, this great one will have to live on as a birthday memory as the large salmon managed to pull the fly loose after an unforgettable 250 meter run.
Big Reid deserves an honourable mention for leading his group through the storm as well as for the five nice salmon he found messing one afternoon down in the Kharlovka sea pools. It just wouldn’t be right to leave out James either who celebrated his birthday here this week as well with a couple of satisfying 19 and 22 pounders for the road on the final day. And let’s not forget about our good friend Anders and his 25-pounder from the Long pool.
However, it was most certainly Big Fish Jim who took the silver prize. Entertaining us all after dinner one evening, BFJ was drug down the far bank of the Home pool some 200 meters to the island just above the rapids before finally hoisting up his 109cm – 34 pounder like he had just won the Stanley Cup for nearly the entire lodge (including his proud father) who were all admiring the action from the opposite bank.
Considering that our last group of guests experienced trickier conditions than the first, it was probably understandable why they went on to celebrate their successes well into every night – eventually totaling up 47 spring salmon on the week.
Despite the long polar days, the tundra has been in a sort of suspended animation for the last two weeks with nearly all of the growth appearing during the precious few mild days. The birch buds, which looked poised to burst open on the opening day of the season, are only slightly more advanced now heading into our third week. The little brown birds are only just returning from their sudden retreat to the more sheltered south. Thankfully the rivers are currently flowing warmer than the Gulf Stream influence of the Barents Sea. Recording a late afternoon river temperature of 7.8C on the final Friday (currently several degrees warmer than the sea) with a perfect Kharlovka River height of 38cm on the Home pool scale – We can all sense that the big silver run is just around the corner.
Kharlovka Web Report for the week ending Friday, June 4th 2010
Following a winter of record setting conditions straight across the northern latitudes resulting in above average levels of snow and ice, not to mention the unseasonably cool spring that seemed reluctant to arrive further to the south, we were all a bit surprised to touch down in Murmansk last Saturday to the lush green state of the birch which was already in full leaf. In fact, the early spring arrival here to the Kola Peninsula even seemed to have an affect on the airport staff as we breezed straight through customs like they were actually glad to see all us crazy fishermen back again. Before we had time to settle into the fancy VIP lounge and order our second rounds, the pretty ladies in the airport were leading us out to the helicopter and waving us on our jolly way.
This season the mighty Kharlovka ice broke up on May 17th. Brought on by nearly a week of beautiful spring weather including several days with air temperatures above 25C (70 to 80 degrees F). The promising snow pack, which was some 20% above normal, was apparently no match for the freak spell of warm polar days. By May 23rd (one week before the start of the season) Volodya, our longtime director of operations who was on camp getting everything set up, was reporting the Kharlovka River to have reached its runoff peak – approximately one half meter higher than they could ever remember it before with a reading somewhere in the range of 160 to 170cm on the home pool scale. To give you some idea, the big rock at the top of the home pool was completely covered as were the last several steps on the way down stairs to the submerged lower helicopter pad below.
Oh what a difference a few days can make as the first eager Kharlovka guests of the season arrived into camp less than a week later to a river that had dropped down nearly one meter to a opening day level of 60cm on the home pool scale along with a promising river temperature of 3.8 degrees C. Not surprisingly, expectations were very high as the guests enjoyed the warm sunny opening weekend conditions pulling in 8 glorious salmon including a bright fresh 20 pounder that was covered in sea lice for Julian by Sunday dinner.
Unfortunately, cruel weather ensued with near freezing temperatures and 24 hours of constant rain driving the rivers back up again by 15cm. By the time we got them all dried off and thawed out, Patagonia force winds from the north made Tuesday a day to remember as three rods were broken just trying to get a line out. Thankfully conditions started to improve through the second half of the week and we finished up with a respectable total of 35 salmon with an average weight of 17.5 pounds. On the final day the Kharlovka was flowing at 68cm on the home pool scale (8cm higher than when we arrived) with a temperature of 5.4C.
Highlights from our long awaited opening week of the season must include Penry’s first salmon ever that weighed in at an envious 17 pounds. Diego, our good friend from Switzerland, managed to find a couple of nice fish including his Litza 20 pounder along with another satisfying 22 pounder on the final day. Henrik had several entries in the fishing book however, his 21-pounder off the lower Kharlovka will be the one most remembered. John battled hard to the end before finding his 24-pound Kharlovka memory leaving him with a smile for the road. And then there was Dean, who had to be flown back into Murmansk for an ankle x-ray to start the week before finally coming back strong with his sprained foot to crank in his 25-pound sea liced Litza salmon in less than 10 minutes. It must be said that Dean thought his fish was simply another large kelt until he hauled it up to the surface with all his might. Upon seeing the big silver he decided to go for broke, doubling over the rod and sneaking it into the net before the great salmon really had a chance.
And let’s not forget about the Super Swede Mikael who always seems to find big trouble wherever he goes. Along with a few 19, 20 and 24 and 29 pounders that successfully made it to the net, Mikael showed off his sprinting skills chasing after two unstoppable salmon. Unfortunately, both were eventually broken off using 45-pound nylon after several hundred-meter long runs. His Litza monster broke lose only meters before entering the Litza estuary – surely on its grand way straight back to the Barents Sea.
Although last week’s notable fish were spread nicely amongst the gang, Big Dave was another one who seemed to have that magic touch. Making his mark early on good old Dave managed to find a silver brace of 20+ers including a 24-pound Litza salmon measuring in at 98cm and also that 21-pound sea liced beauty that was cleverly taken on his Parky’s Persuader off the lower Kharlovka tide. Come Thursday evening it was clear that Dave was not messing about, as he limped back up the stairs with his camera in his hand reeling off the photos of three more weighing in at 19, 23 and 30 sea liced pounds.
Let’s face it – Life would simply be boring without big salmon to hope for. Springtime in the arctic makes you feel alive. Bird chirping straight through the bright nights, the soothing sound of water running everywhere, air so fresh that you instantly take notice, a pure silence that makes you reconsider your priorities – Unless you have been here before, you probably have no idea how great it is to escape to Russia’s far northern coast. See you all again next season! (And a couple of the lucky ones again in just a of few weeks..)