Rynda Fishing Reports 2003
The Miracle of Rynda.
As you know Roy fulfilled his dream of a 30 lbs salmon with Sue last week and nearly did himself in without his heart pills. Sue left him in our care for a second week which lowered his spirits for a while until his second encounter with stress disorder. Here is his story:
To fish a great Russian river in the Kola is a privilege. We all (serious fly fishers yearn for it) & dream of Scotland 40 years ago.
Catching fish is fun, as is releasing them. We all dream of the 30 pounder & to catch 2 in a week is a miracle.
Having caught a 30 pounder on Monday I was content my week was over. The events of the following Sunday proved me wrong.
Venya placed me in a pool with no name, which we covered for an hour without success, seeing many large fish. He commanded me to wade 20 yards into the rushing stream. Having accused him of several forms of madness he towed me to a rock he towed me to a rock in a fast stream. On the 4th cast the line stopped & then cruised across the river. “Not trout , big fish venya roared. 10 minutes later the fish ran towards us & somersaulted 20 yards below us. I can only say that at this point my feelings were of fear. 40 pounds I yelled, Venya stood calmly.
The fish played with me awhile and then tore downstream through the rapids taking 120 yards of line before the reel came screeching to a halt. The backing was cocked in the drum.
I recalled that Peter had kindly given my rod to Don from Arkansaw the previous evening. My feelings towards Americans were somewhat dark.
Venya grabbed me & ran for the bank where I slipped & filled my waders. he grabbed the rod & raced down the bank whilst I lay upside down on a rock to empty the water.
I staggered downstream where Venya was standing , the fish was still on. Well hooked we agreed. Somewhat excited I stopped & gobbled my heart pill. The 15 lb leader had head through 500 yards of rapids.
We were at the base of Black cliff when the fish tore downstream, with venya falling & swimming after it. I ran to the top of the cliff which was covered in birch trees. Running along I fully expected to find him being towed out to sea. 300 yards downstream I found him 70 feet below me standing on a rock . The fish was still on, well hooked we agreed.
There was no way down, so I stood & watched the fish flicking its tale in the stream.
I clambered down the sheer cliff face slipping from birch to birch considering that I had caught the Russian mad disease. On joining Venya he announced “bad news net broke”. This bear sized man had cavorted 300 yards downstream had fallen several times bust the net & stood there calm & drenched. Reel jammed -no net Ladbrokes were laying 10/1 on the fish. The fish refused to budge & we agreed to be patient( not one of my strengths). Venya commanded “don’t lose fish”!!
After 20 minutes the fish began to roll around and the huge tail started to show. The fear returned. venya moved 20 yds below to a flat stone. We tried to slip the fish on to it & at the 3rd attempt succeeded. Venya inserted a banana size finger into the gill & place the fish in the hoop of the net. It was 43 inches long with a girth of 22inches & weighed 33lbs. It was a beautifully spotted cock which we kissed & caressed back into the water. We sat with it for 30 minutes whilst it recovered before cruising back to the deep. I shed a tear of emotion Venya just smiled.
This brave man had risked all for me & a fish.
We summoned the helicopter & returned to camp. Peter announced the pool would now be named Roys Bath, an honour I probably don’t deserve but will accept with great pride.
Had the fish have been lost it would naturally have been a 40 pounder.
This was indeed the miracle of Rynda.
Roy Howell 27 July 2003.
Life at Rynda – 19th July 2003
Today we will land our 1000th fish for the season. Who will catch it? Of course it is just a notional thing. As usual I shall be chasing the party to do their “Admin” and someone will realise he or she has the honour. It bears some reflection. In the whole of the 2000 season the catch was 792 and we are now just halfway through this season. In 2001 it was not until 24th August. It will be another record season for numbers but maybe not so for size. For some reason we are a little short on two sea winter fish in the 12 to 16 lbs range. But the good news is we have a fair stock of big fish so all is well with everyone taking numbers and one or two coming in with something special every day. It is quite amazing how many guests catch the largest fish in their life at Rynda. My hunch is something like 85% – I must study the matter properly some day.
Yesterday Sue was with Roy at the Canyon left bank on the platform just after the “wall”. Sue could not reach where the fish showed so Roy had a go. Venya changed the fly three times to finish up with a black and brown Francis. The “great” fish took it and after 30 hectic minutes, nearly loosing it in the tail, they landed a 106 cms 30 lbs+ cock salmon. We damn nearly lost Roy as well. None of us knew he has a mildly “dicky” heart which went into serious overdrive and, of course, he had gone fishing without his pills. We got him back quickly and all is now well but it is a lesson for many of us. Please tell the resident Doctor if you have any heart problems and be prepared for stress.
By the way the Doctor, whose name is Yura, is a delightful man. He is a wonderful help around camp and a brilliant carpenter. Every morning he and his spaniel “Betsa” see us off and every evening they are there to welcome us back. I am quite serious when I say the surgery he has built appears to be every bit as well equipped as ours at home near Oxford. So far nothing too serious thank God! However this week we did have a nasty turn when news came in of one of the Russian workers falling from the top of the new Kharlovka House. We had him here in short order and it is a miracle he is at work again. I go over to Kharlovka tonight with “Doc” and “Betsa” on my weekly inspection mix with the guests and make sure all is in order. I am asked why we have such a well equipped medical facility. Think of this! By the end of this season there will have been 424 salmon and trout rod weeks in 5 camps spread over 120 kilometres with an average age of over 50 all playing “boys” games in a dangerous environment. Add to this some 60 Russians staffing the camps, guiding, flying and building. It all adds up to nearly 10,000 man days in rough wilderness conditions.
We have been having the most wonderful house parties every week. It is the result of six years finding out who is really suited to the Rynda way of life. It is rare now to find someone here out of their element and/or unable to relax and find happiness and contentment – but it can happen. I have noticed this is because they have come by reference with preconceived ideas and have not been properly briefed about the private nature of our activities. It is pointless to compare Rynda with the agency world because it is unique even from Kharlovka. There have always been more than enough fish. To find ultimate happiness here you must look beyond the fishing and care about your surroundings and each other and have a genuine interest in our objectives.
What a joy Zolotaya has become for us all. I suppose it is the shear beauty of the place combined with the freedom to enjoy a river and camp to ourselves. And without a “Headmaster”! There are so many wonderful 24 hour private adventure stories but perhaps you will settle for the return of the Baron at breakfast this morning. We dropped him at Peter’s Pool with Jenya yesterday morning and received his confirmation call in the afternoon saying he wanted to stay the night having had three fish and enjoyed the mountain walk. He joined us here for breakfast this morning in a state of total pleasure. Six fish landed at 13, 14, 16, 14, 11 & 11 lbs and a 30 lbs salmon that jumped straight over his line in Russian Pool. Imagine camping beside that small but classic pool knowing a “great” fish is there, seeing it again over dinner and failing to get it. Lovely stuff! His entry in the Zolotaya Book reads “Lost one fish after 25 minutes and three others between 5 & 10. Zolotaya Camp and river are one of the important places I’ve seen so far”by which he means in life. I must add the Baron has been to most of the best places.
The reindeer have been back in huge herds. The weather has been all over the place. The river is six inches higher than this time last year and there is still a little snow in the “bank” but it will fall quickly now. Unusually for July there has been some heavy rain. We have had quite a lot of warm weather recently but the flies have not been too bad. The water is now up to about 17C.
And so the season rolls on. Here we are at the half way mark and I start to worry it will end soon. This is the problem with “happiness” – It is timeless. The happier you are the faster you live as Charles would have me say.
A RYNDA RECORD – 7th July 2003
It is much easier to find happiness at the “Three Rivers” if you have fished some of the more prolific rivers. Then when you come here you have developed a reasonable degree of skill and, more importantly, know that catch numbers are not an enriching experience. It is companionship in beautiful natural surroundings combined with the pursuit of one of the most exciting adrenaline producing sequence of events known to man. The finding, hooking, playing and finally landing a serious salmon by fly in interesting heavy water followed by the tale to be retold amongst friends. But even this can be overdone if you catch half a dozen or so in a day. What really keeps the magic going is the chance of something “great” or dare one even think about something “awesome”.
We say here at Rynda that a “nice” fish is 15 lbs+, a “good” fish is 20 lbs+, a “serious” fish is 25 lbs+ and a “great” fish is 30 lbs+. At Kharlovka & Eastern Litza they will say the same except that hitherto they alone have been able to boast of “awesome” fish of 40lbs+. The Rynda record was set by Mark last August with a “great” fish of 37 lbs taken from Peter’s Pocket. Rynda, the most beautiful and interesting river in the world, is now in the “Awesome League”.
Today Monday, 7th July 2003 the record was broken by Peter with a fresh cock Atlantic Salmon of 42 lbs measuring 117 cms (46″) by 65 cms (25.5″). It was taken in Norway Pool on an original Brown SunRay Shadow given to him by Ray’s son Mark from the Laerdal. The salmon did not rise to the fly it came out of the water and attacked it in the middle of the pool so that we knew it was well hooked and at least a “great” fish. Kola Lite guided a shocked Peter through a thrilling one hour battle whilst Lawrence enjoyed the whole performance. With difficulty we managed to confine the fish in a shallow bay whilst Kola crossed the river to retrieve net and scales. It was weighed with difficulty four times to our total amazement when each time the scales hovered around 20 kilos with net. None of us had ever seen anything like it. Truly “awesome”!
This fish is the record fresh run silver salmon caught by fly on the “Three Rivers”. The event follows the extraordinary feat of Martin on Kharlovka last week who caught and landed four fish averaging 28 lbs (40/30/28/18) in an afternoon on the same fly given to him by Peter. The record for the biggest fish at “Three Rivers” was set by Adrian last August at 47.5 lbs at Flatstone on the Litza. We are now waiting for some lucky person to take the first 50 pounder. It is likely to be well over 4 feet in length!
Since the beginning of July we have been averaging about 40 salmon and grilse a day at Rynda with the five best at 42, 32, 30, 29 & 28 lbs. Kharlovka & Litza are doing even better with three 40 pounders and numerous 30+ fish as you will see in the weekly report. Last week the “Three Rivers” took 512 salmon and grilse and they will do even better this week. After the three day Arctic Summer the weather has settled back to air temperatures of 5/8°C in the morning with the water varying between 10 & 12°C. We still have a snow bank so that the rivers are at a nice height. Simply great fishing conditions allowing for the best July fishing ever. It will be yet another record year.
Wednesday, 25th June 2003
Yesterday 25 salmon up to 28 lbs were landed by Rynda rods. Fresh fish were showing above Rynda House Waterfall. The air temperature is 3.5°C this morning and the water is 5.9°C. What an extraordinary season!
Tuesday, 24th June 2003
The cold weather goes on and on. We had one day last week when the morning air broke through 10°C and we thought it was over only to wake up the next morning to see it plunge to 3°C. Generally speaking the average day temperature ranges between 4°C & 8°C now. Meanwhile the river has been falling steadily and is a nice full height. The Home Pool keystone rock is still under water and we can freely manage boats around the lodge and Ten Islands. The water temperature had crept up to 6.5°C but has now fallen below 6.0°C again. The fish have been arriving steadily and are reluctant to move up river just as the kelts have been reluctant to move out.
This week we have a wonderful group of Americans organised by the President of the ASF together with four British friends who have fished the “Three Rivers” for many years. They are all great sportsmen showing a true understanding of nature and consideration for each other. We are having a great time together. We are averaging 10 fresh fish per day fishing up to Norway where so far two good salmon have been taken. On Sunday Zolotaya kicked in with 5 beautiful sea liced fish up to Russian Pool.
The weather has to break any day and we hope the water will reach 8.0°C by the end of the week. If this happens we expect fish to arrive in large numbers and ascend the length of the salmon water. We still have every reason to expect a great season. The fact is the weather has been cruel to the June rods and those fishing in July are likely to be very lucky people with respect to both water and fish.
There are large numbers of reindeer all around and eight of them seem to have taken up residence here wandering between the cabins each morning. Swans can now be spotted on the lakes. Wagtails are happily nesting in the eaves of the new cabins in symbiosis with guests. A dipper is nesting at Cliff Pool.
On Friday, 27th June 2003 at this lonely outpost not far from the North Pole a British Flag will be flying at half mast in tribute to a dearly departed friend.
Monday 9th June 2003 – A Double Opening
Each year Rynda follows Kharlovka by 7/10 days and each year one worries for no good reason whether it will happen. Particularly this year because Kharlovka was at least a week late before starting with a great opening on the 1st June – See “News from the River”.
The air at Rynda has been under 5°C most of the time with the occasional snowfall. The water has remained stubbornly under 1.5°C up to last Thursday when nature played a trick. On a relatively cold day the temperature suddenly shot up to 2.8°C. We literally double-checked the thermometers. It’s all about the lake system previously discussed. The Rynda behaves as your iced drink on the beach in Barbados. Despite the warm weather the drink will stay at or about 1.5°C as long as a reasonable amount of ice has yet to melt. A vast ice sheet over Lake Rynda acts like this steadily thinning in relatively cold weather until suddenly it is down to a few millimetres and then nothing. Bingo we are in business!
The first guests arrived late yesterday when both the air and the water were at 2.5°C all set for a disappointing opening day today. But it was not to be! Shortly after to lunch the radios came alive with chatter of a good fish on at Ten Islands. In the event Andy landed our first fresh salmon – a beautiful fish of 18 lbs. The photographs will show it was snowing at the time. We are encouraged that it had no sea lice and will have been in the system, hopefully with several pals, for a few days. We are now all psyched up for a good weeks fishing but would appreciate just a little help from the weather. The river is at a nice spring height with the Keystone Rock now about 4 inches below the surface. It is just a little high for the right bank of Home Pool but all coming along nicely for next week’s gentry.
Conventional wisdom says the Zolotaya does not fish until 15th June. Wrong! Guy and Don will be delighted to hear Yours Truly hooked and fought a huge 30 lbs looking fresh salmon on Wednesday 4th June in water of 2.1°C. It could be clearly seen cruising around Russian Pool for 20 minutes. A fat silver fish with a tail like a Devon Spade. It was so strong, steady and determined that one had the feeling it did not really know it was being played. Sure enough after 15 minutes it took off for Bank’s Pool as the big ones are prone to do and sadly parted with the fly (A Sunray Shadow of course) in the tail of the pool to be followed by a general state of mourning by the entourage. A truly great fishing moment.
But there was more to come today. It was also opening day at Zolotaya. Whilst the guests were deployed on Rynda one of us did a little test fishing at Five Stones, which is the pool one above Sea Pool. One pull and two sea liced fish of 9 & 12 lbs within 30 minutes to be followed by a sentimental blank at Russian. Misha & Son already have the Zolotaya Hilton ready for guests and there will be an Edwardian Picnic there tomorrow.
More and more reindeer are coming in. Whilst flying low in fog we came over a ridge to temporarily transfix a Wolverine before it went into a twisted leap. There was a main of black fur down its back flanked by vibrant brown and a bushy tail – Both beautiful and frightening. There seem to be lots of Ptarmigan now that Nikolai has Rynda dog under control. Two Long Tailed Ducks were resident at Home Pool until this week. I fear we have disturbed their nest. They are all still a full white. The small birds have yet to start serious twittering around the house but it must happen this week.
Monday 2nd June 2003
Over the last week the water level has dropped by about a meter so that the pools are becoming familiar. The big island is showing by a foot and one could plot a hazardous course over parts of Rock Island. The Keystone Rock in Home Pool is about a foot under and the great rocks in the Rynda Falls are yet to surface. It has been very cold and even now the air is only 2°C but the sun is trying to break through and the forecast is good. It is all starting to look and feel very fishy. Kharlovka has got of to a great start and we should follow by the end of this week. Take a look at News from the River where you can also read about the first flight.
We have moved into the Lodge which seems much bigger without a drooping roof. Mark’s 37 lbs mount alongside David’s greenheart is rather elegant. Nikolai is well in the old village but only just after being lost at sea in a rubber boat for three days. We searched the bays and refuge huts between Rynda and Kharlovka and got a little worried. In the event he returned a couple of days ago as fit as a fiddle having taken shelter from the weather at Litza Military Camp. When asked what he had been eating with a coy smile he produced a couple of Eider Duck eggs. Our delightful doctor, Dima, had taken up residence and already dealt with his first casualty when Sasha bashed his forehead on a sharp object. He is now happily walking around in a bonnet Such is Russian pride! Yours Truly, a confirmed hypochondriac, is thoroughly enjoying his new friend.
On the nature front Volodya spotted a lone bear from the helicopter near Kharlovka and the first reindeer was seen yesterday near Rynda. The geese have been flying in all the time but we have yet to see swans. The small birds are showing around Rynda House. Sometime this week there will be a sunny warm day and everything will burst into life. Strangely we will miss the snow but you may see patches through to the end of June and the salmon will know it.
Monday 26th May 2003 at Rynda House
Sasha piloted the “Faithfull Sergey” and “Yours Truly” in yesterday morning by coming down the river from Picnic Island which was well beneath the water. Even the big rock at Power Pool was submerged and Iron Gate was magnificent with no cliffs just ledges. It was no time to try rafting Peter’s Pocket. We zoomed in low over Rynda Falls catching Lite Kola, Gena and Nina by surprise as they were raising the Union Jack to join the lonely Russian flag. They had everything ready for us. It is hard to believe they have already re-built the lodge roof. It was a wonderful home coming. Suddenly it seemed one was last here yesterday.
It is too exciting to sleep so we have lit the fire and are enjoying the wonder of nature through the windows of the house. Just below there is a raging torrent fringed by cliffs of packed snow that threaten to release a few tons at any moment as is happening up and down the river. The water is more or less clear of dangerous pure ice but it would be wise to be on the look out. The temperature outside is -1°C and the water will not be much different. We will put the temperature and water level devices out this morning.
It is already a beautiful day with a blinding sun belting up the river from the general direction of the North Pole lighting a clear blue sky tinged with streaks of cloud. There must be a two meters of water cresting the falls but beneath one can make out the familiar boulders that are a reminder of permanence beneath an otherwise unrecognisable river. Tolstoi is just discernable leading to what has become a vast salmon pool above the falls as would be fished from the left bank. The water is at the top of the Home Pool ledge and this has created the most fishable looking water imaginable. The same goes for Lower Home Pool where right now there is a plateau iceberg that could take Polar Bear slowly and majestically circling round and round. Beyond this the big island has disappeared. They say when this appears in the next few days it surely time to fish. Of course there is no Rock Island and the Merganser will be waiting to nest on Lonely Island. It is fun to contemplate which pool will yield the first great salmon.
The general situation is that right now there is 50% more water than this time last year with maybe 20% more snow in the bank. By the time the first guests arrive on 7th June the water conditions will be the best they have seen in many years finally determined by the intervening air temperature. As for the fish who knows but we all have a good feeling. We will go and try Kharlovka today because it fishes 7/10 days earlier but then on the other hand we might just put a big blue, silver and turquoise fly over Home Pool and will certainly drop in Nikolai in “Old” Rynda Village to ascertain whether he has seen anything outside his house.
Friday 16th May 2003
Well dear friends of Rynda – Here we go again. I find it difficult to contain my excitement. It will be wonderful to see you all again. I think it will be a excellent season. There will be more water at the beginning than we have seen for a few years and the conditions at sea are good. The general Kharlovka oriented news is on the Home Page. The ice break at Rynda will follow a week later as always. It’s to do with the lake system.
There have been a few promotions. Sergey is now my full time Assistant both here at Eynsham and in Russia. In fact I have just seen him off this morning at Heathrow after a stint with Hugh and me. He did very well and will return next January. The day to day management of Rynda will be divided between Nina as Housekeeper and Kola Lite as Fishing Manager. They will both report to Volodya Kulagin who will take a more direct interest in Rynda this season just as I will at Kharlovka.
I am off next week and will stay at Rynda House until the end of September. I hope I am in time to see and hear the cracking of the ice and see great chunks crashing over the waterfall outside my house assuming the house is still there.
Some of you may have noticed something of a bow in the lodge roof. Volodya has now declared it dangerous so that as I write it is being removed and will be replaced for your arrival. These things are to be accepted after an arctic winter! Otherwise I have asked them to leave everything as we know it including the fireplace because somehow it all works and we seem to like it that way.
It is terribly sad about Mike. I believe he found great happiness at Rynda with his chums. We first met as opponents and became the best of friends. Such is the stuff books are written about. I will treasure the memory of his companionship last year and will never forget our camping expedition to Zolotaya. Do you know he had six good fish that night. He was a force for good and a great figure in our special salmon fishing world. He was incredibly brave and will be sadly missed by so many.
Last season was incredibly rewarding in every way. Each week one wondered how such happiness could continue and each week it did right through to the last. Some of the letters that kept coming in all through the season were just too generous and kind. Imagine the joy of knowing Rynda would be full in 2003 even before leaving camp. All of us at Rynda send you our heartfelt thanks and will count the days before you return next season. There will be a few new faces amongst the guests who we hope you will enjoy. Hopefully they will join the spirit of Camp Rule No’s 1 & 2.
The four new cabins, as you see here, have been a great success particularly with the ladies. It is interesting there has been a certain amount of nostalgia from the men about ‘their old cabin’ which we think has something to do with the British public school system. So we will call it a day for the time being and decide with you next time where to go from here. Maybe private bathrooms attached to some of the old cabins? But we know there are some of you who prefer the ‘camp’ feel and this, of course, is something to do with Baden-Powell!
You will be pleased to hear that Kharlovka is fully restored to glory in the salmon world. Last year at this time the bookings through our agent were dismal. This year we have 151 rods confirmed already and expect a full house my mid October. We have just announced the complete re-development of Kharlovka accommodation. Per has come up with some delightful cabins. Incidentally please do not feel locked into Rynda. Now that we have Kharlovka back in hand we will do everything possible to lesson the commercial impact as at Rynda. It is all one private paradise and entry to Kharlovka will also become the subject of invitation and referral. What we don’t want to do in future is helicopter fish between camps in a given week in because it creates a ‘grass is greener’ atmosphere. It is better to embrace one at a time. (There is an analogy here somewhere) In 2004 you should free to try either camp in some years or stay for two weeks and go to both.