|UK, Holland, Russia, Sweden, USA, Switzerland
Number of Salmon:
Number of Anglers:
Fish over 30lbs:
1 x 36lbs, 1 x 35lbs, 1 x 31lbs
73 salmon of which 4 over 20lbs
55 salmon of which 10 over 20lbs
42 salmon of which 4 over 20lbs
Personal Best Fish:
7 (4 on big fish Friday)
1st Atlantic Salmon:
Statistics are wonderful but salmon catch returns are at best a footnote as to what happens over a week. How do you adequately calculate for an angler who has fished the rivers more than ten times alongside one who has never fished for Atlantic Salmon before; a 15 yr old boy or an 81 yr old man; a supremely experienced fishermen, but one who has never cast a double-handed rod before. I never like to preach salmon numbers; particularly with reference to the Atlantic Salmon Reserve rivers as even faced with outstanding returns they never tell the full story. Read into the figures as you wish but the real story is about the quality of the experience, from arrival to departure and the hope and certainly potential of a salmon of immense proportions.
On the first of the Three Rivers weeks, we pretty much had it all. The team consisted of a wonderfully diverse mix of nationalities, levels of experience, abilities and expectations. The season on the ASR had by the close of the summer weeks had a 40% increase in the numbers of salmon caught over the previous year. Fishing in July had been especially good along with very respectable summer water conditions. Over the two-week rest period where the rivers had not been fished, there had been a huge dump of rain in Murmansk that had shot the Kola River up 20cm but completely missed the ASR rivers. Despite this the water height was a respectable -2 cm at the start of the week, dropping to -6cm by weeks-end, which compared to -9cm at the start of the Three Rivers in 2013 but significantly lower than 2012 when it stood at +9cm.
OK water levels but combined with generally low light conditions throughout the week meant that the salmon were nicely spread out amongst all the pools and all stretches of the rivers. For most pairs of anglers it was difficult to cover all the water available on a single beat in any given day and this was especially true on the Rynda. Having the lowest water flow of the rivers (Zolotoya excluded), albeit having the longest fishable length, it is more susceptible to low water conditions and bright days. In absence of these it consistently produced a strong tally of salmon each day including some very respectable twenty pounders. The Kharlovka fished well whilst the Litza, although it produced the lowest catch returns proportional to the amount of rods was the one that consistently produced the largest salmon. The result was a week of superbly diverse fishing with something for everyone regardless of ability.
Numbers aside…the stories of the week! My trip did not get off to a great start as my bags disappeared into the system between London and Helsinki, which left me at the mercy of camp gear. Carl from the USA had already requested a full kit out and Roy, aged 81 and under strict instruction from his wife not to go into the water, stood ready for action on Saturday afternoon with hiking boots and a rod/reel ideally suited to a good days Loch Trout fishing! I will always maintain that a sign of a good camp is how well they can provide for these sorts of emergencies. From toothpaste and deodorant, to Go Pro’s, chargers, waders, jackets and flies all was immediately available and in place for initial deployment following the usual late lunch on arrival.
For the first evening fishing catch returns for the 3 or 4 hours hardly suggested of a dividend from resting the rivers for two weeks with only 4 fish landed. Harold had the best of the day with a 20 pounder from Home Pool. His success did not stop there landing a 26lb PB (personal best) hen fish from Secret Pool on the Litza which following a boulder entangling rapids run followed by a further 27lb PB from Lower Dream over the course of the week
Brothers Krister and Rikard (of Super Swede-“smile for the camera !£*hole” - 40lb fish fame) maintained their usual very high spirits on and off bank. They tallied up a number of 20’s over the week including one from Secret Pool which set hearts pounding being the location of Rikard’s 40 pounder from 2012. They are the only pair that I know who reverse fish the Upper Litza beat starting at Secret-moving to Flatstone-back to Secret (completing the double Secret pool whammy)-back to Flatstone and finishing at the Litza Falls!
Nikolai and his 15 yr old son Dmitry kept each other on the back-foot all week. Nikolai opened on Day 1 with a 20lber whilst Dmitry had an 18lb salmon. A few days later Dmitry turned the tables with a PB of 23lbs from Red Cliff on the Rynda. I am sure he did not intentionally pay heed to my comment that he had better not outshine his father by too much if he wanted a return invite however whether by accident or intent he dutifully fell into line and let his father have an 18 and 23lber the following day from Litza Flat Stone.
Jean-Claude –‘The Mussels from…Switzerland’ lead then way in the early morning Kharlovka Home Pool stakes with an extra fish every other morning including a superb 27lb fish on the final day, conveniently captured on camera by Maria as she fortuitously arrived at exactly the right moment to take the morning river readings, (having been self netted by Jean-Claude it should be pointed out). It is however his partner Edvard who turned heads not once but three times. A new PB was gained with a 31lb salmon from Reindeer on the Sunday to ‘my’ trusty Golden Killer. On Friday he topped it with a 35lber from Red Wing on the Litza (possibly the first 30lber from that pool) and then very shortly after a 36 lb new PB from Flatstone, both on the ever-dependable Green Highlander. Jean-Claude, hard as it may have been to watch this string of successes did at least hook and play a fish of a similar size, also from Flatstone.
There are too many tales to mention everyone however aside from the three thirty ponders by Edvard star mention must go to 81 yr old Roy, one of the oldest anglers to fish at Kharlovka Camp. Roy, who informed me on the way home that he had never been apart from his wife in the 25+ years they had been married, quite independently from any scurrilous sales pitch took the leap to take the trip which many twenty years his younger might question and would not have the mental fortitude to tackle on their own. I was certainly happy to help him navigate his was past the various e-passport scanners and travel shenanigans with varying degree of success but it was guide Jenya who deserves all credit, guiding him to a very respectable 9 fish that he had for the week including an incredible 25lb PB from Norwegian Pool on the Rynda. It has to be said that the ASR team adjusted schedules, rearranged helicopter pick up times and selectively allocated guides, all of which conspired to ensure both Roy and his 71 yr old partner Carl were looked after as well as could be made possible given the location of the rivers inside the Arctic circle. “Excellent, absolutely excellent” became something of a trademark cry by Roy throughout the week. From his fortitude on the riverbank, appreciation of the camps and service, to his late night stories of Atom Bombs and more he was an absolute inspiration to everyone, both on the trip and for those thinking of coming in the future.
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