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 Håkan 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!
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