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.
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