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.
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After a nerve-jangling wait for the green light to go to Russia, the Mason team (Howard, Sam, Hebe and Hugo) and the other members of the party (John, Hideko and Alistair) departed Heathrow for Murmansk via Moscow on the 14th of August. After a little sleep in the simple, but comfortable, Jagel hostel in Murmansk, the ...
I first visited the Kharlovka Camp, part of the Atlantic Salmon Reserve 18 years ago. Coincidently it was over the exact same week and it was also a result of an impulsive short notice decision. On that occasion, it was to explore the opportunities to fish in August which up until that stage, was after the normal ...
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