While it is true that nearly 80% of our guests have been coming here to the ASR for many years, most of them returning every season, last week more than half of the team choppered into camp wide-eyed, not having ever experienced anything like this before. And even though they had read all the printed information that they could get their hands on and sought after the advise of other ASR veterans who have been here many times before, most of them had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. Needless to say, expectations were at a boiling point from the very moment our latest bunch stepped off the helicopter and skeptically marched down the duck boards into camp.
Oh - Ye of little faith! After surviving another weekend of warm muggy temperatures including that one bright sunny Sunday on the Litza where very few precious salmon stayed on the hook, we finally managed to get the show rolling Monday morning with the return of those dark fishy clouds. One by one, they strolled back up into the lodge with their Tall tales of all the big salmon they had landed. Although it may have taken a bit longer than usual, by the end - we had made believers out of them all!
As many of the boys will now attest, there is without doubt, a steep learning curve associated with our Northern Rivers. Considering all the giant boulders, and the large multi sea winter salmon, not to mention the extreme weather conditions - this is like the world cup of salmon fishing. Thankfully, along with all the big numbers again around here, our team of mostly rookies will also be leaving with a few new tricks up their sleeves.
In between the evening exaggerations around the dinning room table, the word “Hitched” seemed to keep popping up throughout the week. Hitched tubes? How marvelous! Why should the salmon in Scotland be any different? Maybe it has something to do with the peat? One of them commented that, the fish there have probably seen so many more flies that they must have recently evolved not to rise up to the surface any more? What?
Besides all the interesting gossip around the table last week and the constant praising of our guides, other highlights must include the Sun Ray Shadow – if you were only going to bring one - this would surely have to be the fly. Just ask our new friend Matt, who skated in six up to 23 pounds one dark cloudy afternoon down on the lower Litza. Or how about Yorkshire John along with his old mate Tom, the mountain goat, who ripped in eight one day up to 25 pounds with their Sun Rays, leap-frogging down through the pools of the middle Kharlovka. In fact, Yorkshire John was so impressed with his results that he decided to pull the same stunt again two days later going down through the pools of the Lower Kharlovka. Even though Y.J. seems to salmon fish for a living and can rarely be reached in his office, this would turn out be a day to remember as he scribbled down the details of yet another six salmon including his impressive trio of 27, 28, and 29 pounders! Understandably only wearing a half smile that evening, it will be the giant 40+er that he watched jump three times, going on to nearly touch it with the net as the fly pulled out which, will most likely give him big silver nightmares for some time to come. “It made these salmon here on the wall - look like tiddlers - Damn it!”
All rested up from slipping away early to bed, good old Tom, the mountain goat who will be turning 68 soon, sneaked off to the Home pool one morning. We found him before breakfast sitting out on his porch gazing up into the sky obviously contemplating the meaning of life. We questioned, “How did you get on down there Tom?” Barely comprehendible, we deciphered that he managed to land 22, 28, and 33-pounders. Stop the press! On the final day Yorkshire and Tom crawled back up the stairs having landed 11 more including another four of 20, 22, 24, and 28 pounds. And Yes! – They took every single one of them on their trusty Sun Ray Shadows. The truth is that nearly 40% of the 192 salmon that the team managed to pull into the net here last week were seduced by this simple yet attractive pattern.
While every day is a good day here on the mighty Kharlovka, many of them can be great! It did however take the entire first weekend to convince the cynic Rupert of this though. Glaring down at the fishing rotor with a gloomy face, he unbelievable said “You mean I have to spend another three days on the Litza this week?” Pulling out the black pen, we threaten to take his fly rod away for good and send him out cod fishing for the rest of the week. Thankfully he returned from the lower Litza the very next day with his tail between his legs after catching six bright fresh salmon up to 25 pounds. If that didn’t make a believer out of him, then he was surely convinced a couple of days later after landing another six off the upper Kharlovka ranging from 17lbs. up to his new personal best of 29 pounds. And for the icing on his big piece of humble pie, he thankfully came back nearly speechless from his second round on the Litza after breaking his P.B. yet again with six more salmon up to 26 and 31 pounds. Throughout the week, leading him places that he didn’t think possible, Rupert quite rightly gave most of the credit to his guide young Vasiliy who was said to have been crossed between a gorilla and a gazelle. It just doesn’t get any better than that my friend! Next season, Rupert will probably bring a camera with him?
A few other brief honourable mentions must also go out to Tim along with his guide Val for finding that 30 pounder in the Upper Dream pool. And, it just wouldn’t be right not to mention Patrick’s 20-pound hat trick of 20, 24, and 26 pounders. Like money in the bank, Matt put seven in a row up to 20 pounds into Big Alex’s net with his sneaky Highlander Cone. Then for his finale, he broke his P.B. once again on the last day with a sweet 31 pounder. Brent and Sally had a lovely time of things pulling in a cool dozen including four over the big 20 mark. And last but certainly not least, there was our good old friend Gerald who dreams about coming back to the Kharlovka for some 51 weeks a year with his box full of Sun Rays, going onto land 19 salmon including a silver brace of 20-pounders - in addition to a fine 28 pounder to tide him over through the long winter months ahead. Along with another five grand salmon larger than 30 pounds, and the fact that all the lads but one had their 20+ers, this will certainly go down as an unforgettable week for us all!
Late Thursday evening the sky suddenly went very dark. A few moments later there were bright flashes of light outside our windows. Impressive rolls of thunder soon followed on echoing through the valleys. Like music to our ears, raindrops pour down onto our fishy dreams straight through the night. By the time we opened our eyes and crawled out of our cozy cabins the next morning, the rivers had risen up by a blessed 20cms. While this might not have been the preferred last day condition for our last gang of fishing hooligans, it was exactly what the doctor ordered for the next!
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