Read this amusing and inspiring article by Alan Maughan
Springer on Tour – Umba – September 2009
Alan Maughan with a nice springer from Umba
Sunday saw me return from what can only be described as ‘salmon fishers heaven’, Russia’s Kola Peninsular or to be precise Kola’s southern most river – Umba. Typically Russian salmon fishing takes place on most rivers between June and the end of August with only Ponoi and Umba having any real significant autumn run. I had heard about autumn on Umba from my friend Illtyd Griffiths an Umba veteran and captor of many big Umba autumn torpedo’s or Osenka’s as they are locally known. These Osenka’s enter the river towards the end of the season and remain in the river under the winters ice to spawn again the following autumn, as a result these fish are a real prize, strong, fit and they fight like tigers, all I had to do was hook a couple to experience this for myself.
I was very lucky to join a small intimate party to fish the w/c 13th Sept, my host
was ‘Mr Russia’ himself – Steffen Juhl. Steffen must be argueably the most experienced guy on the Kola having spent the last 20yrs fishing and managing various camps on the river including the camp at Umba when it was ran by Loop. His knowledge of this river was to be a great assett to my trip along with the ‘Welsh Sea Trout Wizard’ himself Illtyd Griffiths.
I travelled out independantly meeting up with Seffen and his friend Jesper in St Petersberg where we took a domestic flight into Murmansk, we stayed the night in Murmansk then headed on down to Umba by road arriving around 2pm. Umba is unique in that the program avoids the use of helicopters and the associated costs incurred, the penalty for this is a 5hr drive from Murmansk on some of the bumpiest roads Ive been on. Once at the Lodge you are ferried to your beat by jet boat and if fishing the tributary Krivetz you also have a walk to the fishing. Walking time varies depending on where abouts on Krivetz you are fishing but is between 20-45mins through a wood and a small bit of marsh land. I remember thinking on my first walk up there while sweating profusely (yes Illtyd I accept that I shouldnt have put the extra fleece on) this river better be worth it, thankfully it was, very much so. Umba is quite a big river, similar in size in places to the Lower Tay and yet also with much smaller runs similar to the Dee, there is lots of wadeable fly fishing or you can fish from the back of the boat while your guide ropes you down a pool, both methods will catch you fish, i did both with success.
The weather was kind as I had been assured would be the case in the first half of September with temps around 55′ and only the occasional cold morning, later in the month it is normal to have heavy frosts etc. One big attraction for me was the lack of mozzies at this time of year, there were only a very few around now and again and the Avon did the trick.
My fist mornings fishing saw me out of the boat with my guide Sasha (a more disinterested guide I have yet to meet) we fished Home Pool without a touch and I saw nothing in my first hours fishing, panic was starting to set in, ‘where are all the fish that Kola is so famous for?’
Sasha looked at me and said ‘new pool’ as you may have guessed he wasnt much of a conversationalist. I wound in and within seconds we were heading for Brad Pool a big deep slow pool just above some rapids with a really fishy looking tail. My set-up was floating line, 10′ medium sinking poly and I changed my fly for luck as we were travelling in the jet boat to a size 6 Red Butt. After about 30mins in Brad Pool I was starting to think Umba was devoid of fish when I got what we all know and love, a good strong pull mid swing. I lifted into what was a good fish around 16lb which then started cartwheeling its way down the pool, I eased off on the pressure and the fish settled down a bit then as I tightened again it shook its head and my hook with it. Now that in itself isnt the end of the world but when I checked my fly the curly pig tail I found was How embarrassing, Sacha looked at me like I was some once a year City Banker called Tarquin on his jollies when the reality was I shouldnt have tied my knot while being buffeted in a jet boat, this is the first time I can remember a double turle letting me down. I tied on another Red Butt and then had to suffer the ultimate embarrassment as Sasha checked my knot before allowing me to cast and he muttered something about leaving jewelry in his fish… oops .
20 minutes later and Im covering what looks a real nice bit in the tail when I get a knock, thats all nothing else. I cant remember ever wanting to hook a fish so much. After handlining in I waited 30 seconds, I remembered the advice Steffen had given me earlier in the morning ‘Alan, you cant fish the fly fast enough on Umba‘ so the next cast went out at just over 90 degrees, slightly upstream I left a bit of slack in the cast and then put the rod tip downstream. As my tip and fly sank from the upstearm cast a belly started to form in the line, the fly speeded up over the fish and wallop – fish on, knots were good and 20 minutes later my first Umba torpedo was in the net, all 18 bad tempered sea liced pounds of raw aggression, happy days (stick that one in yer pipe Sasha and smoke it) Springers off the mark.
I can probably recount most of my captures this vividly but will spare you guys the pain. The stats for the week were as follows, 5 of us fished the week catching 61 salmon ranging from 22lbs down to 5lbs. 75% of these fish were either very fresh bars of silver or sea liced. I was lucky enough to finish top rod with 16, Illtyd had 15 but fished one day less than me and the
other 3 guys shared 30 fish quite equally between them. I also managed the biggest at 22lb and liced and the smallest at 5lb and black as my wellies, 13 of my fish were silver. Illtyd had the best run of big fish with at least 4 or 5 in the high teens and all silver, a couple of his fish took 30 mins to land which just shows you how powerful these Osenka’s can be given a bit of flow. All of us lost fish, I lost 10 which were on good but I was playing them very very hard while testing some rods so I recon I could have landed half of them had I played them sensibly.
Illtyd lost a fish that took 350yds off him in about 30 seconds, in his own words he had never encountered anything like it before and he has caught some big fish in Norway and on Umba. I too lost 150yds on a fish in 4 big runs that I couldnt do anything with, I tightened and tightened and eventually it straightened a size 6 Code P which most of you will know is a very strong hook.
The scenery was stunning, the fish were obliging, powerful and aggressive, the Lodge is one of the best on Kola the food was good and plentiful the beds comfortable and the showers hot.
What more could a salmon angler wish for… apart from Code P’s being a little stronger. Here are some pictures of my trip
My journey was smooth. Newcastle – Amsterdam – St Petersberg – Murmansk thanks to God and KLM
Article by Alan Maughan
Check also Alan’s web forum for more info. www.salmonfishingforum.com