Our 2013 season turned out to be one of the hottest and driest seasons on Kola Peninsula in almost one hundred years! My old embattled but trusty fly reels are screaming out for oil and a service, and my smelly waders need a serious scrub after kilometers of long and sweaty hikes.
Grand Varzuga – A true gem
My Varzuga season started on 20th May when I arrived in Grand Varzuga together with our two Swedish fishing guides. As we flew in by helicopter we could see that the mighty Varzuga River below us was already was about 3-4 feet below its normal seasonal level. Unless something radical happened quickly it would only be a matter of a week or two before much of the river ‘disappeared’. Luckily for us the first two weeks at Grand Varzuga turned out really well and we managed to land just under 400 salmon. (How on earth you get that under such difficult conditions, I don’t know). The second two weeks were an even bigger challenge, with a lot of tough hiking to reach the ‘hot’ pools and fishing spots. As a result of our hard work and persistence we managed to land nine 20lb fish. An exceptional record for Varzuga that proved what we already knew – the biggest Varzuga salmon were heading to our part of the river! All in all we landed 510 fish during our 4 weeks at Grand Varzuga – a staggering result when you take into account the extreme conditions.
The many faces of the wonderful Umba River
At Umba River we experienced some of the finest spring fishing for many years, achieving high numbers of twenty pounders every week. In spite of low water on most of the other big salmon rivers on Kola, the Umba was still running perfectly with no sign of what was to come later in the season. One of the many memorable stories from Umba this spring stars David Stocker and Peter Kremsner, who came directly to the Umba from Grand Varzuga. During just five days they manage to land six twenty pounders between them – what a blast! And then there was our Finish friend, Thomas Tallskog, who came to Umba for the first time after 8 years fishing Norway’s grand salmon rivers without a single catch. He landed twelve salmon including a big twenty pounder. For more stories from the past Umba spring season please check our Umba reports archive here.
The middle of August saw the start of our autumn season at Umba. With 146 salmon from 8 rods, our first week at Umba turned out to be one of the best in many a fall. But, even then it was already clear that, if we didn’t get a dramatic change of weather soon, the river would soon become short of water; a situation we had never seen before at Umba. For five solid weeks the sun shone from dawn to dusk without a single drop of rain. READ MORE. The reservoirs that usually provide a steady source of water started to run dry, and our ever reliable Umba River started to look more like a dried up creek. Many of the large famous pools became so shallow that we couldn’t fish them. According to some of the local old-timers, this season was apparently the driest in almost hundred years. But, where there is a will there is a way, and our guests, being hardened well-skilled salmon anglers with determination and hardy spirit, still managed to notch up a fair number of salmon in the logbook over the next seven weeks.
Picking out the best stories from the autumn season is difficult since there were so many, but here are a few of the ‘goodies’. Whilst in Krivets, Heinz Pape managed to land 3 beautiful salmon with a total weight of 61 pounds, and his 25 lbs Umba Whopper was the highlight of the week. And then there were the two Danish brothers, Jesper and Erik Sloth, who landed a series of super chromes of 22lb, 21lb, 17lb, 3 x 15lb and 7 salmon just under 10lb. And, not to be forgotten is the series of huge resident salmon, which must have all been between 32 and 40lb plus. The biggest was a 34b ‘crocodile’ of a fish caught by Clive Bruton. Finally I have to give mention to Ken Poincelet´s 26lb Super Whopper during October. A better fall run will be difficult to find anywhere else, and it underlines why so many Salmon anglers return to Umba year after year. I could continue the story telling, but these few tales show us once again that Russia still is one of the most reliable salmon destinations in the world, even under difficult, though thankfully occasional, weather conditions.
Aside from the tough fishing conditions on the entire Kola Peninsula, this season will also be remembered as a time of loss. Sadly our community lost two anglers and their Russian fishing guide when flying to Rynda River with Kharlovka Company. Their helicopter flipped and crashed during take-off. All of us at Salmon Junkies will honour their memory.
During the same weekend we also lost our dear long-term friend and Umba Camp Manager, Nick Podolsky. Even today it’s difficult to comprehend that Nick is not here anymore. My memories of Nick are plentiful and rich, and it’s difficult to believe that there will be no more adventures together. I will always remember Nick as one of the most extraordinary people in the Salmon fishing community. Our world has lost a great man, a visioned environmentalist and a passionate salmon angler. We miss you dearly and will never forget you Nick!
Before ending this letter we wish to express a huge thanks to our two Swedish fishing guides, Mark Leander and Mark Nilldorff, who helped us at Grand Varzuga this season. Guys, you really did a great job and made a big difference. We also want to thank our dear friend Orla Bertram Nielsen who has been assisting us at Umba at times. Orla – you are a true Salmon Junkie and an exceptional host. Salmon Junkies also sends its thanks to our Russian partner who has made all this possible, in spite of the many difficulties down the road. And, finally a big thanks to our long-term friend and new Umba Camp Manager, Igor Kryzhopolskiy, who took over Umba management at very short notice. Well done Igor and keep up your ever present good spirit; we at Salmon Junkies look forward to see your smiling face again next season.
For our upcoming season in Russia we at Salmon Junkies are really looking forward to welcoming all of our many old friends and, of course, hope to continue to introduce new friends and supporters to our matchless rivers. With your support we will make every effort to protect and preserve the future of two of this world’s finest salmon rivers – The Umba and Varzuga Rivers.