I thought I had already had my share of “early days blues” this year, but there was more coming my way. My trip to New Zealand this winter was plagued by massive floods and the season so far in Norway has also been affected by poor weather and a very late winter. I had still been able to catch some fish, but I was hoping for optimal conditions in our week on the Russian tundra. The fishing there starts in week 25 and week 27 is considered a good week. Not to early but also not too late. At least when everything is “normal”, but when it comes to weather nothing is normal on the tundra. I was there in week 27 last year as well and then summer came very early and we had scorching heat and very slow fishing. I thought it would be perfect this year, but knew it would be a close call. The previous weeks 25 + 26 had already been canceled due to the late spring.
As the MI-8 helicopter flew into the tundra our anxiety grew. There was still a lot of snow around and many lakes still were frozen. The spring flood was going strong and water levels were definitively on the high side. The first stop was the Rynda salmon camp where we repacked and got the latest info from the Kharlovka company representatives. We were supposed to go to the beat Mystic in the river Litza first, but were advised to head straight to the beat Dreampool in the Kharlovka river. Two other groups flew out first, the helicopter returned within an hour and then it was our turn to head out. As we approached the camp site I could not believe my eyes. I barely recognized the stretch of water I had come to love so much. There were no pools, just a massive torrent of icy cold spring flood water frothing downstream. Much of the campsite was still covered in snow and there were no insects around whatsoever. We all realized that this would be a very tough week for fishing.
After putting up camp we split up in all directions with the intentions of finding out if there was any fish on the river. One 2 kg trout was caught in the home pool, but other than that there were no contacts. The next day we proceeded fishing from the shore with sinking lines and streamers, but we could not connect with any more fish. It was obvious that the fish had not yet moved on the river and under the current conditions, why would they? The current was way too fast and there was little food to be found. We reckoned that the fish would probably be waiting it out in slower and perhaps warmer water and over the next couple of days we would deploy a small rubber boat to seek them out. I reluctantly put away my dry fly setup and brought up the heavy guns in the form of a #6 weight, heavy sinking lines and my box of big rabbit strip streamers.
Over the next couple of days we used the small boat to ferry guys over to the other bank and also for trolling with big flies. We had to find out where the fish were and all methods were considered acceptable. Trolling was the most effective and after a while we found out were most of the fish were hanging out. There are some lakes that the river flows through and the depth was around 3 meters. But we found a hole in the lake 7 m deep and it held hundreds of fish. Trolling over the hole usually lifted a fish and we hooked up to some nice ones in the 1-2+ kg range. Unfortunately, this stretch of water could not be reached from the shore. And after a while we grew tired of the trolling and decided to fish from the shore after all. It was then I had the best fishing experience from the trip.
I was fishing in a small backwater with streamer when I noticed a small disturbance on the water surface only 5 meters away. I casted a self-made Kola Killer variant towards the fish, hoping it was not a pike. It took the fly very slowly, I set the hook and then it went off on a great run taking me halfway through the backing. It headed straight out in the river and then a bit upstream before I managed to get it back into the backwater for landing. My friends Erik and Vlad came to the rescue and helped me land the fish between the heavy bank vegetation. The fish went into some bushes, but Vlad managed to land it before it could break free. It was a real bulky trout weighing in at 2,6 kg. Not the largest Kola trout by far, but the largest caught on our trip.
Over the week the water temperatures increased from 5 to 9 degrees and the water levels dropped about 70 cm. Some small caddis and stoneflies started to hatch, but not in great numbers. We needed the mayflies to start, but it did not happen during our stay. In the end, our group had landed 23 fish and only a few from the shore. The other groups had caught even fewer, making week 27 a disaster fishing-wise. Looking back, I would have preferred for week 27 to have be canceled too. People don’t travel all the way to the Russian tundra to troll big streamers from rubber boats. We come there to have good chances of catching big wild brown trout on dry flies. If I had stayed behind in Finnmark I would probably have caught a lot more fish. Thankfully the good company kept the spirits up and we had some good laughs in the dinner-tent at night.
Now its time for Finnmark (Norway) part 2. Just arrived last night to swarms of mosquitoes, mayflies and rising fish! 😊