VARZINA RELOAD By Rutkis Reinis
Some times you travel more than others, and there is no time to share your emotions, experience and feeling about where, why, what and so on. Few days ago I returned back from beautiful trip to Kola peninsula Varzina river, where I was invited from team Sportfish. We where fishing on the second week of June, when water temperature increases and salmon are staring enter the river. In Varzina, main portions of fish, especially biggest ones, enter the river on spring, so let call Varzina a spring run river. So, again, what is it all about? Bullets? No this time it’s all about silver tuna shaped salmon that is powerful enough to straighten the hook and push the tackle to upper limits – so you better be prepared! On the other hand the amount of the fish in the river is enough for fishing, but not enough to catch them without endurance – it is more like hunting on deer rather than shooting one duck after another. In other terms fishing is about catching few nice fresh and absolutely silver fish rather than landing plenty of small grilse or kelts. So…. Yeah, river! It is beautiful and diverse.
Varzina - view from the lodge Nice and silvey
There were only few similar pools, and mainly here to be successful you must adapt your presentation, fly and even line to fish properly in all places. On the lover part pools are located close to each other, but in the upper river pools are situated some 500meters ore even few kilometres from each other. In between them are only rapids with a strong current, where fish is not holding, but just pass it by. So fishing here is without any doubt interesting, tricky and rough. Wind is blowing all the time from differnet directions; temperatures are changing fast like hell – just like it should be in the North. We where lucky with the weather, but even in this week, some times only thing about to dream after fishing was sauna and a shot of nice Russian vodka.
I am on the move again, but i hope within few day`s, in the next part I will let you know about fishing, conclusions and my opinion on flies. My opinion on flies and techniques during fishing changed, so it may be interesting.
When I arrived on 13 of June in Varzina, I recognized that this beauty is like big trout stream in northern Scandinavia – wide river with small islands and different sized pools in between them. Hence this year was my first experience in Kola and I have prepared some flies, I was interested in water color first. There is no such a thing as typical kola peninsula salmon fly – there are blue crystal clear waters like in river Sidorovka, and more tea type like in Kola and Panoi. Here in Varzina water has a slight touch of tee, but in general it is crystal clear. So orange and yellow colors should do the job, one may suggest. I have prepared a different tube flies for this trip, and more less these flies where quite big and bright, hence I was going to fish at the opening week this year, when water temperature are low, yet level is quite high. Unfortunately, when we arrived, water was already 6 degrees Celsius, and level was down for some 50 cm in comparison to typical level you might expect in this week.
Fishing in Varzina is diverse and here the size not numbers meters. This river does not have so many fish as the rivers in southern Kola, but the size differs. If 3 kilos is nice fish for Southern river, than 7 kilos is average here. Maximum size you can expect here is around 16 kilos, but of coarse everybody know record – 30 kilo fish landed by some Englishman quite long before. Believe it or not, it is of coarse your choice…
About numbers – if we count fresh fish you can expect one or two per day, and of course there are blank days for everybody too. Meanwhile Kelts and autumn runners can bend your rod, so you should have something at least every day that touches your hook. In the lover part next to the camp, you can reach all pools by walking and they are located next to each other. As you can see in pictures some pools are narrow, and river is not more than 15 meters in width, while in the other places river is wider than 50 meters. In the upper part situation is different – river has more less constant width and pools are located in between long rapid sections. Guides are 100% percent sure that you can expect salmon takes here all year around. So let’s check it out…
Fishing in Varzina river is well organized and scheduled – we where 7 persons in this group and head guide A. Danchukov, a nice person by the way, divided us into 4 groups. Fortunately Jegor, from Russia, was one on one with guide, so he had more freedom to choose where to fish during the day. So, I was together with the Canadian – Hugh, he had just arrived from Kharlovka, with the hope that here fishing would be better. He landed only 4 fish in week and meanwhile M. Frodin only 14. For sure spring run was on it`s way in Kharlovka, and as guides told at the very beginning, in Varzina situation was the same – everybody was waiting for more fish…
First morning was tricky – after some arrival celebration and drinks at the evening, I was feeling poorly, and half an hour walk to Hollow glass pool does not change my feeling a lot. Hence the sign was broken there was possible to read only 3 letters – …ass pool! Apparently somebody hand a same feeling here. By the way, pool was beautiful – in between long rapids small tributary Pahta was entering in to 50 meters of deep dark water. There definitely was some fish in the current. Whether was “perfect”, wind was blowing like hell, and hence, by mistake, I picket up wrong rod my tackle was unbalanced. After two hours of struggle, with no success, I was back in camp to change the tackle. Also Hugh did not succeed and we both did not recognized even any fish. It is always like this – if the beginning is bad wait for good news in the near future.
After lunch we where fishing Golden pool and I picked up smaller rod – 12 ft LOOP Multi, loaded with 31 gram shooting head system. Now it was much better. Especially nice soup during the lunch gave me this extra boost that was more than necessary. Back in touch again, and I have a feeling that first fish is around the corner. In Golden, Delta and Silver pool it should usually be enough to fish with in 20 meters, so I was feeling perfect with my setup. Intermediate/sink2 head was presenting my Phatagovra just like I needed until – boom! Yes, first fish is on! Fighting with a lot of power but not leaving the pool, salmon was struggling some 10 minutes until finally entered the guides landing net. 94 centimeters – and around 8 kilos – these are the craziest fighters here in Varzina – fast and furious. After fifteen minutes another take in the pools exit, close to the bank… This time it was nice browny around 1,5 kilos, that of coarse is nothing fun on double hander. I am mentioning it only because Varzinas upper lodge is famous for its brown trout, where the length of these creatures can be up to 80 centimeters. Fascinating!
Hugh with the Trout First fresh fish - 94 cm/8 kilo
First day was the best day for my casting student Igor who landed amazing 108 cm and 14 kilos fish in the Fin pool. Unfortunately, he did not put a drink to everybody at the evening, and you know what happened after… Broken rod and no fish for few days! Except Hugh and Vladimir, all others had a fish and Sasha, Bosnian for states, even more. Varzina is river that you must know to be highly successfuland it was forth time for him here. Pools are different and some times fish lay in certain places which is hard to find just by watching the river. Experience here is essential in these spots.
Next two days was at its glance! Weather was nice warm, calm and pretty hot for the spring – temperatures above 12 degrees. At the second day we where going with the chopper to Finpool. Of coarse with the hi hopes and expectations, hence yesterday there was few nice fish landed. At 10 o clock quite bright sun served tricky conditions for us, that was unexpected by the way. During the first 3 hours until launch time no fish where landed at Finpool! Wow – it just cannot be true! By the way I must admit that we so only too or three fish rising at the exit. So what is happening here? Even Guides was frustrated… Ok – after the launch we switched bank to the right one. I was fishing with quite big orange Buck tailed black Temple dog, meanwhile quite convinced that take is around corner! After half an hour first cloud covered the sun and – boom. Yes, fish is on. First minutes of fight showed that this is not a bad one two! When it appeared first time on the water I recognized the length – around one meter, and it had a mark on the back. Ok, we should land it. Ilja, nice guide from St. Petersburg, was on its move and finally fish was in the net. It was not a Kelt, but little bit slimmer than first fresh fish that I landed yesterday. Anyway length was around 1 meter!
From the Finn Pool Hugh with a fish
From the mark on the back Ilja recognized that this is so called autumn run that stay in river for winter and would spawn next autumn. Varzina is Spring run river, and these fish are not so common here, so I can say that I was lucky. If I remember correctly Vladimir landed 4 kilo fresh fish during my fight and it surprised a little, hence the size of the fish should be bigger at this time of year. Hugh had a take, but missed the fish, and after half an hour same situation for me. I think, that during the first two hours sun was blinding the fish hence it was shining directly above the pool, and all the flies was presented in between fish and sun. At the moment when clouds appeared immediately came first takes. I was constantly fishing with same setup and 20 minutes before finish, another take. Yeh, again nice fight and …, another nice autumn run fish with the mark. No it cannot be that I landed this autumn salmon second time in the same day? Length was the same, but fortunately mark had different numbers. I landed this fish two minutes before we where supposed to leave and get to chopper, so I was lucky!
Hence day was hot I was out for night trial after the dinner and sauna. Yeh, last night I blanked, so I must have a fish this night. During early June Ice pool is not as productive as later in season, at least guides was sure about it. Best way is to check it out I supposed. During the night time you are out on your own, so you must be ready to land a fish on your own. Ice pool is quite wide, I would say like Finpool, so you must be able to cast long distance. I was fishing with Opti 14 ft and Int/sink5 adapted head. River was quite quiet – fish was not rising and I had no take during the first half an hour. Patience is a lot in salmon fishing and at the very exit of pool, deep in the V I stacked to something. Stone, no it moves! Partridge salar double gave me a confidence that everything should be ok. First run for 20 meters and I managed to stop it. Fortunately here was a place with an open gravel bank and after some ten minutes silvery tuna shaped salmon was on the solid ground. Yes! I would say it was around 9 kilos and 95 cm. Hook was at the jaws corner like it should be, but my black temple dog was smashed during the fight. Ok, I can take another fly… Constantly moving downstream after 20 minutes I hooked and landed another fish – 2 kilo grilse. Quite a surprise – grilse should not be here at this time.
Next evening I was out one more time with no success, and now I can agree with the guides, that during the early season day fishing is more productive in Varzina.
Third day was my best day in the trip. Until the lunch I was fishing in the Penka (small Varzinas tributary) mouth. At that moment already I was using smaller flies with a touch of green color. At the morning landed two fresh fish, than one kelt, and finally missed nice fresh fish during the landing – it was almost in the net! After the dinner we moved to Delta and silver pool. At the 3 cast I again missed 9 kilo range fresh fish during the landing and after an hour landed another one on my own. That fish on particular was my biggest in this trip. I measured it next to the rod and later we decided that weight should be around 9,5-10 kilos. Not bad. Also during the day I had quite a lot takes, so it was perfect.
Realising the silver ghost The one from Penka
Meanwhile Hugh landed nice trout, but that was unfortunately his only fish that day. Hence I was lucky, I was expecting that everybody would have the same success, but no, it was a bad day for everyone except Jegor who landed two nice fresh fish. One day you have a luck other don’t. This was my best day and after it water temperature dropped to 6 degrees and I landed few but also missed quite a lot fish in the last days. In the last days evening I hooked nice fish on the Hollow glass pool and had a fight for 15 minutes. During the third attempt to get into the rapids my owner treble finaly bended and I was fully disappointed. Because of this fish I must return to these places. Others had a little bit more luck, others less, and results was average in general. Finnaly at the last day Jegor landed his fish of the life – 107cm long 29 ponder. Congrats, really nice fish for Varzina.
People where using different flies here in Varzina, with one similarity – most attractive ones was not overdressed, and was not dense. Varzinas classic is Golden Killer, Snealda, Sunray shadow, Temple dog. Jegor for instance, was using flies from Mickael Frodins stables – nice and typical scandi tubes. For me a little surprise was green color that performed so well her. Bosnian from states Sasha told me that this is his favorite color here, and hence he is here for 4 time, it makes sense. Anyway, guides have some flies and you can by some classic patterns at the lodge, so even if you decide to come without any flies – you will not get lost.
Diverse… i know that most of the people who are fishing in Varzina uses 15 ft rod as the main one, and they are convinced that this is the propper choice, because there are pools where you should cast a long line. In general I can agree with that, but in some places such a long rod can serve a problem. I have mentioned before that in Golden and Silver pools, small rods serve better, so my suggestion is that best choice is rather in between. So, I was fishing mainly with 14 ft LOOP Opti 9-10 and was happy. I think this is very versatile rod in terms of lengths and action. Distance was not a problem with this rod and it was small enough to fit in compact banks of smaller pools too. So my first choice is 14 ft, but also 15 ft in combination with 12 ft is can doo the thing for you. Hence conditions change quite fast here, i would reccomend to use med-fast or even fast action rods in Varzina, especially if you are fishing with sinking line and big fly like the Snaelda for example. About lines… As it was told before, in Varzina you must adapt quite fast, so for me it was not enough with one line. Where tributary Penka is entering the Varzina there is no need to fish with super heavy stuff so floater with intermediate tip can serve well. In Fin pool there is another story and i was fishing with intermediate/sink 5 shooting head. In general guides recommend floater with fast sinking tip and i can agree with that. But if you would like to much your line perfectly for conditions, one is not enough. Mostly i was using LOOP Opti adapted line system with short tips – it is gentle yet robust fly line, that handles big flies with ease in the same time.
Yeah, and few words about the lodge. I have heard that this is the most beautiful lodge in Kola, and there is some truth in it. Located up on the high bank, there are scenic view on river Varzina and Penka. You can watch rising salmons in the Penkas moth during breakfast and dinner. What can be more exciting than that! Sauna and houses are clean and tidy so you can have a good rest after the fishing or take a relaxing drink in a bar. To say it short – everything is fitted to focus your mind on fishing.
When to come
It seems that from 15 of June till 15 of July is “hottest” time here in Varzina. You can expect a little bit more silvery and bigger fish at the first week from 15th of June, while in the July there is more fish, but the size decreases a little. Anyway, whenever you would come, you should be ready for deep bend in your rod. I hope, I will be back again some day!
The Lodge from the above Guide Ilya with another fish from Penka
Biggest thanks to Sportfish Tour of Russia and all Varzina MainSalmon Lodge Staff!