Atlantic salmon fishing in Russia summary
Wild and Exotic represent the Rynda, East Litza, Kharlovka and Zoloyta Rivers in Russia’s Kola Peninsula, which are some of the finest and most exciting Atlantic salmon rivers in the world, flowing due north into the Barents Sea east of Murmansk. Guests fish these rivers either by direct invitation from the owner, or by referral fromWild and Exotic, and stay in comfort at one of two fully staffed wilderness lodges. Guests are dispatched in pairs by helicopter to fish a different beat of the river for each day of their stay, and are accompanied by a skilled English speaking guide. In the unlikely event of a guest wishing to have a break from Atlantic salmon there is also world class fishing for Arctic char and brown trout in literally hundreds of pristine lochs, and on the upper reaches of the rives.
The English owner is based on the Rynda all summer, and permanently on hand to ensure that his guests receive exceptional service from both the knowledgeable and charming fishing guides, and the equally attentive staff running the lodges. A week spent fishing these rivers is unique in so many different ways that we encourage you to contact us by telephone or email so that we can explain in greater detail what sets these great rivers apart from the other salmon rivers of the Kola Peninsula.
Wild and Exotic Rynda Diary
Saturday July 30: We arrived in time for sweet pork chops and the obligatory shot of vodka. Alfie Rippinall and I are to fish as a pair, and after lunch made our way downstream to the Rock Pool with our guide, Venna. There is a fission of excitement running through the camp as recent rains have injected new life into a low Rynda, and Peter greeted us with the news that Kharlovka camp manager, Justin McCarthy, had earlier that morning taken three fish from the Home Pool, the largest 18lbs.
Alfie began at the head of the pool, I started half way down fishing in a grey mist with fine drizzle and a cold downstream breeze that numbed the back of my hands. However it was not many minutes before Alfie’s whoop of delight signalled he was into the first of what was destined to be a bonanza of fish – by the time the helicopter finished clattering through the leaden skies dropping off other rods up and down the river, he had landed two lovely fresh salmon. I fished down to the tail eliciting a savage take from a brownie and a salmon’s subtle tweak, but I had to wait to fish the draw before I was into a head shaking 12 pounder – the fish took me within half a dozen casts and before I had got out more than a few feet of line, the fly a lightly dressed Black Francis with a running brass cone to keep it down deep. The next half hour can only be described as rare and magical – three more fish, the largest a respectable 16lbs with scarcely a dozen casts between each one. After each had been successfully netted by Venna I started again three or four yards up from the draw, and never progressed more than a dozen yards down the pool. I had the impression that I was casting to an infinite reservoir of salmon, and only left that enchanted spot when Alfie had finished fishing down the rest of the pool – he had hooked and lost a fresh bar of silver that Venna and I watched dancing on its tail from our position at the head of the pool. We had caught six fish between us in less than two hours.
Immensely encouraged by this early success we carried on downstream, fishing some turbulent water before reaching a streamier stretch opposite Ten Islands. Alfie was quick to hit form again, catching a further four lovely fish during the next couple of hours, but I had to wait until The Tail – a smooth glide where the waters pour out through a jumble of rocks at the far end – before again hitting the jackpot. The last draw was teeming with fish and I had several tweaks and bumps before hooking and catching a beautiful fresh summer salmon of around 7lbs, which I beached on the pebbly shingle as the others were almost out of sight downstream, later followed by a sixth fish, which rose to my last cast of the day. Back at the camp we learnt that 24 fish had been caught on the opening afternoon – a tremendous start to the week.
Sunday July 31: This morning Alfie and I flew across to the lovely Zolataya, touching down at the campsite there to unload our clothes before alighting close to Peter’s Pool on the top half of the river. Alfie had two nice grilse from here in quick succession, and I added a hard flighting 12lb salmon from Rupert’s further down. The fish picked up my fly like a passing rocket, tearing line off a screaming reel as it cavorted around the pool. But there is ample space here, and the fish was eventually led safely to Venna’s net.
I next fished the slow stretch immediately above the long rapids down to campsite with a bomber, and had the same fish kiss the surface three times in quick succession as it inspected and disdained the strange fly, followed by a much more determined boil and take at the head of the glide – but I ruined my chances by striking as if it were a brownie at home engulfing a mayfly. Instead of walking straight back to camp for lunch, I suggested we explore the deep little pockets that lie between gaps in the fast flowing rapids, and was thrilled that Alfie hooked and landed a nice grilse at the lower end. For me, this sort of fishing – five or six casts into the head of a foamy swirl – is just what the little Zolataya is all about.
We ate lunch at campsite, which is being run this year by 21-year-old Federer and his 18-year-old sister, Tatiana. They were delightful and attentive hosts. After lunch there was not much action until I reached my favourite salmon lie on this lovely river – a deep, turbulent run of white water cascading past a big square slab of granite where three years ago I caught a fresh 14lb fish after an exhilarating fight. Afterwards Peter had named the place Dangar’s Den. My small silver stoat was grabbed as it bounced off the stone, but I felt only the tremor of a shaking head before the fly came loose. I returned ten minutes later and concealed myself on a natural seat of rock whilst I offered the occupants of that dark pool a succession of flies that were utterly ignored. Eventually I tied on a little weighted tube – all frayed silver body and a jet black hackle – and was rewarded by a sudden and savage take just downstream of the rock. I was again lead a merry dance downstream, although this 5lb silver grilse took a lot less landing than my bigger fish of three years ago. Luckily the hook held firm as the sliver bar slithered and slipped downstream through a succession of turbulent pools and I was able to tail it in a back eddy. The fish took some reviving before it eventually swam away, quite exhausted from its battle in fast flowing rapids.
By the time I had caught up Alfie fishing the Sea pool he had added another to his tally, and then caught his fifth fish of the day fishing a bomber on a stretch of slow water – much to his delight. Back at camp we sculled shots of vodka, drank cold beer and dined on rare steak followed by pork chops. I walked downstream after dinner, taking the charming camp dog along as a companion to where we had seen a succession of fish showing in the first stretch of streamy rapids below the Long Pool. Here I hooked and beached a nice summer salmon before heading back to camp – a delightful half hour walk, the tops of the surrounding hills lit bright by midnight sun. Meanwhile Alfie had wheedled out two more grilse from Russia pool, which flows enticingly close to our tent and can be fished without getting the soles of one’s shoes wet.
Monday August 1: The helicopter called to collect us soon after 8am, and we were treated to a spectacular low level flight along the rocky coastline, soaring fast down the Zolataya and then clattering up the Rynda to the west, skimming low over the eerie Rynda village that was evacuated by Stalin’s troops in the forties. We learnt on arrival that the others had enjoyed an excellent previous day, catching a total of 28 fish, no less than 8 of them to our host’s own rod.
Alfie and I started on the home pool and not many minutes had passed before he was into his first fish of the day. Later we crossed the maelstrom of churning currents in a small inflatable dingy and tried the far bank without success before moving on to the rock pool. This presented a very different scenario to just 48 hours earlier, when we could do no wrong. Now the most careful presentation of a succession of flies was completely ignored, and around 2pm we stopped for the usual delicious lunch.
After trying the rapids downstream I waded out to fish the Tail, noticing from a submerged set of antlers on the shingle that the water had risen at least another 6″ since Saturday. I felt a grilse’s gentle pluck from the same smooth glide of water, but the fish could not be tempted to have another go despite being offered a variety of flies. Below the Tail there is a plethora of fishy-looking streams and glides, and I set about covering each one as best as I was able. Meanwhile Alfie had found form again – whenever I glanced across to the far bank he seemed to be playing yet another fish, and when we reconvened two hours later I learnt he had caught two and lost another good one after an exciting tussle. I was not destined to enjoy such good fortune, although I did catch a golden brownie weighing at least two pounds. My best chance was at the tail of this fast water, where a decent fish grabbed my 2″ Willie Gunn as it swung past the lie, pulling a foot of line off the reel before the tension fell dead.
By half past seven we were back at camp and taking drinks with Peter in his house overlooking the falls – the early arrivals were treated to the sight of a mink scampering along the rocks beneath us, a fat brownie clenched firmly between his teeth. Afterwards a convivial steak dinner and bed before midnight.
Tuesday August 2: On board the helicopter’s first flight out this morning, to start fishing at Picnic. Worked our way in tandem downstream through some likely looking stretches, the best of which may have been the flats, fishing well at this height of water. The morning was sunny and almost uncomfortably hot, with a few mozzies in evidence, but nothing serious. By lunchtime neither of us had a serious offer, but we were entertained by a bold brown mink shadowing our picnic for scraps of food.
After lunch we went across the river in a dingy to fish the Horseshoe – a delectable deep crescent of water that fishes beautifully at this height. I started on the lower half and just before the tail got a solid take. The fish moved slowly upstream, fighting dourly and never once showing properly – although a big wedge of a tail breaking the surface indicated a decent size. When Venna tried the net we could see it was a big one however he missed on the first attempt, which had an invigorating effect on the fish. But there was no mistake the second time and Venna waded ashore towing a huge fish safely in the net – the fish tipped the scales at a most respectable 21 lbs.
Half and hour later I was in to another at the tail of Rupert’s – this eight pounder also safely landed despite a knot in my cast. Alfie then added another to the grilse he had earlier caught from the same pool and before we knew it we had arrived at Eagle’s Nest – our final, where Alfie caught his third fish of the day. Back at camp we learnt that Trevor had captured a massive 28 pounder, and equally impressive, young Will Trevellyn-Thomas, who has just left Radley and hopes to go up to Oxford this autumn, had caught a 26 lb fish from Tolstoy Pocket. The tally for the week (including 9 from the Zolataya today, caught by Paddy Dean and Ed Batt) now stands at 117 fish.
Wednesday August 3: Today sunny and warm, interspersed with occasional cloud cover. We started in Reindeer, and moved on to Swan Lake where I hooked and lost a decent grilse after a short tussle. I saw a small covey of ptarmigan on my way downstream, the hen bird running through the bilberries to distract my attention away from her brood of young. After lunch I fished the Fan down carefully, and another heart stopping take turned out to be another all too brief encounter. Later I picked my way through the jumble of massive boulders that litter the far bank of the Canyon to join Venna and Alfie having fun baiting an aggressive salmon at the tail of this pool with a bomber. The fish had already risen three times and I watched it rise twice more before the hook was set, but the fish came off after less than a minute’s play. Alfie struck gold at the eleventh hour, catching a grilse as we waited for the helicopter to arrive at 7pm.
Back at the camp we learnt that Paddy Dean had taken a 23 lb hen fish from the Tail on a green bomber, Christian Seeley a 17 pounder, and young Will a 20lb fish to complement his monster of yesterday. Dinner this evening was a trio of delicious fat duck, served aflame complete with sets of carving knifes and forks.
Thursday August 4: Each morning the arrival of the helicopter bringing back the Zolataya fishers after a night at the satellite camp is eagerly awaited, however this morning the “Golden River” appears to be tailing off from its peak earlier in the week with only 4 fish landed. We began at Red Creek, and fished the many enticing pockets downstream to Norway, which is a lovely wide pool full of fish – none of which could be tempted although Alfie had caught a nice 13 pounder in his first pool of the day. Today was another one of clear blue skies and bright sunshine, but the river is still rising – when we arrived at Tolstoy many of the boulders and pebbles that comprise the shingle there were newly wet, and divided by fresh stands of rising water. Maybe this is why we had a comparatively lean day, myself finally catching a rather dour grilse at the tail of Tolstoy, and Alfie adding another from a stretch of water above Little Eira that would not fish at all during normal summer levels. We ate lunch besides Samii Camp pool, overlooked by a white tailed fish eagle cruising the thermals high in a pristine Artic blue sky.
Back at camp we learnt that Eagle’s Nest had again produced a trump card, providing no less than 4 fish between 6 and 7pm for Ed and Paddy. The latter fisherman had a memorable half hour, catching a 17lb fish followed 20 minutes later by an even bigger 21 pounder, that fell to a bomber and Red Francis respectively. That evening we were served delicious spider crabs with nutcrackers, finger bowls, mayonnaise and melted butter as a prelude to dinner – the long legs are filled with sweet pink meat which would have been more than sufficient, but went on to enjoy a further three substantial courses.
Friday August 5: The last day’s fishing. Alfie got off to a good start by landing a gleaming 11 pounder from Smart Dog, a stretch of fast water downstream of Power Pool. Round pool was boiling full and angry, and Vena advised me to fish a large sunray shadow that danced enticingly through the waters without drawing an offer. At lunch overlooking the second falls pool we discussed how few fish had shown themselves this morning – we had scarcely seen one move all day – when there was a splash at the tail. There followed an exciting half hour with my Black Francis being grabbed and released on my sixth cast, and a succession of different flies then offered to tempt a second take. The fish swirled and missed a weighted tube, but would not come for a third look, however hard I tried. That was to be my last piscine encounter of the holiday, despite walking all the way to Norway Pool, from which we later learnt that four fish had been taken during the morning.
The other rods had all enjoyed an action packed final day, the best fish of 21lbs being caught appropriately enough by Piers Pollard, whose team of seven close knit friends had kept us well entertained all week. The tally now stood at 166 fish landed since last Saturday, with 8 weighing in excess of 20 lbs – a superb result that put the seal on another memorable Rynda week.
Russia general information and map
Getting there: Guests fishing the Northern Rivers in the Kola Peninsular fly to Stockholm in Sweden and spend the night at an airport hotel. The following morning they fly by private charter direct to Murmansk, and from Murmansk by chopper direct to the camp.
Time: GMT plus 3 hours.
Try not to miss: What is widely accepted as being the best Atlantic salmon fishing in the world on the Kola Peninsula. Wild and Exotic currently offer no other destinations or activities within Russia.
Visas: Visitors from the UK require a valid visa in order to enter Russia, obtainable from the Russian embassy in London. Wild and Exotic can assist with the process if required.
Why Russia: To have a realistic chance of catching several large Atlantic salmon each day spent fishing.
“I cannot recommend a trip to fish the Rynda highly enough. It is challenging fishing in a pristine environment that is simply a privilege to experience. On top of all this I doubt you will ever find a more efficient, generous and friendly host than the proprietor. It really is a very special place.”