Kharlovka/ Rynda summary for 2007 [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Kharlovka/ Rynda summary for 2007

02-09-2008, 07:36 PM
Fly-fishing Russia’s Kola Peninsula – 2007
The Atlantic Salmon Reserve

Spring 2007 was late coming to the Russian Tundra. Bitterly cold winds born in the arctic howled their way up the northern river valleys, turning near-frozen waters into hostile uninviting torrents. Fishing proved extremely tough in such unforgiving conditions as water temperatures hovered just above zero and the wind chill threatened even the hardiest spring fishing veterans. Casting? Well, that’s another story. Enough said! Despite what you think, have read or heard, until you have experienced numbed hands, frozen line guides and a sense of utter hopelessness- you should not comment! Speak to those who come back year in and year out, one week…. Two weeks – they just can’t get enough. This past season after getting out their myself – and having discussed the topic in depth with two well know Rynda spring Veterans – Simon and Tony – I now think I understand what its all about. Perhaps it derives from our age old primal instincts and the satisfaction of survival and success in the face of adversity. Ultimately, at the end of it all you leave with a craving for more! For those who exhibit this attitude, the rewards are hugely fulfilling. Having experienced this first hand, I can now relate to why there exists a small fraternity who crave early season fishing for big bright Salar. Up in the far north, each day is different and the air temperature has been known to rise 5 degrees in any given day. Sure, spring out on the northern Kola Peninsula isn’t for the floating line fair weather brigade. However having said this, don’t for one minute be cajoled into thinking that early season fishing requires the highest degree of casting proficiency, combined with the hardiness of an elite Special Forces Commando unit. Thankfully, advances in tackle technology, coupled with the vast range of extreme outdoor clothing from which to choose – spring fishing has become a far sight easier than in the days of oiled canvas wraps and full sinking lines. Nowadays, it’s all about line control. Control the speed and depth at which your fly fishes and you’re ninety-nine percent of the way there! These early fish very often hold close to the bank and most fish are caught on short lines. It’s certainly not about what fly at this time of year. More importantly, the secret lies in undercutting the current and slowing the fly down as much as possible. With the introduction Guideline’s new shooting head system – spring fisherman have never had it so good!

Despite the unseasonably late spring which came to the Kola this year, the early rods accounted for some unbelievable fish caught and as in all forms of this sport – there where stories of some unbelievable fish hooked and lost. The story of the opening week at Kharlovka has to go to Laurence who was dragged several hundred yards downstream by a colossal fish which appeared hell-bent on returning to the sea. Cranking the drag down as they ran downstream in hot pursuit of this silver dream, his Russian guide Kola decided it was far too risky - with all the snow-ice along the river-bank - to follow the great salmon further. Directing Lawrence up onto the reindeer trails, suddenly they found themselves some 75 feet above the right bank of the Island pool. With the other fisherman in awe on the opposite bank, Lawrence tried his best to keep up the chase. Out-of-control - his dream was clearly on a one way mission when the inevitable finally happened! Lawrence's gel spun backing – precariously angled over the ice sheets – eventually parted several hundred yards downstream. While Lawrence might not have agreed, his story was a clear reminder to us all about the 'Unlandable Fish' that frequent these rivers! Despite the unseasonably cold start coupled with unusually high flows and abundance of snow packs, the fishing was undeniably good with several great fish up to 38 pounds caught in the opening week! Weekly catches were 15-20 % up on the five year average – a sure sign that Peter Power’s fortitude while enduring many tough years of “political minefields” and bureaucratic malevolence, is beginning to reap the rewards he deserves.

Summer did eventually make an appearance – towards the end of July – bringing with it warm sunshine, big blue skies and generally a big sigh of relief all round. High pressures became the norm – and with this change a call for different tactics on the piscatorial front. Clear water, bright skies and little wind to boot – a dry fly fishers dream! For many, this is Atlantic salmon fishing at its best! To watch a 30 lb bar of silver repeatedly roll onto a free-drifted bomber before actually taking it takes some beating and is certainly not for the feint hearted! This is without a doubt my favorite form of the sport as it takes me back to the days of my misspent youth, fervently pursuing feisty rainbows with bushy dry flies on the mighty Umzimkulu in Underberg where I grew up. The only difference being 29 pounds!

During any given hour of the day, the surface action begins and may last up to several hours on end! The beauty of fishing dry flies and riffled hitches is the visual aspect of enticing huge fish up onto the surface. A single drift may produce several violent takes before any contact is made! One has to be patient and wait until the line goes tight, and to do this requires a steady hand and a strong heart! The ‘riffle king’ Palmi from Iceland – fishing his deadly skated black sheep micro-tube – in just one afternoon and morning session – landed 11 great fish up to 20 lb, with equally as many hooked and lost. Having witnessed Palmi’s unbelievable display of line control, nerves of steel and lightning reactions – I remain in complete awe. Needless to say, I now rarely resort to any other method at this time of year.

The combination of cooler weather, a late spring and heavier ice packs saw river levels well augmented throughout the season. This benefited late season flows which persisted well into August. The implications of higher flows meant that fish were more evenly spread throughout the system and not as confined to the deeper pools as has been evident in the past. Contrary to popular belief, autumn is a time when many of the largest fish of the season are caught. Towards September – as the water temperature begins to fall – the large cock salmon become particularly territorial and will attack almost anything which ventures into their comfort zone. Several of the largest fish taken during 2007 – including a 45 pounder and several 30 + pounders – were taken at the ‘back-end’ of the season. Furthermore, autumn heralds the arrival of the mighty ‘Osenka’ – bulging with extra muscle nourished from spending an additional summer at sea – which should rank highly on every serious salmon fishers list. The 2007 fall period produced several exceptional fish up to 30 pounds.

As my colleague Justin aptly sums up the ASR experience: “There are undeniably many special rivers scattered around the world, however very few are truly as unpredictable as ours. Thankfully, these great Northern Rivers run through our lives and shape our thoughts. This is a place for believers only, where your skill and imagination set the limit on your big silver possibilities.

Until the ice melts and the northern rivers flow once again…


02-10-2008, 07:41 AM
Beautifully written! Made me feel like I was there. Wonder if Alex, Sasha and Andrea are still going at it. Great place, great challenge and great people.

The Island Pool was where I caught my first Russian fish, on the very first afternoon of fishing after arriving at camp in 1993. One fish on the left, and one fish on the right. Both around 10 pounds. I will never forget that first afternoon on the Tundra. No one around but me on that little island. Thanks for bringing the those memories to mind.

02-10-2008, 09:55 AM
Thanks Howie!

It's one of the great fly-fishing destinations which are difficult to describe to people who haven't been there. I knew from the very first time I set foot on the Tundra that it wouldn't be the last time.

Yes, Alex, Sasha and Andrei are still going strong. Big Alex is no longer head guide but still enjoying it as though it were his first day! I think the Sasha from your day might have moved on but there is a younger Sasha who is also based at Kharlovka. All great guys who add to the whole experience and it certainly wouldn't be the same without them!

I implicitly agree, ones first Salmon in a particular river / are never forgotten and I bet you still remember the exact fly you caught those two salmon on! Remebering moments like the one you described is an extremely important part of the lives of we who fish. I think that's one of the greatest attributes of our Northern rivers which clearly distinguishes them from many of those found throughout the southern Kola peninsula. At the end of any given week, one usually remembers each fish caught, which pool it was taken from and how one did it. Beyond that, I think we start missing the point which in turn detracts from the reason why we strive to fish these places. S.J Meyers poignantly sums it all up: "We angle, sometime, not to catch fish; but because we find them in such beautiful places
And because we canít resist the gentle tug
That is the nature of fly fishing. Not so?

I will keep you updated!


02-10-2008, 01:39 PM
WoW! I love it! Get us excited for early fishing on the Kola! I was just today getting my fly tying stuff together to start making some tube flies for my trip the first 2 weeks of June on the Kola. You nailed the spirit of the early, hearty members of the early crew that goes there. This will be my third trip this time of year, and let me add a few thoughts.

You mentioned the gear that has gotten better. The improvements in the rods have made a big difference. I use a 15 foot TCR sage; you need a stiff rod to help get the line out and make casting a breeze. I like a heavy sink tip, say 15 feet of type 8 or better, then a relatively light fly on a short ( 18 inches) 25-30 pound test. You mentioned controlling the fly, this is the game and this type of rod/sink tip/leader/fly does this in early/cold /heavy water. You want the fly down, but not "dead" and a lighter fly brings it up from bottom a few inches and makes it alive. The sink tip helps immensely in doing this and still letting you cast and mend and get depth. I use 25 pound test most often, since if you get caught on a rock ( and you will if fishing properly at this time) when you break, the leader breaks and not the sink tip. This is a tip I discovered after having done so a few times.

The thoughts are rushing back, and I remember after my last 2 week journey, my fingers were bleeding from scraming reels, my hands were exausted from reeling in monsters. This is the state we all want to get back to!

Great read...

Jim Y

02-11-2008, 09:31 AM
Incredible read, and if the words are that good the experience is something I must experience before I die.

I commit to that now...

02-11-2008, 02:11 PM

I assume you are using a 10 weight line with fast sink tip of 15 feet or so. Is that correct?

Is the entire leader length 18" of 25#-30#? Sounds very very short.

Also, what is the definition of a small size for that time of year with those high and cold water conditions?

What weeks in June do you fish and feel confident with?

02-12-2008, 04:34 AM
Nice write up Yuri, looking forward to week 24 on Kharlovka..

Here are the kind of fish you can catch in early June- One of mine and two from Martin, my fishing partner first week in June last year. ( ( (

The brown trout are good too.. (

And a nice summer ( August ) fish (

Can't wait to get back. Cheers, Simon

02-12-2008, 10:14 AM
Hi Simon

Great to hear from you! Long time no speak! Well you certainly had your baptism of fire last spring! It can't get much colder than that! Nonetheless, despite the high water and lower than normal temperatures, I think you all did exceptionally well. Michael certainly had a humdinger of a week but then we are talking about the spring fishing Guru and so I guess thats par for the course. Have you started tying yet? You'd better tie more flies this year as I seem to remember everyone attacking your box (including myself!) You fishing Scotland before Kharlovka?

02-12-2008, 11:03 AM
Reading that makes me want to get out there quite badly! An amazing place, I still am dreaming of the fish caught and the fish lost.

02-12-2008, 11:27 AM
And as for thise silver fish...

02-15-2008, 06:39 AM
I'm referring to the first week of June, high, cold ( 5 C) and heavy water. If you are using 3 or more feet of leader, it defeats the purpose of a sink tip in these conditions. I use a lighter fly, not a short one. 2 inches or longer, but I like aluminum or plastic, or cone head, or short 1/2 inch brass with long feathers rather than 3 inch brass. I think a little lighter fly relative to the whole system works better. I cast almost strait out or up stream, make a few mends to get the fly down, than it is in fishable position by the time you hit where the fish are at ( many times closer to shore in this water). Anyway, great read, and great shots. Lets get it on!

Jim Y