A quick summary of my first ever trip to Russia. As some of you know Rob has a lot of experience guiding on the river Beloushia and, on his advice, I booked a trip this year during the tail end of the season. Happily, John Parsons (good friend and pioneer on this river system) was able to join us, and we also had access to the larger river Voronya. In fact we had miles and miles of first class salmon and sea trout fishing on the Kola peninsula between a grand total of 4 anglers. All this for similar money to fishing on a half reasonable river in Scotland or Ireland for the ghost of a salmon that queen Victoria's gillie cast a fly over in 1890.
We had gin clear low water and bright sunshine, with very few fresh fish on the Beloushia river, but even so John hooked and lost a lively pacific salmon on the first morning and I managed the first of 5 sea tout to 3lb or so between us.
Far and away the most challenging aspect of the week was learning to spey cast, which drove me properly crazy for a day. It's really not easy and the task was made more difficult by a fluke connection with a ten pound salmon on my first or second roll cast getting the fly into the water. John had nipped out 3 sea trout fairly quickly and this added to the pressure of being on one of the world's great rivers, with fish active, but not actually being able to get a fly out. The harder I tried the worse it got.
It all came together on the second day on the big river however, and John was casting well. We were on an island mid river when a 25lb fish (guide's estate) hammered John's orange tube fly , jumped repeatedly in the river before stripping off his line down to the backing and holding station mid current, before bumping off and leaving John somewhat bereft. The chance to be connected to such a fish comes along so rarely in life, and I'm sure John felt that strange combination of elation and loss when a great fish gets the better of the angler. John caught a smaller salmon on the V but it slipped from his fingers on landing before he could get a photo.
Guided by Max I was back on the Beloushia the next day and managed to catch not only my first salmon ( female of 74 cm) on the fly, but a second male grilse of 55 cm or so on the same day.
Both fish were dark and I had to go down to fine leaders to get a take in the clear water. I had worked on knot strength and pre-planned the planning of fish and this seemed to make all the difference. I think If I had had more days on the small river I would have had more success with that formula.
Evidence of Bears were all around us, attracted to the river for the easy pickings with dying pink salmon flopping around in the shallows. We found fish carcasses in the middle of the forest along with piles of bear poo, showing their fondness for the various seasonal berries in the forest.
One the last night guide Max got some great shots of the northern lights which rounded the whole trip off nicely. I know the venerable John Parsons is already planning a mid season trip next year where there will of course be more and fresher fish in the water. Drop me a PM if you want to know more.