Monday, 14 August 2017

Season Report 2017

2017 was one of the most unusual seasons that any of us have ever experienced in Russia. It was the longest winter in over 100 years and combined with that there was more snow on the tundra than for many decades.

First week of the season

For the first time ever we had to cancel the first two weeks of the Yokanga Lodge and Gremikha Camp seasons for safety reasons and with the quantity of snow on the tundra slowly melting, the water was exceptionally high and cold throughout until early July. Levels were 2m over what might be considered normal and water temperatures were lingering around 5C most of the time. With that extra volume of water, without seeing it first hand it is hard to imagine how the river can transform normally slow lake sections of water into a torrent where you can barely consider throwing a fly. The fishing was correspondingly tough from Yokanga Lodge in those early weeks. As one guest summed it up, you are looking for a very small needle in a very large haystack.

 21 June 2017

 21 June 2016

While conditions did not favour the lodge in the first part of the season, the Gremikha camp, which fishes the lowest 8kms of the river, did much better than usual. It was hard to find fishable water, but fish were entering the system and the early fishermen contacted them in small pockets. The comments below from one client give you a flavour of what was happening down at Gremikha.

I had a truly amazing afternoon yesterday. There were 7 fish caught by the camp. I had 4. 18lbs, 18lbs, 20lbs and 29lbs. I lost another 3. One was lost after a few minutes, another after 25 minutes and another after 45 minutes which we never even saw. I spent 4 hours playing fish between 2pm and 7pm...only spent about 15 minutes casting...the remaining 45 minutes was spent watching Arni play a fish. It was only a 20 yard pool! I connected with another 10 fish, almost a connection with every cast. Quite simply the best afternoon's fishing I have ever had. I actually got cold because I spent so long standing still playing fish! Crazy to think that, in years to come, when someone asks me about my bonanza day and where was the lie, that I am going to have to point 10 feet up the hill to dry land!

One of four fish from the Lower Yokanga
July certainly saw some improvement in the fishing as the river height dropped and fresh fish were able to push on into the middle river. The water, although dropping, remained high by normal standards and while there were some good days and some excellent fish caught, lodge guests never really got amongst them.

30lber in early July
Interestingly, the fishing at Gremikha remained good in July. Traditionally as soon as the Yokanga warms up, say to 10C, then most of the salmon just race through the lower river and the lodge water is definitely the place to be. Who knows if the water was sufficiently high to slow them up for Gremikha guests to catch them or whether some of the earlier rod caught fish were still holding down there and were in turn stopping the new arrivals. Either way, Gremikha did significantly better than average in 2017.

Our last week of the season at the lodge was 29 July-5 August and in some ways this was the best week of the season for Yokanga’s largest fish. Three fish over 30lbs were actually landed and a further half a dozen or so of a similar size were hooked and played for some time before they were lost – one very notable fish estimated at nearer to 50lbs than 30lbs. Judging by their colour, these excellent condition, predominantly cock salmon appeared to be June fish but for one reason or another it was seemingly not until early August that they were populating the traditional prime middle river lies. 

32lber in the last week of the season

In terms of numbers, the Yokanga Lodge fishers landed 458 for the short 7 week season. By way of comparison, Yokanga Lodge’s long term average catch is 900-1200 fish in a 9-10 week season. 2017 saw 46 salmon in the 20-29lb bracket landed and 5 in excess of 30lbs. Whilst it was generally a very disappointing season for the Yokanga fishers, guides, lodge staff and of course for us, it is important to keep these things in perspective. On average more than half the fishermen who fished Yokanga this season left having landed a fish over 20lbs. An enviable statistic even in a poor year.
Classic fat Yokanga hen fish
As fishermen we are good at trying to seek explanations for a below average season. Fear always exists of poaching, seals and other factors that can affect the success of the runs and the fishing. The fact is that not every year can be a great one and a degree of variation is entirely normal. The conditions in the early season were certainly highly unusual and the timing of the run’s arrival at the lodge was clearly disrupted. Tributaries that are normally low and less than ideal for salmon to run up when they arrive, were in full flood this season so it is entirely possible that the fish simply ran up them as soon as they arrived. The Lyliok river itself is a good example and is one of the major spawning tributaries. Normally the fish get bottled up in Lyliok at the lower end of the Home Pool and as a result that is a productive pool but that was not particularly the case in 2017.

Lyliok river in full flood
The lodge was running as smoothly as ever thanks to Pasha our Russian camp manager. It was the second season for Yuri the chef and he received widespread praise from guests, many of them saying that it was the best food they had had on any Russian river. The inclusion of wine, beer and vodka in the package price has been universally popular funnily enough! I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Toby Burrell and Iain Kirk who did an excellent job in hosting guests throughout the season and who also received numerous mentions from returning fishermen.

There remain compelling reasons for choosing the Yokanga. It remains one of the world’s great rivers for truly big Atlantic salmon. Over the previous five seasons we have seen an average of close to 140 fish over 20lbs caught every year to just over 100 rods a season. Those are pretty decent odds. The fishable water from Yokanga Lodge is extensive and indeed it is rare to cover all the available water on your daily beat. The use of boats, both for fishing and for movement downstream, makes the Yokanga accessible to many and the lodge, set in wilderness location, has a commanding position overlooking the river with comfortable bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.

Comfortable Yokanga Lodge
Of one thing we can be fairly sure, 2018 will be different to the one we just had and likely different to other seasons in some way or other. We, along with our Russian partners, will do all we can to ensure the river is well protected and that the guides, staff and lodge are ready to welcome Yokanga’s fishermen. Whatever nature then delivers us, there will certainly be some good fishing and, as always, a number of fishers will land the salmon of their lifetime. We look forward to welcoming back old friends who have been there before and to introducing some new guests to the experience of fishing a river such as the Yokanga.

Henry Mountain and Peter Rippin

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Week 29 July-5 August

Date: 29 July to 5 August

Air Temp: 8-20C
Water Temp: 14-16C
Water height: -17cms to -25cms
Number of rods: 10
Number of fish caught: 61
Biggest fish: 32lbs Rob Waddington
No 30+: 3
No 20-29lbs: 4
No 8-19lbs: 28
Grilse: 26

Guests in the last week of the season

Weather: This week we have seen warm muggy weather and 25C slowly getting fresher and colder with temperatures dropping to 8C during the day. Perfect fishing conditions for this time of the year.

Rob W with one of his two fish over 30lbs

Manager's comments: It has been a tough fishing week for this time of the year. It was suggested that fish numbers were down but we started seeing more and more fish as the week continued and the weather freshened up. 

Bjorgvin with a 31lber from Sand Island

There were perhaps less grilse about this year but the big fish pools still had the ‘big boys’ crashing about in them. Proof of that was Rob with his pair of 30lbers, 30lbs from Poachers and 32lbs from Norcamp. Bjorgvin also landed a 31lber in Sand Island and his father Hilli played a huge fish in Cliff for 30 minutes before the hook failed. In addition there were a further four fish landed in the 20-29lb bracket.
Rob with another big one

Thanks to the fishermen of 29th July to 5th August for their support in making this week happen in such a wonderful place. Sadly this was the last week of the season but we have ended on a high with some very large fish being landed and others lost. It would be interesting to see the river next week!

Iain Kirk

Saturday, 5 August 2017

More big fish

Date: 4 August

Air Temp: 9C
Water Temp: 14C
Water height: -22cms
Number of rods: 10
Number of fish caught: 14
Biggest fish: 31lbs Bjorgvin Hilmarsson
No 30+: 1
No 20-29lbs: 1
No 8-19lbs: 6
Grilse: 6

Weather: A rainy misty day and feeling fresh.

31lber for Bjorgvin H

Managers Comments: Today was the best day of the week for fish hooked and large fish played. The best salmon landed was a 31lber. Max and Hilli both battled with big fish today in Norcamp and Sand  Island.

Iain Kirk

Friday, 4 August 2017

11 hooked in Cliff

Date: 3 Aug

Air Temp: 10C
Water Temp: 14C
Water height: -24cms
Number of rods: 10
Number of fish caught: 11
Biggest fish: 28lbs Max Krottenthaler
No 30+: 0
No 20-29lbs: 1
No 8-19lbs: 6
Grilse: 4

Weather: Blue sky first thing this morning and then at midday the wind changed to the north east and the fog came in.

Managers Comments: Cliff beat was on fire this morning with 11 fish hooked but sadly only two landed.

Max landed his 28lber after a battle through the rapids at Upper Norcamp. It feels like the week is beginning to wake up. Home and Pump have had fish crashing around in them.

Iain Kirk

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Waking up

Date: 2 August

Air temp 8 degs
Water temp 14 degs
Water height -25 cms
Rods 10
Fish caught 10
Biggest 32 lbs Rob W

30 lbs plus  1
20/29 lbs.    1
8/19  lbs.      7
Grilse            1

Waking up this morning to a dull fresh day with rain until 3 pm
Still Running
Today we have fresh bright fish moving into lyliok with Colin landing a very bright 12 lbs fish. Yet again Rob W had an enormous fish from poachers this afternoon of 32 lbs. this was after loosing a fish in the region of 40 lbs plus in norcamp.

Big fish finally playing the game
Poachers and seven islands anglers have reported seeing and raising huge fish today, as if they have just woken up after the high water of early season.

Iain kirk

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Sunray Shadow

Date: 1 August

Air temp  8 deg c
Water.      14 deg c
Water height -22 cms
Rods 10
Fish caught 11
Biggest 30 lbs Rob W

30 lbs plus 1
20/29.         0
8-19 lbs      5
Grilse.         5

First thing east wind but no mist thank goodness Temp very low, 8 degs at the lodge water height dropped 2 cms and water temp down 2 cms.

Rob's 30

A better day on the river today with action in most of the beats.
The fly of the day was the Sunray shadow !!!!!
A red letter day for rob waddington with four fish from nor camp, biggest 30 lbs.
Colin M experienced the joy of the yokanga salmon today with his first yokanga sunray salmon of 17 lbs, hunted his fly around the pool at the bottom of poachers rapids.

Even though the fishing has been tough, people have experienced salmon takes like never before, thanks to this wonderful river.

Iain Kirk


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Salmon only

Date: 31 July

Air Temp: 12C
Water Temp: 16C
Water Height: -20cms
Number of Rods: 10
Number of fish caught: 6
Biggest fish: 21lbs Jim Ferrie
No 30+: 0
No 20-29lbs: 1
No 8-19lbs: 5
Grilse: 0

Weather: Fresh overcast morning with an east wind. Mist appearing over the hill though. A very cold evening.
 Per with a fish from Lyliok

Managers Comments: Today appears to be an improving situation with salmon taking rather than grilse! Lots of today's fish were caught using sunrays even the 21lber to Jim Ferrie.

Jim with big smile on his face

Today’s catch could have been trebled had they all or least some stayed on!

Iain Kirk

Monday, 31 July 2017

Tackle Failures

Date: Afternoon 29 and 30 July

Air temp: 20C
Water height: -17cms
Water temp: 16C
Rods: 10
Fish caught: 9
Biggest fish: 15lbs
8-19lbs: 6
Grilse: 3

Weather : Overcast at first but a sunny and warm afternoon.

Managers Comments: Per, Hilli, Max and Paul all experienced the evil of those very large Yokanga fish today. Each of them encountered fish of 25lbs plus, cartwheeling around the pools of Upper Norcamp, Golden Reach and Lyliok.

Polyleaders snapped and hooks pulled out leaving the anglers speechless. Paul was heard saying that he had never felt such power in an Atlantic salmon before this day.
Max lost his beast in Lyliok after charging down the rapids but managed to land only one fish from six played.
Hilli with his 15lber from Lyliok

There seems to be perfect water height and temperature  but the fish are very quiet generally.

Iain Kirk

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Week 22-29 July

DATE: 22nd-29th July 2017

Air Temp: 10C-25C

Water Temp: 11C-13C

Water Height: 1.0m - 0.8m

Number of Rods: 16

Number of fish Caught: 59

Biggest fish: 25lbs Pierre Thomas & Piam Guillemaud

No 30+:  0

No 20-29lbs:  6

No 8-19lbs:  45

Grilse:  8


Thick fog & strong winds until Wednesday, followed by cloudless skies and windless days.

Managers Comments:

Denis with his first Salmon
A tough week on the river this week with very varied conditions. We did get of to a tough start with the unusually long lasting fog which meant we had an out of action helicopter for 3 days. This was incredibly unlucky and exceptionally unusual to have the fog sitting for that length of time. As a result of this it meant we had all rods fishing between Poachers and crows nest. This is still a huge amount of water for 16 rods and plenty of pots & pools to play with. It did mean however, we struggled to hide from the killer stream wind we had for the first half of the week. 

Giles with his first fish of the week
On Wednesday morning the weather took a complete turn and changed to its polar opposite, bright skies and hot days. Perhaps not the most ideal conditions but at least it allowed us up the river. The team persevered and came home with results. Piam had a fantastic week landing a good number of fish one at 25lb. Pierre T also had a tremendous week, landing a couple a great fish over 20lbs. 

Yokanga Sun set

Sadly my time on the river has come to an end, its been a great fun season and thanks to all who where involved hopefully see you all next year.
Fresh fish at the end of July 

Toby Burrell 

Friday, 28 July 2017

"Medium Fish"

 DATE: 28th July 2017

Air Temp: 27’C
Water Temp:13’C
Water Height: +.80m
Number of Rods: 16
Number of fish Caught:  10
Biggest fish: 25lbs Piam 
No 30+: 0 
No 20-29lbs: 3
No 8-19lbs: 7
Grilse: 0

Very clear day with a slight SE wind.

Managers comments:

I feel like today's conditions reflect well on our results. It truly was a blisteringly hot, calm day. The mozi’s where out in force and the breeze was, at times, non existent . However, being the Yokanga river, the fish we did manage to land where really quite fantastic. Arguably, by Yokanga standards they where “medium fish”, as Vova told Piam today when he landed his 25 pounder. But I'm sure most of you would agree that by any other salmon river, ten fish we caught to all be over thirteen pounds is really quite incredible, not to mention the three over 20. 

Sergie preparing lunch

Piam has had a wonderful week and finished off with a bang as he got a  beautiful 25 pound salmon in Lower Norcamp. Piam had his fish on a sunray shadow which seems to have been the flavour of the week. I think at least 80% of the fish have been caught on a sunray of sorts. If not on a variation of the Sunray shawdow, then on some form of black fly.
Safely in the net
Pierre T also managed a 20+ fish today. Interestingly his 23lbs fish today was in fact longer than his 25lbs earlier in the week. His fresh 25lbs fish was 100cm x 51cm. Today's 23 was 105cm x 48cm. An interesting contrast between fresh and old fish. Perhaps more significant with Yokanga fish because of the pure depth of fish that this river produces. The fish Pierre caught  today has potentially lost 4 pounds with its time in the river. Anyone who has set foot in the mighty Yokanga will know that you certainly burn a lot of energy just stood in the back eddies, never mind running the rapids! 
Flagging down the heli

Toby Burrell

Red Francis

DATE: 27th July 2017

Air Temp: 22’C
Water Temp:13’C
Water Height: - 0.11m
Number of Rods: 16
Number of fish Caught:  15
Biggest fish: 22lbs Paul Abib
No 30+: 0 
No 20-29lbs: 1
No 8-19lbs: 13
Grilse: 1

Cloudless skies, warm with barely no breeze & hot.
Managers Comments: 
Alain with fish from yesterday.
Another steady day today, very bright and very little wind. The team have been pulling out all the stops to try and get stuck into some fish. Piam even tried the upstream Red Francis this morning, which actually resulted in a lovely 17 pound fish. Nothing venture nothing gain… Well done Piam. 
Piam's fish on a Red Francis 
Again black seems to be the colour of choice today,  Yann fished through Lyliok three times from the right bank, first time with a little black stoats tail, he had one and a fair few pulls. The second time he fished it through with a cascade. Nothing at all, not even a sight nudge. Third time through he put  slightly bigger black & gold fly on, lots of pulls and lost a fish. Perhaps this is coincidence, or the fish in fact only want a black flies. 
Cedomir had an eventual morning in Upper Norcamp. First thing after arriving he was straight into a nice 10 pound fish. Moments later he hooked into a monster fish. Estimated by guide and angler to have been 15kgs or more. Cedomir had the fish in close a couple of times. Sadly the second time he got it in close, it saw the guide/Cedomir and pealed off down stream on its tail. A magnificent sight to see a fish of that calibre tail walking down the pool. Sadly in the process of its second tail walk the fly popped out and the fish was gone. A sad moment for Cedomir, but an exciting bit of action never the less. 
The river is starting to drop off fast now with all this bright sun, I assume it will do so for the rest of the season. Hopefully this will channel the fish a little more and allow us to really get stuck in. 
 Toby Burrell

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Black flies

Date: 26th July 2017
Air Temp: 16’C
Water Temp:11’C
Water Height: - . 40m
Number of Rods: 16
Number of fish Caught:  11
Biggest fish: 16lbs Piam Guillemaud 
No 30+: 0 
No 20-29lbs: 0
No 8-19lbs: 11
Grilse: 0 

Cloudless skies, warm with a light breeze.

Managers Comments: 

Finally we seemed to have lost the heavy sitting fog, we have in fact been left with quite the opposite. Today had a very Mediterranean feel to it, with plenty of beaming sun. 

Todays successful flee

The fishing was hugely varied among the team. Pierre had a very good day, landing three fish in total  from Poachers pool. One of his bigger fish was reasonably fresh - perhaps a small push of fish coming in. All of his three fish, and a couple of other pulls came from the same black fly (see photo above). Interestingly Gilles' fish last night where all on a similar, sun ray variant. 

The release

Piam also ended up with a good result today with three fish between 10 & 16lbs. His 16 pound fish was an incredibly well caught one. He was fishing through lower Norcamp when he had a slight pull, the second cast produced nothing. Piam then decided to change fly, again nothing… Three changes later he finally persuaded the fish to take on a small black tube. Perseverance is key and often pays off, well done Piam!

Pierre T with his guide Toli
The river is slowly dropping off again after the quick rise earlier in the week, and we are getting back to normal July weather. 

Pierre N with a fresh one under the blue skies

 Toby Burrell

A Magical Hour

DATE: 25th July 2017

Air Temp: 11’C
Water Temp:12’C
Water Height: +0m
Number of Rods: 16
Number of fish Caught:  12
Biggest fish: 25lbs Pierre Thomas 
No 30+: 0 
No 20-29lbs: 1
No 8-19lbs: 9
Grilse: 2

Fog until late morning, brief window of high cloud and a short shower of rain. 

Managers Comments: 

I woke up this morning and gingerly drew the blinds on my bedroom window, to my absolute horror the fog was still sitting low and for the fourth day in a row I could hardly make out the outline of the helicopter only 100ft away. 
Fish on!
As a team we decided to wait it out in the hope we might get a short window to take off. Finally at about 11:05 the fog lifted just enough for the heli to go. The troops were ready in a flash and we nipped up river, for the first time this week! Literally minuets after the chopper landed back in camp the fog came whistling back in meaning we were unable to do a pick up. Of course this is not a problem as all our boats have engines and even from the top beats its not a great distance when you've you got an engine.
Bomber time
 Fishing wise today was slightly more active, the ability to use the boats certainly helped, we could at least start to use the wind rather than fight it. Yann and his father had a productive day up at Sand Island and Cliff pool. They ended up with three between them, one of which was a fantastic 25 pounder. They reported other action too. 
20 pounds of fish in the net
Gilles has just got back form his night time session in Lyliok, a magical hour, he said. One hour of fishing from right bank and constantly touching fishing, one landed and a couple lost, all on a sun ray shadow. Encouraging stuff. 
Sun set through the fog.
I have never known this fog to sit in the bottom of the tundra like this for so long. Its very normal to have it one or maybe two days in a season. Five days on the trot however, is very tedious. I hope the pilots will have some work to do tomorrow!
Toby Burrell 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fog still sitting

DATE: 24th July 2017

Air Temp: 7’C
Water Temp:12’C
Water Height: +0m
Number of Rods: 16
Number of fish Caught:  5
Biggest fish: 22lbs Denis 
No 30+: 0 
No 20-29lbs: 1
No 8-19lbs: 4
Grilse: 0

Heavy fog, extremely cold with a very strong upstream wind. Patches of rain/sleet…

Managers Comments: 

Another traitorous day in the Tundra today, these phenomenal July conditions really are odd and just emphasise the peculiarities of this years season. I arrived here in the Tundra early may, we experienced one of the most bizarrely long winters the Kola has seen in the last 100 years. It did eventually start to melt and spring did eventually arrive. However this current weather only reminds of the long cold days we had earlier this season. It feels like we've almost gone back in time four weeks.  Last week we had days of up to 20’C today it was down to 6’C and an extremely cold North wind, you can really feel in right through to the core.
Denis with his 22
However there is nothing we can do about the weather, no use crying over spilt milk. Once again the team set off on foot from the camp to fish as far as they dared walk. Although the catch results today where not perhaps as high as one would like, the quality of fish was really fantastic. Denis had his first ever atlantic salmon, a lovely 22lb fish that was reasonably fresh. An epic battle, I was down in Lyliok and I could see fish on! I watched from a distance as they slowly pottered down stream from home pool with the fish on. After a good ten minuet fight, with no sign of coming in, I thought perhaps I will walk up and see. Just as I arrived they were releasing the fish. 
Gilles with a fish from Lyliok
Pierre & Gilles each had very good fish, 19 & 17lbs. Two fantastic fish one of which was nice and fresh. It is truly is an amazing river, the quality of fish that it constantly churns out is really fantastic. Only five fish today but in the range of 22-12 pounds, unbelievable! 
A lovely 19lbs fish
The gale force wind  continues to pump at high speeds up stream, making it incredibly difficult to cast, its forecast for a weather change on Wednesday. Hopefully we can at least get up the river with the heli tomorrow!
Toby Burrell