Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Frozen North, 2017 Season

Welcome to the Yokanga Blog 2017!

As many of you will have heard from the circulating news, it has been a winter with a lot of snow on the Kola Peninsula. In conjunction with that it has been an exceptionally late spring. The combination of these two things has meant that we have had to cancel Week 0 (3-10 June) and also Week 1 (10-17 June). It is the first time that Week 1 has ever been cancelled on Yokanga and indeed in over 20 years of experience in Russia, none of us have ever seen a spring this delayed.

All rivers have been affected by the unusually late spring but we had hoped that Yokanga would be fine given that it starts later than other river systems. In the event, the weather has remained cold and winter has yet to fully give up its icy grip. No two seasons are ever the same on Yokanga.

It is incredibly disappointing to have to cancel fishing that our clients have been looking forward to for many months now. It is, however, the right thing to do. While the river is flowing, there are ice blockages and significant snow and ice along the riverbank making bank fishing impossible. It is simply unsafe to have our clients there right now. All the staff and ourselves are equally disappointed to put things on hold until conditions change.

View down to Lyliok a couple of days ago 

There has been some change in the last 24 hours with air temperatures of 5-7C during the day. It has been rather warmer in reality than the forecast has suggested. The bright sunshine has made it feel considerably warmer than the temperatures have suggested and one of the kitchen helpers got badly sunburnt yesterday!

These warmer temperatures should start the snow and ice melting and the resulting lift in river levels should see the remaining ice leave the river and take a lot of the bankside snow with it too. There is still a good amount of time before our first clients of 2017 arrive on 17 June so a lot can change between now and then.

Looking into our crystal ball we predict high and cold water for the season ahead and those booked into the later weeks may well get lucky. It could be a very interesting start with fish creeping slowly through the system and perhaps being close to the bank if the water remains high. It will certainly be different from some seasons where water temperatures have been closer to 10C at the beginning and salmon have speeded past us in a day.

Fishermen will likely need to adapt to the very different conditions. Rather than focusing on favourite spots that have produced on other visits, it may well be a case of fishing slower water above or below the rapids and trying a few casts in pockets close to the bank to find a resting fresh fish.
View across Home Pool today

Right now it looks like it will be big tubes (pack your Temple Dogs, Willie Gunns and German Snaeldas!) and sinking tips. On that note, remember that while the temptation is to put on your biggest and heaviest sinking line, unless fishing from the boat or in certain spots, this will ensure that you will almost certainly land up snagging rocks. If not, it will certainly mean that you pick up your line early to cast and do not fish close in to the bank. Experienced early season Yokanga fishermen often do well on a more regular line and sinking tip and slowly retrieve the fly all the way into the bank. Big fish can lie very close to the bank!

Given the current conditions, we are going to operate the weeks of 29 July-5 August and 5-12 August. These weeks will be limited to a maximum of 10 rods per week instead of the usual 16 rods. The only slight difference to the normal programme is that we will fly people out in the helicopter in the morning and they will drift back to the lodge after fishing which keeps costs down as much as possible. The cost will be £4,000 per rod from Murmansk. Given the extraordinary late season, we are hopeful that these will be excellent weeks.
To ensure the best possible experience for each fisherman, there will be a single room for every fisher in the lodge. There will be five extra-long beats using the best areas of the river. At this time there will be fresh fish running from 5-15lbs or so. Then of course plenty of fish up to and over 30lbs that will be in the river already. You never know when you are going to hook one of these monsters but you will certainly be casting over them! Please ask for details.

Pasha, the Russian Camp Manager, is at the lodge and we are in regular contact. All the guides and staff are standing by and we look forward to seeing what the season brings when we start on 17 June.

Henry Mountain and Peter Rippin