Yokanga Lodge, Autumn, Russia
The Yokanga is situated inside the Arctic Circle at about 67.5 degrees north latitude. The river flows into the Barents Sea and is on the north eastern end of the Kola Peninsula some 280km from Murmansk. The Yokanga itself is over 200km long and has a drainage basin of over 6,000 square kilometres.
The waters of the Yokanga are home to some of the largest Atlantic salmon on the Kola Peninsula and provide a challenging environment in which to fish. We see well over 100 salmon over the magic 20lb mark landed every season with the record year producing over 250 salmon of this size to less than 100 rods. Among these figures are a good number of 30+lb fish and numerous fishermen have landed their largest Atlantic salmon on the Yokanga. The river provides a real chance of big salmon in a true wilderness environment yet with all creature comforts.
The impressive waters of the Yokanga cascade through a boulder-strewn course, creating some of the most diverse and varied fly fishing water imaginable. There are the rippled glides of pools like Lyliok and the deep and rushing draws of Upper Norcamp as well as pocket water on the edge of fast water.
There are two distinct programmes at Yokanga Lodge. There are the spring and summer weeks of June and July and the autumn fishing weeks in August and September where logistics have been reviewed in order to keep the rod costs as affordable as possible.
In the autumn, fishing will be limited to just 10 rods instead of the normal 16 rods of the June and July weeks. The beats will be accessed by inflatable jetboats on most days. Once fishing on your beat, the guide will use the boat for crossing pools and making speedy progress through the lake sections. Two rods share a guide and one rod at a time can fish from the boat to cover lies that simply could not be covered from the shore.
There are many attractions of autumn fishing on the Yokanga. The bulk of salmon will be in the river and with shorter days and cooler nights some of the larger fish will likely become more aggressive and come back on the take. As well as smaller numbers of late running summer salmon, there is the possibility to encounter an osenka, one of the large and typically deep fish that do not spawn until the following autumn. In addition, the colours of autumn are impressive and there is even a chance of witnessing the northern lights.
Challenging is an ample description for fishing the Yokanga. Deep wading is difficult so in most scenarios fishing is either from the boat or paddling down the edge of the bank. The nature of the river and complexity of the water definitely favours the confident caster and knowledgeable salmon fisher who can read water.
Challenging though it may be, fishermen aged over 80 have successfully fished the Yokanga. Taking it slowly and not wading out of your comfort zone combined with the usual helping of perseverance required in salmon fishing is a good recipe for success. The Yokanga salmon are also notoriously aggressive and will often move several yards to take your fly.
The lodge is set high on a bluff overlooking several miles of the Yokanga itself. It is a Canadian-built log cabin that was imported and constructed on the riverbank.
The lodge can comfortably accommodate the 10 rods in single rooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom with a generous supply of hot water to the power shower.
The open plan upstairs sitting room and dining room are where tales are told of encounters with leviathans from the day’s adventures. There are facilities for you to make tea and coffee at any time of the day or night and there is a bar for you to help yourself to drinks.
A well-stocked fly-tying bench completes the upstairs living area together with cable TV for the unlikely event of wanting to keep in touch with the real world.
Photo credits: Matt Harris www.mattharrisflyfishing.com