I had visited the lodge many times on my way down to the Varzuga and in May this year Bill Drury and I had an extended time on the river to speak to the guides, have a look at all of the pools and get to know the lodge staff. However, the hard truth is that until you actually have clients fishing the river and sleeping in the beds, it is hard to know what to expect.
First the good news – it really is the loveliest river to fish. The upper river, Krivetz, takes a long walk to get to but it is hugely worth it. Very few places retain such a feeling of remoteness and calm whilst offering the chance of a really decent fish.
The lower river feels as if you are somewhere different altogether. It is less intimate and some pools are best fished from the boat but there is some fantastic fly water and the variety of the river makes for a fascinating week.
The guides are excellent and it was clear after fishing with them for a while that they knew the river intimately and had all netted some seriously big fish from pretty much every pool we went to.
The lodge is superb with several well-travelled rods commenting that they had been served the best food that they had ever had on the Kola.
But to the fishing… It was OK but no more than that is the reality. We had high water the whole season (apparently the highest for the past 21 years), and this meant that whatever fish were there were hugely spread out and we had a tough time fishing the pools that the guides wanted to.
It is also pertinent to point out that 2016 was not a great season anywhere on the Kola (or elsewhere), and to judge the river on one year would be an unfair thing to do.
I had hoped for between 80 to 100 fish per week for the 10 rods but it ended up averaging just over 40 fish per week with no one week being much better than the other.
We did land some cracking fish and Heinz Pape’s gleaming 28lber on practically the last day of the season was probably the pick but we had plenty of other fish over 20lbs and a lot in the teens.
There was essentially zero poaching which was perhaps our biggest fear and it was very evident that our Russian partners had taken our requests very seriously and that in itself felt like a massive step forward for the river.
Next year we will be making some changes that should make a big difference to the programme. We will only fish 8 rods per week instead of 10 which will ensure all rods have 3 days on Krivetz and 3 days on the lower river to give a fairer rotation and also to ensure single rooms for everyone in the lodge.
We are also changing the travel logistics which will make the programme far less tiring and more workable for everyone.
It is clear that this is not a rival to the Yokanga for really big fish or the Varzuga for serious of numbers of fish but for a combination of the two at an excellent price, the Umba is an excellent option.
We look forward to 2017 when hopefully the river conditions will be kinder and salmon runs across Russia and elsewhere are as strong as we would normally expect.
Thanks to a very high repeat rate we only have a few rods for next year and if you would like to know more then please do not hesitate to contact me on Charlie.email@example.com