Varzuga Season Report 2018

by Charlie White

Every year we await news from our Russian partners about the ice break and state of the river and after the disappointing reports we endured in 2016 and 2017 (ice breaking too early followed by the ice break being massively delayed) it was with considerable relief that our advance team got to the river to find “normal” conditions a week before our first clients where set to arrive.

The river was still frozen at that stage but nothing we have not seen before and with temperatures warming up it all looked good.  As it transpired, whilst we had ice coming down the river for the first day of fishing, we were into fish immediately although Lower Varzuga took longer to get going as the water was bank high and access was tricky.

A final score of 392 to our 11 rods at Middle set a very good benchmark for the first week of the season and with some noticeably bigger fish being landed, it looked as though we were set for a bonanza.

It didn’t work out like that.  Whilst we continued to land some cracking fish, it became abundantly clear that the grilse run just was not in evidence. 

I was based at Lower Varzuga for its 4-week season and every day there would be something that made you think “here we go, they are here now” such as someone landing a good number in a session on our lowest beat or seeing fish suddenly appearing to fill up the home pools but every time these proved to be “false hope” events.  The initial euphoria of seeing the river in perfect ply turned into concern that, with perfect conditions, the run of fish that we would expect just hadn’t materialised.


It is easy when you are on the Kola to get a little insular and wrapped up in the daily drama of life in the middle of nowhere.  One person struggling on the river feels like a personal tragedy whilst someone suddenly reporting that they landed a hatful of fresh fish feels as if all is right with the world and nowhere could be more fun.  As is often the case, the reality is somewhere in between.

Our season was nowhere near as productive as we would expect or hope for.  Having said that, we still managed to record over 2,400 fish in our books over our 7 week season. 


It is not for me to say what is good and what is not good fishing but I do believe that figures like that, in what we can all call a disappointing season, do point to a river that is generally extremely productive.


It is a magic experience to be up there and the focus on numbers of fish landed don’t really do the whole trip justice.  The helicopters, isolation, peace, fun, laughter and a feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a week is something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

All of us know how lucky we are to call our time up there “work” and we hugely enjoy sharing it with our clients and understand that it is thanks to our Russian friends that it is possible at all.


As the rest of the world is discovering, the Russian nationals on the ground couldn’t be more hospitable and being able to see that first hand is genuinely uplifting and tends to make a mockery of what we read in the newspapers. 

People’s expectations and hopes of what their week will produce, in terms of the numbers of fish and the overall experience, varies from individual to individual but fishing in Russia is something that everyone remembers for a very long time.

We will of course be going through our strict first right of return policy but if you would like to have more details for our 2019 season please do not hesitate to contact me.


Charlie White