Sunday 12 January 2014

Kola on the cheap.

Salmon fishing trip in Russia

 Some of you must be interested in this.

 I spent a week on the Chavanga river during June after being forced to find some cheaper fishing for this years trip. The fishing was slow because of prolonged warm weather with fish still waiting in the estuary. Despite this I had a good time and feel that during a "normal" year the fishing would be very good. This is a South Kola river and salmon average 6-7lbs with 10lb+ fish being caught regularly.
 My flights were booked from Gatwick with an overnight in St Petersburg before an early departure to Murmansk. I booked a cheap hotel which arranged a taxi to and from the airport and the place turned out to be really nice. All my flights went on time and there was no hanging around in the airports. I wouldn't hesitate to take the same flights again. The overland transfers arranged by the operator went like clockwork too.
 Vasil, the owner/guide met me at Murmansk airport with another client from Germany who had stayed overnight in some cheap accommodation nearby which was also arranged by our operator. Vasil is from Belarus and speaks good English. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for him and he showed remarkable patience while guiding us through a difficult week.
 The first part of the journey was by minibus to Umba with a stop off for some food and shopping. The tarmac runs out here and the next section is over gravel in a 4x4 van (zil?). Kola River Lodge anglers will be familiar with these. The road runs out at Varzuga where we crossed the river and spent 3 hours in a 6 wheel military truck over some really rough ground with absolutely no chance of any sleep! I try to tell myself that these journeys are part of the experience and having had a while to reflect on this one I wouldn't let it put me off returning. I quite enjoyed travelling along the beaches past long deserted fishing villages.
 Despite first appearances the accommodation was comfortable, a cleaner comes in everyday and clothes can be washed for a small charge. There is a separate banya which I really looked forward to using after fishing. I guess that the accommodation works better for a small group rather than the individual as there are two rooms with 3 beds in each. The house is in a coastal village with a population of about 50 during summer, it is never locked and rods were left outside with no worries.
 The village leaders are very keen on the fishing operation here because of the employment that it provides. There are no nets and other than in the village one rarely sees another angler.
 Vasil cooked whatever we asked for, there are no set meal times and I have suffered far worse food on previous trips. We fished some ridiculous hours (24hr daylight) without a 
ny grumbles from our host. Extra beer/vodka is available at a small shop.

 There are several miles of river available with the lower couple of miles reached on foot. The higher reaches are visited by ATV. A reasonable level of fitness would be advisable. I fell over 5 times and my foot still hurts from the last tumble! The river itself is stunning with a number of waterfalls present in the lower river. My 13ft rod covered everything and wading was easy, I didn't bother with a staff all week.
 The company has been in operation for 15 years at Chavanga and has mostly repeat clients which speaks volumes. It seems to be completely off the radar here. The website is easily found and has photographs. I can post some pictures if someone explains how.
 I have no connection with the operators, but feel that they deserve a break here. I will most likely return and hope for more normal weather. The fish started running in large numbers soon after departure!

  Mark Lambert

(I want to clarify that Mark visited Chavan'ga in one of the most difficult weeks of the season. Year was the most warm and dry over the last few years.  /Vasil B.)

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