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The Complete Experience

Week 12 Report

This past week Ryabaga welcomed the second group of Finnish anglers led by Erkki M. Fortunately for all in camp, the week’s weather and water conditions were stable and more in accordance with what we expect at this point in the season, at least compared to recent weeks. Anglers saw warmer temps and moderate winds, and these conditions certainly helped to drive more fresh fish into Ryabaga waters.

Nearly 35% of all the fish hooked this past week were fresh, fall-run salmon. Though bright fish were in steady supply, getting them to the net is never by any means easy! A fresh Ponoi salmon always presents a huge challenge, even to the seasoned fly angler. Landing one of our fresh fall-runners was therefore no small feat for those anglers who found themselves holding a fly rod for the first time this week, attempting to catch their first ever Atlantic salmon. We can gladly report that Jukka M., Juha K., Pekka V., Eero N. & Jukka S. succeeded in their quest for a first salmon, and then took the journey a step further by catching a few more salmon each.

Though the Fall Run continued with strength, our over-wintered fish remained very active and willing to take the fly. Anglers had numerous chances throughout our waters, but the most productive beats were the lower ones, closest to the salt. Thanks to our new Hovercraft we were able to transport 4 pairs of anglers with their guides and daily provisions to the lowest stretches with speed and comfort. With this new means of conveyance, every angler in Ryabaga was afforded the best opportunity to catch fish.

Under the guidance of Ryabaga Head Guide Max Mamaev the beats were, as usual, rotated through the fishing week, allowing all anglers equal time to explore. Beat rotations allow anglers access to all of Ryabaga’s water in one week’s fishing, and if most fish are concentrated in the lower beats, as was the case this past week, we make use of every resource in camp to provide anglers equitable access to those fish. 

There was a great deal of excitement in camp this week due to the steady arrival of fresh fish, and the increased incidence of fall-runners being seen, hooked, and caught. It was also a great week of guitar playing and song thanks to Juho K., Yrjö O. & Heiki H. This past week was marked by unique angling opportunities that can so rarely be experienced: to see all three runs of Ponoi salmon represented (over-wintered, Summer Run, and Fall Run), and to see those fish as healthy and strong as ever is a gift that should be appreciated and protected. Salmon rivers around the globe are under huge pressure, and the majority of rivers are seeing their runs decline steadily, so the Ryabaga experience becomes more and more unique. As Ponoi anglers, we remain a part of the ultimate mission to preserve Atlantic salmon for future generations anglers.

Let’s never lose sight of this opportunity.

Tight Lines,

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

Summer Break Projects

Over the summer break, Big Tent received a few upgrades including a new floor and bar.

The Second Half

Week 11 Report

Saturday, August the 3rd marked the start of the second half of the 2019 salmon season in Ryabaga. The entire Guide Team arrived in advance of anglers, and all were thrilled to see the improvements that had taken place in camp. Three weeks of work during the mid-summer break saw the installation of a new hardwood floor in the Big Tent, the construction of a new bar, and the arrival of a new, larger, and faster hovercraft for guest transport. This work and these additions (among so many others) left Ryabaga in better shape than ever and optimally equipped to welcome the second half of our salmon season.

Summer on the Kola Peninsula this year was characterized by cooler temps and stormy weather, which in turn put the river in good condition for the return of anglers. Water level and temperature appeared to be ideal as the start of the week drew closer, but the weather in the far north can be fickle. Unpredictably, the first group of anglers of our second half arrived alongside some of the toughest conditions we’ve ever seen on the Ponoi. On the day prior to their arrival, a windstorm flogged the Kola Peninsula, knocking down trees and stirring the headwaters of the Ponoi severely. This turbulent weather degraded underwater visibility severely for the start of the fishing week. To make matters worse, anglers and guides had to endure yet another windstorm on Sunday that produced gusts that reached the 75km/h mark. It was by no means easy fishing, and the catch for the first day surely reflected this. That said, things were to get better and better as the week unfolded.

North winds remained throughout the week, and both water and air temperatures never rose above 10º C. Though seasonally non-typical, anglers and guides welcomed the cooler temps that kept the fish active and in great fighting shape. Water clarity issues forced anglers to focus on shallower spots with big and colorful flies, but when presented adequately the salmon were willing to take. Many of the anglers in Ryabaga this past week were newcomers to fly fishing, and the Ryabaga Guide Team mobilized their expertise to ensure that despite tough conditions no angler went home empty-handed.

The group of guests that called Ryabaga home for the past week was almost entirely of Finnish origin. It has become a hallmark over the past few years to start our second half in the company of Erkki M., a long-time Ryabaga guest. Erkki rallies a group of fellow countrymen and women who are interested in exploring the remote angling resource that is the Ponoi. Over the years, Erkki has introduced dozens of people to fly fishing in Ryabaga Camp, and wonderfully Erkki had the opportunity to spend his birthday here in Ryabaga yet again, as has become a tradition. Erkki was joined by Sam D., Mirel L., Leo N., J.P. J., Annu K., Tomi S. & Sami K., each of whom caught a first Atlantic salmon this week. Every time an angler’s first salmon is landed on our river, we conduct a ceremony during which we remind the guest that there can only be one ‘first’. It is exciting for us to note that a first Atlantic salmon will be one of the most memorable fish of a lifetime.

Throughout mid-summer break, Guides become incredibly focused on the imminent arrival of the Fall Run. The primary question this time of year is when the first fall-run fish will be landed in Ryabaga waters. That question was answered this week when the first fall-run fish of 2019 was taken exactly one year after the first fall-run fish of 2018! This past week we caught the first fresh, fall-run fish of the year, officially kicking off the run that makes Ponoi so unique. This year’s fortunate angler was Olli-Pekka P., who took the 12 lb. sea-liced beauty while fishing the Falls Creek gravel bar.

It was wonderful after the past weeks to see the newly-refurbished Big Tent filling up with friends and stories once again, and to hear the first of many footfalls on the new hardwood floor. It is amazing to watch improvements and additions take shape so quickly and then immediately become seasoned, fostering the feeling that even the newest enhancements can readily feel as though they have always been part of Ryabaga. The same goes for our guests: after a week on our river they have become a part of this place, a part of Ryabaga’s history and family, and a part of our shared memories. It was a pleasure to welcome the second half, and all that came with it.

Tight Lines,

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

Time Flies…

Week 7 Report

This week Ryabaga Camp celebrated Week 7 of the Ponoi salmon season with a full house. Most of our guests this week guests were new to Ryabaga, and they hailed from all points of the globe: some came from Kuwait, some from Ireland, some from the USA, and some from the UK. One special guest, Xien X., ventured to Ryabaga in pursuit of her first Atlantic salmon, and managed to land a fine fish just minutes into her very first day on the water!

That first day was by no means an easy one, considering 55 km/hr. winds with gusts up to 70 km/hr.! Our anglers were undaunted, though, and they withstood the conditions to great effect. Perseverance rewarded our guests with a catch of 53% bright fish on the first day alone, proving once more that this year’s Summer Run continues to be a strong one. We also noticed that the big Osenkas remain very active, in large part due to the fact that the water temperature remained under 16ºc. It has certainly been a cooler summer than most.

On Day Two the wind was still with us, though it was not as strong as it had been on Day One. Since the wind was coming from the North, the temperature remained quite cool at around 6ºc for the entire day. Though the second day of fishing was a bit slower, the quality of the fish was exceptional: Brian H. landed an 18 lb. beauty and Hilal A. landed lovely fish that tipped the scales at 21 lb.! Once again, the Ponoi rewarded the efforts of anglers who maintained their optimism and enthusiasm through challenging conditions.

Tuesday was representative of a more “normal” July day, with temperatures reaching 14º and the winds much diminished. The fishing improved yet again. Bright fish still made for half of the total catch, and the big ones were willing to play. Joe H., who landed a 20 lb. beast on the first day, managed to get a 19 lb. salmon on Day Three.

Wednesday offered up early-season weather again due to a strong North wind and temperatures down to 7ºc. Although these low temperatures are unseasonable, they do seem to enhance the fishing, as the fish remain active in the cool water.

On Thursday the weather posed some challenges, with a strong North wind, heavy rains, and an ambient air temperature that stayed below 6ºc. The winds earlier in the week resulted in some off-color water, and both guides and anglers had a moment of uncertainty about the outcome of the day. Nonetheless, the Ponoi once again proved its mettle, and all boats returned having landed fish, 50% of which were bright salmon.

Friday came and we all felt that the week had gone too quickly. The weather was much improved, with seasonable temperatures and wind conditions. The number and quality of fish landed on this last day was a clear indicator of the improved conditions. Khalid A. landed the biggest fish of the day with a cracking 20 lb. fish out of Purnache beat. By the end of the day we realized that despite challenging weather, Ryabaga anglers managed an average of 20 fish for the week, 49% of which were bright. It is truly impressive to think that numbers such as these can be representative of a tough week.

Friday marked not only was the last day of Week 7, but also the end of our Spring/Summer season. As we approach the Summer Break, we consider a few of the challenges faced in this first half of the season in Ryabaga. The weather throughout the Spring and early Summer was unlike anything we have seen before, but for this first 7 weeks of the season Ryabaga anglers nonetheless boasted some wonderful numbers. Our Spring/Summer anglers caught 28 fish per week on average, with fish noticeably larger than average weight-wise for the time of year. The Summer Run presses on, bringing more healthy fish into the system, and positioning us for a fine start to the second half. We can look back and say that we had some fine fishing, in large part due to the expertise of the Ryabaga Guide Team and the perseverance of our anglers. Needless to say, we made the most of the first half, and remain quite proud of what we accomplished as we look forward to what the remainder of the season has in store.

As Ryabaga bids farewell to the Week 7 guests, the staff looks forward to the work of the next three weeks. We use the Summer Break to complete new projects around Camp, and to keep up with necessary maintenance. This break allows us to ensure that everything in Ryabaga looks and functions optimally for the second half of the season. These next three weeks will also allow us to look ahead, and to consider what the Fall Run might have in store. The Summer Run this year has been impressive, with some exceptional fish entering the system; if the Fall Run lines up similarly, it could prove to be a Fall to remember. As we rest, regroup, and dream of what’s to come in the season’s second half, we also wish to send you, our anglers, the very best. The 2019 Ryabaga salmon season has proven to be a great one so far, and we look forward to sharing the rest of it with incomparable elegance and style.

Best,

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager