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The Good Old Days are Now

Week 4 Report

This past week, Ryabaga Camp welcomed a diverse group of dedicated anglers from Russia, USA, UK, Dominican Republic, Sweden, and Australia. Most of these guests have visited Ryabaga in previous years, and some have fished with us many times. I am pleased to report that once again Ryabaga and the Ponoi lived up to expectations: though the fishing was not terribly easy, the week’s anglers went home with an average catch of 23 fish per rod for the week. 10% of these fish eclipsed the 10 lb. mark, 5% broke the 15 lb. mark, and in the first four days of fishing, 4 salmon tipped the scales past the 20 lb. mark. As the week progressed we saw more and more sea-liced, summer-run fish. To say that fishing was good would be an understatement.

The weather this week was again somewhat non-typical for this time of year, with stronger winds that persisted throughout the week, and cooler temperatures in general. The river continued to drop throughout Week 4, but the water temperature stayed between 11ºc and 13ºc, giving anglers the chance to catch Ponoi salmon using just a floating head with an intermediate tip. Several anglers were even able to take fish on skated flies.

We were excited this week to launch three different day trips to the Purnache River, Ponoi’s largest tributary. The Purnache is a beautiful, smaller river that holds fish in pools that one can cover easily with a single-handed rod while wading. Exploring the Purnache affords guests a lovely opportunity to experience the privacy and isolation that defines the far north. To prove the point, several of this week’s anglers spent whole days catching fish while not seeing or hearing another person. Though we all say regularly that Ponoi is arguably the best salmon river in the world, it is weeks like this that remind us that the Purnache is right up there too.

The wealth of angling opportunity never ceases to amaze visitors to Ryabaga Camp. Ryabaga staff is always eager to ensure that every opportunity to fish and explore is realized, and that the adventure is lived to the fullest extent by our guests. It is an ongoing gift for all in camp to both experience and share Atlantic salmon fishing at its very finest. Wonderfully, on Ponoi we need not recall the good old days that have come and gone, as the best days in Ryabaga Camp just keep coming.

Until we meet again, tight lines.

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

You Haven’t Seen It All…

Week 3 Report

When a person has done something many, many times, it can become easy to think that there are no “firsts” left to be seen or experienced. It seems to me that when a person starts to get comfortable in this sort of thinking, life finds a way of conjuring up a “first”, just to remind us that we haven’t seen it all.

This past week, Ryabaga welcomed a group of anglers comprised mainly of “regulars”, guests who have been coming to Ryabaga since that inaugural season back in 1991. Those folks have seen and done a great deal in Ryabaga over the course of those 28 years. In those earliest seasons, everything that took place fly fishing-wise on the lower Ponoi was a first. Records were set and broken, first and biggest fish were taken in particular beats, and un-tested patterns were proven on eager Ponoi salmon. That said, after hundreds of anglers and tens of thousands of salmon, a rich history and a deep base of experience have been created. So much has transpired in Ryabaga, and our longstanding guests have spent so many days on our water, that it might seem there is nothing new to experience. We are fortunate, however, that Ponoi continues to offer up surprises, and remains a bottomless well of “firsts”, even for those longest-standing guests.

Last week’s group experienced a breadth of “firsts” in Camp. There was the first time many had seen a blanket of snow covering Ryabaga in the middle of June. There were several fish caught on techniques that had never before been employed, and instances of guests who managed to catch more big fish in a week than they ever had before. Several guests noted more fish taken on a dry fly than in any week of fishing over 28 consecutive years. It was a distinctly pleasant surprise to hear that Ryabaga affords no shortage of “firsts”, even for guests that have been visiting our Camp since its inception.

The fishing this week was not easy. Anglers had to endure relentless winds throughout the week, and conditions that not only made proper presentations difficult, but also brought dirty water into our section of the river. Spring in the Arctic Circle is not supposed to be predictable, but days that begin at 27 degrees and end at 4 are certainly not the norm. All of this said, the 2019 Spring thus far is clearly proving that no matter what nature throws our way, the Ponoi will still produce fish. Unpredictable wind, colored water, snow, and massive temperature swings made it hard to imagine that guests would end the week with twenty-seven fish in the 15 lb.+ range, and three fish that tipped the scales past the 20 lb. mark. Additionally, the week boasted a 27 fish per rod average, and the first few summer-run salmon of 2019!

I suppose it is the opportunity for “firsts” combined with the reliability of the Ryabaga Camp experience that keeps our longstanding guests returning. The river will, of course, do what it will, but in our experience the salmon will continue to oblige. What remain wholly reliable are the first-class guides, the luxurious but remote accommodations, and the remarkable dining experience. And so,we press on into Summer, grateful for the river that continues to surprise and delight us, and grateful for the guests who continue to experience the possibility of each new day on Ponoi.

Tight Lines,

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

The Arctic Comes Alive!

Week 2 Report

This past week of the 2019 Ponoi salmon season saw a relatively dormant Arctic landscape explode with life. The energy on and off the river was lively and joyful, made more so by some remarkable catches, and a wonderful group of guests.

This week Ryabaga Camp welcomed a group of seasoned anglers from Ireland, the UK, South Africa, Iceland, and Finland. Most of these guests had visited our river and had enjoyed the bounty of the Ponoi before. They were predominately anglers who had seen what a spring week in Ryabaga can offer at its best: huge beats, seasoned guides, impeccable accommodation, and cuisine, and most importantly bright Ponoi salmon.

The week did not start out easily. Gale-force winds had blown through the previous weekend and had stirred up the headwater lakes that feed the river. In turn, water clarity was disrupted, and underwater visibility became almost non-existent. Despite these challenges, the Ponoi did not fail to produce fish. Guides leaned on their experience and ingenuity and worked their magic to find fish in suitable locations, and to get the fly within the salmon’s reduced field of vision. As often is so often the case, the hard work that the Ryabaga guides put into finding “takers” paid off.

Although colored water remained for the first half of the week, the Ponoi kept on producing as conditions continued to get better and better. Water clarity, temperature, and level improved steadily, allowing our anglers to end the week on a “high note”. By week’s end, Ryabaga anglers had landed an average of 25 fish per rod, some of which were truly exceptional examples of Ponoi salmon. All of the fish were memorable, of course, and countless stories of moments on the water were shared among old and new friends in the Big Tent.

Often in Ryabaga, it is this time of recounting the day’s events that is the most meaningful. Relaxing in the warmth of the Big Tent, stories emerge about the biggest fish ever hooked, and the one that got away. There are colorful descriptions of salmon rising to a riffle-hitched fly that was skated beautifully, and occasional stories about the sighting of a brown bear, or a herd of reindeer. Ryabaga Camp is a place where all of these experiences are made possible inside of a single week. A week on Ponoi so often becomes that piece of the year that guests cherish, but that goes by entirely too fast. I guess that means that a week in Ryabaga is something to be savored, and something to be revisited.

On behalf of the entire Ryabaga staff, we thank our guests for choosing to share that savored week with us. It is a privilege to spend our days with such fine people in such a lovely place.

Tight Lines,

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

 

 

Week 1 Report: Off to a Great Start!

Each year, opening week of the Ponoi salmon season represents the end of a long period away. Winter can be a challenge for salmon anglers; when freezing weather takes hold of the Kola Peninsula, guests and staff are forced to wait and hope, eagerly anticipating the arrival of May and the opportunity to lay a line on the incomparable Ponoi once more. The build-up to Week 1 of the season is significant: there is much to do within a short window to put Ryabaga Camp in peak working order for guest arrival, and there is significant energy allotted to assessing fishing conditions of the river post ice-out. The arrival of guests represents the height of anticipation, and the opportunity to set a tone for all that follows in a given season.

Spring descended upon Ryabaga in good order this year and saw the ice push out in a timely manner as proper May weather arrived. Camp Staff and Mechanics took advantage of the seasonable temperatures to equip camp for guests, while the Ryabaga Guide Team assembled under Max Mamaev to assess flows and flies and fishable beats, and to see how the Ponoi’s salmon had fared under the ice. All looked and felt positive with the arrival of guests, and anglers took to the water with the highest hopes of success. The Ponoi did not disappoint. This past Week 1 proved out what we all had anticipated, namely that the Ponoi was in fine form. There were several remarkable catches, and the majority of the over-wintered salmon landed were heavy and bright, and willing to take flies. The inaugural group of the 2019 season saw an average catch per rod of 39 salmon, with several unusually large fish for this time of year. Battles were fought and won throughout Ryabaga waters this week, and most beats fished well.  Needless to say both guests and staff alike were thrilled to be back on the river and experiencing the glory of the Ponoi once more.

Weather posed some challenges this week, as early-season fishing in the Arctic can be chilly. The river was a bit higher than optimal, with temperatures in the 6 - 8 degrees C. range, which necessitated aggressive tactics. Anglers turned to heavy tips and bright flies to turn salmon but takes were aggressive and all fish fought well. The Ryabaga Guide Team put many years of collective wisdom together to employ working tactics, and their cunning on the river was rewarded.

The group of Week 1 guests that kicked off the season represented a blend of Ponoi veterans and first-timers. As is so often the case, however, by week’s end Ryabaga was alive with new friendships and fish tales. Guests hailed from the Netherlands and the UK, with a special group from Estonia arriving Tuesday to finish out the last half week of fishing. It was a pleasure to see the Big Tent alive again with reports of fine salmon and epic battles, and long evenings around the dinner table and bar capped exciting days on the water. All in all, it was a tremendous way to start the season.

As we look forward to Week 2, we are seeing the river drop a bit and take on even better shape. Warmer weather is likely to come, and Week 2 anglers will fill the entire camp, much to our delight. It is wonderful to be back in the rhythm of salmon season on Ponoi, joining happy guests and staff who are similarly eager to see what each day has to offer. It is clear thus far that dreams are coming true and memories are being made. Here’s to a great Week 1, and the promise of more great things to come.

Sincerely,

Agustin Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager