2017 End of Season Report: “Global Cooling...”
Preparations for the 2017 Ponoi salmon season started in late April when the first team of PRC mechanics arrived in Ryabaga. As has been the case in seasons past, the first order of business was the long process of re-working water systems, generators, boats, and generally ensuring that all facilities were in working order following the long Arctic winter. Mid-May found Ryabaga Camp abuzz with life but nonetheless still covered in snow, with the river frozen and uncertain weather on the horizon. To the dismay of staff and guests alike, PRC was forced to postpone the first fishing week due to safety concerns, as ice-out on Ponoi can prove a rather dramatic, and dangerous, event.
Week 2 allowed us the first of the year’s fishing, which was quite challenging. Although weather conditions were decent, and following ice-out it was safe for both anglers and guides to be on the water, the river was still a bit off-colored, and cold enough to make the fish sluggish to move to a fly. Nonetheless, even during what we came to call ‘the most challenging week in years’, guests landed almost 100 salmon!
As of Week 3, fishing on Ponoi returned to its normal pace. The river started coming into shape, as clarity increased and a period of better weather fostered good humor in all anglers in camp. Everyone enjoyed fine fishing.
The Ponoi exhibited a higher-than-usual flow through the entire Spring and Summer, and the Summer Run was exceptionally strong both in the number and size of fish. Due to increased water level the quality of fish was excellent well into midsummer, and we witnessed some of the best July fishing in years!
Summer Break arrived with the river fishing quite well. All in Ryabaga appreciated that camp was lush and green at last, as the leaves were very slow to show their color earlier in the season. There is always work to be done to improve the Ponoi experience, and the Summer Break affords us the time for camp enhancements. This summer we built a new staff sauna, a new camp road, additional storage, and a new dock. We were also thrilled to complete painting projects that provided us with a general camp facelift before guests arrived for the second half of the Summer.
The much-anticipated Ponoi fall-run salmon arrived on August 10th; on that day, the first bright fish of what would be an historic run was landed. As a steady number of fall-runners entered the Ponoi system, we all watched closely to see how the unpredictable weather, the delayed spring, and the ongoing high water would impact what we’ve come to rely upon as some of the best fishing of the year.
Wonderfully, the fishing conditions continued to improve day after day, as did the accounts of acrobatic bright fish moving in the lower beats. These sightings were indeed a good sign for Ponoi anglers!!
September arrived, bringing with it not only numbers but also size, and we were thrilled to report that Fall 2017 will be one for the record book. We managed a single week that achieved the record catch of 888 salmon landed, and several other weeks that afforded our anglers a stunning 45 fish per rod per week average, with up to 98% of those fish being bright fish just out of the sea!
Largely on account of a late, slow Spring, 2017 has been a challenging season, and one that made all of us, staff, guides and guests alike, dig deep to achieve the successes listed above. This drive for excellence has no doubt made us better, stronger, and evermore prepared to deal with whatever it takes to turn obstacles into accomplishments.
The Ryabaga Guide Team played an incredible role in the success of the season, as they never ceased pushing themselves to find fish. Our guests did their part as well, persevering through tough conditions to remain committed and patient anglers, and ever-better sports.
With the remarkable Autumn we’ve seen on Ponoi, we are already wondering about what next May will have to offer. The river is full of fish, and they will continue to run into the system well after we have left. There is much to anticipate for 2018! With that I wish to offer many thanks to all our loyal Ryabaga guests for their support, understanding, and hard work. I wish to thank all our wonderful staff for raising the bar in the services they provide, as they are always willing to go the extra mile to offer the superlative Ponoi experience. I also must thank our Murmansk team for meeting and greeting our guests every Saturday with a smile, and for making the transfers through Murmansk as smooth and fast as possible. I am indebted to the Frontiers UK and US teams for providing support to both our guests and to PRC continually.
Many thanks of course are owed to PRC owner Ilya Sherbovich, who remains our most steadfast advisor and catch statistician.
I would also like to add a special thanks to Pata, Santi, and Simon, my beloved family, for their support and unconditional understanding.
Time flies in the far North, and once again we find ourselves at Summer’s end, looking forward to catching up with friends and family. It is time for us to give our river a well-deserved rest, as it slowly rebuilds for the coming season.
Back in 2008 I decided to return to Russia for a new venture, and it has been 10 years now that I have been back with PRC. I am so pleased that I remain as excited today as I was on my first day; Ponoi and Ryabaga Camp are indeed incomparable. The magical combination of fishing, guests, and incredible staff make working on Ponoi an honor that is hard to beat. It is a privilege to salute all of you on another wonderful season, and thank you for your loyalty.
Cheers Ponoi; See you soon!
Steve Estela, Ponoi River Company CEO