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Resting frozen Ponoi

A cool unsual shoot of the river by November 15th 2017.

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

Another Season Passes

Week 19 Report

The final week of the 2017 Ponoi salmon season has come to an end, and with impressive numbers of bright fish still pushing through our system, we were privileged to finish the year on a very high note.

As in previous weeks, the weather remained as favourable as can be expected for this time of the year, particularly as cooler temperatures and shortening days made the approaching winter more evident. Though we did see some wet moments, the wind was quite mild, and the continuous overcast kept air temperatures well above freezing each night, as water temperatures hovered around 6°C.

Though the Fall Run arrived somewhat late this season, it came on strong as the last days of the season approached. A new historic record was achieved in Week 18, and if we hadn’t suffered the last-minute cancellation of a few guests we might well have had another week for the record books in Week 19. Salmon numbers within the system kept increasing through the week as evidenced by the sea-liced fish taken right up until the last session of fishing. We witnessed an average of 45 fish per rod this week, and with the steady pulse of fresh fish entering the system we can only assume that the 2018 Spring will be something quite special.

As was the case over the last couple weeks, the fishing was done mostly with Skagit heads, fast-sinking lines, and triple-density sinking lines fished in conjunction with the traditional Max tubes. We were all thrilled to note some lovely fish taken by Ryabaga anglers this week: Katia landed a lovely fish that tipped the scales at 21 lbs., and Head Guide Max Mamaev achieved his personal best with a 22 lb. salmon from Lapynyarka. William had a mind-boggling day with 5 fish over 15 lbs., and Dan was the envy of all in camp when he caught a 16, 17, and a 19 lb. salmon in a single fishing day with a single-handed rod!

This size, number, and quality of salmon that we saw through the week made for a great way to wrap up the season. With such a strong run still moving into the Ponoi system, the prospects for the coming season seem more than promising. It always feels good to head home at season’s end with full confidence that we will return to find a river full of salmon come May. As we learned through a challenging spring season in 2017, the weather and conditions will play a significant role in 2018 Spring angling, but for the time, things couldn’t look better.

It was with some sadness that we saw the last anglers of the year depart, but the team turned quickly to the work of putting Ryabaga to bed for the winter. As of now the camp is growing quiet; only the team of mechanics remains on-site readying the buildings, generators, boats, and vehicles for the long, cold, Arctic winter. In the coming days all will be silent, as the long nights of winter will witness the Kola at rest once again. Nonetheless, under the ice and snow and shortened days, the great salmon of Ponoi will lie in wait, filling us all with boundless hope for what the future holds.

Until then, we will celebrate the memories built this year, and cherish them. For those memories, we are indeed grateful.


Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team

Ponoi on Fire – Record Week at Ryabaga!

Week 18 Report

This past week, an idyllic coincidence of fishing conditions came together on Ponoi, resulting in a week for the record books. Water temperature, clarity, and flow coincided with amazing weather and a staggering influx of bright fish, and in response Ryabaga anglers experienced historic catches of salmon, and fresh fall-runners in particular. The Arctic tundra was especially gorgeous this week, and all in camp were amazed by the impressive fall colors that shone on the riverbanks. There were moments when the golden reflection of the changing leaves made the river look as if it were ablaze, and we were all thrilled to note that that from an angling standpoint, the Ponoi was indeed on fire.

The week’s fishing began just minutes after the helicopter touched down, as a component of the week’s angling group found the call of Ponoi salmon impossible to ignore. Ryabaga Home Pool didn’t disappoint, and offered up some of its silver within minutes of the first cast.

Throughout this season we have anticipated a significant fall run, and as the Autumn has progressed we’ve seen indications of a truly historic return. Nonetheless, we were overwhelmed this week by the sheer number of fresh, sea-liced fish that were in evidence from the very first day of fishing. On that Sunday, a remarkable 117 salmon were landed, 96 of which were bright, fall-run fish… and that was the slowest day of the week! By Friday a new historic record for Week 18 had been achieved, with a final tally of 888 salmon landed, of which 786 were bright.

Such a prolific week of fishing allowed for many noteworthy catches: John from the UK landed the biggest fish of the week, namely a 23-pound beauty from Tomba. Our longtime guest Wolfgang landed 3 fish over 20 pounds, while Jane had a memorable pair of days with fish over 20 pounds and an unbelievable Wednesday when she landed 26 salmon. What’s more, on Friday, after feeling quite fortunate with the week’s catch, Chris decided to try his luck with the dry fly, and it was not long before he teased a 15-pounder from the depths. Chris’s feat was quite impressive, considering that the water temperature hovered right around 7 degrees.

With the exception of Chris’s prize, the majority of fish were taken using Skagit heads with 15 ft. fast-sinking tips, or full-sinking heads paired with the usual big and bright Max tubes.

If the weather and conditions remain stable, the current volume of fall-run fish leads us to anticipate a very strong spring showing for the 2018 season, as there should be a remarkable number of fish on the river. This prospect bodes well for Ryabaga guests specifically, but it is also comforting news for the Atlantic salmon fishing community on the whole. In times when excessive commercial fishing pressure, widespread netting, fish farming, and poaching are threatening Atlantic salmon stocks globally, it is a comfort to hear that Ponoi is witnessing a run as strong as this one. Protecting this sanctuary for future generations is the main mission of PRC, and with the support of our faithful guests we are ecstatic about what the future holds.

Fortunately for us, there is still one more week of fishing to go, though sadly it will be the last of the season. The weather seems to be holding well, and the fish just keep on coming, so we are expecting another sensational week on the Incomparable Ponoi. And as we continue to see, our river is truly beyond compare.

Until Next Week, 

Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team