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A Finnish Beginning to the Fall

Week 11 Report

After a 3-week midsummer break, we returned this week to welcome the first days of August and the second half of the 2017 Ponoi salmon season in Ryabaga Camp. As is often the case through this midsummer period, the Ryabaga staff went in several different directions: some members of the crew took vacations, some launched an exploratory expedition to the distant Yakutia, and some remained in camp to undertake both maintenance projects and upgrades.

Though Ryabaga and the PRC waters are inhabited for only a portion of the year, extreme winter weather across the Kola and an ongoing commitment to improvement compel us to refine and upgrade facilities each year. These midsummer projects have become something of a tradition, and this year saw some wonderful improvements. Among them were the new river tents at Tomba and Lapynarka, a new mechanics shop with storage space, and a beautiful new staff banya. Additionally, our crew was able to grade the road to the moorage and reinforce it with with steel plates, so there will be no more bumpy morning rides to the boats!

In keeping with what we saw at the end of spring, summer remained quite mild across the Kola. Frequent rains kept the Ponoi at a good fishing level, and as the temperatures barely passed the 20˚C mark we returned to camp to find a cool yet somewhat dirty river. The fish remained in very good shape, and, to our delight, in a “taking” mood.

On the first day of fishing this past week a few bright fish were landed, proving that the last salmon of the summer run had continued up the Ponoi during the break. Though the longevity of the summer run was noteworthy, following Day 1 we nonetheless felt a bit disappointed that we would have to wait a bit longer for the sought-after fall runners. That said, on our first day of fishing 20 rods landed 70 fish.

The slightly off-color water kept Ryabaga guides reliant on big, bright Max tubes at first, though smaller tubes and some small traditional patterns were used with good success. Anglers fished intermediate tips almost exclusively.

There was a unique circumstance that Ponoi anglers encountered this week in the form of a strong run of Humpback (Pink) salmon. Humpies, which were introduced to the region in the mid-1950s by the Soviet government, now spawn in the salmon rivers of the Kola Peninsula and Scandinavia (and even northern Scotland). This year the Ponoi witnessed a major run of these non-native Pacific salmon, with fish occurring in the river in unprecedented numbers. We can only speculate about the cause of this strange phenomenon, but we trust that the population will go back to its normal level in future seasons. We will know for certain in 2019, when the 2-year cycle brings the Humpies back again. Though they can be quite aggressive in finding their spawning grounds, the Humpies will be long dead by the time the native Atlantic salmon spawn in fall. Unlike our Atlantic salmon, the Humpy juveniles will hatch in March and will almost immediately run downstream to the saltwater. Conversely, Salmo salar hold for two to six years in the fresh water before descending to the sea. Despite this minimal overlap in spawning cycle, we don’t fear that there should be any interference between this comparatively significant run of Pacific salmon and our native fish, as the two species have coexisted for more than 60 years. In light of the unexpected abundance, guides, staff and guests have been feasting on Humpback salmon eggs!

This week we enjoyed the return of Erkki Moisander and his full party of Finnish guests. Ryabaga was again running at full capacity, and bubbling with enthusiasm. Even though there were several first-timers in the group, the party managed to land 350 salmon including a nice 20 lb. fish by Ahti. Without a doubt, however, the high point of the week was the first Fall-run salmon of the season, taken by Juha and vigorously celebrated by all in camp. That inaugural fall runner was only a grilse, however, and Juha was far more excited about the 19 lb. colored cock fish he landed just a few minutes later.

 

Needless to say, it is a pleasure to be back in camp. With the arrival of fall-run fish, we cannot wait to see what the second half has in store. This has been a unique season on all fronts, as marked by the late spring, the fine midsummer river condition, and this remarkable arrival of humpback salmon. It may well be that the late season 2017 will bring more unprecedented things to Ponoi anglers.

More to come…

Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team

A Strong First-Half Finish

Week 7 Report 

Here on Ponoi, the middle of July brings about our midsummer break, as we mark the end of the first half of the season’s fishing. The long­est winter in over a century made the beginning of the season quite challenging to say the least, and the ice pack for­ced us to cancel angling on our historic Week 1. Though we were able to open for guests on Week 2, we nonetheless struggled a bit with unseasonably cold water. Fortunately, from Week 2 on the fishing picked up considerably, and we ended the first half with very good numbers over the last 4 wee­ks. This past week was yet another example of gr­eat summer fishing on Ponoi. Fifteen anglers landed over 550 fish, averag­ing nearly 37 salmon per rod. To make things even better, with the entirety of the Summer Run now in the river, br­ight fish composed 34% of the total catc­h. Such a vigorous Summer Run leaves us with the highest hopes for the upco­ming fall.

This week, the water temperatu­re just kept on rising. The river en­ded up near 18°C, with exceptional clarity and a steadily dropping level. The Ryabaga guides opted for progressively smaller tu­bes in addition to the classic Ponoi Rubberlegs to tease out spooky fish. The rubberleg patterns have pro­ven to be invaluable at prod­ucing strikes in such low, clear, midsummer conditions. Home Pool once again fished wonderfully, producing catches during each evening and morn­ing session, resulting in a total of 62 salmon for the week.

It was a pleasure to welcome guests from Japan and the US this week, as well as a select group from France’s storied Grand Fario Club. For most of our guests, this was the fir­st trip to Ryabaga, but we are confident that a combination of excellent fishing, the typical premier service standard, canny guiding, and top-flight facilities ma­de this a memorable week for all in attendance. We look forward to having any and all back in Ryabaga soon.

As I write this report, several members of the Ryabaga Team are headed back to their homes for a visit, or taking some rest and relaxation on vacations of their own. Some will of course remain in camp during the break to keep working on a host of standard maintenance projects as well as camp upgrades. Notably, the team will be upgrading fuel capacity, improving camp roads, and refurbishing the staff banya.

Ryabaga will be working at full steam once again in early August when Erkki and 19 of his guests will join us once again. Though we always welcome this midsummer break, we nonetheless remain excited and incredibly optimistic about the magical fall season. Come August, it's all about the colors, the northern lights, and of course the spectacular Fall Run on the incomparable Ponoi.

Sincerely,

Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team

Prime Time in July

Week 6 Report

The 6th fishing week of the Ponoi salmon season just passed as we said goodbye to a camp full of happy guests. With spring-like river conditions and fair weather throughout, our first week of July 2017 ended up with a tally of almost 800 fish for the 20 rods in camp!

The Ponoi looked and fished very much like a typical Week 2 or 3 this week, with the water level dropping steadily and the river slowly warming up. Under these conditions the fish held very consistently on the points, and they all seemed quite willing to take. At certain times on some beats the river afforded anglers a typical spring bonanza, meaning that every ‘fishy’ looking piece of water in that stretch held not just a fish but an eager fish, much to our delight. In retrospect, all that kept this week from surpassing the 1000+ mark was the fact that we have been fishing for a full 5 weeks already, and a few of the fish in the system have already tasted some steel. Overwintered fish have just started to get some color, but they remain strong and fat alongside the fresh summer-run fish. Indeed, the summer run is in full bloom, with a strong percentage of the total catch being bright fish. This summer run, which wonderfully began on schedule despite the late spring, continues to impress, with chrome-bright, inordinately strong salmon arriving daily.

Intermediate or slow-sinking tips on floating lines were the most preferred rig this week, but those anglers who went looking for some surface action found that the conditions for doing so were the best of the season so far. The water was quite clear, and at 12-15˚C the fish were eager to come to the surface. Though as is often the case, dry flies did not produce the quantity of fish that we saw on subsurface rigs, but anglers were nonetheless overjoyed at the spectacular and aggressive takes that they saw on the surface.

Erkki Moissander, one of the most regular Ponoi visitors, joined us once again with a group of friends from Finland. Hosting Erkki and his crew is always a pleasure, and we are pleased that they will join us again in August. The group was rounded out by Thomas and Henning from Germany, and Rick’s party of six from the US, all of whom were first-time anglers for Atlantic salmon. It was certainly a great week in Ryabaga, with a busy bar and a rollicking crowd nearly every night.

Though there have been slightly more productive weeks over the years in terms of numbers, the quality of the fish we saw this Week 6, the amount of bright salmon taken, the overall conditions of the fishery, and even the absence of mosquitos made this past week one of the most memorable summer weeks ever. As the water keeps slowly dropping, the river is exposing more and more features, and as we enter the last week before the Summer Break the Ponoi is in absolutely prime condition. We are looking forward to seeing what the outcome will be this coming week, but in the meantime we will make sure to enjoy the ongoing wonders of the incomparable Ponoi.

More to Come,

Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team

A Sad Passing

It is with great sadness that Ponoi River Company announces that on July 1st the angling community lost a friend and longtime champion of Atlantic salmon conservation, namely Mr. Orri Vigfússon. Mr. Vigfússon was widely known among angling communities as the founder and chairman of The North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF), and it was from that platform that he spent nearly 30 years fighting diligently for the survival and restoration of Salmo salar. Mr. Vigfússon’s humble but steadfast advocacy earned him numerous accolades and the respect of environmentalists worldwide, but perhaps his greatest attribute was his ability to inspire support across legions of anglers, who in turn enabled a series of remarkable conservation efforts to be realized. As a result of Mr. Vigfússon’s work, wild Atlantic salmon stocks continue to gain in strength and number across the drainages of the North Atlantic.

Mr. Vigfússon is survived by his wife Unnur Kristinsdóttir, 2 children, and 3 granddaughters. He was 74 years old.