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Season’s End

Week 20 Report

With this past week, the 2019 Ryabaga salmon season comes to an end. It was a very special week for all in camp, made notable by the fact that though it was the last week of the season’s fishing it was the first time we have been able to offer Ryabaga anglers the opportunity to fish a week further into October. Recent weather patterns have been hinting that this season extension might prove bountiful, and a camp full of veteran anglers proved that this ‘late-week’ experiment was indeed a success.

We started the week with difficult salmon fishing conditions on account of dirty, rising, and cold water. Nonetheless, all guests and guides returned to the dock with smiles, as the fish were willing to take. Among the first catches of the week were those of Andrey K. who landed his first Atlantic salmon, and Georgiy R. who landed a 15 lb. fish. These early successes set the tone for the great things to follow.

This last week of the season was made up of a multinational group of guests, with both new and old friends from Russia, Finland, and the UK. After the exceptional fishing that guests witnessed in Week 19, we anticipated a similar showing once the water cleared. Day by day it did just that, and anglers found fish by utilizing both sinking lines and heavy sink tips. Even as the wind increased on Tuesday the fishing did not slow down. Both Hannu N. and Alexey L. landed 15 lb. fish and the number of quality salmon over 10 pounds made up 20% of the day´s catch. 

Wednesday, the river was rising minimally and began to stabilize at a healthy fall level. Snow showers and seasonably cold mornings did not slow the fishing down at all, and our anglers returned once again with great catches. Mark A. landed a beautiful 22 lb. fish after a lengthy battle in Clough Creek, and on Thursday Evgeny S. and Andrei K. landed fish of 17 and 16 lb. respectively.

As the week’s end approached the water rose slightly in temperature, giving anglers a great finale. On the last day of fishing, Ryabaga anglers boasted 65 fish landed and many more hooked! Mark A. proved once again that he knew how to handle the big fish, finishing the week off with a magnificent 25 lb. fall runner, the biggest fish of the 2019 season caught on the last day of this ‘first/last’ week. 

We ended the week with an average of 12 fish per rod, which was a remarkable number given the difficult conditions that started the week. This metric illustrates the strength of our Fall Run and promises great things for the coming spring. This week was the perfect ending to a great season, showcasing the quality and quantity of fish that return to the Ponoi. Now, as the last guests leave, Ryabaga staff will begin the bittersweet process of shutting down the camp for winter. As the winter break approaches, all in Ryabaga are eager to see what amazing things Ponoi has in store for 2020.

With season’s end, we wish to offer sincere thanks to each one of our guests. Not only do we value their friendship and company, but it is also important that we celebrate the role each one of them plays in the ultimate goal of protecting Ponoi salmon.

We must, of course, thank AST Senior Advisor Steve Estela for his support and help throughout another fantastic season. 

Finally, we must offer a very special debt of gratitude to Ilya Sherbovich, without whom the future of the Russian salmon would be a dark one. Thank you, Ilya, for your tireless desire to improve, to preserve, and to protect Atlantic salmon!

Until Next Season, Tight Lines.

The Ryabaga Team

The Stars Align

Week 19 Report

Over the last few weeks we have seen the strength of the Fall Run, with fish moving in great number through Ryabaga waters. That said, weather and river conditions have posed real challenges to anglers and guides alike of late. This week, everything came together, as the Ponoi calmed down enough to show guests just what it had in store. Water temperature, water level, appropriate winds, cloudy skies… everything aligned and the fishing responded right away. Reports of great fish began to circulate through camp just minutes after guests landed in Ryabaga. Joseph B. went down to Home Pool upon arrival and immediately connected with what ended up being a fantastic 15 lb. fall-run fish! This fish seemed to foretell what was to come…

The first day out was undeniably good, especially for Genady D. and Sergey S., both of whom caught their first Atlantic salmon. Gerard P., who was fishing the Ponoi for the first time, landed a 21 lb. beast in Tomba, and Len S. (who was remarkably fishing his 60th week in Ryabaga!!) landed an 18 lb. chromer. On Day Two there was no sign of slowing, as Duncan B. and Henri A. each landed a 19 lb. salmon. Timothy Y. landed a 21 lb. and Martin V. landed a 22 lb. fish. It seemed this week that all the fish we knew were in the system decided to play the game, and our anglers rose to the occasion. Through the week we saw an increasing number of fish entering our waters, and sea-liced fish were a daily sight through all beats. On Day Three, Simon B. landed a 20 lb. and Martin a 19 lb. salmon, proving that these boat partners had a way of working together. On Day Four the weather took a bit of a turn, bringing colder temps and even a snow shower, and yet the numbers remained strong. The biggest fish of the day went to Ian B. who landed a 19 lb. silver beauty. Day Five arrived, and beautiful conditions remained; the fishing was great. Martin V. landed a 19 lb. bar of silver, and just minutes after releasing it he hooked, played, and landed what is currently the biggest fish of the season: a 24 lb. slab of perfection.

On the final fishing day of the week, the fish were still quite willing to take a fly. Dean M. landed an 18 lb., while Duncan B. & Gilbert P. each landed 20 lb. fish.

By the end of the week, anglers had landed an average of 28 fish per rod, and over 90% of them were bright, broad-shouldered Osenkas.

The fishing was wonderful this past week, and all in camp were grateful. Nonetheless, what made the week even more enjoyable for guests and staff was what our old friend Peter R. refers to as “the X factor”. According to Peter, there is something unique that characterizes the Ryabaga experience. That something may be impossible to pinpoint or fully describe, but it is there no less and recognizable to the guests who come to love this place. The magic that is Ryabaga is real, both on and off the water.

 

With just one week left in our 2019 Ponoi Salmon Season, the excitement remains palpable. All look forward to seeing what may enter our river in the coming week. As our final group of anglers arrives, spirits are incredibly high, in part because this past week represents a success story that goes beyond the numbers in a statistical spreadsheet. Week 19 was confirmation that the great efforts made to protect these fish, and to ensure their survival, are paying off.

As the weather cools and the days keep getting shorter, we are warmed by the certainty that even when the Ponoi decides to take its winter sleep, the promise of something truly special will hover beneath the ice, ensuring the ongoing success of Ponoi anglers.

Tight Lines,

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

A Special Time of Year

Week 18 Report

As Autumn comes to an end on the Kola Peninsula, the weather and the trees let us know that winter is not far off. In Ryabaga the days are growing shorter, the nights are growing colder, and the birch trees are dropping their many golden leaves into the river. Flocks of trumpeter swans and geese are flying south, and the permanent residents of the region are preparing for the long Russian winter to come.

This past week, the Ponoi came into fine shape as increasingly stable and seasonally typical conditions made the salmon a good deal more active, and the Fall Run reached a pinnacle. The group of anglers that visited Ryabaga this week hailed from the UK, USA, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Russia, and Zimbabwe, and gladly they had a chance to experience a typical fall week of fishing on the Ponoi. Fresh, sea-liced Osenkas were caught in number from Tomba up to Purnache, much to the delight of guides and anglers alike.

This week fishing was impacted by the fact that the Purnache River, Ponoi’s largest tributary, was 1ºc warmer than the main river. This temperature differential kept most of the fish from running past the mouth of the Purnache. The beat rotation was adjusted to ensure that all anglers had the best opportunities to catch fresh fish throughout the week. Though the water was warmer below the Purnache mouth it remained around 4ºc, which is colder than usual for this time of the season. For this reason most of the fish were taken on the edges, up against the banks, and in shallow areas around gravel bars in rather slow water. The takes tended to be soft and slow, but once the connection was established it was off to the races.

Michael G. and his guide Max Kantor managed to hook a great fish that took them on a memorable 400-yard ride downstream, forcing them to lift anchor and give chase. Finally, after a stunning performance by fish, angler, and guide team, the salmon was netted. It proved to be a gorgeous fish that tipped the scale at the 21 lb. mark. Yuri B. and his guide Nick Sigov also hooked an unbelievably broad-shoulder Osenka, and once again there was nothing to do but give chase and hope that the fish would stop before getting into the next whitewater section. The fish was initially hooked at the top of Falls Creek gravel bar, and the duo netted this beauty just below the mouth of the Falls Creek. This long, exciting ride ended with a 20 lb. fresh sea-liced fish in the net.

There were many battles this week in which the fish proved to be victorious. Paul C. hooked a fish that never stopped running, and when the backing was almost gone and the pressure on the reel drag was at a maximum, matters became dire. Despite that the boat moved downstream in an attempt to keep up with this fish, the hook at length came detached and the connection was lost. It is often surprising this time of year to note how remarkably powerful a 14 or 15 lb. fish can prove to be. The Osenkas have a power to weight ratio like no other salmon, and each time the line goes tight the angler has to be ready for an incredible battle.

By the time the week came to an end, Ryabaga anglers had landed an average of 15 fish per rod, 83% being bright fish, and 54% being multiple sea-winter fish. It was truly a fantastic week, and with two more weeks ahead of us in the season the fishing just keeps getting better. It is an exciting time in Ryabaga, not only because we are looking forward to what lies in store for the coming weeks, but also because this final push of large fish foreshadows what we might see in the river next spring. It is a pleasure to see the river in spectacular shape, and a joy to see the Fall Run at its finest.

On behalf of all the Ryabaga team, farewell and see you soon.

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager

The Ponoi River Club

Week 17 Report

In the third week of September, Ryabaga Camp annually welcomes the return of “The Ponoi River Club”, a syndicate of longstanding friends and their guests. Our Big Tent gets dressed for the occasion with an array of flags to signify the homeland of both the guests and staff members in attendance. This year, we hung the flags of Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ireland, UK, USA, Argentina, and Russia as we welcomed Week 17 in Ryabaga.

The Ponoi River Club has been convening for this week in Ryabaga for over two decades, and the week typically coincides with some fine fishing. This week’s party of fishermen was comprised of anglers ranging in age from twenty-something to eighty-something, and while some are new to the sport, others have been catching Atlantic salmon for decades. This year there were three anglers in camp for the Ponoi River Club Week who had come to catch their first Atlantic salmon, and we were more than happy to help them try.

This year, the group was met upon arrival with what would be the start of a powerful fall storm system. Rain and strong, northerly winds brought cold polar air to the region, and those factors would prove impactful to the week’s fishing. On that first day of fishing, however, no change was yet visible in water level or temperature, despite the fact that rain and wind were rather persistent. Fishing was good, and 75% of fish landed were bright, fall-run salmon. All looked quite promising…

On Monday, after a night of heavy rain and winds, we woke to see a river that had changed dramatically: the water level had risen 14 inches and was still rising and carrying a lot of sediment. The rain persisted and would do so for 3 days, accompanied by 50 km/hr. sustained winds and increasingly off-color water. Air temperatures plummeted from 14 to 3 degrees, and water temperatures slipped from 13 to 6. The fish became incredibly hard to find.

Though these extreme conditions could easily have quelled the morale of the group, we were pleased that our guests never forget that their main objectives were to have a great time among friends, to enjoy the process of trying to catch some fish, and to do it all with a smile, and an eye toward the bright side of things. The weather and river conditions on Ponoi this week were the toughest anyone in camp can remember. The Ponoi River Club had to face very challenging fishing, and yet nonetheless the week proved to be a great deal of fun. All laughed and joked, enjoyed luxurious river lunches, and took part in the annual costume party, during which staff and guests sit side-by-side to share a dinner, and to perform each represented country’s National Anthem. These pieces of the week will live on as great memories of another fine week.

Ironically, much of what we love about fishing are those elements we cannot control. Seeking wild fish in a wild and rugged environment presents us with countless challenges, and countless opportunities to celebrate the unpredictable. Sometimes, these circumstances allow us to test our persistence and our mettle as anglers. By this week’s end, it was clear that the mettle of each of our guests was not only intact but impressively strong. Certainly, some lovely fish were taken this week, but it is that mettle that will keep our guests coming back, recognizing that despite occasional adversity on the water, the greater experience in Ryabaga will always shine through. Ultimately, there’s some pride to be found in having participated in what will be known in Ponoi River Club circles as “THE TOUGHEST WEEK EVER”.

Until Next Week, Tight Lines.

Agustin C. Lo Greco

Ryabaga Camp Manager