End of Season report by Steve Estela PRC CEO
May found the Arctic Circle enjoying a warm and early spring. The first advance group of staff in Ryabaga was delighted by fair weather conditions which made the prep of the camp an easier-than-normal task. Long sunny days with temperatures in the mid-teens leant to the excitement in camp, as there was high anticipation for the good things to come.
The fishing kicked off in high gear, as salmon of substantial size and number were taken in the first days, predicting a great spring. Nearly all of these early fish were in cracking condition, silver and strong as ever. In recent years the annual Fall Run has been arriving later, as proven by the condition in which we encounter fish in the first weeks of spring fishing. It is becoming clear that long after camp closes in fall and the river freezes over, hundreds of fresh fish keep entering the Ponoi system.
Busy weeks sped by, filled with familiar faces, and many longstanding Ponoi regulars in Camp. Catches seemed to improve daily, with several weeks boasting catch totals in excess of 1200 fish!
Everything turned green earlier than usual this season, and the Summer Run did not disappoint. A very solid batch of fresh fish started running up the Ponoi around June 20th and continued well into late July. This made for the best Summer Run we have seen in many years, and all beats enjoyed great fishing, marked by the strong fights and acrobatics of these bright, fresh fish.
Summer was upon us nearly at once, and with it came the flowers, the mushrooms, and the bugs! The midsummer fishing continued strong, wrapping up at the break with an average of 31 fish per rod through the first seven weeks of the season.
Summer Break in Ryabaga is both a time of rest and some very hard work. It is the time when we take care of improvements and upgrades on facilities and equipment. A host of projects were spearheaded and executed by our skillful team of mechanics. We operate on the assumption that there is always room for improvement, and each season we are proud to delight our guests with a host of new and refined amenities. In 2016 we saw a completely new boat dock, a stunning new Guest House sauna, a gym facility extension, 2 new toilets for the big tent, 2 new boat storage facilities, 4 new boats, and general upgrades on buildings, camp facilities and roads. Needless to say by late summer we were operating at the highest level, celebrating anglers in the finest remote fishing camp in the world.
August arrived, and so did the fall-run salmon, making for the most celebrated fishing of the season. Weather in the second half started out somewhat unstable; windy days were not unusual and rain was present every other day. These conditions made the river level fluctuate, and we experienced high water for most of the fall. The fresh fish started running on time but in clear schools, making the fishing during the first weeks of August a bit spotty. As days went by, the river started to fill with bright fish, and in short order we were able to find solid fishing throughout all of the beats.
Again in later fall rain turned the river off-color and strong winds made fishing somewhat challenging. The fish, however, remained in superb condition, silver and strong in good numbers and the best average weight we have seen in years: 18-, 19-, and 20+ pound salmon were landed regularly, and a beauty of 28 pounds will be remembered as the king of the fall. The fishing ended strong, and the final week of the 2016 season saw nice catches through the very last day.
Overall it has been a great season, not only with regard to the fishing, but with respect to friendship, camaraderie, and the support for our longstanding guests. It is this support that allows us to continue to enjoy and protect this remarkable and unique resource that is the Ponoi.
Both in Ryabaga and in the Murmansk office, Ponoi River Company staff has done an outstanding job. My biggest regards and thanks go out to this team, as great things can only be achieved by great people, and PRC has compiled the best. I would of course like to thank the Frontiers Staff in the US and UK for all of the help and cooperation.
Special thanks to Ilya Sherbovich, our Commander in Chief, who is always ready to help and advise.
Finally, to my family: Pata, Santi and Simon, your love and support is my daily motivation.
With 2016 complete, our expectations turn to 2017. The river is resting and our minds and hearts are already working on next season, which will no doubt be beyond compare.
Big thanks to everyone. See you soon on the banks of Ponoi!
Ponoi RIver Co.