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There’s a new outfitter/agent offering trips to Russia’s Kola Peninsula for Atlantic salmon. Steffen Juhl is a very familiar name to old Kola hands. Juhl worked in the past as a camp manager on the Umba River and at the Acha Camp on the Ponoi River for Loop Adventures. Most recently, he worked with Arni Baldursson of Club Lax-a as Russia program coordinator.

In a recent email, Juhl writes: “I’m very pleased to declare that after many years working for some of the biggest outfitters in the salmon fishing world, I have decided to go solo and start my own company. My company is named ‘Salmon Junkies’ because isn’t that what we are – salmon fishing addicts?”

To start, Juhl is offering two programs he once hands-on managed for others, one on the Umba and one on the Ponoi, specifically the Acha camp on that river. It will be interesting to see if Juhl, with all his Russia experience, can solve the many problems that drove Loop Adventures completely off the Kola Peninsula and into Cuba (Cayo Las Bruja and Cayo Santa Maria) and South America (Jurassic Lake).

The Umba River was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned by western angling interests in 2002 when Loop pulled out. No public reason was ever given for the pull-out, but the Umba was widely known to suffer from uncontrolled poaching and low salmon returns. There is an additional problem relating to the length of the season there, too. More on that in a moment….

The infrastructure on the Umba remained in place when Loop pulled out. When I was on the river in 2000, construction crews were s-l-o-w-l-y completing a new and apparently luxurious lodge on the banks of that river. This is the facility Juhl is now using. There have been exploratory trips to the Umba since then by several Scandinavian operators, but no one has jumped in with both feet, at least until now.

If you look carefully at Juhl’s new website, he devotes considerable space to detailing new anti-poaching efforts on the Umba. When I was there, armed guards – hard-looking soldier types, probably Afghan veterans – were regularly patrolling the river with locked and loaded AK-47s. And I still saw signs of poaching, including tracks, discarded nets and fish with fresh net marks. Whether Juhl’s new efforts will be any more effective than past efforts remains to be seen. Let’s hope so, as the Umba is a truly beautiful river. Seeing it reach its full potential as a salmon river would be cause for celebration.

Anyone contemplating a trip to the Umba should note that the season there is quite short, as is true on other southern Kola Rivers. Part of this is weather-related. When I was there in July 2000, the temperature regularly rose well above 100 degrees F., raising water temperatures into the mid-70s and forcing the camp to go on a “night” fishing schedule, which is possible in July with 24-hour daylight. Like the Varzuga, the productive season on the Umba is mostly the month of June, with a run of larger fish in September and early October.

To start, Juhl is offering two weeks on the Umba in late June/early July for €2,600 (about $3,800 US at this writing) and eight weeks in September and October for prices ranging from €2,800 to €3,200 ($4,100 to $5,300 US). These should be prime times. Juhl is apparently not trying to sell any iffy “shoulder weeks.”

Moving on to the Acha camp on the Ponoi, this camp has seen its troubles, too, though not with numbers of fish. These have been consistently good, at least during June and July. The issues here were mostly with poor Russian management and encroachment on the camp’s water by local catch-and-kill anglers. Loop was the first western company to book this camp but they pulled out after only a couple of years. Club Lax-a still listed Acha among its 2009 programs. Juhl is offering 10 weeks on the Acha from May through July for prices ranging from €3,500 to €5,800 ($5,100 to $8,500 US) depending on the week. He’s also offering four float trips on the Acha River in June for €3,000 ($4,400 US).

If you are interested in either of Juhl’s programs, there’s more information and loads of unabashed enthusiasm on his website. If you go to either river, please file a report and let the rest of us know how things went.

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