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Kola Peninsula Varzuga: Despite low water and neartropical temperatures, the Varzuga had a phenomenal season. Six thousand salmon were landed in a seven-week season for an average of 30 fish per rod, per week. Fishing of this quality guarantees lots of rebooking, so interested anglers should get their names on a wait list soon by e-mailing Roxton’s Charlie White at [email protected]. The upriver Grand Varzuga section offered by Salmon Junkies (see Umba notes below) also did well, considering the conditions, with 510 landings in a four-week season.
Ponoi River: The early season treated Ponoi anglers very well but warm temperatures and low water combined to make for an uninspiring fall season. You can see some early-season skated fly action in the following video: http://blog .millingtondrake.com/celebration-of -spring-on-the-ponoi-a-new-short-film/. As of this writing, Mollie Fitzgerald of Frontiers told me that 2014 rates on the Ponoi are not set for an increase for the third straight year, but she did note that single- or double-occupancy cabins with en suite bathrooms will be available for the first time for an upcharge of $1,000.
Umba River: Unlike most of the rivers on the Kola, the Umba had good water for the early season, and this produced fine fishing, including a substantial number of 20 pounders. Like the Ponoi, the fall season was a different story, with the river performing badly for weeks in a row. Nevertheless, anglers still managed some large salmon then, including a 34-pound dark brute. For more information and bookings visit www.salmonjunkies.com.
Yokanga River: The Yokanga, as usual, produced some very large salmon, including 10 salmon of 30 pounds or more and scores between 20 and 29 pounds. Yes, this river also suffered from the poor conditions, but the returns were still good overall. Peter Rippen of the Fly Fisher Group (www.flyfisher group.com) tells me that a new chef at the lodge is receiving rave reviews from both new and returning guests.
Varzina River: Like the Yokanga, the Varzina (www.varzina.com) produced some very good salmon in 2013, including six fish over 30 pounds. Though 2013 was not its best year, the results were very respectable. The number of fish weighing more than 20 pounds was down about 20 percent, but that still amounted to 46 fish of that size being recorded.
Atlantic Salmon Reserve (Litza, Rynda, Kharlovka rivers): The generally poor conditions that affected other rivers didn’t seem to impact these rivers to any great extent. The penultimate weeks of the season are hosted by Where Wise Men Fish (www.wherewisemenfish .com), and Justin Maxwell Stuart reports not only a stunning 47-pound capture, but a reasonable number of fish in the 30-plus-pound category, too.
Norway Though getting decent catch or run reports from Norway generally continues to be a challenge, a report from Roxton’s indicates “the season proved to be less reliable, with catches down across the board and the larger rivers in the Trondelag region suffering particularly badly.” Conversely, the four rivers available from Roxton’s (Lakselva, Aroy, Osen, and Vosso) held up very reasonably. On the Lakselva, according to Roxton’s, anglers “fishing from Stuenes Lodge over our three weeks landed 51 salmon, of which 33 had an average weight of 19 pounds. The real monsters eluded us this year; however, we did get four fish over 30 pounds.” The Vosso is something of a special case, as it was once an incredible fishery that has just begun to rebound after crashing 20 years ago from fish farm infections. For a complete analysis of Roxton’s season on these rivers, go to its Web site (www .roxtons.com) and read its 2013 report. For some additional perspective on the Lakselva, note what Peter Rippen of the Fly Fisher Group (www.fly fishergroup.com) says about it. He rates Lakselva at or near the top of the heap when considering one’s best chance for a lifetime salmon of 50 pounds or more. Fly Fisher Group operates Oldero Lodge during August and Peter reported, “In 2012 the Lakselva produced 15 salmon over 44 pounds. Three of those weighed over 50 pounds, with the season’s largest weighing 55 pounds.” Oldero Lodge is slated for an upgrade during the off-season with the addition of four bathrooms.
Iceland While most countries had average or indifferent 2013 seasons, Iceland bucked that trend with outstanding results. In fact, “outstanding” doesn’t accurately characterize the numbers of fish that were taken in this country. Catches that were three times greater than 2012 catches weren’t uncommon. Take the results on the Miðfjarðará: in 2012, anglers landed 1,610 fish; in 2013, they landed 3,667. The numbers for the Nordura (see below) were 953 versus 3,351. Laxa a Asum is one of the more expensive salmon fishing streams in the world. Fishing there is limited to two rods (yes, that’s for the whole river). The 13-week catch here in 2012 was a miserable 211 fish, which amounts to a cost of about $2,000 per salmon. Anglers got a much better deal in 2013 when the landings jumped to 1,062. (Hint: Don’t rent this river in late August or September. Instead, take advantage of the two July weeks offered by the Fly Fisher Group.) A very interesting development in Iceland is the significantly increased availability of the highly regarded Nordura River. Until now, bookings could be done only through the Reykjavik Angling Club, but the farmers who own the river have now made it easier for visitors to access the river. Famous Fishing (www .famousfishing.co.uk) is one source of bookings. According to it, “the Nordura is one of the longest and most beautiful rivers in Iceland. . . . There are an incredible 150-plus named pools, and in a typical three-day trip you cannot hope to fish them all.” Another organization that is now booking the Nordura is Angling Service Strengir (www. strengir.is), which is also offering a new upper beat of the Jökla following the construction of a downriver fish pass.
United Kingdom The 2013 season here can be summarized succinctly as follows: good water and good fishing early; dry and indifferent angling later. One of my U.K. correspondents offered these observations. “In Wales, the Wye had another encouraging season although the fish weren’t distributed as evenly as in 2012 because the summer was dry and warm. . . . The total catch was lower than 2012, too, but that was still over 1,000 fish, which was above the 10- and fiveyear averages. Again, multi-sea-winter fish predominated, with more than ninety 20 pounders reported. Elsewhere in Wales, the dry summer didn’t help catches, and as a rule numbers were disappointing. In Scotland, the Dee and Spey had relatively poor seasons. Again, a dry summer affected the fishing from June onward and spring was late with lots of snow right up until the last week of April. The other big rivers fared better. The Tay had its best season in some years, with a catch of more than 8,000 fish, nearly 33 percent above the five-year average. The Tweed had a difficult spring but the situation picked up late in the season. The middle river did relatively badly with the bulk of the fish caught in the lower river (below Kelso) or in the upper reaches (above Galashiels) when the rain finally came at the very end of the season. The highlight for some was the capture of an autumn cock salmon estimated at a weight of 50 pounds. The total catch was around 14,000 fish. This is just a little below the five-year average. The West Coast rivers had a moderate year, somewhat below par but no disaster. Now for a digression. . . . Several decades ago, runs of what are called springers began shrinking virtually everywhere in the Atlantic salmon world including in the United Kingdom. Springers are hard-fighting multi-sea-winter salmon that arrive at the beginning of the season and generally move fairly quickly upriver. Of course ‘spring’ is a geographically relative term. In Scotland, the Tweed opens on February 1. Fourteen years ago, netsmen at the mouth of this river and others voluntarily agreed to cease netting for the first six weeks of the season. This was an astute business move, as well as an action in support of conservation. In any event, their contribution, plus increased catch-andrelease angling, worked and the run of salmon on the Tweed began to rebuild. I termed their voluntary action “an astute business move” because it forestalled potential legislation that would have been very difficult for the netsmen on the Tweed to undo. Not so their voluntary restraint. Seems these netsmen recently announced an end to their selfimposed restriction. With little time to react, a petition has been prepared to try and get the Scottish government to make the cessation legally obligatory. Regardless, even if viewed favorably, it is very unlikely anything will happen in time to affect the 2014 season. As a footnote, despite a lack of netting and 100 percent catch-and-release fishing, springers in other rivers have not rebounded.
Ireland My “index” river in Ireland, the Moy, suffered from the same dry summer conditions I’ve mentioned elsewhere. The season began well but soon pulled back. Fortunately, the rains began again and the fall season was good enough to bring the year’s catch to just below the ten-year average of 7,300 salmon. – Paul Marriner.
Postscript: Paul Marriner’s latest book, Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies, is available from www.galesendpress.com.