Words & images by Dave Parkes
Guideline Power Team UK
After missing the trip last year with knee surgery l was looking forward to our spring week on the Atlantic Salmon Reserve camp on the Kharlovka and Eastern Litza rivers. Reports from the ASR were good, a normal spring with average amounts of snow had been forecast, so anticipation was high. We got a late flight on Friday to Helsinki and after a few drinks and renewed relationships with old friends we tried to get some sleep before our very early start next morning.
A charter flight for all of the Kola Peninsula river camp takes about one hour thirty minutes. On our arrival we were greeted by the camp representatives, only to be told that although the river height was in good order the water temperature was just above freezing with the air temperature similar. Both Kharlovka and Eastern Litza rivers were we fish are right on tide line so fish have easy access into the beats but they normally only come in when the river temperature is at least the same as the sea were they come from. At about 2.5 degrees that would be debatable.
After settling into the camp we had lunch and prepared to go fishing. My set up would be an Lpxe 15ft 10/11 rod, 9-11 Vosso reel coupled with the new 50lb Compline and the SUPERB 4D Floating body head and a set of tips. Fly patterns for these fresh spring fish for me l feel are not so important, they are very aggressive, so l started with a medium sized willie gunn coloured snaelda. We were going fishing for just a short four hour session with the main fishing starting the following day. We are deployed to our beats in a five seat Eurocopter, in pairs with your guide who you fish with all week. Getting to some of the pools would be impossible without a helicopter and very experienced pilots, and some of the treks between pools are brutal.
We had drawn a pool called Military left bank on the Eastern Litza which is the first holding pool on the river, a great chance for us and the best side at this river height. Big Alex was our guide who has twenty six years experience on the river, so we were happy and exited to get underway. For the next few hours we had plenty of action with many kelts, some of them a metre or more long, but alas no fresh fish. On our return the talk from everyone was the same with only one fresh fish to report. We were thinking that the fish might not run in the cold water. The talk at the dinner table that night was all about that subject but last week they had got a few fresh fish, so we were still optimistic, l even went to fish the home pool after dinner but got only kelts. The following day we were to fish a pool called Julian,s on the right bank on the Kharlovka, the first holding place for fresh fish off the tide, again we got lots of kelts with a lot of fish showing in the pool . l even got hold of two fish which l thought could have been fresh, very powerful which made strong runs before coming off ??? On our return four fresh had been caught, so things were at least looking up. On Monday the team got another four fresh fish, again with many, many kelts.
Things took a turn for the better on Tuesday with ten fresh fish being caught, l was lucky enough to get my second fish, my first from the Eastern Litza . The circumstances in which l got the fish were a little scary, we were fishing a pool called Snowbank and although a few fish run the right hand bank at this height, the best chance was to fish beyond a gravel bar and rocks approximately fifty yards out into the main draw above the rapids. Alex our guide asked if l would be prepared to be dropped off by rubber boat onto the gravel bar and get picked up at the end of the bar or if l hooked a fish and then return to the bank. “ Hell yes “ l said l would try almost anything if it gets me a fish. Towards the end of the pool l had a tremendous pull and found myself attached to a very strong fish, looking round for help Shasha our trainee guide was already on his way. Trying to get into a rubber dinghy out of deep running water was not easy but we managed it and Shasha rowed us back to the bank and thirty minutes later we landed our prize, 25.5 lbs of pure silver with long tailed sea lice.
Wednesday found us with a decision to make, did we fish the lower Kharlovka or take the option of trying the middle reaches, we took the second choice, tail of Lake and Golden pool. The wind and snow were vicious, my fishing partner John fished the Tail of the Lake from the right bank, where the fish take a rest after the island rapids, and l fished the very long Golden Pool, not a holding pool but at least 400 yards long, a good place to get a running fish. The fish tend to run on the right hand side of the river, so an easy wade of about 80/100 yards is required to get to the main channel. I made the wade out and pulled off enough line to just get the 4D body and tip out. First cast and BANG, l had hooked another fresh fish. So l made the long wade back to the bank, not a big fish but at 13lb and sea liced it was welcome. I returned to the pool and waded down its entire length to the tail with only kelts for my efforts. A move upstream above the island rapids into the lake found me opposite John, a long cast was required to reach the deeper channel and towards the tail got a good pull which resulted in a great scrap and a 21lb cock fish
After lunch on the bank we made the long trek through the gorge known as “washing machine “ named because of its swirling currents, to Home pool, where John and l both got fresh fish of 13/14 lbs. Another eleven fresh fish had been landed on the day by the team, so things were good. Thursday saw our best day with 20 fresh salmon falling to the team. John and l fished Snow Bank left bank and l was happy to get two great fish, one @ 27lb and one @ 20lb. Our hopes were even greater for Friday, although both air and water temperatures were still very low the fish were still running. John and l again took the option of fishing up river starting at Kharlovka falls and working our way down stream. The scenery here is stunning, especially through the almost vertically sided canyon. Kharlovka Falls rewarded me with two sea liced fish of 20lb and 16lb and we both lost fish in the canyon, John after a few minutes and me after a good 10 minutes but you can,t win them all. The helicopter picked us up at 7.00pm and for the last hour would you believe the sun came out !!! Our weeks fishing was over. The 10 man team from Switzerland, Denmark, Wales, America and England had managed to catch and release 60 magnificent fresh silver tourists, and in the worst possible weather conditions, we all felt that was more than acceptable.
I cannot stress just how good all of my GUIDELINE KIT performed. Stand out gear was the combination of the 15ft LPXe and the 4D Body and tips system, “ A CASTING MACHINE “ The lines cut through the strong winds we encountered all week. I COULD NOT FAULT THE SET UP, the best yet. Guideline waders and clothing also kept me comfortable and dry in the exceptionally brutal conditions. All in all we all had a great week, good company, food and accommodation, exceptional guides and camp staff. Add that two of the best salmon rivers in the World in a remote wilderness and what do you get ??? One answer – A GREAT EXPERIENCE! And that what it is all about!
By Dave Parkes
Guideline Power Team UK