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2014 End of Season Report by Steve Estela, Ponoi River Co. CEO
Another successful season has gone by on Ponoi, and with its passing we celebrate great memories and many new friends.
The 2013 fall run arrived late, and as the camp closed on October 2, 2013, fresh fish were still a heavy presence throughout our territory. As anglers and guides considered what lay beneath the ice, there were hopes for a truly spectacular opener. Our hopes were not in vain, as we were pleased to witness one of the best Springs ever in 2014, with one noteworthy week exceeding 1600 fish for 20 rods!
Great fishing was the big news this Spring. One of the greatest Spring fishing seasons passed, and our loyal and supportive guests landed a total of 6700 fish in the first 7 weeks! The last week before our usual Summer break brought to Ryabaga one noteworthy fisherman: full of energy and endless stories, US President Jimmy Carter along with wife Rosalyn and a select group of friends delighted us with their presence, and in response Ponoi introduced them to hundreds of fish. Such was his zeal for Ponoi that President Carter even bested PRC Owner Ilya Sherbovich on a Friday night session at Ryabaga Home Pool. The tireless duo fished together well into the Saturday morning hours!
The summer break saw our staff quite busy. Lots of works was accomplished: boats and engines were serviced, buildings and houses were refurbished and painted, roads were rebuilt, and the entire camp got a fresh look. By this time 8 of the new single en-suite wooden cabins were ready for our guests to enjoy! We slipped into August and the first bright fall run fish, and many happy returning guests looked forward to enjoying the strength and power that makes the Ponoi fall run so famous.
Mid August and September passed quickly. Weather was good, and the mushroom season spectacular. The river was a bit low at the beginning, and everyone became somewhat unsure about ongoing water levels, but the mighty rain did its job in late September, making the end of the season a joy to fish.
With over 9500 fish landed for the season and hundreds of fishing stories to remember, this has certainly been one of the best seasons in Ponoi history. By late September, the last 2 cabins were finished and furnished, completing the ambitious infrastructural plan conceived only 2 years ago! Ryabaga Camp now has 10 cabins, and 20 single en-suite rooms for the delight of our guest. The new 8 double-room staff dwelling is well on its way and will be completed by the beginning of 2015. Building projects have been part of our daily life for the last 4 years, and it looks like we are almost done; Ryabaga is standing proud as a real village in the Arctic tundra.
In closing, I would like to thank all of our 2014 guests, not only for supporting Ponoi River Co. but also for helping us protect the river itself. Fishing for Ponoi salmon is not only a leisure experience but a way to help us ensure the prosperity of such a magnificent fishery over time. For our staff, I have only words of gratitude; I am proud of them and what they deliver year after year, no matter the circumstances or events. The Ryabaga Team provides the best at all times! From food to fishing, from hot water to smooth running boats to spotless tents and cabins, the Ryabaga Staff has done it once more.
We must of course thank our supporter, advisor, and leader, PRC Owner Ilya Sherbovich, with whom we share endless days on the water. Throughout, Ilya has helped us take Ryabaga to the next level in every possible way.
To Frontiers, Mollie and Tarquin, your dedication and commitment to Ponoi is unique and well appreciated by guests and staff alike. Thanks to each of you!
To my family, the people that allow me to keep doing what I love: Pata, Santi and Simon, thank you so much.
I must thank the Murmansk office staff, without whom Ryabaga would not be what it is. Supplies, administration, and Airport handling are a vital part of our program and a big part of our success, and the Murmansk staff handles all with great care.
As Murmansk starts getting darker and winter is knocking the door, I would like at last to thank the finest river in the world, the one that makes all of this possible:
See you soon,
Steve Estela, Ponoi River Company CEO
October 5, 2014
Week 16 Report
With the end of this past week on Ponoi, the 2014 salmon season officially came to an end. The guest manifest in camp this week included three Francois joyeux, three American anglers, two Scots, two Englishmen, and ten Russians. Needless to say, it made for an eclectic gathering.
Ponoi is famous for its autumn run of Osenka salmon, which spend their winter under the ice, spawn the following autumn, and spend a second winter under the ice before returning at last to the sea. These mighty fish don't eat at all while in the river, but survive instead off stores of body fat. With this in mind, these fish arrive in the system in truly awesome condition, and most boast the profile of a rugby ball. Big, bright, and brutally strong, these Osenkas are capable of putting up a fight reminiscent of a fish half again as big!
In anticipation of intercepting several Osenkas, our crew of anglers converged in Helsinki on Friday. The class of 2014 shared a charter jet to Murmansk on Saturday the 27th, and then were transferred to Ryabaga, some two hours east over the tundra, via the ubiquitous Mi8 helicopter. Once in camp, the anglers were received by our team of international guides, and by veteran Head Guide Max Mamaev. This team of experts would prove by week’s end to have made an enthusiastic contribution to the guests’ enjoyment, and one might even say that their knowledge was integral to the week’s success.
Maintaining the same high standard as our guide team, the team of Ryabaga chefs, pastry chefs, sushi masters, etc., numbering nearly a dozen in all, produced an endless parade of gourmet food in the wilderness, thereby impressing each and every guest.
At the heart of the week, the Ponoi River itself continued to impress. As most of you know, 2014 started magnificently, but with a lack of significant rain the river level dropped to seriously low water. By the greatest stroke of good fortune, heavy rains arrived on the few days prior to our final guests’ descent into camp, raising the river by more that a meter. Initially, the ensuing run-off was colored, inhibiting early week catches, but as the week progressed, the fishing got better and better.
This week Max and his team adjusted the beat rotation almost daily in order to maximize fishing opportunities in response to fast-changing conditions, and fresh pulses of fish that just kept on coming into the system. Sometimes this meant doubling up boats on the more productive beats, which proved no problem whatsoever due to a daily influx of fresh chrome. In the end, a total of 20 rods posted nearly 380 fish for the week, with a largest tipping the scales over18 lb. and many fish measuring in the 10 to 17 lb. class.
Ponoi anglers this week fished, with medium or heavy sinking lines and mainly tube flies up to 4 inch Snaeldas! The weather threw a bit of everything at us, but anglers persevered, and enjoyed, and the River did its part of course.
Now the end is quite near, and the ice will soon descend once more over the tundra. As Ryabaga Camp shuts down in the coming days, the staff will leave and all will be quiet. In these moments of reflection, we must thank all of the members of the Ponoi family for their contributions, and the commitment to carrying on a legacy of excellence, teamwork, and camaraderie. And of course, to all who know Ponoi, let us raise a glass to the very finest Atlantic salmon fishery in the world.
Until next season,
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
September 28, 2014
Week 15 Report
The End Draws Near
The past week started quite well, with nearly 70 fish caught per day, and a majority being bright, fall run fish. By mid-week our long-awaited rain arrived, and along with it a consistently strong wind, which made matters hard for our anglers. Despite tough conditions and decreasing water clarity, our valiant crew of anglers persevered.
In light of the cold, wet weather, our cabins were much appreciated, and several guests decided to move into these dwellings of greater comfort a couple of days into the week. By Wednesday, the river had risen around 70 cm, which represents a huge spike for a river this wide and low. It did not take long for our guides to figure out that the game had changed, and they shifted their tactics accordingly. As guides undertook more aggressive techniques, guests began to catch bright, sea-liced fish again, further proving that the water did encourage more fish to enter the system. The prospects are quite good for this coming week, as many more fish continue to run. As the river settles down, we can expect a great final week of the 2014 season.
It was nice to spend another week with longstanding Ryabaga guests. Among these folks were Terry, our current Ponoi record holder for number of visits, Len who spent his 50th week at Ryabaga, and Wolfgang, another of our most loyal anglers. Jane, Jukkaon, Ken and his father Ivan… these are all folks who have made Ryababaga what it is. We also enjoyed the presence of some new Ponoi friends, including Richard, Miguel, Alexei and Paul. Ponoi could not have been a better place for these gents to have their first Atlantic salmon experience. It is especially rewarding to see experienced anglers like Markus, Eric and Mike, with many trips to Russia and many salmon under their belt, being so impressed by the fishing, the river, the guides and the operation as a whole. It is in the difficult conditions when our guides and staff go the distance to excel.
60% of the salmon taken this week were fall runners, and this recent pulse of water will continue to entice numbers upstream. Guides and anglers are hitting the water with the same energy and enthusiasm that they did in early season, and we are confident that the run will continue through October. We in camp full expect a great 2014 finale, and another excellent Spring in 2015.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
September 21, 2014
Week 14 report
Once again, in keeping with an almost two-decades old tradition, we spent this past week with a remarkable group of guests we like to call “The Syndicates”. These are among Ponoi’s most storied anglers, and each fall they descend on Ryabaga for some laughter, friendship, and fine angling. This year was no different, and the group enjoyed a phenomenal week in camp.
The banks of Ponoi are now golden, and as the season draws to a close the fishing just keeps getting better, maintaining the steady rise in activity that we’ve seen since summer break. A total of 430 fish were landed this week, of which 40% were bright, fall run fish. We saw some excellent individual catches as well, including a few fish over 20 lbs and many in the 13 to 17 lbs range. Again, these numbers are all the more remarkable when we consider the record low water levels we are facing.
The fine fishing was just a piece of what made this week so special. Fishing became almost an excuse for all of the great lunches, the long and entertaining nights, the songs and poems from Randolf, the jokes from Hacker (irreverent as always), and of course the standard raucous party on Thursday night in which anthems representing each of the nationalities present in camp were sung with pride. The girls as usual showed great ingenuity in using the limited resources at camp to make some wonderful costumes, and the guides finally shaved, in the most artistic ways, the beards that each had been growing for over a month.
But if there was time for the joy and the laughter there was also time for the reflection and the farewell: on Thursday evening, after the fishing session, a memorial for Keith Booker (a.k.a. “The Fat Bastard”) was celebrated in the Ryabaga Home Pool, one of Keith’s favourite places. This memorial, which was driven and led by Hacker, was a celebration of friendship, and it touched even those of us who didn’t know Keith. It started with the pipes from Mark, the toasts from Keith’s friends and from our head Guide Max Mamaev, and concluded with some heartfelt words from Hacker and a song from Randolf. And on Friday night, as if Keith were somehow still among us in camp, we were privileged to witness an unforgettable showing of Aurora Borealis.
In the coming weeks, we will be pushing our way closer to the Arctic winter, and we can feel that clutch of winter coming. The fish are staging and moving steadily upstream, and the finality of winter is a presence. This is often when the finest fishing of the season makes itself plain, and we are eager to see what lies ahead. As it was said once and again through the course of the week: never better. Indeed, it seems that Ponoi just keeps becoming more special.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
September 14, 2014
Week 13 Report
Old Friends, Fresh Salmon
As we get closer to the end of our season, temperatures are dropping and the flood of fall run salmon continues to rise in Ponoi. The fishing follows suit, and keeps on improving at a steady pace. This past week, guides and guests enjoyed great fishing, prime conditions, and a truly festive atmosphere the whole week through. It was a time not soon to be forgotten!
Catches averaged around 9 fish per boat per day, and every other fish was a bright, fall run salmon. Many fish surpassed 15 lb., and more than a few entered the 20+ lb. class. As is commonly the case by this time of the year, the number of bright fish in the river increases by the day, and we are certainly expecting that in a few days, the vast majority of our catch will consist of bright fish.
Once again we were visited this week by a colourful group of guests, and nights in the Big Tent, as well as shore lunches, proved very entertaining. It was a pleasure to see old friends back in camp, keeping up their traditions of fall angling on Ponoi. John D., Jon S., Bernard G, Hubert P. Paul D, Jane (who will stay for us for two more weeks), and of course the one and only Wofgang N. made a happy homecoming, and enjoyed the fruits of the river. Unfortunately, Henry, Jim, Herve and Martine could not join us this year for their annual bout with Ponoi brawlers, so we are left looking forward to seeing them in the future.
We were also pleased to see some new faces on the river. Keith Rose-Innes, an Indian Ocean legend and former Ryabaga Head guide came to camp this week with Louis, Oliver, Mike, and Andy, and the latter duo celebrated their first Atlantic salmon on Sunday. And what a celebration it was… Guests enjoyed the cabins tremendously, and found themselves in the lap of luxury out here on the tundra. All present remarked on the magic that is Ryabaga.
We are looking forward for the a couple cold days and a frost, which should slow the metabolism of the running salmon a bit, and in turn decrease their pace. As cooling water slows them, and makes them hold a bit more, catch rates should continue to rise. That said, we did see some remarkable takes from running fish on skated dries, a phenomenon that most thought would not be replicated until next spring.
In short, it was another great week with very fine catches, friendship, and great weather on this the greatest of Atlantic salmon rivers. All in Ryabaga are confident that there will be some tremendous news and great reports in the weeks to come.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
September 8, 2014
Week 12 Report
Our 12th week of fishing for the 2014 season found the Ponoi continuing to ease into Fall, with low levels, mild currents, slowing rapids, and a water temperature still in the 12-14 ºC range. As fall run salmon continue into the system, they are able to ascend with great ease. These conditions allow Ponoi anglers and guides to test their acumen, as these fish are not forced to ‘stack up’ in likely resting places, and instead move fluidly through the system. They can and will show anywhere, and the finest anglers and guides joined forces this week to find them. These avid fishermen went above and beyond to locate fish and entice them to strike flies, and they did so with great skill.
Ponoi anglers this week witnessed many bright fish jumping as they ran upriver, but despite remarkable numbers, the salmon did not eat readily. The challenge in situations where conditions don’t slow the running fish is to anticipate where a moving fish will be once the fly is in fact presented. This type of fishing is somewhat like wingshooting, where the target is ‘led’, and its eventual position anticipated. Despite this obviously challenging scenario, our 19 anglers averaged 20 fish for the week, with 20% of those being bright fall run fish, some of which were noteworthy indeed: Robert caught his best Ponoi salmon ever, which weighed in at 18 lbs. Tom followed suit with a 19 lb. chromer.
Last Friday offered up an unexpected but much-welcome rain that lifted the water level by a few inches. On that day, the Father and son duo of Tim and Tom from the UK posted an amazing session by catching a 15 lbs., a fresh 19 lbs., and a 21 lbs. leviathan that likely tipped the scales at well over 25 lbs. when it first entered the river. Andy also reported 2 fish over 15 lbs. for the session, making for a truly remarkable experience.
At this time of year, I am always pleased to look over the entire Ponoi experience and see that our staff, and indeed our fishery, has hit a certain stride. By late summer the end of the season looms near on the tundra, and we in Ryabaga have become a well-oiled unit. Guides are loose and confident, certain enough of the fishing that they will try new tactics to achieve that fish of a lifetime. A steady rush of bright fish shows through the river, reminding us that a bounty is returning to guarantee a positive future for Ponoi. And with these assurances in place, the guests relax as well, and appreciate the magic of this angling experience. Birthdays are celebrated, songs are sung, and autumn anglers settle into luxurious shore lunches beside the river. There is something about these shortening days that helps us enjoy them all the more, and some of the furious pace of early season drifts away. It’s a special time here on Ponoi, and one we are grateful for.
Another rain on Saturday promises to raise both our hopes and our water levels, and once again we are looking forward to see how the river performs and the salmon respond. No doubt, in keeping with tradition, it will be an incredible week.
Until we check in again, tight lines.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
August 30, 2014
Week 11 Report
Friends and Family...
Another week just passed, leaving Ponoi anglers with great memories, strengthening friendships, and of course some amazing catches. Ponoi River Co. owner llya Sherbovich hosted friends and family this last week of August, 2013. The group was composed of veteran and novice anglers alike, and a new generation of salmon anglers was well represented: youngsters aged 7 to 16 years did battle on the waters of Ponoi, and reported some outstanding results!
On Monday, PRC CEO Steve Estela and Head Guide Max Mamaev helped me organize a unique Sigg (whitefish) expedition to a wild Kola Peninsula river. We were accompanied by a small group of guests who enjoyed using light tackle for a day. All present enjoyed numerous fish of 1 to 3 kg, and Sigg made a wonderful central dish at Tuesday's dinner.
Several other guests had singular experiences this week, and many landed their first Atlantic salmon. The whole Kurtser family was among the fortunate, and by day 2 even nine-year-old Anna had landed an Atlantic salmon. Nina and her young son Dino visited us for the second time, and though Dino could not best his personal record (a stunning 16 lb sea-liced fish caught last year), both nonetheless had a great time. Mastering a rather unorthodox technique, Dino preferred to release line and swing the fly from one side to the other behind the boat. His success with this technique is amazing, and he fills the time between takes with a tremendous curiosity; guide Ollie Thompson spent a delightful day answering young Dino’s questions about a range of topics, and all in camp were impressed with the brightness of this charming little man. Our camp dog, Tomba, will miss Dino especially.
From Monday to Friday, Andrei Kruglov and his son Zakhar pleased us all with their presence and kindness. So too did Peter Fedorov and Sergey Pavlov who, though they opted to not perform their repertoire of amazing Russian songs, did not disappoint guides or guests with their series epic lunches. Boris and Vladimir Levyant had a fine week despite some challenging fishing at times. Dominic, holder of Ponoi's record for most fish caught in a single week (achieved in Spring 2013), came again this season with his son Sam, who delivered one of the best fish of the week. Sam’s bruiser was an outstanding 16 lb sea-liced beauty that he hooked while wading in the lower beats. Well done, Sam!! From the UK we welcomed legendary Ponoi guest Len Smith, who visited us for the 50th time this year. We look forward to seeing Len once again in a couple weeks.
A personal friend of owner Ilya Sherbovich, Nikita Mishin, was in camp this week with his lovely family (Ksenia, Mitya and Feodor). Nikita celebrated his birthday last Friday, and the Ponoi offered him a very special present: on the last cast of the week, right in the Ryabaga Home Pool, a hot chromer charged Nikita’s fly. After a dramatic fight, Nikita managed to bring the fish to hand, and it was indeed a beauty; all present appreciated the 19 lb. slab of muscle and silver. During the dinner that followed this fishing session, Ilya gave Nikita a special present on behalf of the entire Ponoi Team: henceforth, the rock in Home Pool near which Nikita managed this lovely salmon will be known as Nikita’s Rock, in honor of friendship and fine angling. Birthday cake and song made a fine end to a great celebration for Nikita.
The definitive winner of the week was young Kostya Sherbovich, who, at 8 years, hooked 17 and landed 11 fish in an unforgettable solo session with "Uncle" Nick Sigov on Purnache beat last Friday. This session featured a 14 lb bright fish and a few other double-digit brawlers. As if this was not enough proof of Kostya’s precocity, after a few requests Kostya was allowed to join the adult poker table, where he did his father proud. By the time he was forced to bed, Kostya was the clear leader in chips. A great day for Kostya no doubt, as it was also a great week for all of us in camp.
Decent rains last Saturday and other rains through the week pushed more fall run fish into the system, though water levels did not rise appreciably. Additional rains remain in the forecast, and we anticipate that the height of the fall run is still in the future. Regardless of the low water levels, all beats remain fishable, and in an attempt to increase chances of encountering fresh fish, we have used the hovercraft to fish the upper Brevyeni water with good results. Autumn remains in full bloom on the Kola, and our resident foragers are reporting a tremendous mushroom year. Ksenia, Elena, Andrey, Peter, Sergey and their kids spent some fine hours picking mushrooms, and all had a great time. We all enjoyed the tundra’s bounty, despite the fact that the foraging hours damaged our fishing statistics!
In all, it was a wonderful week of friends and fishing. We look forward to more of the same in the weeks to come.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
August 24, 2014
Week 10 Report
As Fall Draws Ever Closer...
As the green in the bank-side trees slowly gives way to yellow, all signs indicate that we are getting closer to the prime of our fall season. This is the time when, year after year, arguably the most prolific run of Atlantic salmon in the world enters the Ponoi system. Of course every year is slightly different, and this season has been running a bit late all along, both in the spring and now in the fall. This week plenty of guests did experience the power of some fresh, bright fish, but it seems that the great majority of our most-anticipated salmon remain in the estuary, or are still ensconced in the long journey from the feeding grounds in the North Atlantic. This bodes well for the coming weeks, and the surge that is no doubt poised to begin.
As fall run fish are still achieving a presence in Ponoi waters, our overwintered fish and this year’s magnificent summer run salmon still comprise the majority of our catch. Rains are getting more and more frequent, and the river is achieving water levels more suited to fish moving upstream from the sea. We are certain that with these changing conditions, the catch ratio with regard to fall run fish will shift very soon. Despite the schedule of the fall run, guests averaged over 3 fish per day, excellent catches were achieved, great memories were built, and dreams came true this week on Ponoi. Such are the achievements that made this week a great success.
Again, a very lively and amusing group of guests visited us in camp this past week. We were happy to welcome our long-time friend John McMillan, who visited us for the umpteenth time in a long and storied salmon career, and for the second time this season. Another longstanding group of guests in Rybaga, namely the Boleys, came with Caroline and Everett and Job. From the United States we welcomed a lovely group of friends who had joined together for their first experience with Atlantic salmon, and who were certainly thrilled with their trip. From the Czech Republic, Yan and his son Tom visited Ponoi again, in the fine company of Devan Van d’Merve (who is an institution in the Seychelles, but quite new to swinging flies). All enjoyed the Ryabaga experience, and we certainly enjoyed the opportunity to serve as hosts.
Time passes quickly when the fishing and the friendships are strong, and Week 13 simply slipped by. As the signs of fall take hold all around us, we continue to look forward to what Ponoi has to offer.
Until next week…
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
NB: As I finish writing this report, the guides coming from the lower beats are reporting a great session full of bright fish!
August 16, 2014
Week 9 Report
And We Move into Autumn...
As the days passed this week, fall seemed to take over on the Kola. Temperatures continued to drop, and the nights grew noticeably darker. As forecasted, we had some much-needed rain this week. As the rains were fairly light, the river level did not rise considerably, but conversely it did not drop at all, as it has done gradually over the last few weeks. As I write, the rain continues to fall; it is encouraging to see the tundra green and full of water.
The fall run, which started officially last week, has pushed a few bright fish into the river. Though bright fish were taken this week, the great majority of the autumn fish remain in the sea, staging for the big upstream surge. Anglers averaged over 3 fish per rod per day, which remains slightly above the historical average for this time of year.
Evenings in the Big Tent were notably entertaining this week, and the main reason for such revelry was John K. This visit was John’s second to Ryabaga, and it will not be forgotten by anyone in camp. A natural entertainer, John kept everybody singing after dinner, and all in camp appreciated his warm presence. John came to Ponoi with his son Fergus, who was certainly not disappointed with his first visit. Fergus’ highlight of the week was without a doubt the 12 lb hen that he landed on a 6 wt single-handed bamboo rod and a drag-less old Hardy reel with no backing. The details of Fergus’ tackle were only made known to the guide when a few turns of line remained on the reel, and the hen was doing her level best to put an end to the fight!!
When we talk about ‘first’ experiences, then the tale of Maricela from Mexico was certainly the best of the week. This trip to Ponoi was Maricela’s very first experience with any sort of fishing, and she could not have been more exited about it. Maricela, who came to camp alongside her friend Miles from Canada, got a fine start to what hopes to be a long fishing career, catching many strong Ponoi salmon, and building a lifetime of memories.
Pavel, a Russian banker who lives in Singapore, caught the biggest fish of the week, and Jaques from France was our top rod. With so many nationalities represented in camp, it was a diverse and dynamic group who assembled each night, and took to the river each day. It is always a pleasure to see so many people come together over the experience that is Ponoi.
As the days went by, fishing got better and better, and we are confident that this trend will be confirmed by today’s catch. We are certainly looking forward for the forecasted rain and the inevitable run of silver fish that will enter the system in number at any moment.
We are excited for each day that comes, as Ponoi continues to impress, and to fill salmon dreams, and make salmon memories.
Until Next Week…
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
August 10, 2014
Week 8 Report
Fall Run and the End of Summer
Our 3-week midsummer break passed with moderate temperatures and cold nights, which kept the river in good condition. Throughout that time, numbers of taking fish continued to show throughout the river, promising good tidings for late-summer fishing. Summer on the Kola is a truly charming time of the year, and the tundra comes alive with blossoms, bugs, and birds. This season in the Arctic is condensed into a few short months, and the living things make the absolute most of it. That said, warm temperatures at the height of summer can drop the river and slow the fishing, but conditions during break had our hopes remaining high.
Among the projects targeted during the midsummer break were the painting of the entire camp, significant improvements on our camp roads, the refurbishing of the Hovercraft (which is in great working condition), and the completion of 8 cabins which allow us to receive 16 additional guests in great comfort. Despite the buzz of activity that went into these additions, by break’s end Ryabaga always seems a bit too quiet, and we were all grateful on July 31st to welcome back the entire staff. We re-grouped as a Team, much refreshed from the break, and readied ourselves for an exciting second half!
On Saturday we were happy to welcome to Ryabaga a group of 20 guests from Finland, hosted by our longtime friend Erkki Moisander. Unfortunately, our Finnish friends were welcomed with some warming weather, and temperatures broke the 30ºC mark every day following Sunday. About 90 fish were caught that first day, but the following days proved less productive, as water temperature steadily rose and the salmon fishing slowed down.
These challenging conditions did not stop 6 of our guests from landing their first Atlantic salmon on the fly. What would be almost unthinkable on any other piece of salmon water has become commonplace here on Ponoi, where with water temperature pushing the 23ºC mark, anglers continued to bank on multiple fish contacts for the remainder of the week.
This time of year, as we move through the midsummer heat, everyone associated with Ponoi begins to dream about the Fall Run. This was very much on the minds of guests in camp this week, and by Monday evening I had received several emails from eager anglers, with questions as to whether any fall run chrome had been spotted. I was happy to return good news to all, as our senior guide/mechanic Sergei Bistrov reported a bright fish landed in Tomba, and a sea-liced chromer caught on Gold Beach by anglers in guide Matt Solon's boat. These reports of fall run fish occurred a few days earlier than expected, but an early run is consistent with the slightly less-than-normal behavior of the river through the 2014 season. Throughout this remarkable season we have seen bright fish in greater number over a wider time period than during any other season in memory. But when it comes to catching more bright fish more often, I can assure you there have been no complaints!
By yesterday, we had seen the last breath of our intense and short boreal summer, and Fall seems to have taken over. With the departure of the friendly Finns, the heat departed too, and temperatures dropped to an average of 15ºC. In addition, predictably low summer water levels look to improve in a few days, as good rains have been announced for later in the week. With rain and cooling temps, the Fall Run should get into fine swing, and we can expect increasing numbers of bright fish to be caught in the days to come.
As usual, we are looking forward to seeing what the Ponoi has in store for us this Fall; no doubt it will consist of wonderful things!
More to come…
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
July 13, 2014
Week 7 Report
A Fine Week’s Fishing Bring Us Into Summer Break
Another week of Ponoi angling has slipped past, and with it the first half of the 2014 salmon season. With the weather settling and water levels ideal, we ended the first half of the season with a strong surge of bright fish, some truly remarkable catches, and some equally noteworthy guests in camp. After a cold, late-coming spring, the water levels have fully normalized, and through this first half the Ponoi has again revealed its bounty, both on and off the water. We are proud to announce that we’ve completed the first 7 weeks of 2014 with an impressive total of 6703 Atlantic salmon caught. This number makes for 300 more fish than were caught in the first half of the 2013 season, and of note were the 20+ pound salmon caught every week of the season thus far! Such an accomplishment must be attributed to the fine work of anglers and guides alike, and of course to the remarkable quality of this, the finest Atlantic salmon fishery in the world.
This week, the Kola was in full summer. We enjoyed a steady pulse of fresh, summer-run fish of good size and numbers. Nearly a third of salmon caught were fresh from the sea, and as bright as purest silver. We were especially pleased that President Jimmy Carter was in Ryabaga to experience the height of the summer run with wife Rosalynn and a group of close friends. President Carter is an experienced and dedicated angler, and he showed his skill and passion on the river each day, finishing the week among the top rods. We also had the honor of celebrating President and Mrs. Carter’s 68th (!!!) wedding anniversary in camp this week, in addition to the 70th birthday of guest John Moore. Both occasions were observed in finest Ryabaga fashion, with full fishing days, lovely meals, and cakes specially prepared by Ponoi chefs.
Ponoi River Company Owner Ilya Sherbovich and CEO Steve Estela hosted a special dinner for President Carter and his friends this week, during which Ilya toasted the noteworthy history of US-Russia cooperation on Ponoi. Ponoi has been and remains a place where Americans and Russians fish and work together, enjoy days in camp and on the water, and join forces in conservation efforts to protect Atlantic salmon. American anglers were the first to fly fish on Ponoi. Ryabaga Camp and indeed PRC itself were American-owned for many years. US guests comprise about 25% of all Ponoi guests, and the company has a longstanding history of employing American guides and camp staff. PRC works closely with the US company Frontiers, which serves as the exclusive booking agent for fishing on Ponoi. Ilya assured all present that despite the recent unfortunate cooling in US-Russia relations, Americans are and will always be welcome on Ponoi.
The angling high point of the week was Bob Wilson’s Friday fish, which put up a dramatic fight and tipped the scales at a whopping 23 lbs! Apparently, Bob's wife Inke, who hails from the Netherlands, made a pact with the Argentineans at camp: the exact details remain unknown, but there was a loose offer on behalf of Netherlands side to throw the World Cup Semi-Final Match against Argentina in exchange for a true bruiser of a Ponoi salmon! Apparently, the deal worked out for all involved, especially Bob, who was rightfully proud of this catch. Also from the states, the Mother, Father and Daughter team of Rinalda, Richard and Leslie joined us on their first trip to Ponoi. Leslie and Richard both landed strong salmon, much to the delight of Rinalda, who opted not to fish but who greatly enjoyed the beauty of camp. The French contingent in camp performed wonderfully, and Jean Pierre was among the top rods for the week. Achille boasted a tremendous day Thursday when he landed 15 fish from the bank. It was also great to see Wayne Hapster again; Wayne has fished with many of us in Argentina, and he also fished Ponoi once before in 1998. It was wonderful to have Wayne in camp, and hear him report how the river and the camp have improved in the years since he last visited.
We were again pleased to end the first half of the season hearing the many compliments of the guests regarding the fine food and exceptional service in Ryabaga. Though the focus in the camp is often on the extraordinary fishing, we are quite proud of the work we’ve done to create a top-flight service experience here on the tundra. Many thanks to the camp staff and mechanics who make these comforts possible, and congratulations to Chef Sidunov and his team on another exceptional start to the season. Now we break for three weeks, and re-tune camp, stock up on staples, and look forward to some needed rest. But with this midsummer pause we also prepare for whatever lies in store for the fall run, and the late-season on Ponoi. There is much to do, and much to anticipate, as this River continues to astound us. But it is also good to look back, and raise a glass to the guests and the salmon that made the first half of the season one for the record books. It is you who have made it all possible; and for those still awaiting a visit, the second half is looking to be spectacular.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
July 6, 2014
Week 6 Report
Best Week 6 in Ponoi History
After some challenging weather over the last couple weeks, we enjoyed amazing fishing and perfect conditions during Week 6. Temperatures remained quite cool, the skies stayed moderately covered, and the salmon responded in turn. The water remained at an ideal 12 to 14ºC, and with the river level steadily dropping and clearing, Ponoi anglers were able to witness a steady flow of summer run silver, straight from the sea. It was this heavy pulse of fish, and the fine angling that those fish provided, that made Week 6, 2014, the finest Week 6 in Ponoi history.
During Friday night’s farewell toast, I made the usual announcement concerning the catch stats for the week. By then, we were standing at 860 fish landed, hundreds of which were summer run fish, and many of them sea-liced. These numbers put 2014 just 3 fish short of the Week 6 record. I should have guessed, but could not have expected, that our anglers were not willing to be outdone. Upon hearing the proximity of a new record, several anglers volunteered to provide us with the few fish we were missing to make history. After dinner, though nearly all the gear was stowed and packed for departure, a dedicated crew grabbed loaner rods from the rod rack and descended on Home Pool in jeans and dress shirts. Without entering the water, these anglers landed 4 more bright summer chromers over the ensuing hour, realizing the goal of inking 2014 in the Ponoi history books! Having heard the success of the after-dinner session, a larger group of eager anglers took to the Home Pool Saturday morning, where, within minutes of departure and similarly under-dressed for a fishing day, they managed 11 more salmon. With those 11, our final number for the week tallied 875 fish! What’s more, anglers on Ponoi this week boasted a remarkable average of 50 fish per rod.
Of course, such outstanding numbers result from far more than simply great water, an abundance of fish, and peak angling conditions. Both anglers and guides have to do their share of work to make successes such as those that we saw during Week 6 possible, and we are proud to give credit where it is due.
As usual, a rich mosaic of fine anglers, and indeed of diverse nationalities, was represented in camp this week. Ben and Neil from the UK posed a dual threat on the water, what with their casting skill and salmon know-how. Erkki joined us again, and brought his party of Finnish friends back to the Ponoi for yet another week of laughter and fishing. Our Finnish guests were a beloved presence in the Big Tent, where, fresh from the banya, they entertained with cold beer and song. Ulla decided to join her husband Ilkka on the water, and she managed to catch her first 6 salmon on her very first fishing day. Neil and Michael from the US also joined us and performed admirably, as did Egardo who hails originally from Argentina but who has lived in Brazil for the last 40 years. Edgardo’s focus on salmon was, as you might imagine, threatened by the tensions associated with the South American dealings of Brazil and Argentina in this summer’s FIFA World Cup! A good time was had by all, as each day on the river, and each night in the Big Tent, Ponoi anglers spoke the common language of salmon!
We are facing Week 7, our last week before the summer break, with conditions as fine as we could have ever hoped for. We are especially proud this week to share the charms of the magnificent Ponoi with US President Jimmy Carter, who will be joining us to build some salmon memories. We are hugely honored by the prospect of President Carter’s arrival, and we have no doubt that Ponoi will make a lasting impression.
Until next week, and some stories of Presidential salmon…
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
June 29, 2014
Week 5 Report
One To Remember…
Week 5, 2014 brought with it some challenging fishing conditions for Ponoi anglers. Cold rain, strong winds, and a turbulent river combined to greatly decrease underwater visibility, and the fishing slowed considerably in the murky water. We’ve come to rely on Ponoi, however, to show us great things though thick and thin. This week was no exception, and we are pleased to report that despite adverse conditions, nearly 500 fish were caught.
In response to the murky water, Ponoi anglers were obliged to be aggressive in going after their fish. Big, bright flies fished on sink-tips proved a solid option, while tube flies fished in tandem also turned the trick. When the going gets rough on Ponoi, we go right after the fish, and by staying assertive, we force the salmon to eat.
On a positive note, water levels were maintained through the week, and the summer run that started during Week 4 pushed hard; several bright, sea-liced torpedoes were caught every day to the joy of our smiling guests. Pat, our dear Australian friend, who stayed in camp for two weeks, was able to enjoy Saturday’s decent weather. On that day he landed 13 fish in a reduced session, including a couple of strong summer chromers. With a memorable day on the ledger, Pat felt justified in remaining in camp when the weather was raging, and he enjoyed this time reading by the warm fireside. Pat and Cyril, his fishing companion, shared the privilege of being the most experienced members of our party this week, and when they joined our most senior guide, Sergei Bistrov, 200 years of salmon experience were compiled in a single boat!
A diverse group of anglers gathered at the bar every night to share fish stories, and we were pleased to welcome guests from the UK, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and Russia. A father and son, Dave and Sam, enjoyed a memorable week at Ryabaga. Sam showed his father how it was done not once but twice, by landing two cracking 20 pounders in the same session, and this on his first trip to Ponoi! Well done, Sam! Bruce, Paul, David and Jonathan, also from the UK, were great company both on the river and in the Big Tent. To Paul’s great surprise, staff and guests alike serenaded him with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" in several languages, in celebration of his special day. And of course we could not fail to mention the Canadian gang composed of Jim, Hal, Tim and Barry. These fine anglers filled our days and nights with laughter. The group was rounded out by Timo and Michael from Sweden and Sergey and Igor from Russia. To all of our guests this week we offer a debt of thanks for the good humor and commitment with they faced challenging conditions.
Challenging weather and unseasonable temperatures allowed Ponoi anglers to make full use of the new cabins as well. One of the wonderful elements of Ryabaga Camp is the warm and welcoming culture we create, both on and off the water. Blazing fires in the Big Tent and the new cabins made these spaces so comfortable that several anglers, not just Pat, found that a quiet session of relaxation was near as fruitful as a day on the water. We are pleased to see that the additions we’ve made to the camp infrastructure are proving such a comfort to our guests.
A special mention needs to be made in appreciation or our amazing Guide Team. This crew managed to put guests into fish every day, despite these challenging conditions. Ryabaga guides did an outstanding job by finding sections that were less affected by the wind, and by looking for fish in shallow water, where flies were much more visible. The guides dug deep with inputs and suggestions for the anglers, in order to help them cope with challenging weather. Their hard work proved successful, and we passed a tough week proud to report that there was never a boat without fish caught. You realize you are dealing with incredible guides when you hear the raving reviews of our guests every week.
Looking forward, we anticipate better weather and a continuing summer run. Bright, strong fish continue to fill the system, and with clearing water we expect great things. It will be my pleasure to share these results with you as we move ever deeper into the summer, with more friends arriving and more fish to welcome them.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
June 21, 2014
Week 4 Report
Amazing Spring Gives Way to Summer Run
Week 4 of the 2014 salmon season afforded Ponoi anglers a wealth of memories and some absolutely unforgettable fishing. We were reminded this week, however, that our fishery lies well above the Arctic Circle, and Spring on the Kola is nothing but uncertain, from a weather standpoint anyway. Having finished week 3 with seasonably decent weather, week 4 showed us all that this latitude has to offer, including northerly winds, chilly mornings, and the odd spitting snowfall. Our brave and skillful anglers pressed on nonetheless, and were duly rewarded. In fact, between the weather conditions and the quality of fish, it felt almost like autumn, as in keeping with the season’s trend, salmon continued to prove large, bright, and remarkably fresh. This unique spring of 2014 keeps proving how late the 2013 fall run entered the system. Phenomenally bright and powerful fish were landed throughout our 60 km of river, with many individuals tipping the scales in the 18-23 lb range. There were epic battles daily, and great stories to be heard in the Big Tent each evening. Daily catches of 20 fish per rod were not rare this week, though few could top the performance of Victor, who managed to land 29 fish in Gold Beach, with 4 of those nudging 20 lb. And if those stats were not enough to please guests and guides alike, we were witness this week to the official start of the Summer run. Two sea-liced chromers arriving straight from the sea were caught on Friday, capping a late-fall/early-spring run that has already proven sublime. The Ponoi is full of hot salmon right now, and all present are reaping the rewards!
Among the notable catches this week were those of Paul, John, Horst and several other committed anglers, who enjoyed multiple fish in the high teens up to a whopping 23 pounds. But for sure the most unforgettable fishing session was Victor's aforementioned Sunday, when he put on a day that could only have been possible in this amazing river. Our friend, magician, host and entertainer Bill Y landed his fair share of fish, but spent equal energy hosting friends and sharing endless fishing stories.
This Week we were fortunate to have in camp some of our most loyal guests, some with over 20 years of Ponoi experience under their waders. Jon, Jim, John & Cheryl and our Scottish friends Doreen, Stewart and Ross and of course Casper and Ian all had a wonderful week, and built upon a lifetime of salmon memories. It was, as usual, a great pleasure to have these loyal friends returning to fish Ponoi year after year. PRC Owner Ilya Sherbovich took time to share some fishing with old friend Bill Y, and to host some great dinners overlooking the river from the Guest House, in honor of our longstanding guests.
Meteorological predictions for the near future are a bit unclear, but owing to the week we’ve just had, Ponoi salmon are unfazed by the weather. If the season continues to progress in the way it has, truly exceptional things lie just around the corner. With the Summer run’s arrival, and midnight sun when the clouds part, more angling awaits on Ponoi than an angler could ever hope for. It will be our pleasure to watch the 2014 Ryabaga anglers do their best to squeeze every drop of magic from this remarkable fishery, and we can’t wait to report what transpires in the upcoming Week 5.
Until Next Week,
Joaquin Arocena and the PRC Team
June 15, 2014
Week 3 Report
Best Week #3 in Ponoi's 24 year history!
We are pleased to report that there are 1660 good reasons why we were privileged this week to witness one of the finest weeks in Ponoi history. With a catch tally that closely rivaled Ponoi’s best weeks ever, and a number of fish in the 18-20 lb class, Week 3 shaped up to be a week well worth remembering.
We entered this season with unclear expectations due to a very unusual 2013 fall that boasted record low water levels and high air/water temperatures. These factors led to a late pulse of fish, and quite probably a good number that only entered the system upon ice-out this spring. With an unclear number of fish in the river at last season’s end, and an unclear number staging for spring entry, we were all eager to see what the first weeks of 2014 would produce. The season began with a very late ice-out, and high water levels. Week 2 fishing made us certain that fish were indeed thick in the river, but by the end of Week 3 any doubts were dispelled; Ponoi proved once again that she has to be the most reliable and prolific Atlantic salmon fishery in the world. 19 guests averaged a weekly catch of 87 fish!
As noted last week, the fish were in stunning shape: deep, silver, and extremely powerful. The best fishing took place on the first days of the week, when cloud cover and cooler temperatures made for perfect salmon conditions. As the days went by, we saw more and more sun, which slowed the fishing a bit but made matters more enjoyable for our anglers. Water temperatures hovered around an ideal 12 to 14 ºC throughout.
16 of the 19 anglers in Ryabaga this week have fished with us several times. That said, no veteran Ponoi angler could top the provenance of Len Smith in this matter. Len enjoyed his 48th visit to Ponoi this week, becoming one of the most loyal anglers in the 23-year history of traditional salmon fishing on the river. With another week scheduled for later this year, and three visits on the calendar for 2015, Len has his sights set on the 52 visits that will complete a full year’s time spent at camp. By Tuesday, Len had caught over 50 fish, and his review by then was that the river was in as fine shape as he’s ever seen it so early in the season.
Our great numbers were further boosted by a group of committed anglers that did some significant work in the Home Pool. Pat, Lawrence, Simon, and the Peters (Pierre and Pedro as we called them to differentiate) performed wonderfully, and with the help of other guests caught and released 160 salmon after dinner or before breakfast.
As we face our 4th Week, the river continues to drop, and to fill with chrome. Stable weather remains for the foreseeable future, and our expectations could not be higher. We are looking forward to seeing what the mighty Ponoi has in store for the rest of this 2014 spring.
Until Then, Tight Lines!
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
June 9, 2014
A quick note to let you know that week 3 started with an outstanding 290 salmon landed. We are on the way to another shocking week!
June 8, 2014
Week 2 Report
The second week of the 2014 salmon season just passed on Ponoi, and the spring has no doubt begun to show its charms. A rain on Monday night slowed the fishing a bit on Tuesday, but weather conditions were perfect through the remainder of the week on this side of the Kola Peninsula. The River has been dropping steadily, and historic fishing lies are revealing themselves once again. As water levels dropped, water temperatures rose, and the fish became noticeably more active, availing the first dry fly action of the year. Lower water also meant that guests were able to wade the legendary Ryabaga Home Pool, which is arguably the most productive stretch of Atlantic salmon water in the world today.
Fishing this week met the high expectations of Ryabaga guests, with a total of 1030 bright fish caught. Week 2 on Ponoi is famous for its action, and in keeping with tradition, boats returned a high percentage of bright fish. Needless to say, there were happy faces throughout camp each night, with the joys of good fishing shared by guests and guides alike.
The exceptional condition of the bright fish taken thus far has given rise to much conversation among guides, guests, and scientists. One theory poses that the extremely low water of 2013 season delayed the fall run significantly, and the river froze well below normal levels. For this reason, a big portion of the fall run may only have advanced to the freshwater when the river finally melted, just a few short weeks ago. Irrefutable proof of a recent migration lies in the presence of sea lice on our recent bright fish, indicating a very short stay in the fresh water. Regardless of the reason, the fine condition of Ponoi fish marks a very special situation, punctuated by Head Guide Max Mamaev’s statement that in 19 seasons on the Ponoi, he has never seen fish so fresh in the spring.
With a full camp and the visit of PRC Owner Ilya Sherbovich hosting a family trip. As usual, it was nice to see longtime friends of Ponoi fishing alongside a handful of first-timers, and all embarking on each fishing session with the same enthusiasm and joy. James, Philipe and Athicha managed a great piece of angling by catching good numbers of fish on their first Atlantic salmon experience. Probably the most noteworthy achievement of the week, however, was Darryl's Thursday session, when he landed 24 bright fish while wading in one of our lower beats.
High water early in the week allowed us to mix things up a bit, and Peter and Dominic spent one half-day day visiting the Purnache. This tributary is a lovely river in itself, and allows for an intimate fishing experience. The duo did great, and enjoyed a memorable half day with 10 fish caught. Guides also enjoyed Francois's culinary talents at midday when he produced amazing lunches with great dedication. Francois’ dedication on the cooking front of course did not stop him from catching the biggest fish of the week, which topped the scale at 20 lbs. We ended a wonderful week by celebrating with an evening of Poker, long and enthusiastic conversation, and, for some, a little dancing. We look forward to welcoming this week’s guests again next season, or in some cases, later in this 2014 season.
We are entering the 3rd week at Ryagaba with great expectations; the river is still quite full but in great form, there are many taking fish in the system, and the weather should keep smiling on us. With this good fortune, we hope to possibly top last week’s impressive numbers. We look forward to reporting back in a few days.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryagaba Team
June 3, 2014
Week 1 Report
We have experienced a very late spring after a long, hard winter on the Kola. The challenges of winter weather made for a difficult startup of the 2014 season, and the Mechanic and Guide Teams hustled to prepare everything for the arrival of our first anglers. Once again, everybody in Ryabaga did a great job, and guests arrived this week to see camp in perfect order, and staff eager to begin yet another Ponoi season.
Temperatures were very cold every day this week, with sub-zero temperatures most nights and a light snow on the ground nearly every morning. The late spring and recent ice-out created very high water levels, as well as low water temperatures, but once again we were surprised by the outstanding performance of the Ponoi. Despite these very difficult conditions, our 20 fishing guests managed to land 732 proper bright fish and an additional 326 kelts. These figures totaled 1058 Atlantic salmon caught on the inaugural week of 2014, an impressive achievement by any account and definitive proof of Ponoi's ongoing bounty. The Ponoi continues to shine, especially when we consider weak salmon reports from the rest of the Kola Peninsula.
River conditions forced us to use sinking lines and big, heavy tubes this week, which proved a casting challenge for many of our guests. Undaunted, our guides did a great job finding fish in a river that ran impressively high and fast. Our fantastic crew of Russian, British, Argentine and American guides, led by mythic Max Mamaev, worked as a unified team, as in the first days all were forced by conditions to be flexible about beat limits and rotation, ensuring quality fishing for each guest, every day. By the end of the week, the River was noticeably lower, and by week’s end it had begun to reveal its attributes and subtleties. We look forward to seeing the River back at normal flow levels and warmer water temperatures in the next days, as we know the best is yet to come.
We welcomed a wonderful group of 10 guests from Oklahoma, USA in the Guest House this week. This was the first Atlantic salmon experience for 7 members of the group, though we are certain it won’t be their last. As usual, we were joined by some old friends of Ponoi as well, several of whom will be returning for more action later in the season. It is amazing to see so many guests returning time and again over the course of so many years; this loyalty is something the whole team feels very proud of.
The new cabins are a great success, and on those proper Arctic nights, they proved to be a comfortable improvement on the traditional tents. The cabins are both thermally and acoustically insulated, and feature 24-hour electric heating. Add to these luxuries a privileged view of the River, and all might agree that these cozy spaces are everything we needed to take Ryabaga to the next level. But the solace of friendly faces, camaraderie, and remarkable cuisine from Anton Sidunov’s amazing team maintains the Ryabaga salmon experience as something to cherish. And if the bright fish keep coming, and the water keeps dropping, we might be in for something truly remarkable in this 2014 season. As for now, we have all we could want and more.
Joaquin Arocena and the Ryabaga Team
June 2, 2014
Dear Ponoi Friends,
It was a great first week! The river is still running high, but we enjoyed great fishing, thanks to a superb job from our team of guides and anglers. A full report is on the way, but for now know that 732 salmon up to 21 pounds were landed on the first fishing week of 2014.
Cheers Ponoi! We look forward to more!
The Ryabaga Team
May 30th. 2014
Dear Ponoi friends,
A great first week, the river is still high but we enjoyed great fishing. Outstanding job from our Team of guides. Full report on the way, total Salmon landed 734 up to 21 pounds! Cheers Ponoi keep it up.
The Ryabaga Team!
May 15, 2014
Dear PRC Community,
It is my pleasure to report that the 2014 salmon season is nearly upon us! Though the Kola remains chilly, and the spring colors have yet to fully return, Ryabaga is buzzing with life. 2014 Ryabaga Camp Manager Joaquin Arocena is headed to camp today, alongside Boris Machnev, Ruslan Ryadovkin, and Big Dan Shelekov. This crew represents the second wave of Guide arrivals in camp, and they will be joining forces with the Mechanic Team in order to get boat and fishing logistics complete. The Mechanics have been hard at work for some time, painting/prepping boats and readying engines for the first wave of anglers. In fact, across the board, Ryabaga is seeing a level of preparedness that is truly impressive. Tents and shelters are largely in place, and our little Kola village is ready to welcome the Kitchen and Camp Staff on Friday. These folks will make final preparations for guests, and ensure that all possible comforts are in place when the first group of Ponoi anglers makes landfall. It is always remarkable to see how Ryabaga can emerge from an Arctic winter with such elegance and charm.
The weather on the Kola remains chilly and grey, though the snow is melting fast as springtime temperatures return. By week’s end we should see sunny skies and temps in the 8-10 C range. The river is open in places, and as river ice continues to melt, we hope to see a final breakup in the next few days. Fortunately the banks are clear, and once the ice goes out, fishing access should be easy and safe. All of these signs, and the return of friends into Ryabaga, speak to the excitement and energy that comes with spring on Ponoi. Another season of angling lies just around the corner; camp is bigger and better and more comfortable than ever, and the staff we’ve assembled is top-flight. We, like you, are eager to see Ponoi shake loose the last bits of winter, so that we may once more enjoy the bounty that lies beneath the ice. 2014 will no doubt be a season to remember, and we are more than eager to share it with you.
Steve Estela, Ponoi River Company CEO
April 1, 2014
As usual, Spring is off to a busy start at Ponoi River Company. Across the globe, like-minded anglers are dreaming of Ponoi silver, while on the Kola, preparations are being made in earnest. Progress includes:
· March 12, 2014 the first group of builders and Ryabaga Mechanics flies into camp.
· 2014 building projects get underway. Foundations for the new cabins are laid, and wood production at the Ryabaga saw mill cranks up.
· The River remains frozen. Temperatures have been very cold, and on the coldest days freezing propane makes progress difficult.
· On March 27, 2014 road-building equipment and a new 200 KVA generator arrive in Ryabaga via winter road (across the tundra). The new generator will ensure the proper electrical supply for the ten double-room, single-bathroom cabins to be finished by the end of the 2014 season.
· The Murmansk Office is rolling at full administrative speed with food orders, migration processes for guides, building material purchases, cabin equipment purchases, fuel orders, boat engine upgrades etc.
In all, the excitement of the pre-season is fully upon us. These are hectic times, and all systems are moving fast in preparation for another glorious season. After all, fishing is just around the corner. We can’t wait to see you on the water!
February 2014: A Warm Welcome
Far north on the Kola, the Ponoi is again covered in ice, and the salmon that entered the system last year are patiently awaiting the spring. It is a time of anticipation for all of us, and a time of looking back over seasons past, and salmon memories. For the last few years, Matt Breuer has been a fixture in Ryabaga. His energy and enthusiasm, and clear passion for the sport of angling, brought a degree of electricity to the Ponoi River Company. Matt was tireless in his efforts to make Ryabaga not only a bountiful fishery, but a welcoming and vibrant beacon on the tundra. He built longstanding relationships with PRC guests, staff, and management, and he was instrumental in bringing the Company to the ‘next level’. He will be missed, but we wish him luck in his future endeavors, which will no doubt impact the greater world of angling. We are all grateful for his work on behalf of the Ponoi River Company.
Departures have a way of opening space for new arrivals. It is with great pleasure that we are able to welcome Joaquin Arocena into the role of Ryabaga Camp Manager. Joaquin’s experience in destination fisheries is both rich and unique. He built a solid foundation as an angling guide in the diverse rivers of his native Argentina, where he targeted both endemic trout and sea-run browns. As Joaquin’s experience grew, he undertook greater challenges, specifically in the realm of exploratory angling and fisheries development. Beginning in 2008, Joaquin worked to develop angling and lodging opportunities for an array of fisheries in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and the Seychelles. His drive to put these angling destinations on the map landed him leadership roles at Desroches Island and Cosmoledo Bay, Seychelles. Joaquin’s angling and guiding resume is quite impressive for a man of his age, and he will bring this wealth of experience with him to Ryabaga.
Joaquin’s talents outside of angling will be of great value to PRC. He is a widely published photographer, with work appearing in a range of angling-focused and mass-market publications. He is also a trained industrial engineer. With this skill-set rounding out his angling, guiding, and management ability, he will no doubt refine the workings of Ryabaga Camp. He will return to the Kola this spring with his wife, Vicki Valsecchi, and we wish them both a warm welcome.
In these periods between the seasons, there is always great anticipation for what lies ahead. There is always the likelihood that the salmon of a lifetime lurks beneath the Ponoi ice, and that the season to come will be one of unprecedented success. No doubt, with regard to the team that is taking shape, PRC has never been better poised to deliver greatness. With that in mind, we wish you a joyful spring, full of salmon memories, and salmon dreams.
Steve Estela, CEO
Ponoi River Company 2013: A Season In Review
With the Salmon season now officially closed on Ponoi, it is my wish to offer a formal thanks to all those who made 2013 so memorable for PRC. It is always a bit of a whirlwind in Fall, with the closing of camp and the departure of guests and staff. When things finally grow quiet, and the dust of the season settles, it is valuable for me to review the season in detail, and to consider the strength of our success. Looking back over this year, I am proud to report that, as expected, the fishing was rewarding and consistent; I am always amazed at the ongoing quality of the Ponoi fishery. I am equally proud, however, of the advances made throughout Ryabaga Camp, and throughout PRC on the whole. From building projects to camp refinements to upgrades in gear and tackle, the PRC Team has worked tirelessly to maintain the steady improvement of what is already the finest Atlantic salmon Camp in the world. I would like to take this opportunity to recap the highlights that made the 2013 season so significant:
* With a tremendous effort on the part of our Team, coupled with an unusually early Spring on the Kola, camp was ready for guests in record time. Fishing proved steady from the very start of the season, and it held strong through the duration of the summer. Anglers throughout the season raved both about the fishing, and the amenities in Ryabaga.
* The 2013 Guide Team that assembled in early Spring was comprised of renowned guides from Russia, UK, USA, Argentina and Ireland. This elite crew brought to the table an unmatched wealth of angling experience, and a desire to put all of that experience to use on the water. Under the leadership of Max Mamaev, the 2013 Guide Team proved itself a force to be reckoned with.
* Early season weather conditions were forgiving due to minimal snowfall and low water level, and great catches were the norm from the outset. The opening two weeks of the season were the best opening weeks in twenty-two years of Ponoi angling.
* Building projects were well underway by early season, with the sites of four new cabins selected and the foundations for those structures complete. The efficient construction of these structures in so remote a location amazed guests and staff alike.
* A record number of guests in Spring 2013 gave rise to a record week of fishing, and a grand tally of 1666 fish landed for a single Spring week was recorded.
* Off the water, Camp services ran like clockwork. Throughout the summer, guests raved about the cuisine; the Kitchen Team performed at its best-ever, and guests and staff took notice!
* June and July flew by as usual, and quickly we found ourselves at midsummer. As is the custom, we emptied Camp and re-grouped around a mid-season break. Buildings and other camp facilities were upgraded, re-stocked, and tuned during this period to welcome the Fall anglers.
* In the biggest facilities upgrade since the opening of Ryabaga Camp, three new cabins (boasting two single bedrooms with in-suite bathrooms) were incorporated into the camp infrastructure. These cabins were field-tested by some repeating guests, who responded to the upgrade with comments like: ‘Wow, this is the way to go…’,‘I cant believe it…..this is almost too much…’, and ‘You just extended my Salmon fishing life 10 more years’.
* PRC Owner Ilya Sherbovich organized a week of fishing for family and kids, which proved a great success! Several two- and three-generation salmon-fishing families took to the river to pursue Ponoi silver. No doubt some lifetime memories were established this week.
* The arrival of Fall in the Kola brought with it continued bright sunny days, high temperatures, and low river levels, posing challenging fishing conditions but easy wading for camp guests.
* We witnessed the lowest-ever and highest-ever water levels during the same week; the run of bright Fall fish arrived later than usual, but once it came it arrived in earnest, and fish continue to enter the system steadily as I write. The projection for the 2014 Spring season is very good, as evidenced by the steady pulse of fish ongoing in Ponoi.
* Former PRC owner Thorpe McKenzie met with current owner Ilya Sherbovich during September, and together they toasted the past and future of the Ponoi. This momentous event was cause for much celebration, complete with touching speeches from both men.
* 2013 proved a record season in numbers of guests, client satisfaction, and rewarding fishing under challenging conditions. As usual, the client roster was exceptional, and all those present were gracious and eager guests. It is our hope and expectation to welcome many 2013 anglers back for the coming season, to continue the tradition of Ponoi angling.
As with all things, the 2013 season closes with some departures. It is time to bid farewell to two team members who have given tremendous time and effort to Ponoi over the last 5 years. I’d like to formally thank these folks as they pursue new ventures:
Matt Breuer, with whom I share a longstanding friendship, is leaving us a legacy of professionalism and dedication. He is off to explore new challenges in the fishing world, and I will miss him deeply. He will be remembered most for his jokes, his loud voice, and his tireless commitment to productivity. I wish him the very best, from the bottom of my heart.
Sveta Kudrina, PRC General Director, has worked tirelessly to turn Ponoi into the success it is today. Sveta’s dedication and knowledge have set a new standard in the industry of destination angling travel. Sveta has helped me immeasurably over the past few years, with the sole focus of having Ponoi River Co. be recognized worldwide as the finest operation in the fishing industry. I wish Sveta the best for the future; no doubt she will be an asset wherever she lands.
In closing, it is of course necessary to acknowledge the hard work and generosity of the many individuals who have made PRC the success it is. I wish to thank the Frontiers US and UK Teams, under the leadership of Mollie Fitzgerald, for all their hard work and support in helping us sustain Ponoi, the best Atlantic salmon River in the world. I would like to thank once again the incredible Ponoi Team members, a family of people who are committed to delivering the best at all times. Kitchen Staff, Guides, Mechanics, Camp Staff, Office Members, Supply Team and all others… many, many thanks! You make me feel proud to be part of PRC.
Finally, I’d like to offer many thanks to Ilya Sherbovich for his constant support and guidance, and to my family for their time and patience in allowing me to do what I love.
Looking forward to seeing you all on the banks of Ponoi in the seasons to come!
Ponoi River Company CEO
October 7, 2013
All Is Quiet Now
Ponoi’s final week turned out to be a resounding success. What with fantastic salmon fishing and a beloved cast of characters, there couldn’t be a better way to round out our 2013 season.
Longtime Ponoi angler Richard Mellish reveled in two weeks of relaxed salmon angling. Richard is never one to be rushed out onto the water, and he always manages to enjoy the whole Ryabaga experience. Richard emerged each day from one of our new cabins to enjoy an early breakfast in the big tent. From there, he’d return to the cabin for a relaxed daily constitutional, then he’d dress for the day’s fishing. Out on the water, Richard and his guide shared stories of angling adventures far and wide. With no interest in frothing the waters with fast-paced casting, Richard’s methodic pace is indicative of an 83-year-old who knows just what salmon fishing is all about. At the end of each day, Richard and guide arrived back in camp to report consistent numbers of big bright salmon landed. In all, he boasted 27 salmon, 15 fall run, 1 of 12 pounds, 2 of 14 pounds, and a bruiser of 18 pounds.
Another notable angler this last week was not really an angler at all. Mr. Valery Bodrov enjoyed his time in Ryabaga in myriad ways, gracing us with songs at dinner time, indulging in games including an advanced version of tic-tac-toe, and even joining Ted and I for some Frisbee tossing. Valery was obviously well versed in Ponoi folklore, and made a request to fly to Ponoi Village to see the stone labyrinth that dates back to the earliest days of Ponoi settlement. Fortunately, a flight to Ponoi Village was ordered to resupply the guards with fuel and provisions, and Valery, alongside interpretive-guide Boris Machnev, hitched a ride to the village to view the site of the Ponoi Labyrinth. According to Boris Machnev, the labyrinth (30 meters in diameter), may have been used thousands of year ago to corral salmon. This theory could be substantiated by the 1948 discovery of a labyrinth at the mouth of the Varzina River, under which archaeologists found the vertebrae of a young whale processed by man. By many rights, these labyrinths are a reflection of magical beliefs of the ancient fishermen.
While Valery and Boris flew back to Ryabaga with a tale to share, all of the Ryabaga team members were busy putting the final touches on and end-of-season supper that would be sure to delight all. In keeping with tradition, the guide team was welcomed back to the guide benches by a Vodka toast, in recognition of their season’s success.
The last Saturday morning of the 2013 season was a flurry of activity, as bleary-eyed guides traversed the camp in transporting the luggage of 22 satisfied anglers. While assuring the safe departure of the guests, guides were also busy assembling gear for the second Mi8 that carried Guest House anglers and several staff en route to Murmansk. As Mechanics, Kitchen and Camp Staff, and the last remaining Guides waved goodbye, and the Mi8 rotor clap disappeared into the western sky. A sigh of relief was breathed by all, as we realized another season completed with grace and style.
So goes another Salmon season, and the passage of another summer here on the Kola. As silence falls over our little village, we again look out over the mighty Ponoi, and sense the life pulsing beneath her surface. So too do we revel in the season’s bounty, and all of the memories we’ve built and shared in this place. As the winter clamps down over this place, we anticipate a much-needed rest. But in that we cannot thank you each enough for being part of the magic. We look forward to your return in 2014, when the salmon leap again in the face of another blossoming season!
Matt Breuer and the PRC Team
September 30, 2013
The Obsession of Carter Andrews
In the early days of my career in the world of fly fishing, I found myself waist deep in Alaska’s Kanektok River alongside the likes of angling personality Carter Andrews. Carter is a big guy with a big heart, and upon being swept into his circle of fishing friends, I was introduced not only to many great anglers, but also to an angling subculture of folks who, quite literally, live to fish. As fate would have it, some time after our introduction, Carter’s adventures took him to the world-famous Kau Tapen Lodge in search for giant sea-run brown trout. There he met yet another compulsive fly angler, namely Ponoi River Co.’s CEO and Managing Director Steve Estela. Wonderfully, this last week the three of us were reunited here on Ponoi, and the reunion was documented on film as a component of the Outdoor Channel’s “The Obsession of Carter Andrews”. Not only was Carter’s presence here, alongside father Bill and wife Heidi, a festive social occasion, it afforded all in camp the chance to see a true fanatic at work. Needless to say, Carter didn’t let us down, but you’ll just have to tune in to see what he teased up from the depths of Ponoi.
On this the penultimate week of our 2013 season, a corps of anglers from all over the world descended upon Ryabaga. Unfortunately, the rainy cold arrived with them. The inclement weather was badly needed, however, and served to change the composition of the river dramatically. After a period of bony water and skittish fish, we managed to see the river fill once more to peak flow, and the fishing followed suit.
Several notable catches graced our guests this week: Tom managed a 19-pound fall run fish, and Chris a 23-pounder. Then there was Carter’s bruiser, a fish taken while the cameras were rolling… though you’ll need to tune in to the Outdoor Channel at 10:00 EST for the full details, the image on our website does a good deal of justice to the caliber of Ponoi silver.
Fishing was challenging at points through the week, though 67% of the salmon taken were fall runners. Again, this pulse of water will continue to entice numbers upstream, and we are confident that the run will continue through October, thereby promising an excellent Spring in 2014.
The Big Tent was a special place this week as we shared our time with anglers from Montana, Wyoming, California, the Eastern US, Russia, the UK, etc. All took refuge from the rain and chill to bask in the glow of wood fire, friendship, and stories to triumph and tribulation on the water. All hands enjoyed the medicinal effect of a Vodka toast, followed by the array of magnificent Bordeaux wines. PRC owner Ilya Sherbovich was once again magnanimous beyond any expectation, as he emerged from the wine with multiple magnums and a quartet of Jeroboams… Thank you again, Ilya.
As things begin to grow quiet around camp, I continue to be impressed with the ongoing hard work of all the Guides, Camp Staff, Kitchen Team, and Mechanics… It is these hearty souls who press on despite the weather and the length of the season to offer up every detail in the Ponoi experience. Their joy in sharing this place is apparent, and certainly appreciated. It is always wonderful, particularly on a cold or wet or otherwise challenging day on the river, to see a guest’s face relax into the comforts of camp. It is here that Ryabaga truly shines, in offering anglers an experience that goes well beyond the river or the fishing day. It is the little bit extra that we at Ponoi take pride in, and we look forward to offering it once more next week. Until then, dream of bright fish, and know that we are looking forward to your journey North!
September 23, 2013
Ponoi River Club – Never Better!
Thorpe McKenzie, Ponoi River Company’s original owner started our week off with the heartfelt presentation of a beautiful Stanley Bogdan 300 series fly reel engraved with the initials “M.M.” to Head Guide Max Mamaev. Thorpe recounted the story of his largest-ever Ponoi salmon being caught under the careful guidance of Max, not to mention the casting instruction that he took away from his days in the boat with our very own Spey master. Thorpe’s visit also became momentous reunion of Ponoi owners past and present: on the final evening of the week Ilya Sherbovich and Thorpe McKenzie toasted the success of Ryabaga and the conservation initiatives embraced therein.
As is always the case this week on Ponoi, regulars like Jeremy, Hacker, Mike, and Randolph ensured plentiful laughter each night in the Big Tent, and the jokes became racier than ever as the week crept on! A number of great wines graced the table this week, through the generous donation of PRC owner Ilya Sherbovich. Syndicate members sipped from the finest Bordeaux throughout the week, and on Thursday the party raised a collective glass to all members of the Ryabaga Team, and the service that the Team offered throughout a wonderful week’s fishing.
With water levels still at an all-time low, the Guide Team demonstrated extraordinary prowess in the areas of boatmanship and fish-finding. 254 salmon were landed for the 14 rods, and nearly 70% were bright; not a bad showing of what the Ponoi is all about, even on this slow-ish season. What’s more, with representative salmon like the ones Thorpe’s Sarah landed (see pics @ www.ponoiriver.com) there is no disputing the distinctiveness of this river.
By week’s end, the final dinner was full of cheer, toasts, jokes, stories, and laughter. It was, in keeping with syndicate tradition, not only a week of fine fishing, but a week of camaraderie too, recounted with poetic flair. Randolph related his song about the bricklayer, and Thorpe’s lovely Sarah, describing her personal Ponoi experience, capped the week with this clever series of limericks:
There once was a girl who was green,
For a salmon, she had never seen.
So she came to Ponoi,
On this trip of all boy,
And now she thinks she’s a salmon queen.
Now the Africans are a true delight.
Hardwick and Nicki are prone to fight.
Then there’s ol’ Hacker,
Who is one funny cracker.
As Randolph deems his jokes good or shite.
There is one thing that was hard to take.
And if your wife knew she would quake.
Not a joke or a sin,
Nor the Vodka and Gin
But the ride on that bloody Mi8.
Ahhh, Sarah… how perceptive women are.
Matt Breuer and the PRC Team
September 16, 2013
The Irish Contingent
Terry and John were back again and larger than life, and alongside the Turley brothers, they took the Guest House by storm. Camp came to a crescendo this week as these old friends swept in with all of the enthusiasm of young boys, chomping at the bit to be let loose on the river in search of Ponoi Silver. In this their long-awaited week of salmon fishing, the Irish Contingent commandeered our Irish Whiskey supply as well as the Home Pool, and reveled in all that is Ponoi.
In a wonderful gesture of loyalty and friendship, Jon and Hubert, our longtime guests, joined forces once again in Ryabaga Camp. Hubert was enjoying his second week of fall fishing, and his perseverance was rewarded with a 19 lb salmon of considerable note. The duo fished through the week in harmony, plying the waters in search of fresh, sea-bright fall runners.
Home Pool was very good to David and John D., as each caught 14 lb sea-liced salmon before breakfast over the course of the week. Their successes lend compelling evidence to the importance of fishing the Home Pool early each day and often.
Ponoi salmon are on the march, and heading up river very fast. We are seeing many sea-lice flanked beauties in Kolmac and Alexaevsky beats, high in our system. With a total of 30% bright fish for the week, the guide team pushed their bodies and minds to the maximum, working hard for the guests of our week 16, in hopes of finding good fortune in the form of fall run silver.
The induction of Cabins ‘1’ and ‘2’ was officially made, and we were proud to offer the new accommodation to longtime regulars Len, Jane, Jim, and John. The four enjoyed the comfort of the new Ryabaga cabins, which have been outfitted with a full bed, en suite bathroom, and heated wardrobes in which to dry waders, boots and jackets. Though these spaces were largely refuted by longtime canvas tent occupants, when asked about the incorporation of the cabins, these four former tent loyalists quickly changed their tune.
Autumn nights are becoming cooler and longer. The Aurora Borealis shone through the crisp night skies, creating a mystical evening show more often than not this last week. It always feels ‘right’ somehow to have cooler weather descend over the Kola, and it always seems that the fish grow stronger with the advancing season. There is color just now decorating the hillsides, and birds are moving southward. With the pulse of bright fish in the system, we are reminded that Autumn is fully upon us, and the end of the season is near at hand. With that we raise our glasses, and as the Irish Contingent so aptly taught us, we sally forth towards the finest days with the enthusiasm of children. After all, it doesn’t get any better than this!
Until we see you…
September 9, 2013
Ah, the Regulars…
This past week was nothing short of magical, as Ryabaga enjoyed another Week 15 and the return of sixteen steadfast attendees. Though the vast majority of anglers in camp have celebrated this lovely autumn slot for years and years, there was a warm welcome too for the four newcomers, who were privy to this place for the first time. Anglers old and new converged on and astride the river to enjoy the finest that Ryabaga has to offer: food, service, guides, tackle, and easily the best Atlantic salmon fishing known to man.
Notable catches this week included not one but two 19-pound Autumn run salmon, taken by Len and Jane. Jane found hers in the third cast of the morning, while Len was awarded his trophy catch just before quitting time, lending credence to the notion that a leisurely lunch will never get in the way of great fishing on Ponoi. Speaking of long lunches, I was coaxed from the office this week to join Robert and Giles of England at the Clough Creek tent, where we enjoyed a succulent fillet of beef and chips prepared expertly Argentine ‘el disco’ style. With a side of wild tundra mushrooms and onions, I’d venture to say that no finer fare was had in all of western Russia that day. Other fine catches were those of Graham, who landed a 17-pound bright, and Herve who boated two fish at 17-pounds, all on the same day. Not to be outdone, Bernard made some memories of his own, and landed a 20-pound Autumn run salmon to the delight of his guide Tommy Sordelli.
The Autumn run is on for certain, and there are bright fish in evidence throughout the river. The notable catches mentioned above are representative of the quality of fish we are seeing, though they are not to be taken without some finesse. The Ryabaga Guide Team has been working through a full spectrum of fly choices, lines, and presentations to ensure that anglers leave no ‘taking’ fish un-tempted. It has been a pleasure to watch this crew at work, teasing particularly selective salmon out of their lies and using an accumulated wealth of knowledge to do so. Conditions have not been the easiest, due to water levels, temperature, and clarity; a lesser guide team might be confounded by such challenges. Our crew, however, has made it all look easy.
Soon to become regulars, Finley and Colin of Alabama started the week on Sunday with sixteen fish for the boat and a 15-pound bright for Colin on his first-ever day of Atlantic salmon fishing. The remarkable week had by the father-son duo is indeed evidence of the fantastic fishery we have here on the far eastern end of the Kola. The dreams that become reality in this river, in all her majesty and splendor, are what keep the regulars returning year after year. These experiences forge the tradition deep within longstanding anglers, and plant the seeds of magic in ardent anglers like Colin and Finley. Once Ponoi is in the blood, it runs strong and deep, and carries us through the years.
Until next time…
Matt Breuer and the Ryabaga Team
September 2, 2013
A Week for the Children
Ponoi River Co. owner llya Sherbovich hosted friends and family this last week of August, 2013. The group was composed of anglers both veteran and novice, young and old; the next generation of salmon anglers was well represented, as 6 children, ages ranging from 7 to 13 years old, did battle on the waters of Ponoi.
Guide Tommy Sordelli, who we coaxed back to Ponoi with the promise of fall run magic, afforded one mother and her little boy great joy as he taught them the art of Spey casting. Nina and Dino were hard at their practice when Tommy spotted a bright fish rolling in the break at ‘Dead Reindeer’ point in Hourglass. He positioned the boat where Dino could make a good cast for the fish, which struck the fly at once but did not stick. Instructed to cast again to the same place, the 8 year-old laid out another long line and tempted the fish once more. Unable to resist Maxi’s Nail, the salmon struck hard, and the battle was on. Tommy managed to weigh anchor as Dino held tight, and the trio drifted with the fish. Dino played the fish well, as children ordinarily do, and brought to net a beautiful 16-pound Osenka. The fish was praised, photographed, and released, and smiles were in evidence all around. Well done Dino and Tommy!
Another notable catch included that of 11 year-old Daniil B. of Moscow, who ventured to Ryabaga in his initial pursuit of Atlantic salmon. On his fourth day of Spey casting, Daniil’s efforts were met with great success as he and guide Big Dan fought and masterfully landed a beautiful autumn salmon of 18 pounds.
It was a great pleasure to welcome Mariusz Wrobleski back to Ryabaga. Mariusz, former long-time manager of Ryabaga Camp, has made quite a name for himself as a tournament Spey caster, and as a conservationist of coldwater fisheries throughout the Pacific Rim. Mariusz was particularly moved when he browsed through the Ponoi museum, reliving memories of yesteryear and his glory days here on Ponoi.
Another sojourn to a secret river on the Kola was warranted this week when the kitchen found itself in need of some smoked sig. These delicate fish accompany some wonderful wild mushroom dishes, herring salads and Galuptse, all of which were planned for the menu this week. Never one to leave the kitchen staff wanting, Ilya hatched a plan that included a sig-catching competition between two teams comprised thus: me (Matt Breuer) and Dan Podolsky versus Ilya himself and Max Mamaev. We were to take as many sig as possible over the course of the day’s fishing. We set about equipping the teams with 4 wt rods and a selection of nymphs, and the race was on. I lament to report that at the day’s end tally, Dan and I were defeated by a margin of 8 sig to 5. No matter, the time was fine and the fruits of our labor were widely enjoyed at the next evening’s supper… crisp French Burgundy, hot smoked sig, wild mushrooms and leeks… what could be better?
A tremendous week was had by all. Anglers enjoyed the mighty River, the tundra and all it’s mystique, the fellowship of friends and family, a late night poker game or two, and wonderful libations. To cap it off, there was a crackling fire on the hill, with Sergey Pavlov and his guitar, Russian melodies wafting through the crisp autumn evening, and the sight of Ilya’s annual fireworks salute. Could there be a better way to enjoy a week? I think it nearly impossible.
Until next time,
Matt Breuer and the PRC Team
August 26, 2013
An extremely low river returned miraculously to early June levels by week’s end as a torrent of rain fell on Ryabaga this past Friday. The storm of the season afforded us that necessary pulse of water that is sure to entice our tardy fall run Osenkas. Despite the difficulty in conditions this week, I am nonetheless able to proudly report some fantastic catches!
Boris and son Vladimir joined us again this week from Moscow. The father-son team witnessed what autumn fishing on Ponoi is all about when Vladimir coaxed a spanker of a fall run salmon out of his lie with a “Maxi’s Nail”, the infamous pattern developed by our head guide Max Mamaev. Geoffrey Mitchell also did battle with an Osenka of considerable note: the fish was taken in Gold Beach with veteran guide Tomas Sordelli. Please see photographs of these fine salmon on our homepage at: www.ponoiriver.com.
Of the 14 anglers in attendance last week, we were proud to showcase our camp and program to three new-to-fly-fishing anglers. While learning the art of Spey casting and fishing for salmon, Jonas, Antonas, and Vilius each landed their first Atlantic salmon.
Even when conditions are less than prime, the Ryabaga experience is paramount and seems to take the angler’s moods and minds away from all that is left behind when in attendance in our fine camp. As fall takes hold, the tenor in camp grows with the anticipation of what the fall run holds. I always reflect that at this time of year the guide team is humming along in peak fitness, the kitchen and camp staff have the subtleties honed, and the operations of the world’s finest Atlantic salmon camp are well-oiled. It is, in some ways, the finest time to be in Ryabaga, as the season is near enough it’s end to make each moment precious. Meals are savored, wine is relished, and the evening fire is a welcome place to gather. As we stand poised to receive the height of the Fall run, I take these moments to share some gratitude, for the lovely river and the anglers who cherish her. And of course, let’s raise a glass to Salmo salar, and her successful return to Ponoi waters and the age-old rite of Fall! Nastarovia!
August 19, 2013
An Anniversary To Remember
After a midsummer drought, heavy rains finally fell on our eastern end of the Kola Peninsula last week. With the river at an all-time low, the soaking was a welcome event that brought the Ponoi back to this year’s early June level, much to the delight of our anglers.
Phil and Denise celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary with us this past week. A champagne toast and delectable lemon meringue pie were conjured up for the event, and as a prelude to the momentous day Denise landed the first official Autumn run salmon of the season! The specimen was a fine 13-pound fish of noteworthy depth and strength. It is always remarkable to encounter these fish at the very start of the 20-month journey that perpetuates the species.
The families Boley and Taylor turned up again in fine form this year, and they enjoyed the comfort and luxury of the Ryabaga Guest House. With the advent of our 2013 cabin project, we are proud to afford our guests the option of either wall-tents or permanent rooms, adding greater diversity and signature charm to the Ryabaga experience. Longtime Ponoi angler Jobe joined the quintet of anglers who sipped Santiago Rum and Bordeaux before descending the hill from the Guest House to take a seat beside us ‘lowlanders’ at the dining table in the Ryabaga Big Tent.
The fishing came around nicely this last week. Phil and Denise landed their Ponoi personal best record of over 70 salmon between them. Phil also landed a 13-pound autumn run salmon, rounding out what he dubbed the perfect week of fishing. Jobe found great fortune at the end of his line on his last day’s fishing with Olly Thompson. A 15-pound belter did battle with Jobe, and took the honor of being the grandest fish of the week.
With the rise in water and the official arrival of the autumn run, monumental fishing is sure to arrive in spades. As evidenced by our early season statistics, the 2013 season is positioned to be another record-breaker. That said, we look east towards the sea to imagine what lies there, gathering strength to surge up into Ryabaga waters. No doubt, it will be a grand sight to see. In anticipation, I encourage you to grease your reels, stretch your backs, and prepare to lean into the finest Atlantic salmon fishing the world has to offer.
Welcome fall, and all of her riches!
August 12, 2013
In keeping with tradition, Erkki Moisander once again hosted a group of friends and business associates this week from his native Finland. On Saturday, twenty anglers landed at Ryabaga Camp and the place returned to life, as eager anglers swilled ‘Piligrim’ beer from the tap in the Big Tent bar, devoured heaps of smoked and salted salmon atop ‘Finn Crisps’ flat bread, snapped up favorite fly patterns from the shop, and quickly hurried back to their tents to dress for the initiation that occurs at the beginning of this perennial week. Many of these anglers were new to Spey fishing and salmon angling altogether. Erkki dutifully encouraged all members to take to the Home Pool upon arrival in order to train with the seasoned Ryabaga guides, in hopes of gaining an added jump on the three days of fishing to follow. After all, with only three days on Ponoi, and Erkki’s group of 30 members trading fishing space in our famous Finnish split-week, time on the water proved of the essence.
After the initial fishing day, the twenty Finnish anglers convened in the Banya for a sweat and steam to soothe the aching arms that stemmed from the casting and salmon fights of the day. By night the Big Tent dinners stretched on and on, as new salmon anglers were ceremonially presented with the adipose fin of their respective first-ever Atlantic salmon, to be toasted and taken with a shot of vodka.
The dry summer seemed to wane on this past week as the guides and guests all worked very hard to catch a glimpse of Ponoi silver. Warm temperatures turned a bit cooler and the river followed suit; the light too took a shallower slant, and we all looked towards the River in anticipation of Fall, and the fish that flush the system. With the autumn descending fast on the Kola Peninsula, we eagerly await the first autumn-run fish, and the magic yet to come. With Erkki and his band of merry makers, we toast the coming run, and a season yet to peak. And with that I welcome you to the second half of the 2013 Ryabaga salmon season.
All the best,
July 15, 2013
Vive la France!
Jean-Luc, restaurateur, salmon angler, exercised his passions during river lunches this week. He dazzled us with a signature salmon Carpaccio, which consisted of fresh lime juice, a splash of olive oil, sea salt, green onion, red onion, a bit of red peppercorn, and of course a piece of the freshest Atlantic salmon in the world. A symphony of flavor complemented the rich flesh, and when topped off with a sip of Bordeaux… ah, isn’t life grand?!
Equally grand is the way the Ponoi bounced back from the heat wave of week 6. The river was back in fine form last week, as 20 anglers enjoyed rain, clouds, and cooler temps. These circumstances brought water temps to the mid teens, and the river again showed optimal conditions for salmon angling. Nearly twice as many fish were landed this week as last, the tally of 616 salmon for the week included two fine 15 pound salmon landed on day “1” by Ponoi regulars Michael and Paul. This lucky pair was equally successful in keeping the party alive throughout each evening in the big tent. It is always a pleasure to be serenaded by Michael and Paul.
In his first visit to Ponoi, Tom of upstate New York took full advantage of the Ryabaga Home Pool. No foreigner to the ways of salmon fishing, Tom landed several fine fish in the middle teens on his single-handed Winston 7 wt and the classic dry fly the “Bomber.” The Bomber or Buck Bug is a storied pattern developed in the 70’s on the Miramachi River in Canada. Elmer Smith from Prince William has been credited with having tied the original fly, which consists mainly of tightly spun deer hair. Since the pattern’s inception, the Bomber has become one of the world’s most popular and successful salmon and steelhead flies. As Tom demonstrated every morning at 0430, there are two primary techniques employed to fish the Bomber: in Maritime Canada, the most popular and effective method is to dead drift the fly, whilst in Russia and Scandinavia, the skated fly or riffling hitch method is preferred. The highly visual salmon ‘take’ makes this one of the most rewarding and exciting forms of salmon fishing. On a dead drifted fly the take is, more often than not, as gentle as that of a Trout. Skating the fly produces a completely different and typically much more aggressive response.
Week 7 marked the conclusion of a fine first half of the 2013 season. All tolled, 6,337 salmon have been landed by the 2013 Ponoi anglers to date! This is indeed a fantastic figure, attributed largely to last year’s incredible fall run. As we break for three weeks to give the river a rest, the 2013 cabin project will be moved to the forefront. Four cabins are showing good progress, and once they have been plumbed, wired, and painted, Ryabaga guests will enjoy the comfort of en suite bathrooms, electric heat, and a peaceful, permanent dwelling space just up the hill from the Raybaga Big Tent. As the camp continues to grow and establish itself physically on the banks of our beloved river, we are pleased to rest and reflect on the refinements we are able to make. We are pleased even more, however, to acknowledge the bits and pieces of Ponoi life that require no refinements. As far as the salmon fishing goes, we just couldn’t improve upon the perfection that we see every day.
We will reconvene again here on August 3, in wait for the autumn run. Until then, enjoy a safe and happy midsummer.
July 8, 2013
Casting for Recovery
Ryabaga Camp was filled this week by a fantastic group of folks from across the globe. Of particular note was another visit by Erkki and his band of keen Finnish anglers. This veteran group of ardent salmon anglers fished relentlessly through even the most challenging midsummer conditions. By night, Klaus was found at the tying bench crafting new and ever smaller patterns to coax salmon from their warm-water lies. In fact, so successful were these customized offerings that Klaus and father Erkki landed a combined 17 salmon on their final day of fishing. Well done gentlemen! We look forward to seeing Erkki again on Ponoi in August to kick off our 2013 fall run.
Roman, daughter Dasha, and her cousin Ksenia were on hand to revel in the Ryabaga experience. Roman has been to Ryabaga several times in the past, and knows a good thing when he sees it. Always one to share the wealth, he brought his daughter and niece to try their hand at Atlantic salmon fishing. Dasha posted numerous salmon taken with skillful spey casts; it just goes to show that young, sharp people can adapt and learn the art very quickly. Ksenia landed a fine 16-pound salmon in the earliest days of her salmon fishing career. I am sure she is hooked for life.
One angler, as part of his recovery against a bout with prostate cancer, joined us this last week. Eliot Herman elected to indulge in another week of salmon fishing with us here on Ponoi. A tenured professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona, Eliot has a deep appreciation for the natural world we live in. Now that he is on the upside of a debilitating disease, he has an even greater appreciation for life. We spoke before his trip, and Eliot shared with me that one year ago he was not sure if he would ever see the Ponoi again. Taking command of his illness and his treatment, Eliot was hugely grateful and blessed to be with us here again. We at PRC appreciate the drive, fortitude, and determination of such a man. It is gestures such as these that give us pause to relish this life and this place all the more.
While temperatures, both ambient and water, remained high, Summer run fish, adorned about the flanks with sea lice, continued to enter the system. All tolled, 313 salmon were landed. Midsummer conditions are never easy, but anglers worked through a quiver of flies and presentations to tease out some Ponoi silver. In some ways, however, these hard-won fish are the most relished of the season, as it takes all of the wit and cunning that a salmon angler can muster to find them in quantity. Ponoi anglers showed their stuff this week, and made some magic happen.
Until we see you,
Matt Breuer and the PRC Team
July 1, 2013
Summer Weather, Summer Fishing, Summer Run
Summer has arrived in spades on the Kola Peninsula. With optimal levels throughout Ryabaga waters, Ponoi salmon are widely evident, lurking deep in the tea-colored river in wait for swinging flies. The structure of Ponoi is laid bare right now, much to the delight of our wade-fishing guests. In many places the river reaches only to mid-thigh, and anglers are finding themselves literally and figuratively immersed in this magnificent fishery. It’s been truly a special summer to date.
Small, sparse offerings were the ticket this past week, in the form of Red Francis’, Silver Doctors, and Gledswood Shrimp. Small is beautiful in low water, and guides have keyed in on fly sizes appropriate for taking salmon under the current conditions. With stealth in mind, many anglers have turned to floating lines and long leaders, and some have enjoyed the use of single-handed fly rods. For the die-hard two-handers, Spey outfits of lighter proportion than our high-water rigs are a nice option.
Unseasonably warm temperatures this week necessitated the use of a gang of Punkawallas from the far east to cool anglers and guides throughout the fishing day. Also under consideration is the installation of Bimini tops on each of our custom jon boats. In all seriousness, however, the guide team and guests found great comfort in the use of short pants, lightweight fishing shirts, and plenty of sunscreen as they continued to enjoy what no other salmon river could provide: 394 salmon, up to 18 pounds, and multiple summer-run fish among them. Seldom will rivers in the Canadian Maritimes, British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, or even the Kola Peninsula deliver such success under 33 degree ambient air temps and 22 degree water temps. All too often, salmon anglers come up with a null score at day’s end when bluebird weather shines down. But Ponoi is not the average salmon river. While elsewhere in the world anglers posted no-fish days and retired to the pub, Ponoi anglers this week enjoyed an average of 19 fish per rod and after-hours Home Pool fishing that produced steady numbers of wily fish. Oh, and Ponoi anglers were still able to retire to the pub.
So it’s summertime on Ponoi, and the livin’ is indeed easy. The bright summer-runners are in, the river is in perfect form, and camp is humming along like a well-oiled machine. With the arctic days still stretching long into the night, we are able to savor this place and this experience at a leisurely pace, to enjoy long hours of fishing and friendship. Meals stretch on, with wine and laughter and maybe an after-dinner cigar, with the potential of a late-evening stroll down to Home Pool for one last cast. It seems sometimes in this northern midsummer that the season is squeezed into a few precious weeks of glorious weather, sunburned noses, silver fish, and sunsets that barely come. We are all, here in Ryabaga, feeling the bounty of the season. We can’t wait to share it with you soon.
June 24, 2013
The Summer Solstice
Ponoi anglers assembled this week at Ryabaga to enjoy variable, though tolerable, weather, as we moved through the summer equinox into some fantastic salmon fishing. Finishing the week with 841 salmon, these anglers experienced what Ponoi is all about. The 2013 catch tally is continued evidence of our 2012 bounty, and anglers lucky enough to sample Ryabaga waters this year have witnessed the river in a very special state.
Some notable catches last week included not one but two 20-pound salmon, caught and released by Stewart Spence of The Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen. Stewart has been a longtime angler of the Ponoi and is an active supporter of Orri Vigfusson, “Patron Saint of Salmon,” and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund. Also breaking the 20-pound mark was Shawn Marshall of the Seychelles. Shawn was accompanied by new-to-Ponoi anglers Jan and Thomas. Thomas, at 16 years old, is a keen fly angler who caught salmon after salmon. With all of the enthusiasm of childhood, Thomas found he could not stop at just salmon, and he took a 5 wt. up the Ryabaga tributary in search of grayling and trout. He reported taking several grayling and losing a noteworthy trout; I have a feeling we will be seeing Thomas and his father Jan in future weeks on Ponoi. John MacMillan Jr. landed the first summer run salmon this week. Four total summer run fish, including a cracking 12-pounder, were landed by Ross. Onto sweeten the deal, the very next day Ross landed a 13-pound belter!
Skated flies are still producing good numbers of salmon. Fascinating is the way Ponoi salmon are so willing to leave their lie with abandon as they chase and snap at our foam, deer hair, and nylon-tubed surface flies. For those anglers enjoying a more traditional approach to salmon angling, the wet fly is our high producer. Great new patterns in use this season include Max’s Ponoi Nail, tied on a shorter tube than the original. This pattern is perfectly suited for the current conditions, and Max’s sixth sense about seasonal water condition was surely in effect when he commissioned this new fly. A new Tiger Tail Flamethrower has proven very successful offering on Ponoi, sourced from Fulling Mill in England. Best fished under a floating line or an intermediate, depending on water depth in a given pool, this fly is a resounding success this year.
June 21st marked the summer solstice, not easily recognized in our polar region due to continuous daylight. Thoughts of fertility, ecology, and of course salmon come to mind when I think of what it is like here on Ponoi on our longest day, and the bounty of our natural world. The sol sistere (sun to stand still) gives us pause to reflect on what fortune we have under the midnight sun, as we trudge down to the Home Pool at 2330, bellies full of good food and drink, to let loose a cast, for a chance to become a part of the cycle of salmon lore.
June 20, 2013.
Great news! Summer run fish have entered the river, a few were landed yesterday in Ryabaga. This means silver chrome sea lice fish are desperately looking for a fly.
June 17, 2013
Week 3, 2013. Record-Breaking Season Continues
"Everything is perfect at the bottom of the steps." -As quoted by Ian Irvine, longtime Ponoi angler and star/narrator of The Incomparable Ponoi. Ian returned to Ponoi this week with fellow angler Dick Penley, and together they brought into camp a whopping thirty years combined experience on the river. Ian's continued loyalty speaks volumes about the fishing, service, friendship and fellowship that anglers have come to expect and enjoy on Ponoi, and he shows his gratitude for our work in a final night toast of celebration for the week’s catch. This week was no exception, though it proved exceptional, as collectively 20 anglers landed 1,231 salmon for the week. Thus far 2013 is proving a stupendous year: in the first four weeks of this season we have totaled 4,161 salmon! Numbers like these have never been seen in the 22-year history of Ponoi.
Notable catches this week included two fish of 19 pounds. Olivier from France landed one of these beautiful salmon and Laurence from England the other. These fortunate anglers fished hard through each day and stayed on the water well into each night. Such enthusiasm is not hard to muster in a fishery such as this, though these two gents showed a certain fervor. Laurence took pause to tell me what he thought of the Ryabaga Home Pool: he claimed that the consistency of catchment in Home Pool is unmatched in any other salmon lodge Home Pool of the North Atlantic drainage.
Thunderstorms on Monday, a rise in water level and moderately difficult winds in some beats failed to discourage the spirited angling that tempts all who attend Ryabaga. This river just keeps producing the sorts of numbers that dumbfound anglers in salmon and steelhead circles. Skated flies continued to tease out over-wintered salmon throughout Ryabaga waters, and nearly all guests experienced the ravenous surface take of a charging fish. Kolmac, Alexaevsky and Gold Beach produced an inordinate number of the week’s salmon, though the other beats kept time and served up a healthy number of fish as well.
It is with great pleasure that I report on this week, and it is with greatest anticipation that I look forward at the weeks to come. I am finding myself at something of a loss this season, as the numbers keep piling in, alongside stories of salmon both seen and taken. I’ve been at this business of guiding fly anglers for my entire career, and I count myself lucky to have seen the great angling destinations of the world. I’ve long known that Ponoi is special, and Ryabaga particularly special, but the past few weeks have astounded even me. At the rate 2013 is going, we Ponoi anglers are in for a record-breaker, and if you are a salmon angler, you owe yourself one gift, namely to see this river at her best.
Sleep on that thought, and let your dreams of salmon run wild… what you imagine cannot compare to what is actually happening on Ponoi!
Until We See You,
Matt Breuer and the Ryabaga Team
June 10, 2013
The 2nd best week in Ponoi's 22-year history!
It's been a blessedly early Spring here at the 67th parallel, and wily over-wintered Ponoi salmon are glinting bright in the river. It is always amazing to see the river wake up again each Spring, and to witness a wealth of present and future fish filling the system in anticipation of their spawning this autumn. We Ponoi anglers celebrate this re-awakening by converging on the banks of the river to tangle with these fine fish.
Ponoi River Company owner Ilya Sherbovich returned to Ryabaga this past week and dutifully contributed to the astounding number of salmon landed, as did his father, son, and friends. Kostya, ever the young sportsman, demonstrated perfect Spey-casting technique while taking fine salmon up to 15 pounds! Congratulations Kostya! Looks like the youngest of the Sherbovich anglers is real rising star… Steve Myers of the world-renowned Silver Hilton Lodge on the Babine River in British Columbia enjoyed fantastic Atlantic salmon fishing on his first ever expedition for the species. Ilya and Steve floated the Purnache River, landing 15 hard-fighting salmon, and giving compelling evidence that Salmo salar are dubbed the ‘leaping salmon’ for good reason.
On the water, guest Daryl sourced a collection of fantastic skating tube flies, and generously shared the wealth with his fellow anglers. Guests rode these tubes high through the seams breaking around stones and off of points, much to the delight of Ponoi fish. The noteworthy western trout pattern dubbed the Chernobyl Ant proved a screaming success as salmon after salmon rose from their lies for this pattern. Hundreds of salmon attacked this colorful foam offering; there is little in fly-fishing more exciting than watching an Atlantic salmon take a fly from the surface.
The second best week ever in the camp’s 22-year history (surpassed only by 1820 fish in week 5 of 2003) was posted this week, with 1,666 fish taken. The largest was guest Arthur’s personal best, a tail-walking 20-pounder. Dominic put up a personal record as well, boasting 307 fish for two weeks of fishing, an achievement not experienced by any other angler in the history of the Ponoi. Home Pool alone turned up 219 salmon, as throughout Ryabaga waters we continued to be wowed by the numbers and quality of fish that are defining the 2013 season on Ponoi.
It was a lovely week riverside as well, with wonderful congregations of folks at the Hallway tent enjoying long lunches of grilled salmon and white wines. By night Julian wowed us with his trickery (match stick tricks, string tricks, and coin tricks) at the bar, and all about camp there was that air of good will that has become to descriptive of Ryabaga. Certainly, not a bad way to round out an epic week on the water!
The 2013 season continues to be the stuff of legend. We cannot wait to see what lies ahead, and to share it with you, our Ponoi faithful. In closing, I can only say that this is indeed one remarkable piece of water!
Best to All,
June 3, 2013
Off Like A Shot!
It is my pleasure to announce that the first week of the 2013 Ponoi salmon season managed to exceed our wildest hopes. Week 1, 2013 now officially ranks as the best Week 1 in history, with 1213 proper salmon landed by an average of 18 anglers (a few came and went mid week, another couple were children just coming of age in the salmon circle). Broken down, this number accounts for an average catch of 65 fish per angler on the week, though several anglers surpassed the 100 fish mark. This astounding tally proves our assumption that a wealth of quality fish were waiting out winter beneath the Arctic ice, anticipating our return. But even a strong fall run and the undying optimism of Ponoi Anglers could not quite prepare us for the numbers we saw this past week.
Though not in camp this week, PRC owner Ilya Sherbovich was an eager correspondent as history was made. He issued in the new season in characteristic style, inviting several friends and colleagues to experience the bounty of this mighty river in his stead. Storied Alta River salmon guides Svein (aka the “Gary Dog Guide”) was on hand as Ilya’s guest along with Ivar, manager of Alta Laksefiskeri and Alta guide – Rune; collectively and dutifully the trio bolstered the salmon count, with great pride and pleasure. By night the group made the most of the luxuries of camp: gourmet food, vintage wines, laughter and stories proved a fine complement to the fishing. No doubt Svein will return to the Alta with tales of Ponoi salmon and a few longing glances in an easterly direction.
It was a real treat this week to host famed fly fishing author Chris Santella. Chris has penned such titles as Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die, in which Tarquin Millington Drake, former President of Ponoi River Co., lauds Ryabaga Camp on Ponoi as one of the world’s finest angling destinations. A full camp of lucky anglers attested at week’s end that Ponoi is certainly an experience not to be missed! Dominic Quinlan and his son Sam enjoyed opening week on Ponoi alongside Frontiers representative Henrietta Strutt. The trio managed several fish in the teens. Ryabaga was further pleased to host Kirk Deeter of Field & Stream magazine. Several magnificent days on the river served as a fine foundation for the story Deeter is composing about Max Mamaev, the most ‘under the radar’, world-class fishing guide working today. We’re all pleased to see Max getting the recognition he so richly deserves.
Record low water was atypical for this last week of May. Temps reached +29 Celsius! The water temp was at the salmon ideal of 14 – 16 Celsius for the week, and water clarity was good. Skated nylon tubes and various dries took the majority of salmon; never before has such surface-action occurred on a salmon river, and Week 1 anglers were awed by the explosive visual of taking fish. The river is in exceptional shape, and salmon are showing throughout Ryabaga waters.
The 2013 Rybaga Team was overjoyed this week to show off the winter’s work, and the culmination of several weeks’ preparation. The beauty of such a fine and friendly working environment is the pride it engenders among employees, and Ryabaga staff proudly delivered the finest this week. The Culinary Team, under advisement of Head Chef Anton Sidunov, produced a parade of lovely meals. The Camp Staff were thrilled to offer the luxuries of Ryabaga to our guests, and to afford utmost consideration to the needs of anglers. On the river, the 2013 Guide Team delivered the goods in quantity. This year, guides hail from the US, Argentina, Russia, and the UK. All tolled, the Guide Team represents the finest bank of angling know-how ever assembled on one river, as indicated by the numbers they put up this week. What’s more, under the supervision of Head Guide Max, the Ryabaga team encompasses more Atlantic salmon experience than any other guide team in the world. Ryabaga guides, despite their provenance, remain thrilled to offer this fishery to seasoned anglers and novices alike.
Camp is looking lovely, and energy is humming in every corner. With building projects underway and refinements being made to existing structures, Ryabaga feels more vibrant than ever. The quiet spaces still exist, though, whether riverside or in camp. The birches are leafing out and the Banya stove is aglow by night, and despite the fervor of the season there remains a certain peace. Perhaps the remoteness or the vast sky and river keep this solitude in place, allowing us all relax into this magical place.
It has always been my policy to set the bar quite high for Ryabaga, and for the staff working in and for camp. It is of utmost importance to me that the camp and crew continually push harder and longer in the pursuit of excellence. The one element, though, that I cannot control is Mother Nature herself. But when Mother Nature smiles upon Ponoi, I have to admit, I smile too. With only one week on the books, we are already looking at a record-breaking season. 2013 will be, and already is, one to remember. We at Ponoi River Co. are eager to make you part of it. We look forward to a stupendous season, proving out Chris Santella’s assertion that Ponoi is, beyond doubt, more than worth it!
- Matt Breuer and the PRC Team
May 21, 2013
The clap of the Mi8 rotor blades break the silence of the tundra nearly daily as building materials, equipment, and supply stocks are delivered and processed in Ryabaga for the fast-approaching season. Mechanics, camp staff, cooks, and guides are hard at work, scurrying to put final preparations in place for the 23rd season of our infamous salmon camp. Since the first crews began milling timber in Ryabaga this past March, there has been a steady influx of Ryabaga staff and mechanics coming and going. It's a busy time on the Eastern Kola!
Purnache (my canine sidekick) and I arrived in camp on May 8 to find Ryabaga nearly free of snow. The banks of the river were showing only the last remains of winter ice, and though it wasn't yet May 16 and the 'guide rocks' in Purnache Beat were beginning to emerge. It would seem that the rapid outflow of ice on Ponoi contributed to the utter demise of three Ryabaga moorages, and the mechanic team was pressed into service in constructing a completely new moorage system for eager anglers. It is from this crisp new moorage that countless anglers will embark towards salmon fishing heaven.
Dan Podolsky was as hard to reign in as a Friesian stallion as he stalked the banks of the spring river, chomping at the bit to wet a line. Never one to let Dan spend too long in agony, I granted him permission this week, and he has indeed landed several salmon. Just a few silver slabs were enough to appease Dan's long winter itch, and he promises that he's only scratched the surface. Last Thursday Steve and I doubled on Ponoi salmon with our respective first casts of 2013; we were thrilled to find Ponoi just as we left it… revealing fantastic numbers of clean, bright, autumn run fish.
As we look deeper into the coming season we see the riches of Ponoi as never before. The camp is growing in size and comfort, with even more amenities befitting the finest fishing camp in the world. The guide roster is impeccable this year, and the staff team is already proving their artistry and mettle in refining the systems throughout Ryabaga. There is no doubt that 2013 will prove the tightest, most efficient, and most productive season to date. But the greatest wealth of Ponoi remains banked in the silver that heaves within the river itself, a wealth of more and finer fish than we've seen since the camp's inception. If the fall run is any indicator (and indeed it is), then we are in for quite a treat. For the anglers poised on the brink of seeing this place, this is the most wondrous time of all. Perhaps they, perhaps you, can already hear the Mi8 rotor blades approaching, and the roar of the mightiest Atlantic salmon river that the world has ever seen.
- Matt Breuer and the Ryabaga Team
Pre-Season Report, 2013
Hectic times in Murmansk!
The 2013 season is fast approaching, and preparations both in camp and in Murmansk are moving at full speed. As the Ponoi has slept through the long Arctic winter, we at PRC have been hard at work, planning for what promises to be the best salmon season to date. We are pleased to share some exciting news of our progress:
Winter road trips over the ice have supplied Ryabaga with the fuel, building materials, and dry goods to fulfill the needs of a demanding season. It's been quite a remarkable feat, made possible by a uniquely cold winter, to be able to truck in such a quantity of cargo overland. By trucking goods to camp we've been able to move forward on construction projects far more quickly than anticipated, and work is well underway on some remarkable refinements in Ryabaga.
All over the world, members of the PRC staff are packing their bags and realizing that a winter's worth of anticipation is soon to be over. Within the next weeks, all will touch down on camp soil, and join hands in making the world's finest Atlantic salmon camp even finer. Along these lines, Ilya Sherbovich has approved a major investment program in camp, with several construction projects on the ledger. These advancements are well underway, sped along by wood trucked in through the winter. To further speed the construction process, our 2 on-site sawmills have been working at full capacity to produce raw building material, and the construction crew is eagerly awaiting the delivery of water and electrical systems.
The first stage of this new era in Ryabaga will see 3 spacious, 2 bedroom en-suite cabins expected to be finished in late 2013. If all goes according to plan, 2014 will see 3 or more of these new cabins completed as well. Brevyenni will receive a facelift as well, with 2 spacious cabins being built overlooking the beautiful Home Pool. These refinements in Brevyenni will no doubt solidify its reputation as the best private party camp in the world of Salmon fishing. Finally, a new 5 double-bedroom staff building will be completed in 2013 in Ryabaga, affording our hardworking employees an even better place to serve as their home away from home.
And then of course there's the fishing: the latest outboards, camp equipment, tackle and angling accoutrements have been sourced from all corners of the world and shipped to Russia to provide our guest with the best of the best. At operation headquarters in Murmansk, the administrative staff has been hard at work through the long winter making certain that, in every way, PRC is always delivering the best Atlantic salmon fishing adventure possible. As you can imagine, this simple outline can't communicate the magnitude of behind-the-scenes work undertaken in anticipation of another memorable season. It is the pleasure of Ponoi River Co. to once again announce that we will spare no effort or expense in providing our guests with an unforgettable experience.
We are happy to share all of this exciting news with you, and can’t wait to see you in camp.
Until then, all the best.
2012 Great News
Across the board, the 2012 season has been a resounding success!
With an Arctic winter fast enveloping the Kola Peninsula, it is yet again time to close the door on another Ponoi salmon season. These last few months have been nothing short of spectacular. The first half of the season proved both remarkable and challenging, owing largely to erratic fishing conditions and weather. An incredibly early ice-out kick-started the summer run, and brought some fine bright fish into the system right off the bat. Due to the early spring, the first week of the 2012 season proved the 3rd best on record, and boasted an average catch of 67 fish per rod! Even more noteworthy was the size of some of these early catches, most memorably several 20+ lb beauties, and a 29 lb leviathan that measured 42 by 22 inches! This beast proved the largest ever Spring fish taken on Ponoi.
Thrown into the early-season mix of foul weather were periodic bluebird days that rose well above 27 degrees C, so the full spectrum of less-than-ideal salmon fishing conditions was in effect. In response to all of these hurdles, Ponoi anglers still managed 37 fish per rod per week as the spring average.
Through the season, we welcomed into camp a roster of talented anglers, both first-timers who fell in love with this river, and numerous old friends and long-time champions of Ponoi. PRC owner Ilya Sherbovich again had the pleasure of fishing alongside his father, Victor, and son Kostya, thereby carrying on a multi-generational salmon tradition. There were guests and friends from Russia and abroad in the Guest House seemingly each week, and we were fortunate to host Murmansk’s new regional governor, Mrs. Marina Kovtun, who showed her fly-fishing skills by landing and releasing several salmon during her brief session on the river.
The mid-summer break saw our mechanic team and guides hard at work tuning up boats, engines, and facilities in preparation for the always-exciting fall.
August on the Kola nearly always proves an amazing month due to great weather and the arrival of the fresh fall run. This August was no exception, and on August 4th we experienced the first taste of what was to become the finest fall run in the history of Ponoi. An early weekly average per rod of 40 fish was just a hint of what lay in store. The sun shone bright over Ponoi, both literally and figuratively, but sunshine couldn’t slow the fishing. The remarkable numbers kept mounting. Week 17 broke the all-time record for a fall week with an amazing weekly average of 73 fish per rod. All tolled, the 2012 fall run produced 5 record-breaking fall weeks; when you consider that this is a 21-year-old fishery with an unrivaled reputation for numbers, the magnitude of the 2012 salmon season really resounds.
As amazing as it sounds, the 700 and 800 fish weeks started to look “normal” at a point this fall, and the upward trend held until the bitter end. The last 3 days of the 2012 season produced 169, 178 and 207 salmon respectively for the lucky anglers fishing Ryabaga camp. The season produced an incredible 9500 salmon landed, with an average of 35 fish per rod per week for the season against the 30 fish average for the last 20 years. It’s been a record year in many ways, a fact documented most notably in the happy faces coming up from the river after each fishing day. Across the northern tier, it has not been an easy Atlantic salmon year; it is therefore all the sweeter to have witnessed this record run of fish on this indomitable river.
The entire Ponoi River Company team has done a magnificent job. The individual effort of each man and woman on staff has contributed to this result.
The team has dexterously navigated extremely long days, short nights, endless meetings, and the advent of unexpected twists and turns, always with an eye towards producing the very best salmon angling experience for our clients. I am very proud of the Team we have at PRC. I cannot thank you all enough for your professionalism and dedication. To our Border Patrol Team, our Mechanics, our Camp Staff, our Murmansk Office Team, Management Team, and entire Guide Team… thank you all for a tremendous season!
Special thanks go to Ilya for his ongoing support and guidance, and to my family, Pata, Santi and Simon, for their understanding in allowing me to do what I love.
Can’t wait to rig my rod next May and discover what the 2013 spring will hold!
Best to All,
Steve Estela, CEO