Ponoi, Ryabaga Camp - 2010 season reports.

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
I'm sure these will be of interest to some of you - they make good, fun reading is nothing else. I will also try and pop in the occasional photo as they become available each week.

It really has been an incredible season thus far, especially after the early thaw, which saw the river in good order from the first week.

Enjoy,

Frontiers.
 

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
Spring appeared early on the Ponoi this year, and the mass thaw occurred over just 3 days rather than the usual prolonged and steady thaw that greets the opening week of the season. As a result, the river had already receded nicely and features and character was already returning to the river, making wade fishing being feasible and effective. This was more like fishing the third week of the season, rather than the first.

Matt Breuer returns as camp manager, with the familiar faces gracing the guide pool, along with 3 new faces, all of which adding to the diverse, knowledgeable and enviable Ryabaga team.

The guests were as diverse as the guide pool, originating from across the UK and from around the World. From the well rehearsed, such as the ever entertaining Howard, through to newcomers, young and old(er). An air of enthusiasm filled the camp upon arrival, and the guests were not be disappointed. The camp was in ship-shape for their arrival, and the river was in fine fettle.

It did not take long for accounts to be open, as home pool provided sport from the first evening through to the late hours of the final evening, with some 50 fish coming from this one area alone! The weather was mixed, from glorious, warm days (indeed, Jonathan found it warm enough to take a shower beside the Ponoi one day!!) through to squally showers and hail, at times. The fishing also followed this trend, with some days fishing better than others, especially as the winds hampered the casting on certain days, or at certain intervals of the day. The fishing, however, was world class, and everyone was left in awe from their Ponoi experience, many noting this as their finest salmon fishing experience ever, which was some statement from well travelled and well fished anglers.

Fish were taken on full floaters through to 300 grain sinking lines, with a floating line and a 3” per second sink tip being the culprit for the majority of catches. Even the single handed rod anglers faired well, with Jeffrey from the US landing 93 fish for the week! Through to those sticking with the more conventional set-ups, such as Dominic – the home-pool king – who had well over a 100 fish to his 15ft rod, that started life as a 16ft’er at the start of the week!!

Top flies for the week were fairly large tube flies in orange, gold, yellow and black. The in camp shop stocks all of your fly needs and has an ample supply to cover your stay.

With mixed weather, falling river temperatures and just 17 rods fishing, 903 salmon for the first week is quite and achievement (this count does not include kelts).

A fantastic opener to the season, which bodes well for the weeks and months ahead. We’re confident that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and await the reports for the forthcoming weeks with bated-breath.

 

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
Week 1.

An outstanding first week in Ryabaga

Our first anglers were a keen group from the UK and Russia. The Mi8 rotor had hardly come to a stand-still before Dominic Quinlan had landed the first salmon of the season, taken in Home Pool. Notable as well is the fact that Dominic may in fact land the last fish of the season, as he will join us for the week of September 25 –October 2, 2010. Steffan Jones joined us from the UK branch of Frontiers International. Steffan and I first fished together in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina, on the Rio Grande. He has an insatiable appetite for catching salmon and sea trout, and it is evident in his enthusiasm and skill. I am sure he is equally as single-minded when it comes to recruiting salmon anglers for the future seasons at Ryabaga. Thank you Steffan!

Howard Strowman proved once again to be an incredibly vibrant, active, and humorous member of the group. The staff were covetous of his quiver of electronics; everything from an “iPad” interactive race car driving game to a state of the art digital, head-mounted HD video camera. Howard and son Max contributed greatly to the salmon count for the week. Max took fish of seventeen and sixteen pounds respectively. I understand that Howard worked very hard at beating his personal record of 150 fish landed for the week, and I’m certain we shall see him next year to reattempt this goal… good luck Howard.

And then there were Victor and his friends… Victor and Sasha ventured downriver into the waters of Lapanyarka and Brevyeni to make the first casts of the season in the lower river. Wonderfully, they encountered very good fishing and many fine salmon in the turbulent water. This experience marked the first run of the hovercraft this year. Our hovercraft, or ACV (Air Cushion Vehicle), is unique in that it is a watercraft supported by a cushion of high-pressure air inside a “skirt.” The hovercraft is unique in its ability to carry anglers to otherwise inaccessible parts of the river system, though the vehicle’s wilderness service makes access to parts and critical maintenance complex. Sergei Zhurin has spent countless hours repairing and replacing systems of the craft to ensure safe and reliable use throughout the season.

At Ryabaga Camp, May 29 to June 5, 2010, the total of salmon landed for the week was 903. Of these, several dozen fish weighed in the high teens. The weather conditions were quite favourable as cool mornings turned into easy days with little wind and rain. The river continued to drop, and water levels were as low as late June levels last year – all in all, the river is in very fine shape. It seems the number of kelts in the system is far lower than in previous years; this is likely due to the record high river level we experienced at ice-out. Water levels reached waist -deep inside our engine storage container, meters above the ordinary riverbank.

All tolled, the first week Ryabaga was one for the books; guests and guides were impressed with both the number and quality of fish caught, and the general feeling about camp was one of great excitement. As we move into the coming week, it is exciting to consider the number of old friends who will be joining us in camp. Perhaps more exciting, however, is the thought of introducing new anglers to this tremendous fishery. The coming months promise more and bigger fish to be enjoyed by all who are lucky enough to join us in Ryabaga.

 

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
Week 2.

The Green Bandana

It seemed that Paul Styles was “green with envy” over the fact that Hugh Curry had enjoyed such success with sizeable fish by day four. Hugh started the week with a 19 pounder on Lower Tomba with Tommy Sordelli on Sunday, and he did not let up - each day Hugh had one or two fish over 15 pounds: two at 18, 3 at 16, a 15, a 14… incredible salmon fishing, no question. And Paul knew it. “Getting old is a real drag,” lamented Paul. It was Thursday night. We were all seated at the table, sipping Russian Standard, Gold Label; Hugh maintained that the taste is much smoother than that of Russian Standard, Original Label, though the others could not tell the difference. As I sat across from Paul, I was amused by the ongoing rhetoric regarding his envy of Hugh’s undying luck.

Paul raised his head in query, wondering about the official American-Canadian-English name for the paisley-patterned green cloth that adorned Hugh’s neck. With great confidence and pride Hugh educated Paul and the other attentive anglers within earshot that the garment was in fact called a “bandana.” As Hugh maintained, since the days of the American cowboy this small, yet useful, piece of cloth has been the salvation of many an outdoorsman. Bandanas, worn about the neck and face, have hidden the identity of cattle rustlers, have shielded the adventurer from the ravages of cold and sun, have soaked the sweat of many a weary traveler. Bandanas have been used, in a pinch, to sling wounded limbs, to sling stones in combat (as in David and Goliath), and to clean the barrels of a shotgun. And for many, the bandana has been worn as a stylish talisman, a totem of good luck. Though Paul’s inquiry was one meant for sake of conversation and light ribbing, it did seem as though Paul had reached the point in his week’s fishing that he was willing to do whatever it took to tie into a larger fish. He seemed to be acquiring a belief in superstition. I asked Paul if he would like a green bandana of his own. He nodded with some reluctance and hesitation. I popped up, stormed to my room, and appeared back at the table with a bandana identical to that of Hugh’s. I stood behind Paul and secured the bandana around his neck, just as my father did when he taught me to tie a Windsor knot. Once the bandana was in place Paul let out quite a loud, “yeeee-haaaww.” Several other cowboy references and jokes were passed, though I could see in Paul’s face that he was quite proud of his new accessory. The next day, Friday, as Paul turned up from his final day of fishing he was quite pleased to report that there might indeed be something magical about the green bandana; he had taken a 20 pound salmon, his largest Atlantic salmon to date.

Week 3, 2010 was indeed a great success with nearly 800 salmon landed, including two of 20 pounds. The variety of technique used last week was broad; many salmon were taken with the use of the S4 shooting heads and large tubes (ie. the Snaelda) in the colors of the German flag, fished deep – this method was a terrific producer. For those who didn’t prefer to fish sinking lines, smaller flies and floating lines were quite successful as well. Fishing on the surface with floating lines and small-ish “hitched” plastic tubes or dry flies skated through the swing was another technique that saw very favorable results. The most popular line used last week was the floating shooting head with a ten foot, medium sink poly-leader. The river is dropping steadily and there is more and more opportunity to fish lighter and closer to the surface. For near-surface work, some longer profiled “long-tailed” doubles worked fine (ie. Long-tailed green Highlander, Cascade, etc). Much of the week was quite cool and windy, though weather did not hamper the spirit and effort of our anglers from Quebec, France, Japan, the UK, the USA, and Russia. Memories of the week abound, from the culinary artistry of Francois Brocard, who produced a delicious salmon dish drizzled with a warm sauce of mustard, black tea, and butter, to the spirit and humour of our French-Canadian fishers, to the late nights sipping cognac by the fire with Sergei Alexeev and his friends. The spirit for which Ryabaga is known was steady and strong this past week. Head Guide, Max Mamaev joined the rotation mid-week, as he has been recovering from an ankle sprain sustained two weeks ago while searching for a frog in the pond outside the banya. Dubbed “Hop-a-long” by Ian Irvine, Max was much too eager to be held in camp any longer.

Ian Irvine’s thoughtful reflection about the great opportunity of fishing for salmon in Ryabaga gave everyone pause… Ian’s orations are always carefully articulated, and masterfully amusing. Ian spoke of the professionalism of the guides, the meticulousness of the house staff, and the engineer-ability of the mechanics. Especially noteworthy, however, was how he spoke of the strength of the Kitchen Staff this year, how the food is as good as it has ever been, and how Natasha and her team are able to accommodate even the trickiest of dietary needs.


 

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
Week 4.

First Summer Run Salmon Arrive!

It is the pleasure of a fisherman to arrange his calendar according to the changing seasons as they relate to angling. In my native New England, changes in the season correlate with certain mayfly hatches, runs of spawning trout, or with those times when the flesh of cold-water fish is at it’s sweetest. Here at Ryabaga, nothing quite denotes the onset of the finest summer fishing more than the arrival of the first summer-run fish.

Nearly a week ahead of schedule, anglers at Ryabaga have begun catching summer-run salmon. Many of these salmon have arrived in Ponoi with sea lice still clinging to their flanks, and as sea lice perish quickly in a freshwater environment, we can only assume that these first-run fish are moving up from the White Sea with blistering speed. As for the timing, it seems that the trend for the 2010 season is ‘early’; an early ice-out, followed by a rapid drop in the river to prime fishing level, and now, only week 4, the first summer-run salmon have arrived, eager to ascend the river as they position themselves for the autumn spawn.

The changing season, and certainly the arrival of these summer fish, cannot, however, ensure the incidence of fine summer weather. As far north as we are, conditions are mercurial at best, and it should come as no surprise to the travelling angler that mother nature can proffer the full spectrum of weather conditions, particularly on the remote reaches of the mighty Ponoi. Sloppy conditions were indeed the case on Sunday, the first day of third week of fishing in Ryabaga. Wind, rain, and cold temperatures attempted to stifle the fervent efforts of our freshly-arrived anglers. Though dreary weather loomed, the team managed nearly 100 salmon for the first day, not a bad tally for what proved the lowest number day of the week. The rest of the week produced fantastic weather and fishing conditions, and the Ponoi held at a perfect rate of flow and level for the use of floating lines and medium-sized double flies. Anglers keen to catch Atlantic salmon with hitched plastic tubes or dry flies found success this last week. Salmon landed for the week totaled 753. Nearly twenty fish over fifteen pounds were taken, and the Kolmac and Tomba beats, top and bottom beats, both fished beautifully. Moreover, the ‘quality’ of the fish taken was superb. These first summer-run fish, even the smaller of the lot, can really get the reels screaming, and many of the week’s sports were impressed by the sheer bravado of the fish taken.

Anglers from Scotland to New Zealand, Latvia to England, the USA to South Africa, combined to compose a pleasant group for our third week of the season, 2010. Notable as well were the group of lady fishers that completed the group. As Doreen Douglas put it, “Matt, what will you do when we ‘wags’ have gone?” Well Doreen, I don’t know if I will make it to next year without you and your troupe contributing to a very pleasant air about camp. It was my further pleasure to see that, with the World Cup raging in South Africa, anglers from our represented nations were able to find common ground both on the river and in camp… incidentally, the US side is making a fine showing, is it not?

With week five upon us, the river could not be looking better, and I am encouraged to think that this season at Ryabaga might indeed be one to remember. For those who shared last week with us, it was indeed a pleasure, and for those who have yet to arrive, grease your reels and get your fish-fighting muscles loose… you are in for a treat!



 

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
Week 5.

More Summer Run Salmon.

This week at Ryabaga, anglers saw the Ponoi continue the slow drop that moves the river into summer, and though heavy winds persisted, and two day’s efforts were dampened by coloured water, the spirits of our guests remained strong. This discolouration of the river appears and disappears quickly, and though it can prove a bit unnerving, it never puts the fishing off completely. Indeed, a number of fine fish were taken this week, and all anglers were impressed by the quality of their sessions in various beats, though Gold Beach seemed to be a consistent provider, with Falls Creek, Upper Tomba, and Clough Creek not far behind. Ryabaga Anglers averaged near 35 fish per rod for the week, with many more summer run fish than in the previous week. Nearly 500 salmon were taken overall. The shooting head craze is continuing to spread like wildfire. Many traditional spey line fishers are finding the distance and castability achieved with the use of the boat equipped spare-rod, all outfitted with new Rio AFS shooting heads, to be astounding as many are making the switch to these shorter, more user-friendly lines. Hot flies this last week included Shumikov tubes and Max’s commissioned beauties from a local tier in St. Petersburg.

All were pleased to notice that though the mosquitoes have begun to appear, they are not proving much of a distraction. As summer descends, we find ourselves at the point in the season when the weather is often quite warm. A cool rain shower no longer threatens to soaks one’s fingers to the point of useless numbness, as often occurs in late May or early October, but rather ensures a healthy water level that is the road home for the salmon. River level, after all, ensures the successful passage of Ponoi’s summer and fall runs of salmon. It is the summer run salmon, those currently in the system, that are destined to spawn this fall, giving rise to future stocks of hard-fighting Ponoi fish, and securing the enjoyment of generations of Ryabaga anglers.

It was our pleasure this week to host Jim and Paddy Rossbach. These two certainly know their fishing… from countless trips to all areas of the Rio Grande in Argentina to many weeks spent on Ponoi, their keenness for big sea-run fish never wavers. Though the pair have experienced some fine weeks at Ryabaga, Jim will not likely forget this year’s tally of 52 fish for the week. Off the water, Jim kindly acted as dealer on two evening’s poker games. He’s obviously spent some time at the poker table, as he’s well schooled in the card shark’s rhetoric. Onlookers throughout the Big Tent were glued to the action as if it were the world series of Poker. Our own Big Dan threatened his favor as he slowly whittled down 3 members of the Amero family.

Though new to Ryabaga, it is clear that the Amero quartet has the Ponoi bug firmly planted. Scott and his father, brother and son spent their first week ever in Ryabaga, and they clearly had a ball from the poker table to the bar, the home pool and the river. Scott was top rod, landing 53 fish for the week, though his efforts were admirably rivalled by Jerry, who, incidentally, did not attend the poker game, as he had to rest from thousands of casts made throughout the day and on into the evening in the home pool. We look forward to the return of the Amero clan.

Len Smith has made somewhere in the area of 35 trips to Ryabaga. It is always a pleasure to have Len around… such a straight shooter I never have to wonder where I stand in Len’s book (thanks for that, Len). We cannot wait to see you for the Autumn run. We were further impressed by the angling feats of our two Russian guests, Vadim Gomzyakov and Marina Muchinskaya. All enjoyed the lovely cold smoked salmon that head guide Max provided. And who could forget Richard Mellish and Peter Ryan, who had the distinct pleasure of putting in 2 weeks on Ponoi. Those lucky devils certainly collected memories to last a lifetime.

So on goes the season, and the River continues to look lovely. It is weeks such as this that remind me how wonderful life at Ryabaga can be, not only because of the quality of the fishing… it is those nights around camp where friendships are built and stories are shared, all over a few drinks and a game of cards. That is what makes this place so special… then again, all those salmon might have something to do with it too!



 

Frontiers

New member
Messages
55
Reaction score
0
Week 6.

Summer Run Record in Ryabaga?

We have just rounded out the 6th week of the 2010 season with 16 anglers from South Africa, Scotland, Australia, Belgium, France, Canada, and the United States.

Weather conditions above the Arctic Circle, even in summer, can be tumultuous to say the least. Though temperatures remained comfortable we did have an interesting mix of wind, rain, even a thunder storm. In Russia there is an old adage: "Net plokhoi pagody, est plokhaya odezhda." Translation: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Again, steady north winds attempted to hamper nearly three days of our week's fishing, and though showers wetted our caps, rain did not prevent Geoffrey Mitchell from taking a magnificent hen fish of 24 pounds from the Purnache beat. What's more, this fish was likely the biggest summer run fish ever caught on Ponoi. Her size suggests that she is a three sea-winter fish. The presence of such a fine summer run fish triggered great curiosity about the event on the whole. Consultation with Dr. Sergey Prusov of ÒPINROÓ (Knipovitch Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography), a former long-time Ryabaga guide, indicates that indeed it is very unlikely that this fish has spawned before, as evidenced by the lack of deep coloration about the head and gill plates. Another notable fish was that taken by Jonathan Aberdein, who landed a 20 pound salmon, the biggest of his storied angling career. Not bad for a young man of only 12 years.

Tomba and Gold Beach were the top producers this last week, and anglers tallied a week-long average of nearly 31 fish landed, with a total closing on 450 fish, and notably larger summer run fish are appearing in the system. The river is at prime level and temperature. Locating the perfect velocity holding water is easily achieved in virtually all areas of the river. Points, seams, rapid heads and tails, riffles, oily water, and windows are all holding salmon. Recent wind events throughout the watershed have the tended to "turn over" the lakes at the headwaters of Ponoi, creating to cloudy water in the river. It is supposed that Ponoi salmon find it more difficult to "breathe" under these conditions and as a result need more coaxing to take a fly. In this case it is advisable to fish a bit deeper, with larger and more brightly colored flies. Several anglers in the week used single-handed rods, notably Serge Dompierre, who casts a single-handed rod with the energy, stamina, and accuracy of most 20-something fly-rodders. Serge never let up for a second, especially the afternoon where his fish count fell behind that of his partner, Louise (nice fishing, Louise).

It was my great pleasure to guide Hugo Marechal. I first guided Hugo on the Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego several years ago, and it seems we are now engaged in a tradition of fishing together one day a year. Hugo is the type of meticulous and thorough angler I truly enjoy fishing with. He and I picked apart the Alexaevsky beat under moderate wind conditions. Our efforts were not hindered as his persistence and patience with the spey rod paid off, and he succeeded in "snake-rolling" from both sides of the boat to complete another successful day on Ponoi.

Sebastian Hope joined us this last week in Ryabaga. Sebastian is the author of Hotel Tiberias, the tale of his family's storied ownership of a hotel located on the Sea of Galilee in the early part of the 20th century. Sebastian has written widely about his adventures, and will relate his love of travel and fishing in an article about his week in Ryabaga, slated for publication in the Financial Times. We look forward to re-living Sebastian's Ponoi experience when the article makes its way to print.

All in all, this week was a standout for us at Ryabaga, most notably due to the presence of Geoffrey's big salmon, but also due to the fine fishing found throughout the river. Though the sun does not always shine over Ponoi, it seems to always shine over Ponoi's salmon, which proved eager and hard-fighting throughout the river this week. We look forward to the coming weeks, the pleasure of new guests and new friends, and the lingering possibility that in days to come, another record-breaker might be brought to net by a Ryabaga angler.

 
Last edited:
Top