Russian roulette on the Rynda
Our intrepid correspondent ventures to Russia, where he and his guide, Genna, enjoy some of the best salmon fishing in the world and indulge in ‘many vodka’
ORE line. Mend up. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait—hotspot. Now, stripping!’ Yesterday morning I was at my desk; this evening, I am running a conehead tube down the tail of the Home Pool, with Genna the Russian guide at my elbow. There is a silver flare in the stream and I’m into my first ever Rynda salmon. ‘My friend, you are very lucky fisher,’ he declares. Well, just being here is a stroke of good fortune. Tide-bright, 10lb, weighed, tagged and released. ‘And now,’ announces Genna, ‘many vodka.’
One of the quintessentially wild, northern rivers that debouches into the Barents Sea from the Kola peninsula, the Rynda flows through pristine tundra—there are no roads in this neck of the woods, just reindeer tracks and the odd dollop of bear scat to keep you on your toes. It’s deliciously severe and lonesome terrain and some think it offers the finest salmonfishing experience in the world.
Access is via a private charter from Helsinki to Murmansk. The night before we flew, massed anglers destined for several Kola camps swirled and chatted in the hotel like characters from George Earl’s Victorian canvas Going North, King’s Cross Station. From Murmansk, you transfer by huge, juddering helicopter across jigsawed wetlands still daubed with snow, until the Rynda camp—sited in a craggy amphitheatre, where a mighty waterfall enters a lake—materialises beneath you.
Created in 2003 by British pioneer Peter Power, the Atlantic Salmon Reserve is a vast conservation area containing three other principal rivers—the Kharlovka, the Eastern Litza and the lovely little Zolotaya. I was a guest of the present owner,
MVladimir Rybalchenko, president of Farlow’s, the Pall Mall emporium, and the first Russian national to be elected a member of our august Fly Fishers’ Club. The camp is a model of efficiency and comfort. Individual cabins with proper en-suite plumbing, a laundry service, a resident doctor and attentive and delightful staff—this would be spoiling on Speyside but, here in the wilderness, it’s little short of a miracle.
I’m fond of finding fault, but, as I told my host one dinnertime, the operation seemed immaculate. ‘Be sure to let me know if you do think of something,’ replied his interpreter. Vladimir himself is fishing some 25 weeks worldwide this year—fittingly, Rybal means fisherman in Ukrainian.
This was still early season, so we tackled up with stout gear. My Scottish partner, Ian Mitchell, and I opted for 15-footers and largely stuck with floating lines, as the surface takes can be spectacular, even though, at about 8˚C, the water was still a bit chilly for the rifflehitched fly. The Rynda isn’t quite the trophy-hunters’ destination certain other rivers have become (and the camp is perhaps all the more relaxed for that) but a 30-pounder is always a distinct possibility and the record salmon stands at 42lb.
Its 80-odd pools offer an impressive variety, from gorgey runs to open flats, with little need for distance casting and the wading is generally manageable. You can appreciate why
David Profumo with the salmon he caught at Roy’s Bath
Two of the four rivers on Russia’s Atlantic Salmon Reserve