Over a decade of meticulous record keeping indicates the Varzuga has the largest known run of Atlantics on the Kola Peninsula, and in the world, with a return in excess of 100,000 fish.
The Fly Shop’s owner, Mike Michalak first ventured to the Kola Peninsula in search of Atlantic salmon in 1993. After 3 years of research on virtually all the rivers on the Peninsula, he made the Varzuga his top choice, based on numbers of fish and the quality and diversity of water for the flyfisherman. Ten years later, I received a very generous invitation from Christopher Robinson, of Roxton Bailey Robinson (the British outfitter and organizer on the Varzuga), to fish with him on the Varzuga and Kitza Rivers for a week starting in late May. My only real experience with Atlantic salmon was staring at the dead, pen-raised fish under the magnified sheen of cling-wrap at our local Costco. Having spent most of my youth and adult life chasing trout and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, I was absolutely giddy to finally get a chance to fish for Atlantics. I knew I was in for a truly memorable trip, but after all the stories I had read over the years about Atlantic salmon fishing, I was determined not to get my expectations out of whack. I mean, Atlantic salmon fishing is like permit fishing, right? If I landed a few fish for the week, I was going to be happy. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
Roxton Bailey Robinson has been instrumental in protecting and developing (the two are synonymous in Russia) the entire Varzuga River System. They run five different camps- Kitza, Lower Varzuga, Middle Varzuga, Upper Varzuga and Pana. A common thread in all the lodges is that they are small, with no more than 10 – 12 anglers at a time. That’s a simple reflection of what we at The Fly Shop® believe in and enjoy. Smaller operations usually offer less regimented angling opportunities, more personalized service, and encourage camaraderie among the guest. The small, intimate camps on the Varzuga offer that personal service and more. They are organized by British anglers to very strict standards, managed by experts, and staffed by enthusiastic Russian guides, European chefs, and native boatmen familiar with every riffle and rock in the river. The combination of British and Russian staff is terrific and adds to the total experience.
The Lower Varzuga camp is beautiful and well appointed. This is base of operations for all five camps Roxtons operates on the Varzuga and its tributaries. The accommodations are very comfortable; brand new, spacious cabins with each angler given his own private room sharing a separate shower/basin and toilet room. Each cabin has a big covered porch with large table and benches – very nice for organizing and getting geared up for the day. The cabins sit on a bluff overlooking the river and are connected by wooden walkways. The main lodge is quite nice and again features a brick fireplace, sitting area and large dining room, all overlooking an expansive lawn area and views of the river.
If the Varzuga River is the most prolific Atlantic salmon river, then by definition Middle Varzuga is the most prolific beat in the world. Situated on a beautiful tree – studded island, 18 km above Lower Varzuga camp, “Middle” produces some incredible numbers of fish on its beats. One rod in 2002 landed over 480 fish in just two weeks. Recently, 10 rods landed a total of 831 fish! Due to big water, double-handed rods are needed. This is great dry fly water, more technical fishing than the Lower and Kitza camps. Right now the camp has small individual cabins with a central wash-house and banya (traditional Russian sauna). The camp is going to get all new pre-fabricated double occupancy log cabins with in-house bathrooms, slated to be completed by the beginning of next season. The main lodge is quite nice with a massive fireplace, gathering area with chairs and couch, and main dining room.
Reservations & Rates
7 night, 6.5 day packages on the Varzuga River Camps price from $5,450.00 to $9,700.00 USD per person, depending on the particular week.
Included in your angling package on the Varzuga is meet and greet at the airport, round trip helicopter transportation to and from the lodge, daily guided fishing, accommodations, meals, and all alcohol, wine and beer.
Not included in your angling package to The Varzuga Camps are flights to and from Murmansk, accommodations and meals in Helsinki, fishing licenses, gratuities.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Guard Insurance
Seasons at Varzuga River Camps
The fishing season on the Varzuga starts early in May, not long after ice-out, and runs for about 7 - 9 weeks, ending in early July.
Surprisingly, given its latitude in and outside the Arctic Circle, the fishing season on the Varzuga starts early in May, not long after ice-out, and runs for about 7 - 9 weeks ending, early July. Each camp on the Varzuga and its
tributaries are strategically located to take advantage of the steady string of Atlantics that make their way upriver. Lower river camps fish better in May and early June than do upper river camps, which peak in the latter half of June and on into July. Regardless of what week you choose, it is almost certain that one of the camps is going to be fishing exceptionally well. The trick is timing - being in the right place at the right time.
Getting to Varzuga River Camps
Getting to the Varzuga is as close to painless as air travel can get. Roxton Bailey Robinson (RBR) charters a private British-based Boeing 737-300 that departs Stansted International Airport on Friday morning, landing in Murmansk, Russia, 5 hours later.
Getting to the Varzuga is as close to painless as air travel can get. Roxton
Bailey Robinson (RBR) charters a private British-based Boeing 737-300 that departs Stansted International Airport on Friday morning, landing in Murmansk, Russia, 5 hours later. There were approximately 40 of us on the 154-passenger jet, offering more than enough room to get comfortable, and the food they served onboard was not bad. There was no hassle with baggage (no weight or number restrictions), no long check-in lines, and minimum security hassles. Once we arrived into Murmansk, we were immediately on Russian time, which means standing around a lot and waiting in line. It took just under two hours for all of us to get through immigrations and customs. RBR, the class outfit they are, arranges for a private room where anglers can enjoy a beverage and snack while waiting for the helicopters to fly them into one of five camps.
Lodging at Varzuga River Camps
The accommodations are very comfortable, well organized. You will find massive fireplace, gathering area with chairs and couch, and main dining room.
The double occupancy cabins at Kitza are adequate - a little small for two anglers with gear, but other than sleeping and showering and changing
you don't spend much time in them. Each cabin features a bedroom with two double beds, lots of brass hooks to hang your kit on and an electric radiator heater. The bathrooms are small and feature an RV-type shower, basin, (both with hot water) and toilet. These cabins are going to be replaced in the not-too-distant future with modern pre-fab log cabins. The lodge at Kitza is simple and nice. There is a gathering area around a brick fireplace where anglers can relax and have a drink, next to a large dining room with one long table that seats everyone. The food at Kitza was terrific, prepared by a very talented British chef. The menu featured everything from roast beef, and Yorkshire pudding, to rib eye steaks, lamb shanks and chicken. There was plenty of fresh fruit and wonderful Russian garden-fresh vegetables along with homemade bread and fabulous desserts. Meals were accompanied by good French Bordeaux's and the always plentiful Russian beer and vodka.
Fishing at Varzuga River Camps
“The water we fished from Lower was no more than 13 miles from the White Sea and an obscene amount of fresh fish poured into the river on each high tide, twice daily. It was rare that you could look in any direction on the river while fishing and not see a fish showing.”
The fishing program is quite simple and well-orchestrated by the Western
Camp/Fishing manager. Each two anglers are assigned a guide for the week and fish two different beats with a number of pools each day; one beat in the morning and one in the afternoon, after lunch. This is an equitable method that assures everyone the opportunity to fish all the pools, and keeps things interesting. The typical day starts with breakfast at 8:00 a.m., out on the water by nine, lunch at one and back to the lodge by six for cocktails and appetizers - a full day. If that is not enough, anglers have unlimited access to camp pools. These pools are generally not included in the daily beat rotation and are available to fish at any time outside of normal fishing hours. In our case, especially fishing from the Lower Varzuga Camp, the home pools provided some of our best fishing of the week. Anglers are transported up and down the river by Alaska-style jet boats; fifteen-foot aluminum skiffs powered by outboard jets. The Russian guides are excellent boatmen and possess thorough knowledge of their river. Their willingness to help, and rudimentary command of fishing English make them pleasant river companions. Most of the guides have some basic knowledge of fly fishing and Atlantic salmon and help as little or as much as you want.