The Atlantic Salmon of the Yokanga are different. They are bigger. These fish will hit and run, disrupting the uninitiated anglers expectations however hardened from years of fighting other formidable fish. These fish set the bar high. Bring extra fly line and a back up rod or two.
Located on the northeastern edge of the Kola peninsula, it’s about 175 miles from Murmansk. This western Russian river empties, fused into the Barents Sea. River meets mother ocean. For a million years, the Yokanga’s waters rush, unyielding. Every year, a parade of natures enduring truth starts in June lasting through August. In early spring, a deafening roar bellows from the rivers life force, heralding the path home into tundra and taiga, the interior of the Kola Peninsula. An army of invaders, festooned in chrome and fins, staged at the rivers entrance, are about to return from two or more campaigns out there in the untamable sea. The Atlantic Salmon of the Yokanga are large and formidable. Marauders of the open ocean, they move through the powerful gates of the Yokanga like belligerent pirates raiding their home port.
Atlantic Salmon of the Yokanga show not a sign of weakness, easily jumping, swimming up and over impossible waterfalls. A well presented fly is accepted as an equitable challenge fit for a returning warrior and the angler who has been called to meet face to face with a destiny forged by an unyielding desire.
The fishing is conducted amongst boulders, glides, pools and sometimes huge springtime run off. A two handed spey rod is the correct tool of choice. Tube flies in plastic or metal are commonly used. Popular patterns include: Temple Dog, Yokanga Gold, Ally’s Shrimp (orange and yellow), Willie Gunn, Pot Bellied Pigs (various), Cascade, Green Highlander, Copper Shrimp, Garry Dog and Sunray Shadows. There will typically be a good stock of these patterns in the Lodge as well as fly tying materials and equipment.
Leave the 10lb tippet at home. If your 30lb tippet shows signs of fraying, change it. Yes, 30lb tippet is what you must have to stand a chance. There is no merit in the numbers of fish released on the Yokanga. Only the luckiest anglers get into numbers of fish on any given day. True success is handed to the angler who plies the waters with humility and compassion. The chance at squaring off with a 30lb or 40lb Atlantic is the culmination of your journey.
The Yokanga is one of the legendary rivers on Russia’s Kola Peninsula. Known for enormous trophy salmon, it wasn’t until just recently that this river was opened up to foreign anglers. The Atlantic Salmon of the Yokanga are officially classified as the largest genetic strain on the Kola by the Russian scientific institution known as PINRO (Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography).
Modern transportation and geo-political shifts have combined to make it a relatively close playground for sea-run thrill seekers. Jet direct travel and polar routing has put the Kola Peninsula and the Yokanga River no further distant from our U.S. east coast than Alaska, and closer to Los Angeles than Patagonia. It’s close and, for a change, the fishing is exactly what it used to be.
A trip to the Kola begins in Murmansk after either a connection from Moscow, or a direct charter flight from Helsinki. The final leg to Russia’s northern peninsula wilderness is a breathtaking chopper flight passing above a broad canvas of tundra, lichen, scrub taiga and clean rivers that harbor unequaled runs of the prized silver fish. The Yokanga River is found inside the Arctic Circle at about 67.5 degrees north latitude. The landscape feels oddly familiar to Alaska and other circumpolar regions — a fusion of the barren tundra that sweeps the North American arctic, combined with the granite-bottomed rivers of British Columbia, and the slightly off-kilter wilderness of Kamchatka. It’s enough to make any steelhead or king salmon junkie drool. Apart from the Cyrillic letters on the vodka bottle, everything looks just right as you string up your two-handed rod.
Reservations & Rates
7 night, 6.5 day packages on the Yokanga range in price from $5,500.00 to $17,000.00 USD per person, depending on the particular week.
Included in your angling package on the Yokanga 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 Yokanga Lodge are flights to and from Murmansk, accommodations and meals in Helsinki, fishing licenses, gratuities and Salmon (salmon must be earned!)
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 Yokanga Lodge
The Yokanga season runs from early spring, at the beginning of June, all the way through to autumn in August.
June ushers in the beginning of the season on the Yokanga. June is when the biggest, freshest fish move into the river. The biggest rewards in terms of big bright Atlantic Salmon are found by anglers during the early weeks. With the epic fish comes demanding wading conditions in high
water. Expect to fish sinking tips in the bigger faster river conditions. Anglers can expect these early fish to be very aggressive producing truly arduous fights that put any angler, no matter what the experience, to the test.
July offers better weather, but expect volatile weather none the less! River conditions start to change with lower water the rule. The wading remains challenging amongst the large granite boulders as always. Numbers of big fish going over 20lbs can be intercepted in the riffles, runs and pools. Epic days where we loose count of how many fish we landed and lost continue to add up. Stories of fish in the 40lb class are common. We rely less on sinking lines and more on floating lines thanks to the more accommodating river conditions.
August offers good fishing as the season comes to a close. Returns of fresh fish have subsided, the sunny bright warm days of July are being replaced with cooler, wetter autumn weather. Grilse are Atlantic Salmon that have spent about a year at sea, ranging in size from 16" to 20". These smaller Atlantic Salmon arrive in July and can dominate the action through August. But, bigger Atlantic can be found. In recent years, the biggest fish of the season have been found in late August with some fish being recorded at 46lbs!
Getting to Yokanga Lodge
The Mi-8 helicopters are used throughout Russia and in many countries worldwide and have an enviable reputation as a workhorse helicopter that is reliable in all situations.
Everyone will make their own arrangements to arrive in Murmansk by midday on the Saturday of the start of your trip. Most guests will travel first to the Yokanga via a major European city airport, usually Stockholm
or Helsinki. Guests stay overnight at a hotel in that city and board a charter flight direct to Murmansk the following (Saturday) morning. It is most convenient to stay in Helsinki on or before the Friday of each week and from there depart on Saturday. Where possible on the return journey you are advised to allow at least three hours for transfer due to possible late departure from Murmansk. However, please understand, there can be considerable delays on returning from our camps in the Arctic Tundra through Murmansk Airport such as fog, helicopter delays, airport procedures & baggage handling. In and out of Murmansk everyone will be aboard the Helsinki to Murmansk Charter Flight, operated by Finnair.
Lodging at Yokanga Lodge
Yokanga Lodge is remote. Originally designed and built in Canada, the Lodge was relocated and then reconstructed on the bluff overlooking "Home Pool", one of many productive pools on Yokanga River. The lodge is within a short stroll to the rivers edge. The people who reconstructed the lodge in the late 90’s did an amazing job. The lodge is located in a real wilderness area with no road access. Despite this, the lodge is very comfortable and is one of the best equipped in the Kola Peninsula.
Guests of Yokanga Lodge will be accommodated in spacious twin rooms. Looking for a single? There are four singles available. All rooms have their own bathroom with showers and plenty of hot water. Rooms have electric heaters and the power points or outlets are 220V UK three pin plugs. The windows are covered with mosquito mesh.
Dinner and breakfast are served in the upstairs dining room that looks out over the river offering a commanding view of the tundra and taiga. Enjoy a cocktail at the bar while waiting for dinner to be served. A fly-tying bench is available in the event guests wish to add to their collection of patterns or try something new. There's a large screen television and plenty of comfortable seating to relax in while you discuss the days fishing with friends.
To refresh and rejuvenate a tired body, there is a banya (Russian sauna) available in an adjacent building. A drying room is available for waders, clothing etc. Laundry service is available for a small charge paid on site.
Fishing at Yokanga Lodge
On arrival, Saturday afternoon, the Lodge Manager will make a quick orientation speech to advise you about the week ahead. Normally, we make a wake-up call at 7.30am and breakfast is available at 8am. Everybody must be ready to board the helicopter at 8:45am for a 9am start to the fishing day. Fishing is until the helicopter returns, around 6:00pm. Lunch is served on the river. Pre-dinner drinks, cocktails normally start around 7:00pm with dinner at 8:00pm.
Fishing on home-pool is available from after dinner until around midnight. There is a guide available on home-pool until this time, with a boat used to access the other side.
The Yokanga is an interesting river to fish. Techniques used on other rivers work here as well. The standard method of fishing is to cast either square or slightly downstream and let the line swing round with the current until it straightens out and hangs below you. Yes, the Atlantics love to chase a fly on the swing.
Presentation matters on the Yokanga. It is more important to cast a straight line, with a fly that turns over in lieu of a hero cast producing a fly and leader that lands in a pile. Do your best by fishing within your comfort zone. There is usually no need to mend up-stream to slow the fly but mending down-stream to speed it up is very effective! Retrieving is also a proven technique, either stripping or figure eight retrieving. Once the swing has finished it is important to leave the fly on the dangle before stripping in line. Atlantic Salmon will follow the fly until it finally straightens, the fly hanging on the end of the leader, suspended in the river current. The sudden take will be impressive to say the least.
After each cast take two or three steps downstream so that every cast covers new water. Anglers are encouraged by the guides to concentrate on the water they are fishing. The guides will coach anglers in making sure even small pockets, just big enough for a single salmon, are covered.
When you feel the "take", don't set the hook! Let that fish have all the time he wants to take the fly and then lift the rod slowly but firmly as he moves away with the fly, lifting into the tension or pulling snug to the fish. After that, keep the rod up and the line tight at all times.
You will be flying every day in a Mi-8 helicopter. These are reliable and well-serviced helicopters piloted by experienced and highly professional crew members. They are used throughout Russia and in many countries worldwide and have an enviable reputation as a workhorse helicopter that is reliable in all situations. They can be loud. We do provide earplugs but you may prefer to bring your own hearing protection. Most cli- ents favor ‘ear-protectors’ of the type commonly seen on the shooting field.