All things must pass/last day on the V

So wrote the Eastern mystic, echoed by ‘These things too [for better or worse] shall pass away’ which once satisfied a sultan’s philosophical enquiry. Back to the south Kola’s river-beginning-with-V and in my seven-days-in-arrears blog I’ve now come to my final day (ie Friday May 20th).

My strategy to deal with the inevitable last day sense of occasion and strange mixture of de-mob happy and that enjoyably philosophical sadness at the ending of a week of stunning sport and friendships was to fix on a strategy. As Jenna’s fried eggs slipped down, accompanied by those famous mushrooms to the last, I set upon a plan.

Lower Varzuga camp's main lodge, scene of breakfasts with lots of mushrooms and many other things besides. Note the grass denuded patch where Russian builders had been busy with the saw mill pre season.

Ten fish the day before had bumped me up to 58 fish for the week, but with one day left I would fish hard and, I hoped, well within the 9-6pm hours left to me but above all I aimed to seriously enjoy myself to cap off what had been an unforgettable salmon-fishing week. And see where that left me.

Jess’s beats board was welcome viewing. I was on beat 2 am and 3 pm. In my own mind there was some debate about the state of the river after heavy overnight rain but Jess only seemed to think it would improve sport further and it was hard not to be carried away by his enthusiasm (it comes with the territory with Jess which is why I really enjoyed fishing with him every other day or so).

What was better, am or pm? The morning was unforgettable. We went to Bear Island with the river starting to rise. In a typical Varzuga reality check I lost three fish in a row then, as Jess motored down I was playing another which turned out to be this 9-pounder (pictured), which we took for the kitchen, so I took the photo.

Then things went quiet and the water started to colour up fast.  We went up to Bearlets where, in the middle pot I was greeted by water that was getting on towards milk chocolate brown but was still see-able into. I put on a two-inch brass tube Cascade complete with fluo orange tubing and after a while started to hit running fish, resting briefly as the current swung over to the left bank. One smashed into the fly. Then two more. Furious at being hooked they cavorted off into the swelling river and fought very hard indeed. It was like everything you dream of during quieter times on quieter rivers, and yet it happened three times in 40 minutes. Then another fish came from the lower ‘pot’. An added excitement was when a big bar of silver came up from below and bumped my fly near the surface. A classic take but he didn’t grab hold.

Then back to the island for another cracker before lunch – all but one smaller grilse, decent fish of 6- 8lb.

The last afternoon at upper Jannaways, with its ice wall which kept crashing behind us as lumps fell off!

Lunch at the lodge and Jess reminded Craig he had eight fish to his 100 and turning to me said I had six fish to get to reach my 70. I honestly thought it wouldn’t happen but like so many Varzuga dreams, during a red-hot afternoon at Jannaways when the orange Flamethrower could do no wrong, it did. The sheer sport of the fishing – after a quiet hour or so, casting to a fish we spotted running up the bank only 15 feet out and hooking him – was superlative – really really good fun. My first after lunch was a smaller one, but was hooked as Losha and Sergay talked downstream and new dad Losha (my guide last year) gave a wave as he wheeled off in his boat watching my bouncing rod.

Now, back in Cambridgeshire, I am thinking about the 2nd week party who in real time have come to the end of their stint too (well most of them). As the clock turned to 2.45pm today I thought of them contemplating their last quarter of an hour of official fishing and how in my case exactly a week previously I’d settled for my 70 fish then been encouraged by Sergay to try for one more and was so thrilled to net a final one at 5.55pm Russ-hour (three hours ahead of UK).

But in particular now I’m thinking of Craig P, my ‘Lower’ lodge buddy, a good and steady chap – and fisherman. Craig is 50 tomorrow and his two weeks on the Varzuga were a birthday special. He caught a well deserved and superlative 100 salmon in his first week and I bet he’s going some in the second tho his name hasn’t yet figured in the blog. So Happy Birthday tomorrow Craig, I know you’re probably out on the Generator pool at Middle as I write – and it’ll be getting on for midnight your way anyway so H B in about 20 minutes.

Inside Varzuga's village church, which I visited again this year, on the Tuesday night.

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