Charles Rangeley-Wilson calls them the salmon refugees. I think I know what he means but I am not running away, or more to the point have not been driven away by anything back home. A sense of pure and raw adventure has led to this and, heading off for my third consecutive Kola Peninsula trip tomorrow I don’t really feel like a refugee at all, it’s all starting to feel rather familiar. Amazing really because this is an extraordinary place. I still pinch myself even to believe I am actually going.
When I wrote a series of travel pieces for the Sunday Express in the 1990s (France, Italy that sort of thing) I often had in my mind that clichéed way to start a travel piece: “It’s a city of contrasts, where East meet West … ” (groan, groan!) Well actually the Kola is a lot like that. Something as mundane as contact lens solution sits beside helicopter earplugs. Fleeced under layers are packed – but also suncream. A woolly beanie hat, but also a pair of shades. A single-handed grilse rod shares a tube with 14 and 15-footers.
This is partly because the weather is hard to pin down only 60 miles south of the Arctic circle but it also hints at the range of experience out there that can give you years (decades?) of fishing experience in just one week.
I’m up for it (my heart has been beating about 20 times a minute faster for the past two weeks it seems, at the thought of fishing over 1,000s of fresh salmon and I’ve been well down on sleep too! All of which is perfectly normal!) and I’ll report on my return unless I can do something via the smartphone.
Last night I was watching the excellent video of the rivers Kitza and Varzuga that Greig Thomson posted on Facebook this week. Somehow Greig, who fished out there last week, really captured the essence of the experience with some lovely shots of Lower Varzuga’s The Beach and the other fishing below Moscoi rapids. As well as great action on a swollen Kitza fishing the fly, and hooking a fish, right close in to the bank. My daughter Pippa watched over my shoulder for a while in rare silence. I said, ‘That’s where Daddy’s fishing next week, Pips.’ She answered, ‘I want to fish there with you. It looks really cool.’
I wish she could come with me (said the completely unrealistic father!) – but I don’t think we could swing it with Mummy. So I’ll watch Pippa’s special Queen’s Diamond Jubilee school assembly with Chloe tomorrow morning, then hop on the train to Heathrow for the 4pm flight to Helsinki…
Finally, the Norway season starts tomorrow and despite a swollen River Gaula, or because of it, I wish my friends at the Norwegian Flyfishers Club on the Gaula, extra-specially tight lines.