A truly extraordinary feat

This news of Paul (still out on a rapidly warming Varzuga) from Jack Selby via Roxtons’ Varzuga blog has captured my imagination in a rather big way:

Last night Paul R decided that enough was enough. Inspired by the Bear and at one with nature and the animals, he stalked and caught a fish with his bare (Bear) hands. Quite why it let him do this, I am not sure, but he was jolly pleased. I have not heard what the salmon thought of the thing.

I can’t wait to hear the full monty on this one but salmon caught with bear [sic] hands is awesome. I wonder if Paul is truly merging into the taiga of the Arctic circle now.

On second thoughts don’t mention taigas, it might give Paul [more, he already has enough] ideas. But seriously there are the makings of a wonderful tale here and I hope to tell it in full in a future post, once I’ve collared the Grizzly Adams of Southampton University’s climate change department. A free catch (i.e. unattached to a leader and fly at any point) would be utterly extraordinary. Maybe fish were running up the sides in flood water? Funnily enough on my last visit to Middle Varzuga in June 2014 I caught a salmon which at the end of the fight as I started to beach it in a shoreside pool, came free after the fly slipped out of its mouth. I literally pounced on it and got it (and got wet), before, ironically, releasing it after an admiring and rueful look. As the splashes died down I heard laughter from the other bank. And, oddly enough, that was the same Paul!

Whatever, it’s amazing how fishing 2 consecutive weeks as opposed to the usual one can make you go native. Earlier that day Kurtz of the Kola (please excuse the Conradian literary reference, but give PR three weeks fishing and that’s what he’d become I reckon) hooked and lost many fish, but landed seven – so well done Paul.

Quick update: I liked this from Jack Selby the Varzuga manager as he reflected today (Friday 30 June 2017, before the long slog back through Murmansk and home after a gruelling but fascinating season:

“I guess this is my last report until the season round up. It has been a strange and wonderful, interesting and emotional, challenging and enjoyable year. You can’t just go back to Russia with a thought, the only way to relive that moment is to go back there every year and experience it. It does not matter how many people ask me about my trip, no one who has not experienced that amazing environment can truly understand the draw and the appeal.”

I know what Jack is wrestling with there.

“You never saw such a thing.”
“Yes, Hooper, I did. I’ve been here before.”
The words seemed to ring back to me, enriched from the vaults of my dungeon.

“Oh well, you know all about it. I’ll go and get cleaned up.”
“I had been there before; I knew all about it..” (Another literary snippet. Anyone?)

June 2014, on my last visit to Russia, and that’s Middle camp manager Terry holding a very decent middle  Varzuga salmon of 13 or 14lb

It has been, and continues to be, a very odd Russia season, and Tarquin Millington-Drake’s blog offered a more holistic and Kola-wide view here – entitled rather wackily but well: Reflecting on the infamous spring of 2017 on Russia’s Kola Peninsula. The blog spans the full 27 years of Russian fishing mayhem since Perestroika opened the Kola gates. While you are on Tarquin’s blog, do catch up on the previous post to this which describes 5 days he spent this month on the Aaron with it’s ‘fishing platforms of despair’ – the despair being that of the rods who survey their smashed tackle after the loss of another monster. TMD says (not much point in reading the blog now is there I’m telling all the good bits, JK) – that the biggest fly-caught fish on the river in the 20th century we know of was a 68lb fish caught on a Dusty Miller in the Sea Pool in 1923 by Russian exile Nicolas Denisoff. Denisoff had the lease on the river from 1921 to 1965 and his long-time lover was the fashion designer Coco Chanel.

Tarquin writes that “She also had a relationship with the then Duke of Westminster who fished Aaroy and Alta and proposed to Coco. It is said he was turned down on the basis that there will be other Duchesses of Westminster but only ever one Coco Chanel.”

Isn’t that fab?! This was in the 1930s – what a wonderful and glamorous lost world which transports me back many years (no not the 1930s, steady on!) to the very early days of my salmon fishing when I stayed every summer in a big house in Moray and the bureau drawers were stuffed with Hardy Perfects and boxes of traditionally dressed single-iron salmon flies and there were corridors with servants’ bells and . . a rod room (real rod room). . I’ve never blogged about that actually, maybe I should. 


Fish on – (Middle Varzuga, 2014 again) when I too grappled with a fish successfully, but only after it came free of my fly. .

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