Robin’s been up the Varzuga again!

Stiff joints, aching muscles and all the symptoms of sleep deprivation but it was all worth it.

This is the second time that I’ve been with a group of friends on a trip to the Kola Peninsula inside the Arctic Circle, Russia in pursuit of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

The journey started at Manchester Airport, with a flight to Helsinki. I worked remotely over the internet on a client file on the server back at the office all afternoon from the hotel room – honest!

Early on Saturday morning, we caught a flight to Murmansk and then a 2 hours helicopter flight across the Kola Peninsula to the River Varzuga, which is literally in the middle of nowhere.

The Russian’s have a far more relaxed view of health and safety, which you will see from the photograph of the bit of twisted wire and string that was securing the doors of the helicopter – you might also note the flat tyre on the helicopter.

Anyway, all a bit scary but added to the adventure.

There were a group of 8 fishing, which included a dentist, an orthopedic surgeon, an orthodontist, a retired economic adviser to the EU, a marine biologist, a retired printer and a retired quarry owner and me.

At the end of each day’s fishing, we met up to enjoy a shot of vodka and fresh gravadlax before we all sat down to dinner. So, as you can image, the conversations were as varied as they were interesting.

The temperature ranged from -5 to +5 Celsius, with the week we were there being the first week that the river wasn’t frozen.

It gets so cold in the winter that the river is frozen solid leaving only about 6 inches at the riverbed flowing. This is a great advantage to the local villagers because it means that they can more easily get goods in and out of the area by using the river as a vehicle highway; with trucks being able to drive up and down the river.

In the summer, it takes 10 hours to reach Murmansk using roads that are mostly dirt tracks across the tundra – or by helicopter, which is usually prohibitive from a cost point of view.

Someone (a golfer!) once said that he couldn’t understand why I was so passionate about fly-fishing and that it seemed such a waste of time.

I thought about that conversation when I was stood in the middle of the Varzuga amongst the wild and rugged splendor around me, with a 10lb salmon on the end of my line, feeling the sun on my back, watching a skein of geese overhead and looking forward to a convivial evening amongst friends around the log fire in the evening – what’s to not like about that?

Hope you enjoy the photos.

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