A Fishing Trip To Russia

A Fishing Trip To Russia

Vacation News » Europe Vacation News Edition | By Steve Winston | October 9, 2012 9:45 AM ET

Tucked away in an arctic corner of northern Russia is the Ponoi River, 250 miles of some of the best fly fishing in the world. Here, the Atlantic Salmon run so big and in such numbers that people come from all corners of the world just to try and catch one.
The Ponoi runs through Russia's Kola Peninsula, site of the never-frozen waters off the port of Murmansk, which served as a lifeline to Russia during World War II. The Kola Peninsula covers some 40,000 square miles (100,000 square km) and extends across the Arctic Circle for about 190 miles to the north, and 250 miles east-west. And you'll actually be in the Arctic, walking on a tundra of mosses and lichens, and surrounded by Arctic birch. You won't see many people here. But, if you're lucky, one or two of the ones you do see will be Sami (Lapp) herding a bunch of reindeer.
Sound isolated? It is! But if you don't feel at home without a rod in your hand, it's a trip well worth taking. And it's not as hard as you think to get here. A company named Frontiers Travel, with offices in both the U.S. and the U.K., can take care of all the arrangements, and they work hand-in-hand with a Russian outfitter called the Poloi River Company.

Most visitors end up staying at the Ryabaga Camp, now in its 22nd season. It's an oasis of rustic comfort - and surprisingly-good food - in a vast, silent wilderness.
The Ryabaga Camp has a reputation for phenomenal Atlantic salmon fishing, with catches up to the 30-pound mark. The Ponoi is fly fishing only, and the policy here is catch-and-release. Jet boats can take you wherever you want to go on the river...and hovercraft can take you even farther. The boats will take you out for the day, and will carry your lunch and other supplies. Some folks, though, prefer less-motorized forms of transport on the Ponoi; they do their fishing with wading boots on, or from the banks.
Ryabaga Camp's crew of 30 includes five mechanics, three chefs, four housekeeping staff, a massage therapist ("sorely" needed at the end of a long day on the river), and a doctor. And while the surroundings are Spartan, the accommodations aren't; they're spacious tents with carpeted wooden floors. Each tent features two extra-wide, hand-crafted beds with arctic sleeping bags, flannel sheets and Finnish down pillows. There's also a wood-burning stove that's lit for you before you arrive back from fishing. And the Russian sauna on the property is always busy.
"The Big Tent" is the social and dining center of Ryabaga Camp, and the after-dinner hours are often the scene of happy sing-alongs (and a lot of "fish" tales).
If you're coming with a group, Frontiers Travel also offers two other lodging options.
The Brevyeni Camp is situated on the lower river, with private cabins. There's a dining room with a fireplace. Brevyeni has great fishing in spring, and also in fall, when the Ponoi seems to be filled with fat new fish. Another alternative lodging option is the Ryabaga Guest House, with six guestrooms, a large Great Room overlooking the river, and a good wine cellar.
Fishing in Russia's Arctic North is "elemental." You'll feel a range of different emotions as you bathe in the silence, the star-filled skies at night, the incredible sunsets as a fading orange ball sets over the tundra, the breath-taking sight of a majestic reindeer, the fleeting glimpse of a Lapp herder, or the immense vastness of this land.
And you'll feel very lucky, as well.

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