Roxtons’ Varzuga rods are flooded off
‘Lower Varzuga is pretty horrible actually.’ These are not the words you expect to hear to describe the most prolific Atlantic salmon river in the world but they were used today to describe the Week One flood on the famous South Kola river reckoned to be the worst since 1995. But Roxtons have made an honourable pledge to their ten disappointed rods that confirm the benefits of booking with a top-drawer agent...
“IT WAS THE right thing to do, it was the honourable thing to do.” But in a fishing world where it has long been accepted practice to consider payments made for salmon fishing to be non-refundable in the event of impossible fishing conditions, Roxton's decision today to refund their rods washed off Lower Varzuga for the start of the Kola season this week stands out.
Charlie White, director of fishing at the sporting agency who is to fly out via Helsinki and Murmansk tomorrow, told Fish and Fly before he went: “Lower Varzuga is pretty horrible actually. Middle is fine and I think they will end up with about 200 to the eight rods for the week (good but not epic) but Lower is essentially flooded out and I doubt they are really going to get any decent fishing.
“I have just ordered ten cases of good wine to be sent to each of the clients so it will be there on their return as a kind of gesture and more to the point have just signed ten cheques for £3,500 each as full refund for their fishing packages.
“We advertise that if you fish for six days on the Varzuga but don’t catch a fish then you will get your money back. It has always been a bit of a joke line as it is basically impossible to fish there for 6 days without catching at least one but the river is so high that it is almost impossible for them so we are honouring our commitment. I think they have probably caught the odd fish but it is not really the point of the guarantee and so I have decided to give them their money back for the fishing.
“I had a few drinks last night as £35,000 is not something I write off lightly but it perhaps backs up what I was saying in my piece you published yesterday (‘Secrets of the international fishing agent’), that we have to manage our reputation very carefully and I strongly doubt that any other fishing lodge in the world would refund you if you lost fishing because of weather – we do. “One of the Varzuga village elders thought that it was as high as he has seen it in 40 years so I hope it is just a one off event!”
Christopher Robinson, reporting on the Roxtons Varzuga Blog today about Wednesday's fishing, confirmed the dire scenario painted by his colleague Charlie.
“We had a gloriously warm day, really pleasant for this time of year, normally this would have been welcomed but it was this last thing we needed. With the air temperature up to 19⁰C by mid-afternoon the considerable amount of snow still left was melting fast. The little streams on the banks that we have hardly ever noticed in the past were roaring down and the river just continued to rise and it was pretty dirty.
“Middle landed 25 salmon for the day which was well down on the previous day of 70. At Lower we had to resign ourselves to fate – great credit to our guests, guides and Jesse [Jesse James, the Lower camp manager] who all stuck at it. It was indeed lovely weather to be out fishing in but there was little chance of the salmon responding.”
But then a more optimistic note: “A mild frost last night and warm again today – but the melt seems less, the river is steady, almost exactly the same height as this time yesterday and the old hands here feel that the worst is over.
“With a river that seems to be settling down at last Middle Camp were into fish this morning and I hear were probably going to make a decent score today. It is still not easy on the lower river and we are finding it difficult to catch fish – frustratingly a few are beginning to show, but they just will not take in the dirty water.
“My guts tell me that the river will now drop, and I guess that next week could be excellent; it will still be high and probably cold, so be prepared for Spring fishing. With a modicum of good fortune I’ll be able to report a real improvement tomorrow.”
Indeed those who know the Varzuga in the early spring weeks (last year just four rods at Lower caught 220 salmon with one angler alone catching 100 fish) know that the rods at Lower could still have a great final day on the river!
And a superb experience to bring home with them - even if it did not bring them the salmon bonanza they may have hoped for.
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