High Noon at Sabacchi
Here's another post from my 2012 Varzuga visit. In my last instalment I'd been enjoying an early start before breakfast and later fishing with Eoin Fairgrieve on the Ultimate Salmon-fishing Course. After beaching a 6lb salmon on the lower home pool (Greenbank) we'd decided to walk upstream but encountered the sight of camp manager Jess James playing a very decent salmon with an extremely low-angled rod. It was a dramatic moment which I was videoing on my smartphone..
So the video was running, and Jess was taking his time. That is not to say he was not playing his salmon hard, because he was, giving it butt by pointing his rod almost directly at the fish which was careering around in the Sabacchi rapids below him. He was playing an eight-pounder plus the full force of the Varzuga and that's quite a lot of energy to be hanging off the drag of your fly-reel.
The time was Noon in the Russian Federation. High Noon: but just 9am in the UK, where decent working folk would be sitting down to their office computers and comparing notes on their Jubilee bank holiday experiences. (My own Jubilee Tuesday experiences had comprised pulling my best fish of the week, a very fresh and angry 10lb salmon from the Thirty Nine Steps flatwater halfway up Lower Varzuga's bottom beat rapids but that's another story..)
Back to Jess who had now made one attempt to grab the tail of his fish in swirling waters but now finally caught and released his salmon amid the difficult technical scenario of tucking his rod under his arm in order to extract an admittedly barbless hook from the scissors.
'Oh nice fish, nice fish Jess,' said Eoin beside me [audible on the video]. Jess came towards us from the flow, rinsing his hands in the water and I kept the video running awaiting the memorable quote which I will not repeat here (this is a family website!) but it's clearly there on the video footage!
At one point in the fight I had waded into the river five yards to try and grow the image of Jess relative to the frame but on balance it was better to avoid doing a Mark Spitz (or a Howard Evans, our Ultimate Salmon-fishing course-mate who swam the Varzuga heli-pool from bank to bank after a banya on the last evening - again another story!) and end up floating downstream and certainly consigning my smartphone to a future as a paperweight perhaps but not as anything electrical that could work as a mobile computer in any reasonable definition of the term.
Now I had been due to spend the last hour of the morning fishing with Eoin up at The Wires upstream but I made my apologies to Eoin and said I just had to have a cast in the spot Jess had just vacated and although Eoin caught four salmon, I think, up there before lunch I was not to regret my decision that gave me my best fishing experience of the week. Well one of two.
With Jess guiding and Egor on standby with the net we waded out until I could wade no further. I shot my best shooting-head overheader out into a glassy patch in the rapids and let the fly swing round, holding the rod out and high for line control (though perpendicular with the river) and with a well-tightened drag against the flow I fished off my Angel reel.
A fish took just as Jess predicted with a jagging, arm-wrenching pull and it was sublime. Just let it go, the hook lodging well in the scissors as it turned out as the running fish just grabbed the fly and turned on it back to the White Sea. It was a very nice medium sized Varzuga salmon and then it happened again 15 or 20 casts later - this time a belter of eight or nine pounds. A lovely fresh, deep and broad fish. It would have been superb to get a photo of this salmon but impossible I'm afraid, although Jess who had gone to the bank took one of me playing it.
The fight in all that turbulent water with a very strong fish was memorable and heart churning.
And do you know what? I felt I'd earned my lunch that day at least ...