Ponoi River Russia
The river, well what can I say. The first time I saw it I’m a little surprised at its size, I’m not sure why, but I expected it to be slightly smaller. The home pool, which can be fished by anyone outside the normal fishing hours, is around 100 yards wide, but both easy to wade and fish. It’s probably one of the most productive pools you will ever wade, some weeks producing up to 100 fish itself.
The very civilised fishing day begins at 9am in the summer months and 8 during the final weeks of Autumn, your guide for the day, who will have introduced himself after the previous evenings dinner, will meet you and take you to the boat where you will find your tackle and lunch waiting for you. It may be, if fishing the beats furthest downstream, that you will be taken there by Hovercraft, a lovely warm and comfortable experience, otherwise it may be up to 15 minutes, but generally less than 10, by boat. On arrival at the lower beats you will fish some of he nicest water the place has to offer. Pools so productive you just cannot believe. My first day produced 7 extremely nice fresh salmon of between 10 and 17bs. Amazing fishing. Check out my blog here as to why I think this is the case
Fishing is similar to what we did on the Spey, selecting a starting point before dropping anchor and dropping down on a rope. In my opinion this is one of the best methods of catching fish, simply because, no matter what your casting ability, your guide can, and will, put you over fish.
Your beat will have perhaps 6 – 8 kilometres with so many pools, you are completely spoiled for choice and, in my opinion, is a good reason why the place is so productive. Basically, those fish have never seen a fly! Paradise!
Anglers fishing at this time (September) can expect to catch up to 5 bright (Osenka, “ice fish”) fish between 10 and 15lbs per day, however, add to this sea trout and dark fish and your day is going to be action packed. I’ve never seen so many sea trout in a river and willing to take.
Having been fortunate to have fished many very nice and popular salmon destinations around the world, the fishing trip I had to the Ponoi River and Ryabaga camp had to top them all. Not simply for the fish and fishing, which, instead of finding the correct superlative and adjectives, I’d describe as exactly how I remember salmon fishing being like in the good old days, when I fished the rivers of Scotland as a boy. Perfect! Quite simply, and like the fishers of my childhood, Ryabaga does not over exploit either fisherman or fish. Perfect! A trip to this wonderful destination will not only take you back in time, quite literally, it will take you to another planet. A place where man’s influence has not been felt by nature. A place where returning salmon find their environment exactly as it was intended it to be. Perfect! Collectively, the staff, both in camp and on the water, were the best I’d ever came across, making my experience quite simply, the best I’ve ever had. If looking for perfection for a salmon fishing, or that one trip of a lifetime, given all my experience, this tops it all. The world’s best Atlantic Salmon fishery managed properly by the best people in every department. Simply The Best - Perfect! For video of our trip - CLICK HERE
Seasons on the Ponoi –
The Ponoi season runs from late May until first week in October incorporating Spring, Summer and Autumn fishing, each of which has its particular and unique appeal. See video — HERE
Ryabaga Camp & Staff
The camp has a large staff to service the 20 anglers visiting each week. Ranging from fishing guides, cleaners, bar and waiting staff, as well as doctors, masseuses, mechanics and maintenance people.
The guides are simply the best I’ve had the privilege to fish with. Mainly young guys from the world over who spend their summer here. Before heading to the warmer climes of saltwater destinations during the winter. They really are worth their weight in gold and, as wi the rest of the camp staff, could not be more attentive, looking after your every requirement.
In and around the dining area it’s service with a smile, the girls are so attentive and pleasant. You will return to your room after dinner to find the room clean and tidy, it really is a fantastic experience which I’m sure is down to the immaculate standards set by Russian owner Ilya Sherbovitch? His staff and the way he runs this camp are a credit to him. See video – HERE
After an hour and fifty minutes of flight over a land mass that’s the amazing Arctic Tundra, the note of the helicopter changes, a river appears and a small settlement with red roofs appear from a nest of birch trees. Finally, we have arrived at Ryabaga, probably the world’s best salmon fishery.
The accommodation has recently been upgraded from staying in basic tents to very comfortable twin cabins each with their own bathroom and shower. They are both warm, extremely comfortable and serviced by the girls in the camp twice daily. Towels, shampoo and soap are supplied.
The main dining block consists of two long tables, one of which is used by staff, the other for fishing guests. Breakfast is served here each morning before going fishing, lunch consists of hot soup and fresh bread served with a variety of cold meats, heavily bleeding fish are used for lunch too, cooked by the guide over a fire.
On return from fishing at 5 it’s time to Change before cocktails in the bar at 6. This is a great time to catch up with all other anglers, enjoy a dram, vodka or wine.
Dinner is excellent, I’d say 5 star, the team of chefs each day preparing cuisine similar to that of a top class restaurant.
For those skipping cocktails, there’s the Banya, a sauna to relax prior to dinner.
The camp has a doctor and is extremely well equipped with supplies, medical and otherwise. Video HERE
As this is fishery where, in the main, anglers fish from the boat so a short head Scandi, or Skagit line is best, this fished on a rod of between 13 and 14 foot would be ideal. As it was late September when I fished then floating line with sink tips of 15 feet and heavy tube flies of around two inches, tied to a total length of 3 inches. Tips themselves vary depending on speed of current and depth of pool. Some of the guides like to fish full sinking shooting heads of T17 in the deeper pools whilst others felt the sink tip was sufficient. Personally, I had two rod set up in the boat, both were the new Greys Multi tip, one a floating, the other an intermediate. One I fished on a Grey’s 14’6” six piece travel rod, the other on a new Hardy Demon 15’ travel rod, also 6 piece.
Basically, if coming to fish here at this time of year it’s wise to consider short head lines with sink tips with a sinking rate of between 2 and 8 ips (inches per second) in both 10 and 15 feet. The only thing I didn’t have with me this time that I’d consider next time, in September, would be a short full sinking line of T18 and 14 to get me down quick in some of the deeper and faster pools.
The river is generally very safe but when wading it would be prudent to wear life jackets, especially when fishing from rocky shoreline. Fishing from gravel bars is very safe and easy.
Good quality rain jackets and waders are also a must, it really is not a nice place to be if you got wet through your jacket.
I found the new Hodgeman’s wading jacket with detachable fleece perfect for the job and in all my time on the river was the only one That kept me bone dry. An amazing addition to my fishing kit.
The Ponoi River Helicopter
The helicopter journey from Murmansk to Ponoi takes around 1 hour and 50 minutes of flying low across the tundra offering spectacular views of rivers, lakes and tundra. The Russian built Mi8 aircraft is the worlds third most popular aircraft with a great safely record. Other than being a little cramped with your luggage, I didn’t find this a bad, or in any way, scary experience . In fact, the opposite was the case for me, I positively enjoyed the trip across the Arctic Tundra. All that’s required to enjoy this a little more are a set of head phones with possibly a film or music to listen to on an Ipad.
More information and videos can be found here –