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Varzina River Main Lodge & Cliff Hanger Camp

The northern coast of the Kola Peninsula in Russia is one of the few remaining areas of the world where the hand of man is barely noticeable. Every year large Atlantic salmon return from the frigid waters of the Barents Sea to spawn in the crystal clear waters of the rivers of Kola just as they have for thousands of years. An absolute jewel among these waters is the beautiful Varzina River, a world reknowned destination among salmon fly fishermen for its large and abundant Atlantic salmon. 

Located on a hill overlooking the river about 4 kilometers upriver from its mouth is the Varzina River Lodge. within a distance of about 24 kilometers of the lodge, we find most of the best salmon pools on the river. During the first part of the season, the lodge takes up to 6 fishermen accommodated in comfortable individual cabins with private bathrooms. The fishermen are flown by helicopter daily to  the sections of river which are farthest away from the camp.  Those fishermen assigned the beat closest to the camp may fish the lower part of the wonderful Penka River that flows into the Varzina just above the home pool in front of the lodge.  

According to a statistical study of average weights, the Varzina River salmon are the largest on the Kola Peninsula. The first  salmon begin appearing in the river at the end of May and continue arriving until early September. Practically any week of the season may produce fish of 20 pounds or more. Every year more than 50 new fishermen are added to the 20+ Pound Club. The record for the Varzina was a 59.9 lb fish caught by Sir Seton!  

Generally the first salmon begin arriving in the river during the third week of May. This is a time of year when the river will also be full of spawned kelts as well as autumn salmon and seatrout in good condition. At this time of year the average size of the fish is between 12 and 17 pounds but we also come accross individuals of over 30 pounds. At the beginning of the season, the best pools are those close to the lodge, with the home pool leading the way. The largest salmon generally arrive from the beginning of the season until early July. Until the middle of July we fish only the lower 14 kilometers of the river with Upper Pool at the first water fall marking the upper limit.  

From the middle of July on we find salmon distributed throughout the river, many having passed the falls. At this time, operations are moved from the main lodge to the Cliff Hanger Camp built on the banks of the Varzina 10 kilometers upstream from the mouth. The camp is  strategically positioned with the majority of the best pools for this moment of the season within just a few kilometers. This is the time of the season when the more numerous 2 sea-winter salmon with average weights of 8 to 12 pounds, begin to appear. Next during the second half of july, the grilse will appear filling up all of the pools in the river. In any case, large msw salmon will continue arriving throughout the summer. Finally, towards the end of August and throughout September the Autumn run salmon will arrive. These salmon will remain in the river until the following year to spawn. These fish although less numerous are especially prized among knowledgable fishermen for their notable strength and scrappy fight. 

In addition to salmon, the Varzina also receives good runs of sea-trout and actic char. From the end of June when the waters begin to warm, the fishing for these fish becomes more productive in the lower river. The fishing for sea-trout in the Penka which is also included in the rotations for the lodge is especially good as this is one their primary spawning destinations. The Penka flows into the Varzina just above the lodge in an area of tidal iinfluence. It is smaller more shallow river which warms up earlier than the Varzina.  Often this is where some of the first salmon of the season are caught. During the summer this a great river to fish with single hand rods. 

Early season: Two hand 14 to 15 foot 8 to 10 weight rods,  sinking lines 3-6 F/S. Large colorful tube flies such as Garry, Golden Killer, Green Highlander, Ally’s Shrimp in hook sizes 2-4. 20 to 25 lb test leaders. Mid July – late August: 7 to 9 weight single hand and two hand rods, floating and intermediate sink lines. Flies: Willy Gun, Bombers, Undertaker, Horn Jack, in hook sizes 6 to 12.  September: One and two hand 8 to 10 weight rods, floating and intermediate lines. Flies: Hairy Mary, Silver Doctor in hooksize 4 to 8.

During the first part of the season the Varzina salmon program operates out of the main Lodge located 4 kilometers upstream from the mouth of the river. Lodging is in cozy single cabins with wood burning stoves and on suite bathrooms. Meals are served nte la primera parte de la temporada los programas de salmón en el Río Varzina operan desde el Main Lodge. Meals are served in a large main lodge building with a bar and lounge area and dining room. 

From the second week of July, salmon fishing operations are transferred to the Cliffhanger Camp another 6 kilometers upstream. Here guests are accommodated in large double tents with comfortable beds, heating and electricity (during the morning and afternoon. the camp consists of 4 doble tents, a central kitchen and dining building, bathroom, hot showers and a wader drying room. 

The Varzina River is located in a remote area on the north east side of the Kola Peninsula. to get there, guests fly into Murmansk. From there, they are transferred by road to the Lovozero helicopter base from which they will take a private helicopter to either the main lodge or the Cliffhanger Camp.

Location: The Varzina River is located on the north east coast of the Kola Peninsula in a remote area accessible only by helicopter. 

Season: From 1 de June to 7 September.

Best dates: Mid June to the end of July

Nº of rods allowed:  6 to 12 

Fshing techniques permitted: Fly 

Species: Atlantic salmon, resident and sea-run brown trout and arctic char

Note: In order to travel to Russia, travellers must obtain a visa issued by the Russian embassy. To do so they must have valid passports with at least 6 months validity from the date of entry into Russia. PescaTravel offers assistance with visa processing. 

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