Russia – The Ponoi River – Ryabaga Camp – Filming, Photographing and Reflecting

It was a struggle to get news out from Ryabaga Camp last week because the internet was suffering. But, towards the end of the week, it was working much better and the promise of internet is now fulfilled.

A stunning night at Ryabaga – taken at about 1pm

Alan Maughan and I were there to build on the success of the film made at Ryabaga last year. Being in Nick’s shoes was interesting because it is only when one begins to focus on the details that one actually realises how much there is to the camp, the fishing and facilities. It was our mission to film ‘the meat on the bone’; to represent the detail of what was so beautifully covered last year.

Taken at the same time.

The first evening at Home Pool was a beautiful classic evening and many guests were out before and after dinner. I believe that 17 fish were caught that evening among six or seven guests.

Rods make their way down Home Pool as guides run up and down!

Dominic looking for his first fish of the week.

Ray limbering up his spey casting.

A shooting head shower!

Guides were running up and down the pool giving advice and netting fish. It was one of those magical evenings where Home Pool was on fire.

New guide from Ireland Mathew

Soon we got that wonderful orange glow as the sun dipped below the horizon, perhaps the most special time of all.

Dan waits to net the fish.

Consultation in the midnight glow.

Our first days were spent trying to shoot footage that would define the spring fishing. Our conclusion was to interview guides and myself and then get footage of typical spring fishing to support what everyone was saying. The spring is about numbers and last week was no exception, 41 fish per rod covering all standards and levels of energy. It is also about the midnight sun and the freedom this affords those that want to make use of it. The ability to fish Home Pool all night if you wish or the opportunity to walking literally miles up and down river from camp and fish your way home. Russia in general stands alone for the wilderness salmon fishing but Ponoi shines in this regard.

Evening light up river from camp.

Laurence hooks up at the top of Home Pool.


Going back to the top!

A fox comes down to drink at Home Pool.

We also talked about the amount of wading and bank fishing (not needing to be actually in the water because the fish are very close to the bank). Each beat is multiple kilometres and therefore offers more wading than two people can do in a day. You can be dropped off and literally fish for hours or miles on your own if you wish. Sometimes casting a long line, other times fishing very short and even able to see the fly and the fish as it comes up to take the fly. For the experienced rod, there is miles of wilderness fishing to get lost in, for the intermediate, tons of water to read and test your knowledge and ability to judge and read water because there are plenty of fish and you will be rewarded. Much of the skill, both for the guides and rods themselves is knowing which water to walk past. There is more than can be fished in a day so you have to take the gamble on what to leave.

Deep wading and long casting…

… and again

Bank fishing…sometimes the fish are at your feet.

We also talked about the size of the Ponoi and how, again, in the spring in particular, it can be any size you want it to be. Huge if you want to wade deep and fish long, tiny, west coast spate river, if you want to potter along the bank and throw a short line…and everything in between.

Fishing Gold Beach at night with all the space in the world.

After we had shot the above picture and taken a pan with the movie camera we headed back to the camp at about 2am. A chill was creating mist so we decided to take a few shots and of course, as so often happens on Ponoi, we caught a fish!

Mist over Home Pool.

Alan landing his fish.

A typical 8 or 9lbs fish for spring.

The other great bonus is method, apart from a few early days, sometimes, when guests have not even arrived, sinking lines are used but very soon, it is gentle sink-tips and then the floater and skated flies. The spring is all about visible hard takes, fish jumping on flies and whacking bombers with their tails. It is great fun with lots of action and something happening all the time.

Dom half way down Home Pool.

Ready to launch!

Hooking fish behind someone in Home Pool is not a problem!

Text book casting…

Evening light.

We also filmed some of the main camp facilities such as the massage room which is also used as the medical centre. We interviewed the camp doctor whose main role is first response and to make a speedy decision on evacuation. We interviewed Barratt who heads up the scientific effort at Ryabaga Camp working with the PINRO scientists. We also spent time with the helicopter pilots and mechanics who proudly showed us the vehicles used around camp to move guests and equipment to wherever they or it needs to be. Finally, we spent time with the excellent head chef from Buenos Aires, Aex Cataldi.

The mechanic team with their vehicles.

The very popular tent 16 on a beautiful morning.

Friday night is sushi night at Ryabaga!

We also discussed the use of boats on Ponoi and the misconception that you have to fish from a boat. Boats are used for several reasons on the Ponoi. First to access the beats which are spread over 70 kms. Second, to move rods from wading spot to wading spot, to walk would be a huge waste of time. Third, to fish from should guests wish for any reason. For some it simply allows them to continue to be able to fish for salmon, for others it is fun or they prefer not to wade etc. They are also equipment movers and containers. They carry first aid kits, change of clothes, wood for fires and cooking, guests camera bags, videos, medication, tackle bags etc etc. They are used to reach lies that wading cannot reach but they are also used tactically to vary angle and create fly speed swinging the fly away from the bank at increasing speed as opposed to into the bank at decreasing speed. These pictures explain this well – the rod is casting to the bank and the fly is pulling away from the fish at increasing speed which induces the take. He has a unique way of celebrating!

Fish on!

Concentration to ensure it does not go down the fast water.


A unique way of celebrating!

Home Pool is there is be fished any time between the hours of 6pm and 9am. In between, it is left quiet unless a beat has done badly in which case they can come back and fish Home Pool early. Some guests give it a go right away after fishing while still in their waders. This avoids getting back into waders after showering. It is often a very productive time.

Graham in to an early evening fish.


Alan films the action.

Getting there…


Nearly to hand…the fish is a film star!

Happy fisher and camera man!

As the week came to a close, there was time to spend the last evening in Home Pool. It is a long time since I have fished Home Pool on my own in the spring in that magical, low midnight sun. I think the last time I came close was 2009 when I watched my son fishing. That was a very special and memorable evening for many reasons. On Friday night I caught two fish, one a summer run of about 11lbs which screamed off down river. Truly magical and served to remind me (as if I needed reminding) of what a very special place Ryabaga Camp is and its Home Pool in the spring. So many wonderful times…

Alone on the perhaps the best salmon pool in the world.

The evening at a close; thought and contemplation.


Comments 4

  1. Pingback: Summary of recent pieces about Ponoi… | Fieldsports, Photography and Frontiers

    1. Post

      Dear Karl, how very good to hear from you. Thank you so much for your kind words, very much appreciated. All the best and hope to see you soon.

  2. Pingback: Autumn filming on the Ponoi | Fieldsports, Photography and Frontiers

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