Picture yourself knee deep on a crisp Russian morning, casting through the mist as the sun begins to melt away the predawn cold. Besides your guide, you are only accompanied by the sound of moving water and the summer solitude of the Arctic. Try and contain your excitement though, because in the pocket just 10 meters in front of you lies a fresh Atlantic Salmon waiting for your bomber to skate by! Welcome to the Kola Peninsula’s newest fishery: The Belousiha River Lodge.
The lodge has been working for 8 years to develop, protect and preserve this fishery. Until recently, the Belousiha River Lodge was accessible to mostly Russian clientele and a handful of international guests. Hence the secret of this incredible fishery remained largely, well, a secret.
What Makes Belousiha Special?
Belousiha River Lodge may be the new kid on the block among the Kola salmon rivers, but it already has all the attributes needed to be considered one of the Kola Peninsula’s premier salmon destinations. With exclusive access to the Voronya River and its smaller tributary the Belousiha River, fishermen share over 20 kms of water with only 7 other anglers and fish a wide variety of water. Fish long runs with a two hand rod from the comfort of a boat, or wade shallow, structure filled pocket water with a single hand rod. Maybe even entice an aggressive Atlantic hitching a fly! Oh, and the fish are big, too. The largest fish caught during our scouting was 108 cm long and over 30 lbs! Fortunately, the secret of the Belousiha River Lodge is not out yet and a weeklong package here remains very affordable compared to other Kola outfitters.
The Belousiha River
The Voronya River
Q & A with Alex Trochine
Q: Why did you and Nico choose to explore this lodge?
A: We met an avid Russian fly fisherman while guiding him in Argentina. He mentioned that he had access to a unique fishery in Russia called Belousiha. He was interested in having us explore it because we had experience developing other salmon destinations. We’d heard only a couple of guys had already fished it and were chasing rumors of some of the bigger Atlantic Salmon on the Kola . Plus, this new lodge was able to provide conservation to a river system that was recently opened only to the lodge, from the government. The government had the Voronoya river closed for over 40 years after they built the damn. Nico and I thought, that’s it – this is a cool opportunity!
Q: Why do you think this lodge is different from others on the Kola?
A: The access is the best. No helicopter is involved. Plus, a Voronya River average fish matches the well known fishing destinations on the Kola. What I also like about the fishery is the diversity of fishing. You can fish the Belousiha like a small river with a single hand or fish the Voronya like a big river with a double hand rod. Also, the lodge is brand new and one of the best in Russia. Oh, and fishermen here have exclusivity to the river. No one else can fish it besides the lodge.
Q. What excites you the most about Belousiha?
A: The future of the fishery. We are optimistic about the size of the fish. How big can they get? You know, when we were scouting this past season our largest fish was 30 lbs. We are planning on landing bigger and with boats being added to the operation, the access to the pools will be improved and we can catch more fish. With the lodge managing the fishery, the rivers are and will be protected from possible poaching.
Q. What is one thing you didn’t expect?
A. Well two things. The quantity of fish we saw running upstream and the way to fish for them. The river system has a bit of everything. In some parts of the Belousiha River, fish are slowed down by the shallow river beds and lots of structure. Here you can catch Atlantic Salmon in shallow pocket water with floating lines, and, sometime on a riffling hitch! Sometimes you are just casting 5-7m (15-25 ft) away to a 20 lb. fish. For Nico and myself, that was amazing. It’s fun fishing. It’s not boring to fish there. Also on the other hand, for spey aficionados, the Voronya River is the perfect size: the overall speed of the water makes it perfect for swinging flies and to feel the tug of massive Atlantic Salmon.
Q. What is the most challenging part of this fishery? What skill level is required?
A. The program is perfect for medium skill level fishermen. In certain places on the Belousiha, you don’t have to cast more than 6 m(20 ft), but at the same time there is not much space for back casting. The Voronya has pools where long casts are required but having boats will eliminate the need for huge casts for guests who don’t feel comfortable doing so. For example, we can anchor a boat to reduce casting range from 30m (100 ft.) to 10 m (30 ft). That can make a big difference.
Q. What don’t you like about it?
A. Bugs can be bad, like most of the major rivers in Russia, Alaska and Canada. Noseeums, blackflies and others. Mosquitoes were the worst ones. If you are in the shoreline or in the forest it can be bad. It’s part of the outdoor experience. Mosquito nets and bug spray will prevent all of it though. We recommend everyone comes prepared.
Q. How was being in Russia?
A. We were really impressed with how the people were very warm and friendly with us. Everyone in the camp was always there to help us. We’ve had a chance to work with a lot of the guides before and here they know a lot about fly fishing and good service. And yes, if you like vodka you will probably fit right in here.
The fishing season starts in mid June and ends in late September. During optimal river conditions, the fishing can be very productive. Given our test fishing one can expect to catch between 1-3 fish per day that average around 75 cm (30 in) in length. The largest fish we caught during our exploration was 108 cm (42 in) while the smallest fish caught was 63 cm (25 in). All sections of both rivers are easy to reach for average anglers and there can be some walking involved in order to get to the furthest pools. While you may have had to look carefully at lake sunapee rentals for a good fishing boat back in America, in Russia the lodge has everything covered. When fishing the Voronya River, all the spots are accessible thanks to the lodge’s new boats that will accommodate anglers of all skills levels on the wide stretches of river.
Click on the links below to find out how was last season in Belousiha River Lodge:
Spey: 13-15ft double handed rods in line weights 8-10. 14ft rods are nice for lifting heavy tips or sinking heads. Spare rods are nice in case of an accident. Most of the season the river is fishable with a skagit with type 3 sinking tip, but everything from floating to fast sinking should be on hand to cover all situations. From July to August, floating lines are a must for great surface action.
Single Hand: 9-10ft 6-8 wt rods with multi-tip lines or single handed shooting lines. Trout lines for delicate presentation are recommended in the summer.
The lodge sleeps a total of 8 anglers and you have two (2) options in lodging. The standard package houses anglers in our comfortable cottages. The cottages are well equipped for comfort but lack in-room bathrooms. However, an upgrade (extra charge) to the brand new guest house is available with two en suite rooms with full bathrooms, each equipped for 2 guests. Separately there is a dining room, shower, sauna, Russian bath, toilets and a large summer gazebo to enjoy in high summer. A communal dining room serves as the focal point with a fireplace, where guests can relax or discuss tactics for the next day. Out on the river are several small gazebos for lunching in comfort with nice views of the river.
Logistics and Visas
The Belousiha River Lodge is located in northwestern Russia and is a two and a half hour ground transfer from Murmansk. Your journey to the lodge begins in Moscow. Citizens of most countries will need a tourist Visa to enter Russia. Depending on your location, Visa costs may range from $200-$600 USD. Please contact us for Visa information and we will assist in the process!
- Thursday: Arrive in Moscow and catch a connecting flight to Murmansk. Overnight at your elected accommodations in Murmansk (not included).
- Friday: After 2 PM you will be picked up at your hotel and transported to the lodge. The transfer is 2.5 hours. Upon arrival to the camp/lodge, you will get settled in, have something to eat and check fishing equipment with the guides.
- Saturday – Thursday: Six full days of guided fishing at Belousiha River Lodge!
- Friday: Depart camp early for transfer back to Murmansk. Departure flights should be booked no earlier than 1pm.