After a safe landing in the helicopter, we were greeted by a massive set of steps and a former angler's opinion of the Ponoi River and it's Atlantic salmon. Greg Thomas
I display my enthusiasm for remote Russia and the possibility of bright Atlantics. Greg Thomas
Ponoi River Company’s Ryabaga Camp is located 200 miles from the nearest town, Murmansk, and it offers quick access, via foot, boat and helicopter, to 50 miles of nearly untouched water. Greg Thomas
Jet-drive flat-bottom boats ferry anglers to the Ponoi’s prime runs. Greg Thomas
To reach beats located far from camp, a private helicopter carried us to waiting boats. Greg Thomas
The Ponoi’s fall run of Atlantic salmon numbers in the thousands and it was not difficult to find good numbers of those fish. Here, a bright Atlantic takes to the air. Greg Thomas
Fresh Atlantic salmon battle to the bitter end. Here, an angler fights a big salmon with a 14-foot spey rod. Greg Thomas
Absolute perfection. Many of the Ponoi’s Atlantic salmon race upstream from the ocean. Finding fish like this one, with sea-lice attached, is not uncommon, even 40 miles upstream from the salt. Greg Thomas
The perfect fish. Nowhere in the world, not in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Iceland or even Norway, will an angler catch a finer fish than this “fall bright.” Greg Thomas
Fall bright salmon fight like mad and to land one is a thrill, as evidenced by the author’s reaction to this 10-pounder. Greg Thomas
While fishing the Ponoi anglers spend days with a variety of guides, each from a different background. During the my stay I fished the first three days with Russian guides, followed by stints with a Frenchman, a Swede, and an Argentine. Here, the Swede, Pella, hoists a fall bright landed by Dan Summerfield. Greg Thomas
Another fall bright, landed by me. Greg Thomas
One of the best fish of the trip, a 14-pounder, comes to the net for Dan Sumerfield. Greg Thomas
Ponoi guides put together one mean lunch. Each day anglers are treated to homemade soup, fresh bread, vegetables, brie cheese and an assortment of meats. In addition, guides pack vodka, wine, and beer. Greg Thomas
In addition to bright Atlantic salmon, anglers encounter “darkies,” fish that return to the Ponoi after one, two or three years in the saltwater, and remain in the river for a year or more. Here, a hook-jawed 16-pounder awaits release. Greg Thomas
While most camp dinners take place in a large, communal canvas tent, occasionally dinner is cooked on the bank of the river. Here, marinated chicken, with onions, garlic, tomatoes, rice, and rolls, is grilled to perfection. Greg Thomas
At the end of a long day on the water, especially on a cold fall day when anglers return wet and chilled, the camp’s canvas tents feel like home. Greg Thomas
After each day on the water, anglers return to their tents to find the stove stoked with paper, kindling and logs. One strike of a match and warmth returns to the body. Greg Thomas
After a week in the Russian wilderness, Ryabaga Camp anglers load into the MI-8 helicopter for a two-hour flight to Murmansk. From there it’s a jet flight to Finland where guests exchange remarks and head their separate ways. Greg Thomas