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Fishing the Atlantic Salmon Reserve on the Kola Peninsula in Russia

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Russia's magical Northern Rivers including the Kharlovka, Eastern Litza, Rynda and Zolotaya are considered by many to be some of the very best Atlantic Salmon rivers in the world today. They are all intimate and very unique in their character and size ranging from the challenging spring waters of the mighty Kharlovka and Litza to the charming summer pockets and pools of the Rynda and Zolotaya. While the Rynda river tends to produce almost as many salmon as the Kharlovka and Litza rivers combined they all have one special quality in common - The Northern Rivers are known for their Big Salmon! Click here to watch the documentary on the Atlantic Salmon Reserve "Home For salmon"

Every season the rivers produce hundreds of big silver salmon larger than 20 pounds. To be exact - Over the last 2 seasons 17.6% of the salmon were 20+ pounders! The rivers also produce more than 30 serious salmon every season that are greater than 30 pounds, in addition to a couple of serious monsters that are landed in the 40 pound class!

Nobody said it was going to be easy though. For every serious salmon that makes it to the guides net, their are countless sad stories about the Big ones that got away. Fishing is not allowed from boats so it is up to you and your skilled Russian guide to contend with the many challenges including the massive boulders and the powerful rapids that loom below almost every pool.

The northern coast of the Kola is extremely remote and unspoiled by human intervention. With large silver salmon on the run from early June through September, the Northern Rivers are a dream adventure for anglers young and old. The ASR with its Big fish have captured the imagination of many fly fisherman. The adventure they can provide are reflections of our lives and the memories can be endless.


The largest of the four Northern Rivers is the mighty Kharlovka which along with its sister river the Eastern Litza, are two of the most prolific rivers in the world for big Atlantic salmon. The combination of awesome big fish and the manageable size of the rivers are great assets when compared to other Kola destinations. Both wild and challenging they can provide some of the biggest silver rewards anywhere.

The most productive salmon beats of Kharlovka river are from the lower sea pool up to the first falls which is located approximately 10 kms. from the estuary. There are some 15 good sized - well defined pools which have become famous over the years. The river is also blessed with what has been called 'The finest Home Pool in the World'. Nicely situated in the middle of the river only 100m from the Kharlovka lodge - All the river’s monsters will make a temporary stop here.

Recent Big Salmon Facts from the 2010/11 seasons:

- Largest 3 Kharlovka Salmon - 42, 41, and 38 pounds - There were 49 salmon landed in the 30 pound class (Kharlovka and Litza rivers) - 20.3% (1 out of 5) of the salmon landed were 20+ pounds.


Many fishermen have described the Litza as simply the best salmon river in the world. Characterized by its massive boulders, fast runs, gorgeous pools - this challenging river, may provide an explanation to the extraordinary size and power of the Litza Salmon. With just 9km of Salmon water between the impassable Litza Falls and the sea - these are not your typical gravel-bottomed spawning grounds. It is theorized that the big broad tails, typical of Litza Salmon, holds the genetic recipe to their success, being a prerequisite to gouge out a spawning bed amidst the stones. Whatever the reason may be, the average size of Litza Salmon is without question.

The river is as beautiful as it is majestic, running a deep path through the tundra, really only opening out briefly at Snowbank Pool before dropping away into final gorge, Military Pool and opening up to the Barents Sea. For many the highlight of the week is the Litza Tent camp where all guests (weather depending) will have the opportunity to spend a night in comfort on the river. Many a huge salmon have been taken in the Tent pool area including a 47.5 lb Salmon that was landed less than 100 yards from the camp!

Along with its sister river the Kharlovka, these are two of the world's most prolific rivers for big Atlantic salmon. The combination of awesome big fish and the manageable size of the rivers is a great asset when compared to other Kola destinations. Both wild and challenging they can also provide some of the biggest silver rewards anywhere.

Big Salmon facts from the 2010/11 season:

- Largest 3 Litza salmon - 42, 38, 37 pounds - There were 49 salmon landed in the 30 pound (Kharlovka and Litza rivers) - 20.3% of the salmon were over 20+ pounds - Largest 3 salmon in the last 10 years - 47.5, 47, 46 pounds.


The Rynda and Zolotaya Rivers fall through more gentle gradients than the Kharlovka and Litza Rivers. There are some 75 interesting named salmon pools that require the angler to read the water and consider each cast. The successful angler approaches the fishing carefully in intellectual contemplation and, however experienced, listens to the guide. Some say the rivers are reminiscent of Iceland. They, and the accommodation, are attractive to lady fishers as we are to them!

Although Kharlovka & Litza have twice the annual water flow of Rynda & Zolotaya - it is a stunning fact that every year Rynda produces nearly as many landed salmon. The difference is that the size of the MSW Atlantic Salmon is likely to be 20% less. A 25lbs fish from the Rynda is more likely to be a 30lbs fish at Kharlovka and so forth. The best fish taken at Rynda was 42lbs whereas at the Litza it was 47.5lbs.

The Rynda is a medium sized river that in most heights is ideally suited to a 13ft rod or similar. It has been described as a true fisherman’s river, an intellectual exercise for any salmon angler. Consisting of some 90 pools along its length there are relatively few areas that require long reaching casts but rather a multitude of medium sized pools, pockets, runs and glides. Compared to Scottish Salmon rivers the generally fast flow of the river can be somewhat disconcerting however with the close assistance of the guides you will quickly learn to interpret and read the water and before long it becomes apparent that every boulder or hole, no matter how unlikely, can and usually is a potential Salmon lie. As such it is an immensely rewarding and exciting river to fish.

Although the Rynda has a strong grilse run it is equaled by an even number of MSW fish and a 30lb + fish is never far away. Hook into anything in the 20lb and over range and you can expect a thrilling fight that is as likely as not to take you down rapids and runs at a distinctly ungentlemanly pace!

Big Salmon facts from the 2010/11 season:

- Largest 3 Rynda Salmon - 36, 34, 32 pounds - 32% of the salmon were greater that 15 pounds. - The Rynda river produces nearly as many salmon a season as the Kharlovka & Litza rivers combined. - Largest Salmon ever landed was a 42 pounder.

ZOLOTAYA (The Golden River)

Your day, and possible overnight on the Zolotaya, gives you and your fishing partner access to an entire salmon river, 5 km approx, and the chance to change to a little rod - maybe 9' and lighter tackle and to adapt your tactics to the smaller and shallower river. Sometimes standing well back from the pool, always fishing quietly and carefully can reward you with sea bright grilse or good strong MSW fish from a variety of pools and glides. In the little birch valley below the lake where the helicopter usually drops you there are often fish in the small pockets and the first deep pool is a near certainty for more than one providing you can land your fish without disturbing others.. You can take your time fishing on down until you get to the tent camp where ever smiling Misha will be waiting to offer hospitality and news of fish, weather and reindeer/bear sightings.

The Home or Russia pool has to lay claim to be the best salmon pool on the Kola Peninsula judged on volume of water to weight of fish taken from it. Some spend all day, and night there, perhaps crossing to look down from the little cliff to the fish lying in the taking place by a rock or relaxing under the trees and taking your time to fish the pool once more. There is plenty more below the Russia pool, indeed you may well be taken out of that pool by a strong fish necessitating a sprint down the gravel to the pool below. There are several long stretches, a very interesting pocket above the rapids where cunning needs to be employed and on down to the sea pool from where you can be picked up and flown home along the coast to the mouth of the Rynda.

The tent camp provides proper beds and warmth and always the temptation to slip out and fish some more until the ride home for breakfast. Obviously this is a most popular side adventure within the weekly rotation at the Rynda lodge.

The Zolotaya is a very special little - Big salmon river! Intimate in its character and often generous with its rewards, it is possible to find 20+ pound salmon lying within its tiny pools.

- The largest Zolotaya salmon landed in the last two years was a 30 pounder. - The largest salmon ever recorded from this little river was 37 pounds.


The Atlantic Salmon Reserve (ASR) is the name given to the territory bounded by the Barents Sea and the water basins of the Rynda, Zolotaya, Kharlovka & Eastern Litza Rivers that are located on the north coast of the Kola Peninsula. The ASR is some of Europe's last remaining Tundra, a vast territory of nearly 2 million acres that is relatively free of habitation due to its history as a restricted military area. International visitors have been permitted entrance into this pristine enchanted territory by courtesy of the Russian Northern Fleet since 1988 where the Kharlovka and Rynda lodges operate the now world famous salmon and trout fishery.

Ranked number 3 on Forbes Top Fishing Lodges - The Kharlovka and Rynda camps are well known as two of the premier Atlantic Salmon lodges in the world today. Located approximately one hour by helicopter out of Murmansk, the camps are thoughtfully positioned a few kilometers inland off the Barents Sea along some of the most productive Home Pools anywhere. The remote Kharlovka and Rynda lodges have been refined over the years to offer true luxury at the end of the earth. They attract ladies and gentlemen, the young and the experienced - addicts and novices alike from around the world that migrate to the far north coast to escape the norm and get "back to nature". With a very high rate of returning guests, many lasting friendships have been made. However, for most who arrive with expectations of landing the huge salmon, it is the opportunity of catching something great that keeps them all coming back for more.

Everyone who visits the Northern Rivers should realize they are entering what has effectively become the worlds first Atlantic Salmon Reserve. Along with enjoying a wonderful fishing holiday, they are making a contribution to the protection of Atlantic Salmon, preserving a fragile environment, helping the local economy and supporting worthwhile social causes. The ASR is a precious Russian national asset that should continue to be preserved for future generations to come.


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