Ponoi 2020 - A season's summary...

Steve Estela’s 2020 Ponoi Season Summary

Like you, we feel that 2020 has redefined almost everything we considered and enjoyed as “normal”. In times like these, we reflect on what we have perhaps taken for granted, realising in a new way how special and blessed we have been for so long. Booking a fishing or adventure trip, packing and boarding a plane… such things used to be as simple as that. Not so this year.

For nearly all of us, our dream holidays and our annual adventures were forced to take a pause as the entire world suddenly ground to a halt. We all had to learn a new way forward, and to react with nimble grace to the “new normal” that COVID presented. Wonderfully, nature persevered. The natural world, the rivers and their fish didn’t realise much what was impacting us humans. These elements moved along as they have for all time, though it seems they did enjoy the break!

In early spring Ryabaga was all set to go, with months of pre-season planning underway, and logistics in place for another busy season. Then of course the unexpected happened: COVID-19 arrived and immediately began to play a pivotal role. Travel restrictions, cancelled flights, border closures, sanitary regulations and a host of additional limiting factors halted the ability for all of us to make our annual trip to Ponoi.

With June just around the corner, we were forced to make a decision that we never dreamed of. Fortunately, our loyal guests were understanding of the situation, and all approved the necessary plan to roll over the Spring bookings 2020 until 2021. With the optimism that things would soon get better, we looked forward to a return in time for the Fall Run. With eyes on the horizon, we kept all our staff “on hold”, and maintained Ryabaga in functional shape and ready to go.

During late May and June, PRC Owner Ilya Sherbovich, his family and some other Russian guests managed to spend time on the river, with phenomenal fishing results on an absolute and on a per rod basis.

Summer projects didn’t stop. With our team of mechanics and some other key staff in camp, we kept our plans in place and did a major facelift of camp facilities. We relocated and improved our satellite antenna to provide a better wireless service for our guests, and we built a new Kolmak guard post house. We fixed roads, improved storage, and re-graded all roads around camp. We improved the boat docks and bought new boats and engines to keep our fleet up to date.

In hand with our longstanding Conservation Programme and protection of the river, both Kolmak and Ponoi Village guard posts were fully operational since April and will remain active until the river freezes in late October or early November. As part of the daily camp routine, guides went on commission patrolling the river up and down from Ryabaga to ensure our fish could enjoy the break!

Weeks went by and suddenly August was upon us. We reviewed the state of travel and took a considered look, and it was a sad day when we realised it was simply not going to happen. We were forced finally to call the 2020 season off, and in so doing had to relinquish our hopes, wishes, and plans to be able to share autumn fishing with our guests. Once again, we made the agonizing call to roll over fall bookings to 2021.

Our Russian guests used the opportunity to enjoy some good days in Ponoi, relax in camp and experienced some wonderful fishing. It was tremendous to salvage the atmosphere and enjoy the river we have come to know and love. Moreover, it was such a pleasure to see our friends enjoying Ryabaga and the Ponoi at such times.

And now it is time to turn the page. We must of course reflect on a tricky year, but we are strengthened by the opportunity to plan ahead.

Special thanks to the Ponoi Ryabaga Team, Frontiers Travel US and UK, Ponoi MMK office and everyone that help and support us in this very special year.

We all need to recover the lost time; let’s get ready to play hard in the season to come!

We leave you and this 2020 season with a reminder to never take anything for granted. We must, we now know, enjoy every day, every cast, and every fish!

With high hopes for 2021, we bid you a restful winter.

All the Best,

Steve Estela


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UK Managing Director

Program Manager

Specializes in the Ponoi and Iceland fishing programs, and Elegant Journeys.

Co-Owner, Global Destination Specialist

Specializes in Atlantic salmon fishing programs and heads up Elegant Journeys.