Kamchatka IV:


Active Member
Camp the second night was quiet, a product of a lot of beer and vodka consumption the night before and a load of sunshine and hard fishing on that second day. By 9 PM, I was the only fisherman in camp still awake as I wrote in my journal and reviewed the day’s photos on my digital camera.


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I was out on the water before 8 AM that second day, a Sunday. Leaving camp early suited me just fine. I packed quickly; the fly rod still rigged from the day before, and was on the water before the morning mosquito clouds descended on the warming camp. Though the cook provided a lavish breakfast, I preferred tea and toast with blueberry jam. It was quick, light, and didn’t involve any leftovers from previous meals, which were becoming increasingly suspect in the Kamchatkan heat wave.

Mostly, I left camp early because for that golden first hour, the second tributary of the Perozhnikova was mine, alone, as alone as I could imagine being and all that mattered were the lies, the presentation, the take, the set, and landing the trout. That hour, as I felt the sun strengthen, seemed timeless in its solitude and eternal until I moved the first fish. Then, deep, familiar, muscle memory would taker over as I moved, casting without awareness of movement or the passage of time, the fly appearing almost where I willed it, my vision focused where I knew the fish would rise, senses sharpening as I anticipated the strike. God, I loved it.

That Sunday, I caught and released another dozen or so rainbows in the 20 – 23 inch range and unbuttoned a like number of the same size including one two-footer that sliced across the surface for three or four feet to grab the mouse, then immediately rocketed three feet into the air and up onto the bank where he slapped in the grass twice before tossing the fly and falling back into the river. I also caught a 14 and a 16-inch rainbow, the smallest I had seen. I had to remind myself to take the time to enjoy them and not just yard them out with the 5-weight as on any other day’s outing they’d be the fish of the day. They both rewarded me with acrobatic aerial displays.

As the days passed, we quickly fell into the rhythm of traveling the river. The cook was up by six and the rest of us soon after, awakened by the alarm clock clattering of pots and the smell of fresh coffee. Each went about their morning routine at there own pace, sipping coffee and eating Russian cookies as they awaited the sumptuous breakfast of eggs, sausages, toast, and leftovers all seasoned with the ubiquitous dill seasoning so loved in Russia. My pace was more urgent, driven by the desire to be on the water and the need to escape the haze of dill and morning after vodka vapor that permeated the camp.

After an hour or so alone on the water, the two fishermen rafts would find me and solitude would give way to camaraderie and the shared experience of the journey and the fishing. We fished a beat system to ensure we all had fresh, unfished water. The first boat would plant a uniquely carved stick in an easily seen location in the river and wade fish downstream from that point. The second boat would float through, grab the beat stick, and then float a kilometer or so downstream where they would plant the stick and start fishing. We would hopscotch each other all morning, trading stories and tips, lying and talking trash as we passed through each other’s water.


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In the water, we worked steadily downstream, mirroring the relentless flow of the river, wading through the foot-deep water until we found likely holding water. Then we’d cast, quartering down, twitching the mouse, the first pass or two rising a fish if we’d read the water correctly and presented the mouse well. Rise, miss, strike, miss, set & lose, slashing rise, take, reel-scorching runs, fight, release. Repeat. We surrendered to the current that drew us closer to the sea with each step and the inevitable end to this adventure. I found myself turning on occasion to fish upstream with a dead drift down to break the rhythm and maybe (as I look back) to try and hold back the inevitable.

Around mid-morning the cargo rafts would drift through, helmed by the Russian camp crew, their piloting skills a direct reflection of how much vodka had flowed in camp the night before. We’d continue to trade drifts as the day heated up and then suddenly would wade or float around a bend and there would be the two beached cargo rafts, bright orange ablaze in the wilderness of blue and green. The table would be set for lunch with sliced meats with delicately carved cucumber and tomato florets all garnished (of course) with dill. Bottled drinks and beer would be cooling in the river as the freshly prepared soup simmered on the stove. We’d sit, relaxing in the sun and compare notes on the morning’s fishing, our river-honed appetites ensuring we rewarded the cook’s efforts.


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After lunch, we’d slip back into the rhythm of the water. One afternoon, sated from yet another river-side feast, I set the tone for the remainder of the day when I caught a beautiful fish literally two steps below the gravel bar where we’d stopped for lunch.


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Occasionally we’d encounter some class II or so rapids and then we sat back enjoying the breeze and the ride as we pinballed downstream. Late in the afternoon, sun-worn and fish-whipped we’d round a bend and camp would be waiting, tents pitched, dinner cooking. We’d busy ourselves hanging our gear to dry and organizing our tents before dropping blissfully in the river to refresh ourselves before dinner. Dinner was always a delight, fresh soup, fresh-sliced Russian bread, cabbage and onion salads, fried meats, cheeses, and finally a pasta or rice casserole, heavy with dill.


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We would talk about going out to fly fish around camp but we never actually got back out though one evening Sherm chided me into actually picking up my rod. I stepped to the river, made one cast and landed a twenty-inch rainbow, then placed the rod back up against the tent. That’s Kamchatka.

We’d fall asleep listening to the river and the muffled conversation of the Russian guides, knowing that in the morning, we were going fishing.


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Ed Call

Well-Known Member
This is a series that has me captured, totally enthralled. I'm reading and re-reading and eagerly awaiting my clicking of NEW POSTS to reveal the next chapter. Thank you for the picture you are painting of your wonderful trip and the photos you have shared.

Rob Ast

Active Member
Awesome. I'm sure that despite all of your planning and anticipation there were many things that were better than expected, and many things that were, umm, different than expected. Keep the installments coming, but at the end I'd love to hear how the trip matched/differed from your expectations.

Steve Call

Active Member
Reading your posts is awesome and has got me dreaming of a trip - highly unlikely, but I can dream. Your descriptions paint a great picture by themselves. The photos just add to it. Thanks for sharing and keep it coming.


Sculpin Enterprises
Great story, Tim. I'm still astonished at how a river that thin, in many places, can hold / support so many large fish. Did you see evidence of mice / lemmings, etc. in the grass or even adrift?



Active Member

I never saw a mouse or lemming and didn't open any fish. The guides told us that they have never opened a rainbow in Kamchatka that didn't have evidence of a mouse diet. One actually held the remains of a duckling.

In the upper portion of the river, as far as I'm aware, our group only caught or saw mature, large rainbows. We didn't see or catch any trout (or fish) smaller than 18". By the guides estimate, the trout we caught were several years or more old. It was suggested that some may have been 10 - 12 years in age.

I suspect the trout per km count is actually pretty low and that as a group we probably did a pretty good job of sticking most of them.

Perhaps the population is dispersed into the available limited holding water and once there prospers due to lack of competition and the likely predation of smaller fish that find their way that far upstream.

Salmon are much more concentrated lower in the system which also concentrates predators (particularly grizz) lower in the system. We began encountering many 10 - 18" fish in that portion of the river as well.

Or maybe the God of Flyfishing put them there in answer to the prayers and moans of flyfishers. Who knows?