Kamchatka VIII: Nuts and Bolts

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by bozo, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. bozo New Member

    Posts: 24
    Carnation, WA
    Ratings: +8 / 0
    So, what are the nuts and bolts of a trip to Kamchatka? First and foremost is the cost. It’s expensive, no doubt, but not prohibitive. When I got beyond the dreaming stage and started planning I figured it’d take me about three years to put it together. I calculated it’d cost about ten to twelve grand to do it right.

    The budget:

    Outfitter: 6000
    Tip: 400
    Airline: 3000
    Hotels: 500
    Visa: 250
    Trip Ins: 600
    Medical Ins: 150
    Fish Lic. 100
    Gear: 1000
    Misc: 500

    I was pretty close to the mark. The first thing I did was to obtain a credit card that built mileage with all purchases and then I proceeded to put all purchases on that card: groceries, gas, auto insurance, entertainment, travel, auto repair, etc. Basically anything I could put on the card, I did. It took some discipline because that required that I pay the card off each month to avoid interest charges and a pile of credit card debt. I accumulated enough miles that I was able to purchase the round trip ticket to Moscow with miles, a savings of $1600.

    I booked online with The Fly Shop out of Redding CA. I researched several outfitters and they seemed to have the most stable history in Kamchatka as well as reputable experience in international travel. Pricing was comparable to other outfitters. I also chose them because for years I have driven past their store (though I never stopped in) that sits adjacent to I-5 in Redding on my travels between Washington and California and therefore I was sure that they existed and had been in business for some time.

    Fortunately, I did not have to buy medical insurance as my current health insurance with Group Health covered the cost to evac from the back country to the nearest hospital as well as local treatment. They didn’t cover evac back to the U.S. but I figured I trusted the Russians to get it right if I needed care. I made the choice to forego trip insurance, which was a calculated risk, but I was determined to take this trip unless I was dead, in which case I wouldn’t care. I figured if problems arose enroute (late flights, missing luggage, etc.) I’d just break out the credit card and deal with it.

    I thought about buying a new fly rod but ended up borrowing a back up rod from a friend that worked out fine, especially when my Orvis rod snapped the first day. I upgraded my marginal gear (boots, vest, rain coat) gradually over the year preceding the trip which softened the bite a little.

    I could have saved some money by obtaining my visa myself but chose to pay the fee to the travel agent recommended by The Fly Shop to ensure that it was done right. I didn’t want to get turned away in Russia or end up greasing palms when I got there. The same agency also handled my Russian flight arrangements from Moscow to PK and return as well as my hotel reservations in Moscow. They did an excellent job. I ended up spending more on hotels than I planned but that was related to some late flight changes that I had to make and that I chose to stay in a deluxe hotel ($300 per night) near Red Square and spend an extra day in Moscow on my way home.

    Most of the trip went off as planned but there were a couple of hitches. My original plan was to fly Seattle to Wa DC to Moscow and then connect thru to PK after a brief layover. About three weeks before the trip, The Fly Shop advised that instead of a helicopter flight direct from PK, we’d first bus to Esso and then chopper to the river. My flight into PK was arriving too late to accommodate the bus ride so I had to reschedule my US to Moscow flight. Unfortunately that meant I’d have to leave two days earlier than originally planned which meant that I spent a (hot – no AC in the $200 hotel) night in Moscow on the way and two nights in PK ($100 per night) waiting for the rest of group to arrive. The extra expense turned out OK. I ended up flying Seattle to Frankfurt then Moscow on Lufthansa which provided immaculate customer service. The flight was enjoyable and the trip was about 8 hours less than my original schedule which was a red-eye that included layovers in Chicago and Washington. I enjoyed the time I had in PK and the guides took me to dinner each night that I was there.

    As far as fly-fishing gear, I bought a new floating fly line to go with the new large arbor reel I bought for my Orvis rod. I bought a sink-tip line for the back-up rod that I borrowed. After the Orvis rod broke, I used the new reel and floating line on the back-up rod. I bought enough 0x leader and tippet material to change out every day or so. I never had any terminal tackle failure. I spent about $150 on an assortment of flies that I asked my contact at the Fly Shop, Ryan Peterson (who also guides in Kamchatka though not on my trip) to choose for me. I spent another $100 or so on flies from other sources. Other than the mouse imitations, I only used a handful of other flies, mostly for variety and in some cases to learn how to fish those flies (especially the streamers which I had not fished much at all). Realistically, I could have done fine with about two dozen Mr. Hankies, two dozen assorted other mouse patterns, and then a dozen of what ever else I had the desire to fish. It was about impossible to lose a fly with the 0X leader/tippet. We changed the flies after the fish battered them unrecognizable. The last day or so we were recycling the best of the chewed up mice back on to the line (and catching fish).

    I assume the Russian outfitter took care of our licenses ($100) because they never asked us about them. The fly fishermen on the Sedanko had to purchase their licenses.

    So, here’s about (pretty close) what I spent:

    Airfare (Moscow/PK RT) 1600
    Float portion of trip 4100
    Helicopter/bus 2000
    Guides’ tip 400
    Hotels 1000
    Visa 250
    Reel/Line 300
    Flies 250
    Wading Boots 150
    Rain Jacket 250
    Miscellaneous 700
    (meals, B&B Esso, taxis, interpreter/guide PK, gifts, just plain spent)

    Total (about) 11,000

    Was it worth it? Absolutely! Would I do it again? I’d sure like to but I’ll wait until there’s a reliable trans-Pacific route to drastically cut down the travel time and I’ll wait until I’ve saved enough to take my wife with me (so it could be a while).

    The remaining nuts and bolts? When I arrived in Moscow, I was a bit overwhelmed in the airport. It was at least 85 degrees inside the terminal and customs queue was a steaming, teeming, mob with no apparent organized effort to direct anyone in a timely fashion to the waiting (and seemingly bored) bureaucrats waiting to process us into the country. I heard many languages around me, but not a word of English. I resolved at that moment to check my attitude at the door and to experience Russia on Russia’s terms. That attitude served me well the entire trip and enhanced the experience.

    Lastly, most importantly, my wife, who has fly fished (and skied, and hiked, and dirt biked, and you get the picture) at my side for over 30 years, supported and encouraged me wholeheartedly from the very first time I said I wanted to fish Kamchatka and she replied, “you should.” Like every family, we have crises and issues that ebb and flow, things that need doing, bills to pay, children. As I prepared to leave she told me, “Don’t look back. I’ll take care of things.” I didn’t and she did.

    A journey should leave the traveler with an appreciation for the place he has visited and hopefully leave him contemplating the meaning of what he has experienced and, maybe, just maybe, mystified by some of what has transpired. Certainly, I was awe-struck by the Kamchatkan wilderness and remain somehow changed by the experience. What was once a dream now seems dream-like. I read and reread my journals, touching the now printed and framed photographs to assure myself that this really happened. I am mystified at my fortune that a priceless photo-filled camera found it’s way to me defying impossible odds but more so I am mystified at the wonder that in all of time and space I found a woman that could love me so.
  2. SteelieD Non Member

    Posts: 1,001
    In a van down by the river
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for an amazing read. You ARE a lucky man.
  3. powderglut My Kind Of Wave

    Posts: 209
    Steamboat Springs Colorado
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    A beautiful report of the Kamchatka! It's gotta be one of the most special cold water fisheries left on the planet.
    I too have looked longingly at the Flyshop's catalogue, with their trips on all this unexplored water. Who knows... maybe someday.
    Thanks for sharing this great adventure. What a place!!
  4. Jmills81 The Dude Abides

    Posts: 1,880
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +132 / 0
    thank you so much for bringing you with us
  5. Jmills81 The Dude Abides

    Posts: 1,880
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +132 / 0
    or how about us with you....yeesh sorry for the typo
  6. triploidjunkie Active Member

    Posts: 2,311
    Grand Coulee, WA
    Ratings: +1,260 / 0
    iagree Not about the typo part, but that it was so well written it was almost like I hid in your luggage and experienced it right along with you.
    I started saving over a year ago for a trip to Patagonia, but it's gaining in popularity so fast that the price-tag keeps jumping out of reach. I've been researching other cheaper, less popular destinations. I think I've found my match, even though friends think I've finally went off the deep end.
  7. Steve Call Active Member

    Posts: 1,550
    Wetside, WA
    Ratings: +182 / 0
    Thanks for sharing your life time adventure with us! We all dream of fishing trips like yours. Hope I can make mine come true like you did.
  8. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,471
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,613 / 0

    Excellent report! And thank you for sharing. I'm especially interested in your report and experience because I made the Kamchatka trip myself in 2004. It was on my "bucket list." Whether it is once in a lifetime or not, like you it appears, depends so much on the cost compared to other trips I can take. I don't recall exactly, but flying Anchorage to PK was a lot less, maybe $1200 then. They offered a special deal; I don't remember what it was for one week, but they offered a second week for an additional $1700, so I took it. That added a lot of value to my trip. My costs were all inclusive, once arriving in PK all ground and air transport was in the package, no separate bus/helecopter charges. We did stay overnight in Esso because of clouds or fog preventing us from flying all the way from PK to the river camp the first day.

    The fishing license story is kind of funny. Advised to bring a "new, crisp $100 bill," I did so, and we paid it to the camp brigadier, and never got any paper or anything resembling a fishing license. What was puzzling was the second week, upon arriving at the second river and camp, we were required again to fork over $100 for our fishing license, and for which I never saw any paper or such. (And I didn't have a second new, crisp $100 bill.) The unfortunate part of that is that we weren't forewarned that two fishing license purchases were required, so that came out of cash that I'd planned for tips for the guides. That wasn't just me, so the guides at our second camp got shorted on tips due to this. And I remain skeptical that any of those $100 fees ever made it to a government fisheries agency, but that's Russia.

    One thing for sure, Kamchatka is unlike anything else, and it is the last best rainbow trout habitat on the planet. I have no regrets, and will do it again after I get Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and a couple other trips checked off my list.

  9. bozo New Member

    Posts: 24
    Carnation, WA
    Ratings: +8 / 0
    Late in the week a few of us talked about the same "crisp $100" for the license we were told to bring and though we felt we should purchase a license, we decided it would likely just end up lining the outfitter's pocket if we brought up the subject. On the flight back to Moscow from PK I found out that the guys who fished the Sedanka the same week had to buy licenses the first day and received an official-enough looking Russian document which made a fine, though expensive, souvenir.
  10. Jamie Wilson Active Member

    Posts: 964
    Arlington WA
    Ratings: +91 / 0
    Thank you for sharing this. I was hoping the price tag was more around 6 - 7 grand.
  11. rwbailey05 GO COUGS

    Posts: 606
    Spokane, Washington
    Ratings: +41 / 0
    Your reports have been awesome to read, sounds like a true dream trip!
  12. troutnabout New Member

    Posts: 11
    Langley BC, Canada
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I'm with you on this... great writing! Thanks for sharing your amazing trip.

    Now do tell, how weird was it traveling with a nekkid guy? :eek::hmmm: LOL!
  13. BRYORS Member

    Posts: 145
    Camas, Wa
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    thank you. That is why we fish. Not one word about the fish but rather the why. God blesses us with the fish. Every thought and reply here brings backs thousands of why.