Monday, our third day on the water, was kind of a transition day. I was out early, before 8 AM as usual. When the rafts caught up to me I was given the word that early outs alone were over as we were entering serious bear country. By 9:30 that morning I had caught and released a half-dozen rainbows in the 20 to 23 inch range. As the day warmed up, the fishing cooled down and I only caught a few more large fish that day. We floated some transition water that had a bit of featureless gradient, almost has though the water had been channelized (is that a word?) in some places by engineers. THE TIMS WITH FISH View attachment 36327 View attachment 36328 As we reached the plains, gnarled willows lined the river as it began meandering and braiding across its flood plain. There, we caught numerous 10 – 14 inch rainbows, the first substantial juvenile fish we’d seen. JUVENILES View attachment 36329 We had definitely entered bear country. The first couple of days, spotting grizz tracks was a photo op. On Monday, bear tracks were more common on shore than our footprints and bear trails paralleled the river. Anatoly, our interpreter, spotted a seven-footer alongside the river just a hundred yards above the day’s lunch spot. He yelled and the bear ran off. It’s spooky to fish down a side channel alone, the willows shrouding the river, and step onto a gravel bar to discover bear tracks and piles of steaming fresh scat. GRIZZ SIGN (WITH FLYROD FOR PERSPECTIVE – LIKE ANY GOOD FLY FISHING PICTURE) View attachment 36330 View attachment 36331 View attachment 36332 The vodka broke out early on Monday night and the other fishermen were soon sleeping soundly. Justin, our American guide, and the Russians were still going strong around the campfire, oblivious to the mosquitoes, and invited me to join them but I was content to sit and write. Besides, with my Russian limited to “vodka, nyet” and their English (besides Justin and Anatoly’s) limited to “drink,” I suspected we’d be in for a somewhat circular conversation. Anatoly had spent some time earlier in the evening, before the vodka, telling us some of his personal story, complete with pictures. At 75, he was a retired Soviet-era rocket scientist who had worked in or traveled to every continent including Antarctica. He had been part of the Soviet team during the space race and was among the first responders into Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster there. He told us the area around Chernobyl has no maximum speed limit, but instead had a minimum speed limit of 120 km/hr to ensure minimal radiation exposure. He lives in Moscow now and interprets on these trips without pay, for something to do and for the chance to experience the wilds of Kamchatka. He lived most days in a full-body, mesh insect suit with nothing underneath except a pair of blue striped boxers that often failed to contain his enormous balls. He’d serve our meals to help the cook accompanied by cries of, “ Anatoly, put your nutsack away,” which I don’t think translated into Russian. ANATOLY AND THE BODY SUIT View attachment 36333 I’ve talked about the fish I’ve caught but not much about how the others had been doing. There was no one doing poorly, only degrees of how fabulous the fishing had been. Sherm, his son Kevin, and their friend Gary had spent the previous week on the Sedanka and had the mousing dialed in. They all reported having caught 26-inch fish and Gary taped one at 27 inches. Doug, the fishing machine, who shared the raft with his buddy Tim and I (the other Tim) also reported fish to that size. Tim, a relative novice, was getting it dialed in and improving his catch rate every day. Having not seen those alleged 26 and 27 inch rainbows myself, I maintained the usual fisherman’s skepticism about the size of the fish that anyone else ever caught, though I’ve no doubt this stream can produce rainbows that size and probably larger. Maybe they’ll read this some day and post the photos. Another long sunset brought sleep and the comfort that I was going fishing in the morning, but I wouldn’t be the first one out of camp alone. Damn! Next: To sleep perchance to dream.