I don't remember when Kamchatka first came on my radar though it was probably in the late nineties or just after the turn of the millenium when the first rumblings of a vast, unfished, pristine wilderness trickled into my awareness. "The size of California with the population of Anchorage. It's like Alaska was a hundred years ago." I had fished in Alaska in 1984, with my wife and father, before my sons were born. We always wanted to return. My Dad died unexpectedly in 1986 and my oldest son came just after Christmas 1988 and fishing in Alaska remained on the distant horizon. Two more sons, a move across the country to the Pacific Northwest, a return to school, jobs, and mortgages and the years flew by slowly. We spent a week or two on the St. Joe in Idaho with good friends (and their children) every summer and watched as our boys (and a lot of their friends) caught their first cutts with a fly rod, jumped off progressively higher cliffs into the deep crystal pools that line the river, and eventually left camp each day without us to fish favorite holes with their friends then come back to camp in the evening, bright-eyed to brag (or lie) about the fine trout they had caught and released. Several friends and I talked about going to Alaska the year that we all turned forty. Didn't happen. We talked about going in 2000 to celebrate the new century. That was the year I started a new career and bought a house, so we all agreed we go in 2004, the year we all turned 50. Didn't happen. Soon after that, my thoughts turned to Kamchatka, "Like Alaska was a hundred years ago." The stories coming out of Kamchatka spoke of legendary fishing, slashing rises, and barracuda-like rainbows that smashed mouse flies with abandon, almost vengeful in their attack. The fish porn was rampant, graphic, and almost erotic in its breathy presentation. No way could I afford to fish along side these surgeons, captains of industry, dotcom millionaires, and fish porn-stars. Each year brought me closer to the age my father was when he died and no closer to Alaska. I started to squirrel away what money I could and decided to aim for Alaska like it was a hundred years ago. Somewhere about 2006, I started talking out loud about my dream trip in the hope (and fear) that letting others know of my dream would help change my mindset from, "I want to go to Kamchatka" to "I'm going to Kamchatka." I opened a separate bank account that I creatively named Kamchatka and let my mouth run to whoever would listen. The account grew slowly and I avoided the temptation to borrow from it during trying times. On several occasions, I was reminded, "that money is for Kamchatka." I received perhaps the best Christmas present ever in 2007. My wife and youngest son presented me with two simple gifts: a hand-drawn poster with a rather ungainly looking, large rainbow trout floating over a map of Kamchatka, and a nearly ten-foot high, one-foot wide thermometer-graph similar to those used by local civic fund-raisers everywhere to publicly chart the progress of their efforts. We eagerly hung the chart on the wall in the front foyer with the poster at the top, the bottom 25% of the thermometer inked in red to reflect what I had, the top 75% hauntingly empty. That simple, thoughtful gift was actually the most precious gift I could receive, the blessing to go and the motivation to get there. It was time to put my money where my mouth was. Over the months that followed, I'd quietly ink another section or two in red when the money made it to the Kamchatka account and anticipate the comments that came when someone noticed the temperature had risen. In November of 2009 as I sat one day and reread the Kamchatka literature for the hundreth time I was deep in thought. I had saved almost 3/4 of the money I would need and it was apparent (barring unforseen circumstances) that I'd have the rest by spring. Much had changed. The economy was deep in the worst recession since the Great Depression. My wife and I were secure in our jobs but our house, though not underwater as so many were mortgage-wise, was losing value almost hourly it seemed. My oldest son was soon to graduate college. My middle son was unemployed and living at home. My youngest had taken the PSATs and was starting the road to college. All around were economic harbingers of doom and gloom. Thoughts of retirement were a tickle in my conciousness. I was torn with this desire, this culmination, to finally fly fish one of the last truly pristine areas of the planet, that conflicted so greatly with the economic realities of deep 2009. Fishermen (especially fly fishermen) are often tarred as a selfish breed and certainly, fly fishing writing is rife with stories of marital woes, financial despair, excessive drinking, and odd sexual proclivities but by and large, I believe most of us have been raised to and strive to do what is right. As I pondered all this, I despaired that soon I would be sixty, and that like Alaska at forty and fifty, Kamchatka wouldn't have happened. I picked up the phone and booked the trip. A week later, I sent them a non-refundable deposit that would have paid my son's final semester at school. I was going to Kamchatka. Next installment coming soon.