Kamchatka Part III - A star is porn


Active Member
Unlike many of you, I didn't start fishing as a child. As one of eight children, including seven within a 10-year age span, outdoor forays with my father tended to be exercises in damage control at best and near search and rescue missions at worst. The only fly fishing outing I remember involved 5 or 6 of said kids and my dad and ended when I snapped the tip off my father's flyrod while running through a field. "You've got to keep the tip up," he scolded me. Sage advice which I still follow today. I didn't touch a fly rod again for twenty years.

In my twenties, I began to backpack the American west in search of wild and lonely places. Hunger on extended backpacks in the Colorado Rockies taught me to spin fish the high lakes and watching fly fishermen harvest the clear streams with impunity put a fly rod in my hand. Always keeping the tip up, I learned to fly fish in the high and wild. Eventually the quest to fly fish lonely, pristine steams changed me from a backpacker who fished to a fly fishermen who backpacked, always dreaming of that finding that place where no one or at least few had ever wet a line.

Kamchatka offered many such places, or at least the outfitter's marketing thrust promised that it did. And, there was no doubt, the brochures trumpeted, that those places held obscenely large, wild rainbows. I booked an "Exploratory Trip" with an itinerary that included a seven day/night float trip down a river that to anyone's best knowledge had only been fished once before, in August 2009. Our trip was to put in above where they had started to provide us the experience of fly fishing water that had never seen a line. Hunters and trappers had been in this area before so it wasn't unexplored, but it promised to be as remote as almost any water on earth.

When I started planning this trip, logistics seemed straight-forward - fly from Seattle to Anchorage, then Anchorage to Petrovaplovsk (PK), Kamchatka, then a four-hour helicopter ride to the river with a fueling stop half way in the remote outpost of Esso.

Our destination was the unnamed second tributary of the Perozhnikova River in the northern half of the Kamchatka peninsula that drained via the Tigil River to the Okhotsk Sea.

It didn't work quite that way. The Anchorage to PK flight wasn't viable and ceased to fly two summers ago so the flight became Seattle to Frankfurt to Moscow, overnight in Moscow and then a nine hour flight across Russia to PK.

The financial downturn had hit even the outfitting to the wealthy so the two-hour chopper flight to Esso became a 600 kilometer bus ride to Esso to catch the helicopter flight to the river.

The pavement, if you could call it that, ended about an hour and a half north of PK shortly after we stopped for a break at one of the two towns that are situated between PK and Esso. During this break, similar to the unique pleasure I would experience near the end of my trip when I hugged a strange man in the middle of Red Square, I had the unique experience of buying a strange man a piss. There was a grandmotherly type fiercely guarding the roadside restroom demanding 15 rubles for using the toilet and another 15 for using the tightly-rationed roll of toilet paper. One of my fellow fly fishermen, was stymied squirming at the door. He had a bladder full of beer and no rubles. I had a pocketful of rubles. I introduced myself and gladly bought him a piss.

The bus that the outfitter had chartered for us was fabulous - new, clean, comfortable with seats and foot rests like a lazy boy recliner. The ride was like first class on an airliner - during severe turbulence - and then we got off the pavement. Then the ride was like first class on an airliner during scary, WE ARE GOING TO DIE, turbulence.

Sixty to seventy miles per hour on gravel road, often on the wrong side in the vain attempt to find a smoother line. It was squirrelly as shit with frequent sideslides interspersed with rapid braking to slam through potholes. Passenger cars passed us at 80 MPH, scattering gravel and tossing up inpenetrable dust clouds that occasionally caused the driver to skid to a stop until he could again see the road forward.

The passengers on the bus included seven fishermen, all from the U.S., three Russians and the bus driver. The other fishermen had just arrived in PK shortly before we boarded the bus, and badly jet-lagged, slept most of the bus ride. I had arrived in PK two days earlier and was wide awake. The Russians are used to this shit and I think pretty much expect to die young, so that left me to be scared shitless for seven hours on behalf of everyone else on the bus.


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I was relieved to get on the helicopter. It was hot, sweaty, smelly, and deafening but after that bus ride - no fear. We finally landed at our put-in about 9 PM, broad daylight in mid-summer this far north. Clouds of mosquitoes attacked us as we unloaded the chopper. They'd never seen this much meat at once. As the chopper lifted off, I was enveloped by the reality of the effort to get here and the achievement of a dream that had probably been conceived ten years earlier and had gestated for years before its screaming birth. I was about to fish water that had never been fished (maybe) and float and fish a river that few had ever seen.


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The next morning dawned chilly and clear. I was awake by 6 AM and by 8 AM I was packed, rigged-up, and anxious to be first on the water. Everyone else was headed to the first of a week of classic Russian breakfasts, but I was headed out to fish.

The air was dead calm with an almost ice-blue sky as I slipped into the stream. The water was rarely more than shin deep and the cobble-stone bottom was perfect for wading. I fished my way downstream for 15 or 20 minutes, casting a Mr. Hanky, a high-floating mouse imitation, to each likely two-foot deep pocket I saw. I worked my away around a bend several hundred yards below camp and then stopped fishing for a moment to absorb where I was. I was deep in Kamchatka, alone, on a perfect day, on perfect fly fishing water, my senses almost overwhelmed by the piercing blue of the sky and the gentle ripple of the river, and there were trout (I sure hoped) to catch.

I still hadn't smoothed out my balky cast with the big dry fly but managed to put it on the water in an 18-inch deep hollow about two feet above a partially submerged rock when something big turned on the mouse. I felt the vicious strike and struck back - and missed. He struck again and so I did - and missed again. I cast again and this time the mouse swung through the glide untouched. I start a straight upstream, twitchy retrieve. The trout simply opened its mouth and cruised up behind the mouse. I dead-drifted the fly a few inches downstream into the trout's mouth. He slashed and rolled and took the fly. I hesitated until I felt him start to run and set the hook. There was no miss this time. A few minutes later (with no small thanks to 0X tippet), twenty-four inches of rainbow came to hand, perhaps the first trout ever caught in this section of the river. Two casts later, I gently released his twenty-two inch cousin. I took a deep breath and exalted at the sheer wildness and unique rich beauty of this unnamed, nearly unknown water. I sat on a rock and waited for the rafts that I heard coming around the bend to share my water.


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We waded several miles of stream. I landed about eight or ten fish that first day, each a delight. The smallest was about 18 inches and the rest were all over 20 - it was senseless to measure them. All were rainbows except for one 23-inch kudzhou (sp?) a Siberian char that cleanly snapped my Orvis rod when I tried to hoist him up for a photo. There was a definite learning curve to setting the hook as the trout often struck several times (as though to disable the mouse the guides theorized) before finally smashing the fly the third or fourth time so hard that it took your breath away at times. I had another dozen or so long-distance releases (including one that took me into the backing, the first time that had ever happened to me, and then lept from the water 75 yards downstream and spit the fly) and put the steel to or rose at least twice that many.

I went to sleep bone-tired and happy.

Next: The porn, the whole porn, and nothing but the porn, so help me God. (Actually I'll still write as I go, but a picture is worth a thousand words).

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Awesome. Bozo looks like photos I've seen of Mark Waker, Norm Norlander and W_W. Great report and great looking country and fishporn.


My Kind Of Wave
Great stuff bozo!
I too have looked longingly at a Kamchatka trip. The logistics seem to be much more of a pain in the ass, though. I guess that's what makes this place so remote and almost unobtainable. I'm also curious to the bottom line cost on pulling something like this off. Probably just a pipe dream. But... who knows. Thanks for sharing.


Well-Known Member
Great story Bozo!

While you were awaiting the helecopter in Esso, did Alexandir and his wife come out and set up his table of carvings to sell to you tourists? I've got a little carved birch box and polished grizzly claw that I bought from him in 04. I would have bought more, but didn't have much cash left after guide tips and the unexpected second $100 fishing license at my second camp.