Kamchatka VI: Dream Day


Active Member
I haven’t had a wet dream in 20 or 30 years, maybe longer. I’m sure though, that if I’m fortunate enough to ever have another, it won’t be fueled by adolescent fantasies or even middle-aged memories. I’ll be dreaming of a Tuesday in July, the fourth day of our float in Kamchatka.

Tuesday dawned clear as a bell on a windless morning but quickly warmed to the promise of the continuing heat wave. The day started slowly and was the first day I didn’t get out of camp early to spend time alone on the water. We dawdled (so I felt) over breakfast but the food and companionship was pleasant. Though I was anxious to get out of camp, I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that sitting and having breakfast served to you while camped alongside a remote, untouched river was a rare and worthy experience in and of itself.

We were on the river shortly after nine that morning. The river was broad and shallow but the gradient had increased slightly which helped scour more obvious holding water. Though the river still ran clear and with purpose, it carved a serpentine course across the wide valley, separating often into several channels that intertwined like a drunken French braid.

Upstream, our views often extended for miles.

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Here, the banks were lined with a tangle of twisted, misshapen willows. Standing twenty to thirty feet high, they hung over the river, their low-hanging branches dancing with the current while overhead their upper branches, at times, blocked all but a blue sliver of sky.

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The combination of willows and storm had created many logjams that provided dark holes. The many random islets in the river pushed up bow- waves in the current like ocean-going vessels do that carved glassy glides along the river’s braids. The confluences below the islets scoured classic runs with riffled tailouts. Overhanging branches created mysterious spaces, haunted by trout.

At times, we fished together. Often, I fished down side channels, alone. All water that looked like it should hold trout, held trout. Big trout. I’d reached the top of the learning curve. The first presentation almost always rose a fish. If they struck and didn’t taste steel, they’d strike again and again until they were on. We joked that the fourth hit was when you got your fish, though often the first strike was a slashing blast that got the job done.

I’d feel the bend of the rod with the strength and weight of the fish and then hear the reel sing, the sound track that told of that desperate, invisible run beneath the current. If I were lucky, the fish would show itself, leaping high above the water, a visible display of its wild determination to be free. The strongest fish would sometimes run at me and then upstream, shrugging off the current as I would a light breeze. Then it was time to apply the stick and the 0X leader and land the fish before it tired. Some, I never saw. Some shook loose as they neared me. Most, on that day, I landed.

How many fish everyone wants to know? The answer is many, many fish. I guess at least thirty or more to hand, most in the 20 to 22-inch range, a few larger. I caught the largest trout I’ve ever caught after lunch that day. We had just floated through the other raft’s beat and planted the beat stick just below a deep, almost black hole above a bend in the channel we were floating. Doug and Tim worked their way downstream and I stayed behind with Alexei, the Russian guide to fish that deep hole.

I dead-drifted a bushy mouse fly that I had only used sparingly on the trip. It didn’t twitch well on retrieve and had a tendency to sink. On the glassy, glide in front of me though, the mouse floated high and visible. The trout came up through six feet of water and torpedoed four feet across the surface and swallowed the mouse whole. When I landed the rainbow a few minutes later, I saw that the hook was imbedded deep in its gullet. Much to the consternation of the Russian guide (I’m not sure what he wanted to do, maybe conk it on the head and throw it in the stew), I did what I knew to be the best option and cut the leader, leaving the fly in place. Alexei shot me lightening bolts with his eyes and retreated to the raft.

Fish on. Fish of a Lifetime (for me)

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The Beat Stick

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That afternoon was the hottest day of the trip, but the fishing remained brisk. I changed up flies several times to add variety and caught fish with all of them, including, in honor of the St. Joe, a size 6 orange stimulator.

Russian Rainbow Where it lives Another

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We spent almost 11 hours on the river that day. We arrived in camp, toasted, about 7:30 that evening. I approached Justin to ask him about cutting the swallowed fly off inside the large trout I had landed. He confirmed that even with large trout and large flies it was the correct thing to do. Gary was walking toward us and Justin asked him if he intended to borrow a fly from me. Gary said, “Yeah, I wanted to borrow one like this,” holding up a fly similar to the one that I had cut off in the trout.
I said I was sure I had several. Gary replied, “ I thought I’d borrow this one because I’m pretty sure that it’s yours.”

I answered, “ It must have fallen off my vest,” to which he replied, “No, I took it out of the trout you cut it off in.”

Gary and Justin were laughing. Gary had caught the same fish about 20 minutes after I did. My fly had already worked its way into the trout’s lip. Gary’s fly had hooked the leather ear of my fly and he had landed the fish. They were stunned but figured out that it was my fly because I was the only person that had that particular pattern. Gary gave the fly back to me and I retired it to an honored spot on my hat, a fitting place for that mouse, where it remains. Oh yeah. Justin taped the fish. Twenty-five inches, the largest trout I’ve ever caught.

Mouse on Hat

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The day was wet, hot, wild, immensely satisfying, fantasy fulfilling and seemed to go on and on. And, I was exhausted when it ended. That’s a recipe for a wet dream.

That Tuesday remains crystal clear in my mind but a blur in my memory as the vastness of the day, the sheer quantity of experience, has blended into a single sense of a day well lived. I suppose we can’t ask for more.

Next: All Good Things
Great stuff you guys. Have you heard of the possable cutthroat over there? I can't remember the islands they are kind of south. Will try to find the name.


Active Member
Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure. I will never forget your story of Alexander and the return of your camera. More than any hero shot, these returned photo's add a special grace to your wonderful story and joyful prose.

I know the story is not yet over, but I have to say: Well lived Sir, well lived.


My Kind Of Wave
I just watched this DVD lent to me by a friend called Eastern Rises ///afishstory by Felt Soul Media. An outstanding visual account of getting to, and fishing the Kamchatka. Amazing watching those fish chase mice patterns on the surface. www.easternrises.com Great stuff!
Can't wait for your next installment!

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