talented professionals with years of Russian and/or other international camp management experience. They are selected not just for their significant on-water talents, but as curious, enthusiastic representatives of Kamchatka.
Our Russian guides come from varied backgrounds, usually associated with biology, wildlife management, hunting, trapping or commercial fishing. Flyfishing being a relatively new sport to Russia, our guides come equipped with varying levels of pure flyfishing knowledge. Some are exceptional, having been with us for 10 or more years. Others have been brought on board for their skills as woodsmen and watermen, whose technical abilities are still evolving, but who are in rhythm with the lives and habitat of rainbow trout.
Every staff member works to see the smile on your face when you hook up.
Wilderness expeditions at Ichanga and Savan are based around a loose daily schedule of breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by camp breakdown and on the river by 9 a.m. The angling days are long, while the weather can range from warm and comfortable to cold and wet (be prepared for either eventuality!). Both the Ichanga and Savan Rivers are shallow all the way across, with numerous braids and channels. Sections are quite broad, while the river remains shallow and you can wade across it most places. While the fish will hold along the edges, in side channels, and around boulders and logjams, they are also often found in the middle of the river in shallow buckets and depressions created by spawning salmon. Even amongst spawning salmon, you do not need to fish beads or egg patterns! Mice will almost always be the best producer for big rainbows, while streamers and sometimes dry flies will also produce trout, char, and sometimes salmon as well. Fish everything, and you will be surprised at how many giant rainbows you will find, sometimes in just a few inches of water. Where there are no trout, there are usually schools of hundreds of dolly varden char from 14-26 inches.
At the end of the last full day of fishing, everyone will board the rafts and row the last few miles of the Savan down to BaseCamp, where you'll join the other group that had been fishing the Ichanga. BaseCamp is a comfortable building with beds for up to 11 people, plus (more important at the end of the week), a spacious bathroom with flush toilet and a hot shower. Dinner is usually late the last night, and a special affair with both groups regaling each other with stories, toasts, and fishing yarns from their wilderness adventures.
There are 3 fishing methods used throughout the Savan River drainage. These trout are more aggressive than their North American cousins, and attack almost any moving fly pattern with reckless abandon.
The topwater phenomenon of larger-than-normal trout attacking mice on the surface is what really sets Kamchatka angling apart from anywhere else in the world. Real mice slip and fall into the river from overhanging limbs and grass and then swim like a cork at a down-and-across angle. As they swim, they throw small V-wake contrails off their back end which the trout key to. Anglers replicate this action by plopping their flies against the opposite bank and skittering them across the river, on tension and under control. What follows has got to be the most exciting thing in freshwater flyfishing. Since a live mouse in the stomach of a rainbow trout can do some damage, they tend to take the fly with a ferocious, bone-crushing chomp with the intention of killing the mouse before they swallow it. This behavior is obviously on the surface, totally visible to the angler. The skill comes in controlling your nerves to NOT set the hook when the fish merely swirls behind it - sometime 2, 3, 4 or more times - before actually committing.
Salmon smolt and other juvenile fish make up a significant portion of Kamchatka trout and chars' diets. Clousers, woolly buggers, string leeches, baitfish and sculpin patterns all work very well on the Savan throughout the season. Small fish elicit a chase response from their predators, so often it is best to give the fly a little movement as it swings through the water column. And like with the mouse, it's best to learn to identify likely structure in the river (tree roots, riffle-pools, rocks, undercut banks, etc.) that offer rest areas for the fish adjacent to heavier currents where they can surprise-attack their food.
Traditional dry fly fishing is admittedly yet to be fully explored on the Savan system. It's a spring creek and we see a variety of insects including stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis hatching throughout the season. The mouse-fishing is so good that most anglers stick with that or throw big streamers, but the few anglers who have explored casting traditional floating flies have all done well, including large attractors, small Parachute Adams, and just about anything in between. These fish are aggressive, and seem eager to sample just about anything that might be food.