Flyfishing for science... and the biggest, brightest steelhead that'll ever grab your fly!
Kamchatka is home to Asia's only population of this magnificent fish, and the only way to study them...is to catch them, tag them, and then let them go unharmed.
Steelhead are strictly protected under Russian law and spawn only in a handful of rivers draining westerly into Kamchatka's Okhotsk Sea. Populations in three key rivers are very robust, and are the target of a unique Russian-American field project taking place each fall. Russian scientists, with the help and financial support of fly fishermen, work to monitor and ultimately protect a threatened race of strong, big-bodied steelhead in their isolated and completely pristine habitat. Through sponsorship of the Project, anglers fund the ground breaking science and are in turn invited to join the expeditions as assistants to gather data on the fish - all of which are caught and released using traditional flyfishing methods. For conservation-minded steelhead junkies with an extra ounce of juice in their souls, there's simply nothing comparable to feeling the anvil-like headshake of a massive, fresh-from-the-sea, Russian steelhead that's just grabbed your fly!
The Kamchatka Steelhead Project began in 1994 with funding from the US State Department and a charter under the US-Russian Agreement on the Environment. The KSP continues its mission today, offering something more important than merely an
exotic fishing trip. This is a cultural and scientific exchange among like-minded anglers and scientists from both sides of the Pacific, whose common purpose is to understand and protect a creature with near-mythical strength and beauty.
Today the Kamchatka Steelhead Project is jointly operated under the aegis of Moscow State University, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Federal Government, The Conservation Angler, and The Fly Shop. Typically the Project organizes three 10 day expeditions taking place from the middle of September through late October. Participating angler-sponsors assist Russian scientists in the collection of scale and tissue samples, and the tagging of all caught-and-released fish. This is more than a great fishing trip, it's a worthwhile, accelerated learning course in sea-run fish at the elbow of experts.
Through information collected from fly-caught steelhead during the life of the project, much has been brought to bear on our understanding not only of Asiatic steelhead but, by extension, their North American relatives. The edge of the sub-Arctic wilderness, and what it takes to get there, is not for everyone. But for those who are obsessed by the wild and the chrome, these rivers stand alone as a steelhead Mecca, and the purest, least impacted habitat left on the Earth.
Reservations & Rates
This is a high level scientific project and all costs associated with joining it are tax deductible.
The Kamchatka Steelhead Project is a listed project under the US-Russian Agreement on the Environment, and is an approved 501(c)3 charity organization, under the Internal Revenue Service's (USA) Publication #78. As such, sponsorship of the project is in the form of a completely tax deductible donation, as are all ancillary costs associated with getting to and from your field work in Kamchatka.
Package Cost: The cost of the 11 night / 10 day Kamchatka Steelhead Project expeditions is approximately $12,000 per person
• Kamchatka, more than any destination in the world, attracts adventurous single anglers. There is no surcharge to come alone.
Inclusions: Included in your sponsorship package for the KSP is all ground and air transportation once in Kamchatka, and all food, accommodation and guides while in the field camp.
Non-Inclusions: Not included in your sponsorship package for the KSP are airfare and travel expenses from your home to Kamchatka, Russian visitor's visa, fishing gear, flies, medical evacuation insurance (required), hotels (if any) en route to Camp, and alcohol.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses. Click HERE for Travel Guard's Policies and more information
Seasons at Kamchatka Steelhead Project
Kamchatka steelhead are protected under Russia's Red Book of Rare and Disappearing species.
Like the Siberian Tiger or the sturgeon, Kamchatka steelhead are protected by law. No one may legally sportfish for or harvest them for any purpose, without special permissions granted by the Russian federal government in the interest of science. They are protected not so much because they are rare or disappearing, but rather because they only live in a handful of critical rivers. Their habitat is small but it is pristine, having been almost completely un-impacted by humans. For this reason our KSP field stations are the ideal place to study a species still interacting with its environment in the way Nature and God intended. It's a stunning opportunity.
The spawning migration takes place in September and October, when water temperatures in the sea start to fall in relation to temperature in the river. While in some years good fishing can be had by September 5th, our expeditions coincide with the peak of the run, usually between September 15 and October 20. Like any sea-run fish, there are fewer in the river in the early part of the run (September) but they are more aggressive to the fly in the warm conditions. As temperatures fall through October, more fish stream into the river, however they are sometimes less aggressive to the fly. Historical
catch records reflect that actual encounter rates and number of landed fish doesn't vary much over the field season.
The methods used to catch Kamchatka steelhead will be familiar to those used to catch them in British Columbia. By using a down-and-across swing method of fly presentation, we're able to solidly hook the fish, hopefully bring it to hand, take a sample of a few scales, tissue for DNA, and record it's length, girth and sex. Finally, the fish is marked dorsally with a numbered tag so that if we catch it again, growth and life history data can be compared. One of the great advantages of using anglers to collect samples (as compared to old style methods of gill nets or seine nets) is that we can make our studies of the fish and then release them alive. No harm is done to the overall population.
For steelhead flyfishers, the thrills go far beyond the science side of the project. What any adventurer will take home from a visit to Kamchatka are indelible memories of steelhead that grow to an immense size, and the sheer power they exhibit when hooked, usually at or within a couple miles of tidewater.
Getting To the Kamchatka Steelhead Project
Kamchatka is possibly the most remote fishing area on Earth, and the KSP camps are in the most remote part of Kamchatka.
Getting there in the late fall is normally accomplished by hopping an overnight direct flight to Moscow from one of several US points of departure, including Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta, Washington DC or New York. From Moscow you connect directly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka via a second overnight flight.
On arrival to Petropavlovsk you'll collect baggage and continue the journey to the interior heliport village of Esso. There you spend a well-earned night of rest. The following morning, weather permitting, you board a helicopter for camp.
As your river comes into view and the chopper descends for a landing, it's all you can do to contain the excitement long enough to get on waders and string up your rod.
At the end of the week your steps are reversed. One night is spent in PK before continuing to Moscow the following day. An overnight in Moscow is necessary to make safe international connections the following day and is easily accommodated at a convenient airport hotel.
Day 1: travel from home to New York, connect to overnight flight to Moscow. Day 2: arrive Moscow, connect to overnight flight to Kamchatka Day 3: arrive Kamchatka, connect to village of Esso, overnight Day 4: morning departure to camp, 1/2 day fishing Days 5 - 14: full day fishing for science Day 15: half day fishing, depart camp, travel to Petropavlovsk, overnight. Day 16: depart Kamchatka, arrive Moscow, overnight Day 17: depart Moscow, arrive home.
For those who have the time, a 1-3 day tour of Moscow is a wonderful complement to your remote fishing trip. This gives opportunities for soaking in modern Russian culture, and for acclimatizing and catching your breath between long flights. Other possible routes to Kamchatka include transferring in Seoul, South Korea or Tokyo, Japan. There are also myriad options to connect to Moscow from major European cities.
Lodging at the Kamchatka Steelhead Project
Over the course of the 11 night / 10 day trip, 8 to 12 anglers are accommodated in a semi-permanent camp erected for the fall season.
Two anglers share a small canvas and wood-framed cabin similar to the weather-port cabins in use in many Alaskan camps. Each cabin has wood floors, a wood stove for heat, cots and mattresses. You must bring a sleeping bag for this trip. There are outhouse toilet facilities, as a shower facility with good water pressure and endless hot water, courtesy of an ingenious Russian wood-fired plumbing system. The kitchen / dining room is a permanent wooden hunter's cabin.
The food in Kamchatka is tasty and plentiful, though certainly not gourmet. Fresh meats and locally grown, geothermal hot-house vegetables are the features of a cuisine not
un-familiar to the American palette. Delicious Russian soups like borsh and ukra are always the customary first course, and are always a hit with guests.
Beer and vodka is available for sale. Other or special libations must be purchased in the Duty Free shop en route to Russia, or else on arrival to Kamchatka.
It is important to understand the Kamchatka experience is much more rustic than, say, an Alaska fly-out lodge. The focus of Kamchatka is most definitely on the fishing, yet the accommodations typically surprise our guests by how comfortable it is possible to be in such a remote environment.
Fishing at the Kamchatka Steelhead Project
The first and last days of your trip allow for half-days of fishing.
In between are 10 full fishing days that generally follow the schedule below. There is plenty of flexibility according to group preferences.
Sample Day: 7 am: coffee and tea 8 am: breakfast 9 am: on the water - Each two anglers are assigned a guide and a 1-2 mile beat of the river. 1 pm: all 3 rafts meet for lunch: The cook has floated ahead of you in the morning and prepared lunch on a gravel bar. 6 pm: back to camp for drinks and a soak in the hotsprings. 7 pm: dinner
• Cocktails, campfire and fish stories close out the day.
Staff consists of the program director, one or two North American guides and two or three seasoned Russian guides, one of whom is also the chief scientist. All Kamchatka programs employ a guide rotation system, so each group
of two anglers spends equal time with each guide. From year to year additional science staff will be in camp to support the study.
Our North American guides are talented professionals with years of Russian and/or other international camp management experience, and years of prior experience guiding in Alaska, British Columbia or the Western US. 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 habits of rainbow trout.
Making Reservations to Kamchatka Steelhead Project
To make a reservation, please give us a call at 800-669-3474 during business hours any day of the week. We can give you the answers you need, detailed explanations to questions you might have, or check on availability and confirm your reservation in minutes.