Every once in a while we have to wander and explore new, never-before fly fished rivers in Kamchatka. It does not happen every year, but when it does it is worth jumping at the opportunity. There are very few places left in the world where one can discover completely virgin waters; Kamchatka is one of them!
KAMCHATKA IS WITHOUT question the last frontier of unexplored, wilderness fly fishing. For truly adventurous souls, a true exploratory expedition to one of Kamchatka's un-touched trout rivers will be the holy grail of fishing trips.
We've had great luck finding stellar fishing on our exploratories because the rivers we choose are not picked willy-nilly. They are carefully selected based on the best available scientific and local anecdotal knowledge, gathered and honed by The Fly Shop staff over the course of 20 years fishing and exploring on the Kamchatka Peninsula. But our pre-trip preparations go even further than that: We attempt as much helicopter reconnaissance of the drainage as is possible to reduce the potential of setting down on a log-jammed, flooded, or otherwise impossible-to-fish river. We are interested only in systems that exhibit the highest potential for world-class rainbow trout fishing, stable water conditions, and floatability.
All that being said, these trips are definitely not for everyone. In order to be a candidate for an exploratory expedition, you need to be physically and mentally prepared for the host of uncertainties that come with stepping into the unknown. Whether it's chipping in with an axe to cut out log jams, flattening a boulder-bar to pitch a tent, or humping gear to and from the chopper or around un-navigable water, you need to be prepared to burn a few hours or a half-day of fishing here and there if the situation requires it. But hey, you never know, chopping though that log jam may be the ticket to trout nirvana. It's happened before!
Maybe you've had a day or two in Alaska, Canada, Patagonia, or even the remote Rocky Mountains, where everything is perfect - the crowds are gone, your surroundings are mind-blowingly beautiful and the fishing is hot. Now imagine a day where on top of that, no one else has ever fished the river you are standing in.
These are not once-in-a-lifetime trips; these are once-in-history trips.
For the 2015 season, we will be exploring two new rivers in Kamchatka, both on the eastern part of the peninsula and flowing into the Sea of Okhotsk. We first heard about the Oblukovina River from our friend Pete Soverel, who has headed up the Kamchatka
Steelhead Project since 1992 and actually fished the lower stretches of the Oblukovina in the early '90s as part of the KSP. Though they found a few trout in those early explorations, they were mainly focused on studying steelhead and the Oblukovina didn't come back onto our radar until 2008 when a group of Swedes hired another friend of ours in Yelisovo to drop them off in the headwaters of the river with rafts and provisions, and directions to pick them up at the river's mouth three weeks later. They were more adventurers than anglers, but the photos they shared with us after their odyssey spoke to an incredibly beautiful and dynamic stream... and at least a few fat, healthy rainbow trout!
Since then our Russian outfitters have worked hard to negotiate an agreement with the people who hold the government lease on the vast tract of land that the Oblukovina flows through. In 2014, they arranged to help with their commercial salmon fishing operation in the Sea of Okhotsk in exchange for fishing access to the Oblukovina, and in two day's exploration in late May they hooked and landed dime-bright king salmon, several spring steelhead, and more than a few big rainbows.
Beginning next season we will start exploring the Oblukovina further with a one week, true exploratory trip. Guided by an experienced Russian crew, we will set up a semi-permanent tent camp on the banks of the Oblukovina, complete with spacious outfitter-style wall tent cabins, cooking tent, outhouse and shower banya. Shallow-draft jetboats will be used to run the lower reaches of the river and explore every nook and cranny that looks to hold fish. Schedule for July 12-18, 2015, the timing is ideal to find mouse-hungry rainbows, and potentially some king and chum salmon or even late-run summer steelhead. We won't know for sure what this brand new river holds until we get there, which is part of the fun and adventure to any true exploratory trip!
As a bonus, while our Russian partners were flying the Mi8 helicopter into Oblukovina, they discovered another nearby river, the Krutogorova! In conjunction with the Oblukovina trip, we are scheduling another true exploratory to land the helicopter somewhere far upstream on the Krutogorova and float it down to the mouth in search of more trophy rainbows, salmon, and possibly even steelhead.
Reservations & Rates
Consider there are an estimated 1000 potentially awesome trout, salmon and steelhead rivers in Kamchatka. Then consider that since the end of the Cold War the fishing community has collectively explored about 30 of them.
Package Cost: The cost of the week-long True Exploratory Trip package is $6295 per person (6 days/6 nights)
• Kamchatka, more than any destination in the world, attracts adventurous single anglers. There is no surcharge to come alone. What's more, many people opt for multiple-week trips, and it is a great option to combine an exploratory trip with one of our established floats or camps elsewhere in Kamchatka.
Inclusions: Included in your angling package at the True Exploratory Trip is all ground and air transportation once in Kamchatka and all food, accommodation and guides.
Non-Inclusions: Not included in your angling package at Ture Exploratory Trip are airfare and travel expenses from your home to Kamchatka, Russian visitor's visa, fishing gear, flies, fishing license, medical evacuation insurance (required), 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
We tend to schedule Exploratory Expeditions during the most weather and water-stable weeks of July through early September.
We monitor river conditions throughout the season and maintain the flexibility to take advantage of localized weather. Though the terrain, topography and hydrology can be different from river to river, by and large the fishing methods and climactic conditions are uniform across the peninsula.
The warmest month of the year in Kamchatka with day time temperatures usually between 60 and 80 degrees. As such, this is the peak dry fly fishing time with often heavy the mayfly and caddis hatches. It's a sight to behold to float silently around a bend and be confronted with 50 trout noses puncturing the smooth surface of the river in elegant head-dorsal-tail rises. Trout feed exclusively on bugs, mice and salmon smolt, and representative fly patterns all work well. Present as always are also kundzha (white spotted) char. Being the warmest month, July is also mosquito season. Most people find the trade-off worth it for the surface fishing opportunities, but if you have a low mosquito tolerance level, consider a trip later in the season.
The middle of the season. The salmon enter
the river and the full cycle of life is laid out in full magnificence. Rainbows are targeted with mouse and streamer flies, and dry fly fishing is often found in the evenings. Some river systems may hold runs of silver (coho) or other salmon, and most have solid runs ofdolly varden. By the middle of the month, biting insects are gone completely.
Fall in Kamchatka. It can be chilly, in the 50-degree range. And with sunny weather can come frosty nights. It is also the most photogenic time of year to be amid the sub-arctic taiga and tundra foliage as it turns to blazing yellows, reds and oranges with a backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes. Trout are easily taken with surface skaters like mouse and floating baitfish patterns. Salmon are in full spawn in late August and September. Literally millions of fish bring the river completely alive. It is an overpowering sensory experience to see an ecosystem so healthy and pristine. Important to note also is that trout in Kamchatka do not get "tunnel vision" for salmon eggs as they do in Alaska, so no need for egg patterns, beads, split shot and strike indicators. Mice, streamers, dry flies and a floating line is usually all you need.
Getting To True Exploratory
Starting in 2012, getting to Kamchatka is a snap. With Yakutia Air's renewed service between Anchorage, Alaska and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka, Russia's most pristine, bountiful trout streams are just a few hours from breakfast in the United States.
Friday - travel from home to Anchorage, Alaska:
The day before departure to Kamchatka, you'll need to arrive in Anchorage, AK and overnight. Included in this letter is some additional information on lodging options and eateries in Anchorage.
Other options for travel to Kamchatka include routing through either Moscow or Seoul. If you are traveling via Moscow or Seoul, you will most likely be departing on this same day as well (some Seoul itineraries may have a Thursday departure).
Saturday - depart Anchorage on Yakutia Air:
Departure on Yakutia Air is early in the morning. Check in usually opens around 5:30 a.m. (two hours before departure) and it is advised you arrive around this time. The flight lasts about 4.5 hours, and crosses the International Dateline. You arrive to Kamchatka on Sunday morning.
Sunday: Morning arrival to Petropavlovsk, transfer to camp:
After passing through customs and immigration, fishermen collect luggage and are greeted by the our ground staff. The first few hours in Kamchatka are always an exercise in patience. Understand that this is Russia, and communication from the helicopter companies is often lackluster at best. Keep in mind that the outfitters want you to get into camp as much as you do, and they are often at the whim of the helicopter companies. Everyone's priority is to get you into camp safely, and as quickly as possible given the weather conditions.
Mornings in Petropavlovsk are frequently foggy, and the helicopters cannot fly until the fog clears. If the weather is clear in the morning, you will head straight to the heliport. If it is foggy but the forecast is for the weather to clear, the ground crew will find a way to kill some time while waiting for weather clearance from the helicopter companies. They may take you to a nearby store, partly to pass the time and partly so you can purchase souvenirs or booze/wine/snacks for your week in camp. They may also take you to the nearby Old Castle Restaurant, which has very good food (and local draught beer). Lunch and/or drinks at the restaurant are not included in the package price, but typically range from $20-$30. They do not accept US dollars, but one of the Kamchatka Trophy Hunts staff will be on hand to help trade dollars for Rubles.
Once the pilots are cleared to fly, you will load your bags onto the Mi8 helicopter and lift off. Sometimes head sets are provided, but this is Russia and you never know so it is recommended that you bring some earplugs for the noise of the rotors. The flight will take you over countless rivers and streams, and past several volcanoes. From Yelisovo, the helicopter will travel southeast across central Kamchatka Valley for approximately 1 hour before turning north up Kamchatka's western shore-line before arriving to the Oblukovina and Krutogorova rivers.
Upon landing, the crew and guides will unload the helicopter, and as soon as the Mi-8 takes off the crew will begin setting up camp while you can rig up your gear, don your waders, and start fishing!
5 full fishing days:
Wilderness expeditions 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!). Each day is spent floating and fishing (two anglers and one guide per raft), stopping for lunch and eventually setting up a new camp each evening around 7 p.m. Every hour of the day will be an adventure! The after-angling campfire sessions always include traditional Russian toasts to the successes and most dramatic moments of the day. A cook and camp assistant stay in camp or travel in a separate raft and do the large majority of "camp work." All camp equipment – except your sleeping bag - is provided as part of the trip. You must bring your own sleeping bag.
Fishing on the True Exploratory Trips is a combination of mouse and streamer fishing, with the occasional rising fish on a classic dry fly. Too, realize that these fish have never seen an artificial fly before, so have fun and feel free to be adventurous with your fly selection.
Saturday: Returning home:
On the final morning, guests have time to dry clothes and waders, re-pack their bags, and prepare for the trip home. The guides and camp staff will break down camp and deflate the rafts to be ready for the helicopter, but if you want to fish this last day there is time in the morning for several more hours of fishing around camp. The head guide will also come around at this time to collect any gratuities you may wish to leave for the guides and staff for the week.
The helicopter will most likely arrive sometime between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm (depending on weather clearance), and will transfer you back to Petropavlovsk in time to catch the 8 p.m. flight back to Anchorage. If the weather is bad in Petropavlovsk, the outfitter will arrange to have a bus meet you in Esso to drive back to the airport in time to make your flight home. Again, the outfitter will do everything they can to both maximize your time in camp fishing, and make your connecting flights home.
The flight lasts about 4.5 hours. Although you depart Russia on Saturday evening, you also cross the dateline again, thereby arriving in Alaska at 5:55 a.m…on Saturday morning!. Customs and immigrations in Anchorage is very quick and easy, and you'll have the whole day to connect back home, or to other fishing in Alaska.
If you are traveling home via Moscow or Seoul, you will have to arrange an overnight in Yelisovo (we can help coordinate this) to catch the morning departure the following day.
Lodging at True Exploratory Trips
Kamchatka Exploratory Expeditions are the most rustic, adventurous trips on the peninsula... maybe the world.
That being said, we've controlled all the factors that are controllable by outfitting the expeditions with hi-tech 4-season mountaineering tents and specialized cooking and camp equipment in use on professional river trips in the Rockies and Andes. For convenience of communication on the river, and for a safety line to the outside world, each expedition is further outfitted with first aid kits, GPS, handheld radios and a satellite telephone.
Each morning the three fishing boats head down stream and spread out to avoid "double fishing" any one section. Meanwhile the cook and camp assistant break down the camp and float on ahead of the fishing boats. Toward evening the forward boat selects a camp site and begins erecting camp. Anglers are responsible for setting up their tent and sleeping arrangements (two people per tent.)
Staff does all the cooking, cleaning, etc., while you fish until dinner or crack a cold beer by the fire.
Food on our Exploratories is typically very good and plentiful, with the cook utilizing the same fresh, diverse ingredients that our permanent camp kitchens use.
Beer and Vodka are available for sale, but other or special libations need to be brought from the United States.
This is the most hard-core trout fishing trip most people will ever sign up for, but there are no objective whitewater hazards. The most uncomfortable situations encountered on these trips is rain, so it is imperative that all your luggage be made of completely waterproof material.
New for 2015!
The Oblukovina exploratories will incorporate a semi-permanent tent camp on the banks of the Oblukovina, complete with spacious outfitter-style wall tent cabins, cooking tent, outhouse and shower banya. Shallow-draft jetboats will be used to run the lower reaches of the river and explore every nook and cranny that looks to hold fish.
Fishing Day at True Exploratory Trip
Exploratory Expeditions are based around a schedule of floating and fishing each day and establishing a new tent camp each evening.
We've found that the ideal distance to explore in 6 days is between 30 and 40 miles. This offers lots and lots of fishing time and leaves no section of the river untested or under explored. With long daylight hours there is plenty of flexibility pre-built into the trip. Flexibility is the key to success when stepping into the unknown.
After a midday arrival by helicopter to the put-in spot, you will be able to instantly gear up and fish by foot on the immediately adjacent river. As you do, guides and staff inflate the rafts and orgainize camp gear. Depending on your arrival time, you may float and fish for a few hours before setting up camp, or you may establish camp at the Helicopter LZ.
• Coffee & Tea at 7:00 am
• Breakfast at 8:00 am
• On the water by 9:00 am
• Lunch on the river midday
• Establish new river camp and dinner at 8:00 pm
• Cocktails, campfire and fish stories close out the day. Or, for midnight-sun junkies, the river is always within casting distance from the fire pit.
In addition to 6 anglers, other Expedition members consist of 1 Professional Western Guide, 2 Russian guides, a cook and a camp assistant. Our staff is specifically selected for these intense trips for their expedition expertise, and personal interest in walking on the wild side. The same crew has been working together on our Exploratories for many years. They have it dialed.
There are three fishing methods that you're likely to employ when probing virgin water:
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.
Traditional floating line and size #10-18 gray bodied caddis and mayfly imitations are used with staggering success on the Sedanka, especially in July, less so in August, and again quite successfully in September. The fish tend not to be picky on the specific pattern. However, with so much food floating past their feeding lies, it is sometimes critical to deliver a reasonably accurate and truly dead drifted presentation. If the fly floats within an inch or so of the trout's nose the chances of it rising are very good.
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 Sedanka 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.
Making Reservations to True Exploratory Trip
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.