During our initial exploratory season on the Savan, we hiked up its main tributary, the right fork, and discovered some of the best fishing and biggest rainbows of the season.
With this fresh in our mind, we scheduled two full exploratory adventures in 2013. The first trip landed about 12 miles up this right fork, led by Mike Michalak and a group of adventurous anglers from Alaska. During the first few days they found a beautiful river cascading through a rugged canyon. Each day they found a few spots holding some really big rainbows, but between each good “hole” was a lot of difficult terrain making access and fishing difficult. Once they left the canyon, however, they found several miles of idyllic water: it was shallow, easily waded, and full of huge rainbows and char.
Michael Caranci took the second group down the Ichanga a week later, starting at the base of the canyon where the terrain and fishing got really good, spending three days with only 4 anglers exploring every riffle, pocket, boulder, and overhanging tree branch in this small, intimate water. The fishing was incredible, with super aggressive rainbows from 20 to 26 inches attacking streamers and mice patterns with a ferocity seldom seen in trout.
With this first exploratory season under our belts, we knew the quality of the fishery on the Ichanga, and also its limitations. Because it’s a small river, with a short section of perfect trophy trout habitat, we’ve custom built a program around this stream to minimize impacts to the fishery and guarantee a great fishing experience for the few anglers who will have an opportunity to fish it each year.
Beginning in 2014, the Ichanga will be limited to groups of 4 anglers, focusing 3 days on the Ichanga and ending their week with 2 more full fishing days on the main Savan. To limit pressure on the river and guarantee that it remains as good as we saw it on our first trips down, we will only float and fish it two or three times each summer, with a week or two rest in between trips. This means that literally only 8 or 12 people will have a chance to fish this beautiful stream each year.
The Ichanga and Savan River floats are set up exactly like our Northern River Wilderness Floats, utilizing hi-tech 4-season mountaineering tents and specialized cooking and camp equipment. A cook and camp assistant travel with the group, preparing tasty meals based on a combination of local fare and more familiar foods. Anglers are responsible only for erecting their two-man tents each day and breaking them down in the morning. Comfortable sleeping pads are provided, but you do have to bring your own sleeping bag and towel.
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long Ichanga Float package is $6,850.00 USD per person.
• 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, combining either multiple weeks on the Savan system, or including other rivers elsewhere in Kamchatka.
Included in your angling package at the Ichanga Float is all ground and air transportation once in Kamchatka and all food, accommodation and guides.
Not included in your angling package at Ichanga Float 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.
• Travel Guard Insurance
Seasons at Ichanga River Floats
The Savan River is in the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and boasts some of the best weather in the region.
July is the warmest month of the year in Kamchatka and typically has the most reliable weather, with daytime temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees. Rain and 50 degree days, however, can happen any time of the year. The Savan is a spring fed system, and as such it remains crystal
clear regardless of the weather. Heavy rains can bring the river up, but it will remain clear.
Mouse and streamer fishing is consistent on the Savan every day of the season. We see sporadic hatches throughout the season, too, including golden stoneflies, little yellow stones, green drakes, and blue-winged olive mayflies. We don't see many fish rising to emerging insects, yet anglers who tie on a classic dry fly usually have good success anyway.
By the middle of July the first of the Savan's salmon begin to arrive, both king salmon and chums, and on even years pink salmon as well. Some of the bigger trout in the Savan follow these fish upstream from the larger Opala River, along with tens of thousands of dolly varden char ranging from 16 inches to nearly 10 pounds! Too, the salmon push the trout out of some of the shallow flats and into the myriad side channels, creating excellent opportunities for mousing up really big rainbows in really small water. Anglers who have fished in Alaska are constantly amazed to see the biomass of salmon spawning in the Savan, with the trout remaining active on surface oriented mouse patterns, virtually ignoring the "egg drop" that Alaska rainbows focus on so intently. It's one of the things we love about the Russian Far East: you NEVER need to fish a plastic bead or an indicator!
August is the middle of the season. A second run of Chum salmon start coming upriver, and the rainbows are spread throughout the nearly 100 kilometers of the Savan system. With the cooler nights the bugs start to disappear, yet daytime temperatures in this southern part of the peninsula remain comfortable most days with average daytime highs in the low 60s. Storms can happen anytime bringing cold, wet, and rain, though the river remains clear and fishes will regardless of the conditions.
September is fall in Kamchatka. It can start to get chilly, in the 50-degree range. Sunny weather (which remains quite common) makes for beautiful fishing days, but brings with it frosty nights. There are less insects on the river (both the biting kind and those the trout like to eat), while mouse and streamer fishing remains consistently great for big rainbow trout and dolly varden char.
Getting to Ichanga River Floats
Starting in 2012, getting to Kamchatka is a snap. With Yakutia Airline's convenient weekly 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.
Sunday– travel from home to Anchorage:
The day before departure to Kamchatka, you'll need to arrive in
Anchorage, AK and overnight. It is also possible to travel to Kamchatka via either Moscow or Seoul.
Monday – depart Anchorage on Yakutia Air:
Departure on Yakutia Air is early in the morning. Check in usually opens around 5:30 a.m. and it is advised you arrive two hours before flight time. Other passengers on this flight often consist of volcanologists, rafters, hunter, miners and others who travel with a lot of oversized equipment. The check-in procedure can take some time. Better to be there as early as possible. The flight lasts about 4.5 hours, and crosses the International Dateline. You arrive to Kamchatka on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday: Morning arrival to Petropavlovsk, transfer to camp:
Arrival from Anchorage is 8:00 a.m. After passing through customs and immigration, fishermen collect luggage and are greeted by the Savan and Ichanga ground staff, usually Martha Madsen (American living in Kamchatka who runs a guest house in Yelisovo) and/or a Russian named Vadim Polshin. Once all of the guests heading to Ichanga and Savan are through customs, Martha and Vadim will transport you and your luggage to Martha’s guesthouse, where they will ask for your passports to make copies to fill out the paperwork that will be required for departure from Russia at the end of your trip.
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. The helicopter companies don’t get paid unless they fly, so their priority, too, is to get you into camp…safely. 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 not, you will have the option to relax at Martha’s guest house, or walk to the nearby Old Castle Restaurant, which has very good food (and local draught beer, Kamchatksi #1). 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 they do usually accept credit cards, or Martha and Vadim can exchange dollars for Rubles.
As soon as the fog lifts and the pilots give weather clearance, everyone will board the bus for the 30 minute drive to the heliport on the outskirts of Yelisovo. Once there, you will load your bags onto the Mi8 helicopter and lift off for BaseCamp. The helicopter flight from Yelisovo lasts for about 50 minutes, and is often one of many highlights from the trip. 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.
Upon arrival at Base Camp – a hunting lodge nestled in a clearing a short stroll from the lower Savan River – guests will disembark the helicopter and unload all of their gear. Be sure to collect all of your bags and keep an eye on them, as the helicopter will quickly be reloaded with the equipment, gear, food, and luggage for the group heading to the left Savan float. That group, along with their guides and staff, will then re-board the helicopter to head into camp. 20 minutes later, the empty helicopter will return to BaseCamp to pick up the group, equipment, food, and luggage for the Ichanga group, then lift off again for the short, 10 minute flight upriver to the first camp on the Ichanga float.
As soon as you land and unload the helicopter, the crew will begin setting up camp while you can rig up your gear, don your waders, and start fishing! We recommend a mouse pattern to start with, but on both Ichanga and Savan almost anything works, including mice, streamers, and sometimes even traditional dry flies.
Monday: returning home:
After a leisurely breakfast in the morning, guests have time to dry clothes and waders, re-pack their bags, and prepare for the trip home. The helicopter will arrive sometime between 11:00 am and 4:00 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 you return to Yelisovo early in the day, Vadim will meet you again and transfer you to Martha’s guest house to wait. There is a very good restaurant (Old Castle Restaurant) a 5 minute walk from Martha’s. If there is time, the bus can also take the group to a nearby store for souvenir shopping. Martha will get everyone the departure paperwork at this time, which you will need to present along with your passport and visa at immigrations before boarding the flight home.
The flight lasts about 4.5 hours. Although you depart Russia on Monday evening, you also cross the dateline again, thereby arriving in Alaska at 5:55 a.m…on Monday 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 Ichanga River Floats
Kamchatka Float Trips 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 such as that in use on professional river trips in the Rockies and Andes.
Each morning the two 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.
The food on our Ichanga River float trips is typically very tasty and plentiful, a combination of fresh-made soups and salads, fresh-caught fish, and other simple Russian staples such as stroganoff, stew, etc.
Beer and Vodka can be pre-ordered and provided on the floats, while other or special libations need to be brought from the United States or purchased at Duty Free in Anchorage.
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.
Fishing at Ichanga River Floats
The fishing days on the Ichanga are long and packed full with beautiful scenery, wildlife, and aggressive takes from some of the heaviest rainbows in the Russian Far East.
All Kamchatka programs employ a guide rotation system, so each group of two anglers spends two days with each guide. Staff consists of one Western head guide and two Russian guides. Our head guides are
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.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• Ichanga is a small, intimate tributary to the main Savan. This translates to similar opportunities for decent numbers of hookups plus opportunities for trophy fish, all in a smaller, more intimate setting. And when these brutish rainbows are hooked in the smaller water, they go absolutely ballistic!
• This program is limited to a small, exclusive group of only four anglers per week, so you can fish at your own pace and never have to worry about looking over your shoulder to see who might be coming up behind you (unless it’s a bear).
• Ichanga is one of the least-fished stretches of river in Kamchatka. This small stream is only fished 2-3 times a year, guaranteeing that nearly every fish in the river has probably never been hooked before!
• With only four anglers, two guides and two camp staff, this is like spending a week with family. The staff is there to help with fishing and around camp, ensuring an experience that will make you want to come back as much to see your new friends as for the fishing.
• The Ichanga combines the best of both spring creek and freestone fishing. It looks and feels like a small freestone stream, but is actually spring-fed so it remains clear every day of the season.