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!
New for 2020! We are excited to introduce two new, smaller rivers in the vicinity of the Savan into our Kamchatka portfolio of streams. We conducted our initial exploratory ventures to these rivers in 2018 and 2019, with one expedition on each stream each year. Our Russian partners in the area had previously heard of some friends floating these rivers years ago, and the stories sounded incredibly akin to what we frequently experience in other rivers in Kamchatka. As far as we can tell, only our few small groups, less than 8 people on each stream, have actually fished either of these rivers since 2012!
The rivers are the Khetick, and the Uzhich. They join to form the lower Uzhich, which eventually flows into the larger Opala River (same river the Savan flows into) before meeting the Sea of Okhotsk.
Their proximity to the sea also has shown us a few sea-run “super kundzha”, similar to fish we see routinely in the Zhupanova River. We’re hoping to learn more about these runs of migratory fish as we continue to learn more about this river system.
What we found on our two initial exploratory trips were a pair of dynamic, interesting rivers that are home to some very large rainbows. Several rainbows over 30 inches were hooked, and more in the 22 to 28 inch range. We didn’t see the high populations of trout that we see in some of our northern rivers, though the intrepid anglers who explored these rivers indicated there was enough action to keep them busy each day, especially with the above-respectable average size of the fish.
They start these floats high up in the river systems, where the river is more of a creek and you can almost jump across it. As you fish your way down stream (all of the fishing on foot, with rafts used predominantly to transport gear and equipment), the river shifts and changes, growing with an influx of streamside springs. It’s almost like fishing a different river every day!
These wilderness float trips are certainly some of the most rustic, adventurous trips anywhere in the world, based on minimal impact on sections of rivers that see at most 4-8 anglers a year. Total. One river will be fished once a season, the other twice with a month’s rest in between. These fish will be hyper aggressive having never seen a fly before, ready to attack large streamers, mouse patterns, and even traditional dry flies!
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats 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 Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats is all ground and air transportation once in Kamchatka and all food, accommodation and guides.
Not included in your angling package at the Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats 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 and gratuites.
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 Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats
The Khetick and Uzhich Rivers are in the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and typically boast 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. These rivers are spring fed systems, and as such it remains crystal clear regardless of the weather. Heavy rains can bring the river up, but it usually remains clear.
Mouse and streamer fishing is a daily option 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 can have good success sometimes.
By the middle of July the first of the salmon begin to arrive, both king salmon and chums, and on even years pink salmon as well. Some of the bigger trout in the rivers follow these fish upstream, along with 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.
August is the middle of the season here. 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 70’2 to low 60s. Storms can happen anytime bringing cold, wet, and rain, though the river generally remains clear and fishes well 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 Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats
Direct flight service from Alaska to Petropavlovsk will be resumed in 2020, while daily flights through either Moscow or Seoul remain options as well.
If traveling via Anchorage, you will need to arrive in Anchorage, AK and overnight. If traveling via Moscow or Seoul, you will want to plan on arriving to Petropavlovsk the day before your scheduled departure into camp.
For overnights in Petropavlovsk, guests will typically be housed at one of Martha Madsen’s cozy guest houses in Yelisovo, or the Art Hotel near the airport. Nightly lodging fees (not included in your fishing package), range from $60-$100; guests are typically accommodated in double occupancy, but pending availability single rooms can sometimes be arranged by special request. The Fly Shop will make the reservations for you, and you will be able to settle up upon arrival.
Transfer To Camp:
All guests will be met in the morning by Martha or Vadim at your place of lodging (they will communicate the time with you the night before), or at the airport if you are arriving that morning. 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 the many highlights from the trip. Sometimes headsets 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 anglers heading to the main 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 exploratory group, then lift off again for the approximately 20 minute flight to the first camp on either the Khetick or the Uzhich.
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!
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 travel in a separate raft and do the large majority of “camp work.” Each pair of anglers are responsible for maintaining their own tent and inflatable sleeping mattresses. All camp equipment – except your sleeping bag - is provided as part of the trip.
YOU MUST BRING A SLEEPING BAG!
Fishing on an Exploratory Floats is a combination of mouse and streamer fishing, with the occasional rising fish on a classic dry fly. The chances are better than good that every fish you cast to has either never seen a fly before, or maybe seen one…once…and probably forgotten about it by now.
The angling days are long, while the weather can range from warm and comfortable to cold and wet (be prepared for either eventuality!).
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 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 arrive sometime between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm (depending on weather clearance), and will transfer you back to Petropavlovsk.
If you are traveling via Alaska, you will depart that night. 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 that same 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 typically need to overnight in Yelisovo, as most of the departing flights take off in the morning. There are some afternoon departures, but due to the un-predictable timing of the helicopter flights out of camp, the outfitters cannot guarantee they can get you back to town in time to catch those afternoon flights. The Fly Shop will help make these arrangements for you (not included in the package price), and you can settle up prior to departure at the hotel.
Vadim will meet you again and transfer you to the airport. If there is time, the bus can also take the group to a nearby store for souvenir shopping. Vadim will get everyone the departure paperwork at this time, which you will need to present along with your passport and visa at immigrations when departing Russia.
Lodging at Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats
Kamchatka Exploratory Expeditions are the most rustic, adventurous trips on the peninsula... maybe the world.
Guests will sleep in expedition-style tents, with comfortable sleeping pads (you’ll want to bring your own sleeping pad. A cook and camp assistant travel with the group, preparing meals that are amazing considering how remote you are and what they have to work with (only what they can carry!), and utilizing the same sort of fresh, diverse ingredients that our permanent camp kitchens use.
Fishing at Khetick & Uzhich Wilderness Floats
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 organize 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.
• 7:00 AM - Coffee & Tea
• 8:00 AM - Breakfast
• 9:00 AM - On the water
• 12:00 PM - Lunch
• 8:00 PM - Establish new river camp and dinner
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 fly fishing. 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 - sometimes 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.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• It is a rare opportunity to explore a nearly untouched fishery. Be among the first to wet a line in an undiscovered stream, and to test the mettle of trophy rainbows that have never seen a fly before.
• These are the most unpressured, wild trout streams in the world, and a rare opportunity to experience fish behavior in a place where every fish will likely move to your fly...because they’ve never been hooked before.
• There are some huge trout in these rivers! In our initial exploratory trips we caught average trout from 20-28 inches, and landed a few that stretched the tape at over 30 inches! There’s a good chance you may catch the largest trout of your life on either of these streams.
• While we still have much to learn here, we believe we’ve discovered a new river system with migratory, anadromous “super kundzha”, previously thought to only exist in the Zhupanova River. This is a unique strain of fish, found almost nowhere else in the world, so you have a chance here of checking a very special species off your bucket list!