We first heard rumors about the Savan from some of our Russian friends in Petropavlovsk, who had heard it was loaded with big trout.
In 2012, we began our initial explorations of the river system. What we discovered was a place of awe-inspiring beauty and an incredible diversity of life, both in the water and along its pristine shores. Since that first fateful summer we’ve continued to explore this incredible river system, and each summer it continues to share new secrets.
The Savan River system shows the sort of promise that we first saw on the Zhupanova in the mid 1990s, with trout averaging 20-25 inches and more than a few even larger specimens hooked every week. In addition to the giant rainbows, Savan is home to some of the largest sea-run Dolly Varden char that we’ve ever seen on the Kamchatka peninsula.
The river runs for over 70 miles, and features countless springs and one major tributary, the Ichanga. It is a spring creek system, with a vibrant ecosystem and crystal clear flows every day of the season.
The biomass in this river also makes for some of the heaviest trout in Kamchatka, with some 25 inch rainbows here weighing an astonishing 8 pounds! These fish are the apex predators in their ecosystem, and they aren’t shy about attacking large streamers or mouse patterns twitching across the surface. We don’t see many big hatches, but those anglers who have taken the leap of faith and tried casting traditional dry flies or large attractor patterns have had some success over the past few seasons.
Our Savan River adventures are the perfect combination of hard core and comfort. The trip is focused on floating one of the prettiest, most pristine wilderness rivers in the world, while ending in the comforts of the Savan BaseCamp Lodge.
For several years we operated the Savan Float and the BaseCamp separately, but starting in 2017, in order to add an even greater level of flexibility for each week’s float down the river, we will be incorporating both the upriver float and the lower river lodge program into one package. This merging of the two programs opens up an additional 15 miles of river to guests on the float, while serving to further reduce overall fishing pressure to the river (already very small, and now less anglers spread out over more water!).
Each week will start the same, flying via helicopter to the upper reaches of the Savan to start floating and fishing your way along this spectacular river. Guides and anglers will continue fishing downstream every day, adjusting their pace based on the fishing action. If you are hooking fish on every cast, you can slow down and fish at your leisure hooking these super-aggressive, heavy shouldered trout that the Savan has become famous for; if you aren’t finding fish right away, simply step up the pace and fish faster until your mouse or streamer starts getting clobbered. Depending on the fishing, some groups may still stay on the floating section of river the full week, while others may get to the BaseCamp lodge a day or two early. From BaseCamp, we’ll use the inflatable jet-boats to continue accessing the water below the lodge, motoring back up to the comforts of the BaseCamp each evening including comfortable beds and a hot shower.
We’ve learned over the past few seasons that the powerful rainbow trout of the Savan move quite a bit. By increasing the amount of flexibility each week, the guides can better cater each week to the fishing and where they’re finding the fish. Too, the Savan is an incredibly dynamic river; as you work downstream it often feels like a totally different river, between the pocket water of the uppermost sections, the broad shallow riffles and countless braided channels in the middle sections, and the ever-changing nature of the river below the lodge from big boulder gardens to narrow intimate, brush-lined channels. This is the prettiest river system in all of Kamchatka, and now guests fishing there will get to see even more of it!
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long Savan River 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 Sedanka River is all ground and air transportation once in Kamchatka and all food, accommodation and guides.
Not included in your angling package at the Savan River 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 Savan River
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 usually remains 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 can have good success sometimes.
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/end of the season here. 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 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 Savan River
There are quite a few options available connecting through either Moscow or Seoul (South Korea). It may be possible to arrive the same day of your scheduled departure to the river, AS LONG AS YOU ARRIVE NO LATER THAN 10:00 AM.
Travel from home to Petropavlovsk, Kamchatskii:
There is a daily flight from Moscow that arrives at 10:00 am to Petropavlovsk, as well as a daily flight from Vladivostok (via Seoul) that arrives at 8:40 am. However, we strongly recommend arriving a day early. This allows a chance to acclimate to the time change, so you’re not a vegetable when you arrive to the river. It also allows for any possible lost luggage or airline delays. If you miss the helicopter departure into camp, you will either miss your entire week of fishing or have to charter a very expensive extra helicopter flight into camp!
If you do plan on arriving a day early (recommended), please let us know as soon as you make your flight reservations so that we can work with our local partners in Kamchatka to arrange overnight lodging for you.
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.
Monday - Transfer to Camp:
All guests heading the Savan, Ichanga, or Southern Wilderness Floats 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 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 your luggage heading to the main Savan float. You will then, along with the guides and staff, re-board the helicopter to head into camp, a short, 10 minute flight upriver to the first camp on the Savan 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 dry flies.
6 full fishing days:
Wilderness expeditions at 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!). The Savan is shallow all the way across, with numerous braids and channels. Sections of the river 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.
Lunch will be packed with you by the guides, or served shore-side by the camp staff each 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.
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 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.
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 Savan River
Kamchatka is notoriously rustic and adventurous, but the base camp is one of the most comfortable accommodations on any trout stream in Russia.
On the floating portion, we utilize comfortable 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, and setting up the camp each afternoon while
anglers are on the water. Comfortable sleeping pads are provided, but you do have to bring your own sleeping bag and towel. For convenience of communication on the river and for a safety line to the outside world, each expedition is equipped with first aid kits, GPS, handheld radios, and a satellite telephone.
Savan Base camp is a wilderness outpost. It’s not fancy, but comfortable, functional, and a perfect home base to complete a week’s adventures. A cook and camp assistant are ever present at Basecamp, preparing hearty meals based on local Russian fare. Comfortable beds with mattresses are provided, with a comforter and pillow, but you will want to bring your own sleeping bag. While it’s not the Ritz, it provides a super option for those anglers wanted a remote wilderness experience, without the added rigors of a camping trip.
Fishing at Savan River
The fishing days on the Savan are long and packed full with beautiful scenery, wildlife, and aggressive takes from some of the heaviest rainbows in the Russian Far East.
Most of the upper Savan is easily floated and the wading is relatively simple. The upper-most reaches do have some large boulders and slick rocks, but most of the Savan is shallow and wide with a pumice and gravel bottom strewn with a few obvious boulders. Overall the terrain is gradual, making getting around a breeze. Vast rolling mountains and volcanoes
flank the broad valley it courses through, and early in the float is a system of idyllic hot springs.
Each morning the three fishing boats head down stream and spread out. 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. Staff does all of the cooking, cleaning, etc., while you fish until dinner or crack a cold beer by the fire. The food on our Savan 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, and the traditional Uzbekistani dish called plov.
Towards the end of your week you’ll make your way to the comfortable Savan Basecamp Lodge. With actual beds, a flush toilet and hot shower, Basecamp is the Russian trout fishing version of luxury. At the Savan Basecamp, inflatable jet boats are used to access the lower river beats, allowing us to cover an amazing amount of excellent water below the lodge. We still have not explored it all! Wading is relatively easy to moderate for most anglers, though slightly more technical than the upper river as the lower river can be deeper and faster in some spots. We tend to fish the softer water, as this is where the fish will hold most, but we still need to wade over to get to them, on occasion. There are many stretches of braided channels, making the lower Savan feel much smaller than it actually is a lot of the time. The lower river we cover is over 15 miles of pristine, untouched water, not counting the many different braids and channels!
With more river to fish than we can cover in a week of fishing, the Savan team utilizes the complex network of channels and a variety of camps to customize each week’s fishing program to minimize angling pressure, rest the different sections, and guarantee a high-quality fishing experience for every week of the short, 6 week season. These adventures are limited to 6 anglers per week, who will be well-catered to by the staff of 2 Russian guides, one English-speaking professional guide, a camp cook and camp assistant.
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.
There are 3 fishing methods used throughout the Savan River drainage:
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.
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.
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.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• The Savan has an ideal combination of size and numbers of fish. This means you will have consistent action throughout your days, while still enjoying the opportunity to tie into a real monster rainbow.
• This is arguably the most beautiful river in Kamchatka. While wading its crystal clear waters, you’ll be surrounded by rolling grasslands, bordered by densely forested old growth hillsides, punctuated by the snow-capped visage of the Opala Volcano. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the fishing, the scenery is so spectacular. It is green, green, green…
• Located on the southern part of the peninsula, you will get typically better weather with no major mountain passes to cross by helicopter, making access in and out of the river easier and more reliable.
• A great team of guides and staff will make sure you are comfortable and fishing effectively, and most importantly having a good time. You’ll walk away with more than memorable fishing stories and you’ll have newfound friends for life!
• Savan River adventures are the perfect combination of hard core and comfort. The trip is focused on floating one of the prettiest, most pristine wilderness rivers in the world, while ending in the comforts of the Savan BaseCamp Lodge. It’s the best of both worlds.