The Zhupanova is the legendary flagship river of Kamchatka that first put the region on the map. It has trophy rainbow trout fishing like nowhere else on the planet, and is a “lost world” of surreal beauty.
It’s headwaters flow through a massive, immaculate valley framed by smoking volcanoes, snowcapped mountains, ancient birch forests, and abundant wildlife. Anglers float 57 miles of the section’s finest flywater to target the Zhupanova’s wild, native trout. Averaging two feet long and commonly reaching 27 – 30 inches or more, they are an exceptionally large and ancient genetic strain. These monster rainbows aggressively attack swung flies and large streamers resulting in vicious, bone-jarring grabs. And, even more amazing, there are times and places where these river-giants also love big skated mouse patterns, reminiscent of waking dry flies for steelhead.
Rainbow trout are the main attraction in the Zhupanova but from early August through October, the rare “super kundzha” make their annual run in from the sea. They average 26-28 inches, with exceptional specimens measuring a yard long. They take flies aggressively and put up a strong, charging battle. Dolly Varden also exist in almost obscene numbers, average 12-18 inches, and readily take dry flies. Finally, silver (coho) salmon are present during late August and September. The aerobatic fight of a fresh coho is something every angler should experience.
Unlike traditional float trips that depend on guides and anglers to set-up and break down camp each day, the Zhupanova float incorporates six permanent river camps. Anglers will be able to relax at the end of each day in relative comfort, enjoying hot showers, cold drinks, permanent wood cabins or modern high-tech tents with beds and mattresses, and a well-equipped dining facility. Highly qualified Russian and American guides and camp staff provide for your safety, angling success and comfort.
Zhupanova floats – like all Kamchatka fishing trips – begin and end with helicopter flights to and from the seacoast city of Petropavlovsk. In between, the emphasis is on the fishing, not the floating, and each day will certainly be a memorable experience. Anglers who want to get off the beaten path, encounter wild, native rainbows at the species’ maximum size range, and experience a wilderness safari of a lifetime should strongly consider the Zhupanova Float Trip.
Each expedition is limited to a maximum of 6 anglers.
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long Zhupanova River Float Trips package is $6,995.00 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 two-week trips. In this scenario, either Zendzur Lodge or Cedar Lodge can easily be combined with the Zhupanova Float Trip for a two week package price of $11,995.
Included in your angling package at the Zhupanova River Float Trips is all ground and air transportation once in Kamchatka and all food, accommodation and guides.
Not included in your angling package at Zhupanova River Float Trips 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 Zhupanova River
Anglers should not expect obscene numbers of trout each day. For that, you'll want to look at one of our other Kamchatka destinations such as the Sedanka Spring Creek, Wilderness Floats, or Savan River. Rather, the Zhupanova is a challenging, trophy rainbow trout fishery. An angler with beginner to intermediate experience will fish for 3 to 6 hook-ups per day on trout that average 4 to 8 pounds, and are occasionally double that
size. Advanced anglers skilled in reading water, wading, and casting, and who have a modest level of self-sufficiency with tying knots and fly selection, will encounter considerably more action. Almost all anglers land the largest trout of their lives during a week on the Zhupanova, and many find it to be the finest trout stream in the world.
There are two flyfishing methods commonly used on the Zhupanova River:
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 do, they throw small V-wakes off their backs which the trout key to. Anglers replicate this action by plopping their flies against the opposite bank and skittering them out 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 considerable damage, the fish tend to take the fly with a ferocious, bone-crushing chomp. All this, of course, takes place 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.
Salmon smolt and other juvenile fish make up a significant portion of Kamchatka trout and chars' diets. Woolly buggers, string leeches, baitfish and sculpin patterns, 3-6 inches long, all work very well on the Zhupanova 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. When probing for a strike, it's cast to likely structure in the river (tree roots, riffle-pools, rocks, undercut banks, etc.) that offer rest areas adjacent to heavier currents where fish can surprise-attack their food.
Unlike in other parts of the world, the number and size of rainbows you're likely to hook on a given day in Kamchatka is not seasonally dependant.
Instead, in picking a specific week to visit Zhupanova should be based on your preferences for weather, for the different methods used during July, August and September, and whether or not you are interested in a variety of species or only rainbow trout.
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. Mouse and streamer fishing is consistent in the Zhupanova drainage from the beginning to the end of the summer. The Zhupanova gives up limited traditional dry fly fishing in July when mayfly and caddis hatches are at their heaviest. In fact, there is probably no river in the world where a larger river-resident, native rainbow can be caught on a caddis pattern! There are no salmon in the river at this time, but sea-run Dolly Varden do show up toward the end of the month. By the last week of July the famous "Super Kundzha," a sea-run char species found only in the Zhupanova River, begin to pour in from the sea. They are big, powerful sportfish that take the fly well and put up a fight comparable to a king salmon or steelhead. Though the Zhupanova is the least mosquito-intense river in Kamchatka, there are plenty of them around in July. If you have a low mosquito tolerance level, consider a trip later in the season.
August is the middle of the season. Chum and sockeye salmon enter the river and the cycle of life is laid out in full magnificence. Rainbows are targeted with mouse and streamer flies throughout the month. The first two weeks of August, too, are the peak time to intercept the Super Kundzha. By the middle of the month the mosquitos, black flies and no-see-ums are completely gone and the weather transitions toward fall.
September is fall in Kamchatka. It can be chilly, in the 50-degree range. Sunny weather (which is quite common) makes for beautiful fishing days, but brings with it 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 taken with surface skaters and with "big nasty" leech and baitfish patterns. The latter, fished on a sink-tip line, become more important as water temperatures drop.
Getting to Zhupanova 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.
Wednesday - Transfer to camp:
All guests heading into the lodge will be met in the morning by Andrey or Veronika 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 help you load gear into micro-buses. They will then drive to the offices of Purga, where Andrey will take your passports briefly to make photocopies to fill out the paperwork required for your fishing license as well as to fill out the paperwork that will be required for departure from Russia at the end of your trip. They will also request at this time the $100 (payable in $US Dollars is okay) for the weekly fishing license.
The Purga offices are located directly adjacent to the main heliport in Yelisovo/Petropavlovsk. They have a lounge area with chairs, and will set out hot water for tea, instant coffee, and usually some snacks while you wait for weather clearance. Sometimes they may drive you an additional 20 minutes to a different heliport, depending on where they can get weather clearance first. As soon as the pilots get the okay to fly, they will load your gear onto the helicopter, then the group will load up for the short, incredible flight into Zendzur Lodge. Sometimes they may drive you an additional 20 minutes to a different heliport, depending on where they can get weather clearance first.
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 the weather creates a delay, Andrey will give the group the option to travel 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 and Andrey will be on hand to help trade dollars for Rubles.
Depending on the weather, the flight into the Zhupanova can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 50 minutes; either way you’ll pass dramatic mountains and towering volcanoes – enjoy the ride! The helicopter will land first at Zendzur Lodge and drop off those anglers, then continue on upriver to Camp One on the Zhupanova Float. From Zendzur it’s another 25-30 minute scenic flight up the river canyon to the “take out camp,” where the helicopter will land briefly to pick up the guides, cook, rafts, and equipment, before continuing upriver towards Camp One.
Once you’ve landed at Camp One, un-loaded the helicopter, and settled in to your cabins, the head guide will give everyone a quick orientation and fishing talk, and the guides will help you set up and organize tackle. For those wanting to fish, there is some great water right in front of the camp, and many guests are able to hook their first fish of the trip before dinner.
6 full fishing days.
After a leisurely breakfast each day at 8:00 am, you will be assigned a guide and begin the day’s float. The crew employs a guide rotation system so anglers and guides have a chance to fish with and get to know one another over the course of the week. Angling boats are organized over the day’s section of river either on a beat system, or by ‘leap-frogging’ each other, with the effect that you and your angling partner cast to un-fished water all week long.
During the morning, the cook floats past anglers in his raft and prepares lunch at a predetermined gravel bar. At 2:00 p.m. all three rafts meet for lunch. In the afternoon anglers again split up the water. In total there are 48 river miles covered over the course of the trip. With just 6 anglers per week, the exclusivity of experience and the health of the trout fishery combine to make truly special fly fishing moments.
Between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., boats arrive to the night’s camp and dinner is served at around 8:00 p.m. Showers are always hot, cabins are cozy, food is good and plenty and electricity lights the camp during the few hours of darkness each evening.
YOU MUST BRING A SLEEPING BAG.
Wednesday - 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 helicopter will arrive sometime between 11:00 am and 3:00 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.
Andrey 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. Andrey 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 Zhupanova River
All 6 float camps on the Zhupanova Float Trip are permanent structures, spread 6-8 river miles apart from one another.
Over the course of the 6 day / 6 night trip, anglers move between the camps via inflatable rafts. Each camp is identical in infrastructure. Two anglers share a small wooden cabin or a high-tech, weatherproof, double-
walled "tent cabin," similar to the weather-port cabins in use in many Alaskan camps. Each cabin has wood floors, a wood stove for heat (usually only needed in the fall), bed frames and mattresses. You must bring a sleeping bag for this trip. There are two clean flush-toilet outhouses per camp, as well as multiple shower facilities with good water pressure and endless hot water, courtesy of an ingenious Russian wood-fired plumbing system. The kitchen / dinning rooms are permanent log yurts, and all camp infrastructure is connected by extensive wooden walkways.
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 our guests.
Beer is provided with dinner, with additional beer and vodka available for sale. Other or special libations must be brought from the United States.
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 Zhupanova River
The first and last days of your trip allow for half-days of fishing.
In between are six full fishing days that follow the following schedule, with plenty of flexibility according to group preferences.
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. For midnight-sun junkies, most of the camps have high quality home water a stone's throw from the fire pit.
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 Guide and two seasoned Russian guides. Our head guides are talented professionals with years of Russian and/or other international camp management experience, and years of prior experience guiding in other International destinations. 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 18 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.
Every staff member works to see the smile on your face when you hook up.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• The Zhupanova River is home to the oldest, largest rainbow trout in Kamchatka. The average trout on this river is 24-28 inches, and trout over 30 inches are hooked weekly on the river. There may be no better river on Planet Earth to catch the largest trout of your life.
• In addition to monster rainbows, Zhupanova is home to a rare strain of sea-run kundzha (Siberian white-spotted char). This is one of the only places in the world where you can target these fish, and they can grow to gargantuan proportions here!
• You’ll be fishing new water every day as the guides float over 55 miles of this amazing, pristine river. This ensures that the fish never see more than one fly a week, and less than 10 flies a year at most, which guarantees that the fish remain un-impacted and aggressively move to a fly every week of the season.
• Guests on the upper Zhupanova get off the river every evening following a memorable day of fishing and enjoy comfortable streamside camps with permanent cabins, hot showers, flush toilets, and some of the best meals in all of Russia. Each camp is unique and has its own character, and guests often debate which is their favorite around the glowing embers of a nightly campfire.
• The scenery as you descend the river is simply spectacular. You’ll start on a small, upriver tributary, and observe the river grow and change as you work downstream each day to a new camp, floating through rolling tundra, thick Siberian pine and birch forests, steep canyons, and a beautiful freestone river with frequent Kamchatka brown bear sightings along the shore. Be sure to pack an extra memory card for your digital camera!