By Jurij Shumakov
The Lost world camp. View from chopter
Almost all new adventures begin with a plan and discussions many
months before the actual trip. Our trip in September 2002 to the Kolpakova river, situated
on the Western Kamchatka Peninsula, wasn't an exception to this rule. But sometimes plans
have tendency to change themselves, without our participation or influence. Actually, we
had planned to go fishing for Steelhead on the Sopochnaja river, but unfortunately we
couldn't reserve and secure a place in the camp on Sopochnaja river. Despite this fateful
fact, and on a big wave of a temptation just to fish untouched water and visit unexplored
areas, we agreed on substitution.
For more than 4 months, I had been
concentrating on collecting info and fly patterns for the fish we had been expecting to
catch. All sources had been employed. Articles from American fly-fishing magazines, the
Internet and intensive letter traffic with friends on the North American continent had
been supplemented by hours of work behind my vice. No doubt, for a European angler who
expects to fish for Pacific salmon, colours and types of flies used by American colleagues
are very different from the ones we use for Atlantic salmon.
Then, when my fly-box was almost
completed, I received the note that we weren't going for Steelhead, and that major target
would instead be Silver salmon, Rainbow trout, Dolly Warden and local endemic White Spot
The perspective of tying all those flies
once again according to species we would fish for was daunting, to say the least. But what
could I do? So I glued again to my comp and dived into the relevant literature. When I
finally had achieved an impression of what flies should look like and what I needed, I
employed my vice again for many evenings. Since all Pacific salmon flies I had found were
tied on singles, and I personally am an admirer of tube flies, I was forced to transform
the patterns I liked into tube flies.
There were actually a few serious reasons
why I preferred tube flies to singles or doubles:
First, going for the fishing trip of my life many thousand miles away, I wanted to have
with me as broad a collection of flies as possible in all aspects (colour, size, weight,
Second, I had carefully listened to what my American friends had to say about Pacifics,
particularly their sharp teeth, and especially the teeth of Silver salmon! So I wanted to
avoid massive loss of flies by using short body tubes and strong tying materials.
Third, with not enough time to tie a sufficient amount of flies for each pattern to last a
week of intensive fishing, I was forced to tie only simplified transformer flies of the
most trusted American patterns which my friends provided. Despite the fact that many
patterns for Pacific salmon are tied in more habitual colours for me, such as black and
red, I avoided those. Not because I didn't believe them, but just because I wanted to
experiment with something more unusual.
On the other hand, in cold water almost
all salmon show more interest towards warm shades, and Pacific salmon, in particular,
fancy such unusual colours for European anglers as pink, lilac, magenta and purple. As a
base, pink and purple were chosen; all other colours and shades included were intended
just as decoration. I tied flies with body no longer than 2/3 inch in length and with soft
hook connector, keeping in mind I wanted a design, which would avoid or minimize meeting
of my flies with sharp teeth. Considering that I would mostly fish half depth or close to
bottom, each new fly had a few alternatives tied on plastic, aluminium or brass tubes,
which widened the spectre of waters I could cover. Almost all patterns I used for
transformation were kindly provided by Bob Kenly (Reeds Spring, Missouri) and Tanya Rooney
(Portland, Oregon), who specialise in tying flies for Steelhead and Pacific salmon.
A few weeks later, our copter soars over
the mountains of central Kamchatka and the breathtaking volcanic landscape forces all our
company to stay glued to the portholes, despite lack of sleep, night flight and 11 hours
difference to our normal time. Copter crosses last chain of mountains and endless tundra
opens up to our raptured eyes, following to the horizon, fusing with the shore of the
Ohotskoe sea. Only ribbons of rivers and brooks decorated with trees disturb the flat
I don't know why, but there is something
very attractive about tundra, "empty" space that is not really empty.
Another 10 min of flight over Kolpakova
river and our copter, after one last steep virage, lands in a glade behind the camp.
Welcome to "Lost world" camp! This is about as far as you can get from what we
call civilization! Impatient members of our "crew" immediately make a wild rush
down to the riverbank. But what do we see? Feelings are mixed and apprehensive: the river
runs very high and quite muddy after a week of heavy rain. O-ho-ho, it will be challenge
fishing! Guys sort our equipment and bring it to the tents. Photos are taken with
departing copter and a couple of nice Russian Laika dogs as a background. In the meantime,
camp manager has been trying to calm down our anxiety, talking about the incredible amount
of fish in the river and promising a quick reduction of water level.
Welcome to the camp Lost World.
Author with his American friend
We briefly eat and order first
reconnaissance. Frankly speaking, the river is really huge and it is difficult right from
the first view to find fishable places. Many channels, some of which are 50-70 meters
wide, disorientated us completely. We therefore place blind trust in our guide who drives
the boat to a promising place he knows. A couple of hours' fishing, nevertheless, gives
very poor results. Absence of experience in Pacific salmon forces us to try all we know
from Atlantic salmon fishing, without leading to anything conclusive.
I don't feel more than a couple of
unresultative snips: fish doesn't show itself on surface and to find "parking
places" under high water conditions proves to be an extremely tricky challenge. Two
other groups have had more luck: they fished junction between channel and mainstream. They
had a few Silver salmon and White Spot char in catch. Well, that's how it is.
Reconnaissance is reconnaissance. After traditional "100 ml" of vodka, with
salted red caviar, and an excellent dinner, we were busy building plans for the next day,
exchanging our opinions and observations. Slowly, two major conclusions are crystallized:
1) Salmon doesn't stay or move on fast stream in main riverbed. It rather goes near bank
or stays in calm water in small bays and junctions, between channels and main river
stream. 2) Fish was taken on very different flies.
Next morning meets us with autumn
freshness and bright sun. We feel excitement rising again. The weather and conditions are
just perfect: air temperature about 14-16 C, and water 10-12 C. Almost all want to try to
fish upstream from camp. Water is quickly getting lighter and beacons placed close to the
water on the riverbank last evening signal that level has dropped about 20 cm.
After only 15 minutes of
"flight" on our glider, we approach a very long island, which separates a
relatively small channel from the river main stream. Right handed anglers jump on left
side of channel, but I and guide go on the right side, since I am left handed, and to fish
from right side is more convenient for me. The place is classical: smooth curve of channel
comes to a throat, and then forming quite a deep pool with increasing depth towards right
bank and moderate current. I haven't even combined my rod yet, when a friend of mine on
opposite bank is already fighting his first Silver. There are a lot of fish out there! I
would say, a h-ll of a lot! Downstream from our boat stay big shoal of Silvers, but to see
and identify them clear, if they are fresh or coloured, is impossible. I can just see the
shadows moving in the depth. I assemble my stuff with sinking line and one of my light
tube Barbies. A couple of casts, and on the next one I feel a gentle take-pull. Strike!
First fish bends my rod and starts to heavily move in depth. Silvers take fly with
confidence, one after another, one almost on each cast. I don't know why, but fish prefer
to take fly when I actively strip it, despite the fact that current is sufficient to move
fly without retrieve. In catch, mostly Silver males, 4 to 5 kg in weight and quite
I can't say that from a sportive point of
view, Silver salmon impressed me much. Playing fish is not so exciting and adrenalin rich.
My 14 feet Sage looks inappropriately mighty for this fish. I imagine what Atlantic salmon
of similar weight would perform under playing.
Landing Silver salmon
The rest of our stay on Kolpakova river,
I fished mostly with a light, 12 feet, class 8-9 rod. Double hand rod was very useful in
many situations, especially when you don't have space behind yourself at all, and are
forced to use underhand cast. Light stuff gave at least a kind of "fight"
feeling playing Silver salmon. After a couple of hours of such "productive"
fishing, I could hardly move or lift my hands, and asked guide to bring me to opposite
bank. Friends were also tired with Silver, and moved upstream in an attempt to find
something new. I rested a bit, and after coffee and sandwich took position on a sharp
"arrow" between river bed and channel. For some reason, presenting fly under
standard across and down doesn't work, but when I start to retrieve fly just a couple of
meters from bank side, fish bend my rod immediately. It seems to me Silvers prefer active
Only Kundzha was interested in the
passive fly walked across the stream. Also, I noticed quite an interesting thing. On
opposite bank, mostly males were in catch, while on the right bank "cans of
caviar" (female) dominated in catch. By contrast males, no matter how long they had
been in fresh water (silver or coloured), preferred flies in dark, black and purple
colours, while females were more excited by flies dressed in "traditional"
female colours, like pink with a lot of flash. Suddenly, fish activity went down. I fished
another half an hour with inertia, but only Kundzha was interested in my flies, despite
the fact that I could clearly see Silvers in their places. My American tutor, Bob Kenly,
warned me that, from time to time, Silvers can be very capricious and unpredictable.
My friends came along. Everyone had
caught an enormous amount of fish. They found a nice spot and even caught a few Rainbows.
No one showed any desire to continue fishing, so we went back to camp for lunch. Shortly
after our arrival, other groups began to come from different places, and people started to
tell with excitement about AM fishing. Nice weather and quickly clearing water seems to
have lifted, not only our mood, but the whole river fish population too. While talking and
exchanging ideas, guys discovered a worrying tendency: people who fished with flies tied
on singles or doubles lost a terrible amount of flies. Sometimes, flies got destroyed
right after the first meeting with sharp teeth of Silvers or Kundzha. Additional troubles
came from already spawned Dog and Pink salmon, who from time to time take flies too. The
incredibly ugly jaws of those monsters, armoured with huge sharp teeth, disembowelled
flies with ease.
Spowned fly destroyer
This tendency continued during our whole
stay, and by the end of the week many fly-boxes in our team had been sorely depopulated
and appeared a pity sight, as all more or less successful flies had been completely
exterminated. During the entire week of fishing, I mentally thanked Bob for his lessons,
and repeated constantly to myself: "Thank you Bob! Thank you, thank you, thank
you!" J J.
The story continue here: part two, part three
Text and photos by Jurij Shumakov 2004