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First encounter
By Jurij Shumakov

Part two

  Water in the river was rapidly dropping, and in just a couple of days its transparency and level achieved the highest fishing quality. We continued to explore the river going downstream to its mouth in Okhotskoe sea. Silver salmon became tiresome, and most passionate guys penetrated up to 50 or 70 miles upstream, where concentration of Rainbow was much higher and concentration of Silver lower. It seemed to me that massive entry of Silvers pushed other species upstream, or into stretches with heavier current. At least good fishing for Rainbow was never associated with places where Silver salmon concentrated. Despite moderate size of Rainbow trout, ranging around1 to 2 kg, this fish showed the most fighting spirit among all the species we fished for. Spectacular jumps and runs accompanied each take. To my personal feeling, coloured Silvers were heavier and more persistent fighters than the freshly arrived silver-greenish fish. Perhaps, they had already adapted to fresh water and could use the full power of their muscles? In addition, the coloured Silvers, in their bright red spawning dress with unbelievably huge hook on autumn decoration background, were more attractive from an esthetic point of view.

For the following few days, we only went upstream, hunting for big Rainbow, Kundzha and Dolly Warden. Fishing in the lower part of the river became senseless, because of the unimaginable amount of Silver salmon constantly entering the river. There was another reason not to fish downstream stretches. Well, I don't know exactly why, maybe because of a particularly rich run for all Pacific salmon species in 2002, but after heavy rains, high water flow brought thousands of already spawned and dead fishes from the bottom and threw them on the banks. The suffocating sweetish smell of death covered downstream parts of the river. It looked like even the stomachs of the main local consumers couldn't deal with the abundance of fish. One of them, a huge Grizzly bear, was found dead by our group by the riverbank.

Here was the owner of the river

Despite that almost every meter of the bank was covered with bear signs and that footprints were really gigantic, I only once saw a big bear run away from our approaching boat and was "lucky" enough to hear behind and near me, in the bushes, heavy and mighty breathing. All I said was loudly: "Hallo dear! Believe me: I am not so tasty in my waders! Fish is much better and healthier food!" J J Local bears consistently avoided face-to-face meetings with humans.

Before we went to Kamchatka, I had quite an intensive discussion with one of my fellows, Igor, about flies for this trip, so our fly-boxes had pretty similar sets of flies. We could therefore experiment independently on the riverbank and compare our results.

It turned out that our conclusions regarding size and colour combinations were the same. The increase of Silver salmon takes on flies with a bright fluor red or orange cone head was clearly noticable. Similar results were also observed with the use of different plastic and glass beads placed on tippet at front of the fly. Quite big fly, in this case, looked like a small Parr trying to steal appetizing fish egg. If fly in such a provocative combination came near to fish, the attack followed immediately. Additionally, quite interesting evidence was the fact that a lot of fish were hooked from outside of jaws, when they, perhaps, attempted to intercept "fish egg" from Parr, concentrating attack on front part of fly, so the hook remained outside the fish mouth. Especially many Dolly Warden and Rainbows were hooked in this manner.

Dolly Warden on tube with egg bead

It was confirmed a couple of times that Silver salmon has certain preferences in colour and can be capricious. In the first case, after fish activity suddenly went down, I started to try different colour combinations and in a half an hour amount of takes came back, but only on fluorescent orange fly. At that time, nothing in the weather conditions, lightness or in water had changed and could have affected the intensity of bites. All attempts to come back to previous colours failed. In another case, weather was certainly the reason for change of Silvers' behaviour. The sky quickly covered with heavy dark clouds, and right from the morning of the last day of our journey, rain came again. Most guys in our team were totally fished out and exhausted, so they spent time relaxing in the camp.  Moreover, most of them had lost their workable flies.

The combination of low flying clouds, tedious rain and tense waiting for the arrival of the copter could have spoiled our impressions from a week of successful fishing. That is why Igor, Mark and myself didn't think long before we decided to go say a last "bye" to the river.

For the first 2-3 hours, everything seemed to be as before: my and Igor's Barbies assiduously brought fish to the bank, one by one. Mark, the only American in our team, was carried away, fishing Rainbows with the American technique of "bottom rolling egg", tempting fish with fantastic egg imitations. Suddenly, the activity went down, just as it had a couple of times previously. Fish stopped showing itself on surface and splashing. Igor quickly reloaded stuff for Rainbow and went upstream to the throat of the pool.

Rainbow trout

I didn't want to give up, and wanted to find a way to restore the active takes again. I began to test different flies, trying heavy Russian Bullets in screaming fluorescent orange colours, and Steelhead purple Long Range tube flies, which had worked before. Fish didn't even take the "without a hitch" combination of fly plus "egg" in front of it!

I had noticed that water was quickly becoming milky, perhaps because of small particles brought by rain from steep clay banks of river. I feverishly thought that I had to find something to contrast the willow foliage that appeared in the water! I was looking over my fly-box, when my eye was caught by a variation of one of the Alaska Flash flies. It looks quite light, so it wouldn't be too much of a contrast to the milky water. On the other hand, a lot of flashabou in its wing could play a role, and the fly was pretty different from all flies I had being trying before, I thought. I quickly changed intermediate line to sinking one, assembled plastic "egg" and fly together, and sent this combination to opposite side of river. I was retrieving line with short pulls, when half-way to "my" bank, I felt a familiar gentle pull. Hooked Silver heavily romped deeply in the pool. During the following hours, not with the best intensity, but still, Silvers regularly took this American wonder fly. We went back to the camp with a feeling of completed business. Quick preparations, another couple of hours of wearisome waiting for the helicopter and, finally, we hear in our radio that the chopper was on its way to the camp.

Long wing prevet deep take, Kundzha

Just in the last hour of light, the rain eased up a bit, clouds lifted and we could hear the sound we had been longing for: the machine was approaching. Well, I will not describe the "charm" of flying low attitude in mountains covered with clouds and fog and what I felt hovering between sky and earth - perhaps those who have been on mission know the sensation. I would like, however, to say special thanks to the pilots. They are virtuosos indeed! The trip finished, as one could have predicted, with Kamchatka beer, a delicious fish meal and bathing in geothermal Peretunka springs. Next morning, a huge airbus A 300 "Pjotr Tchaikovsky" brought us back to civilization.

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Text and photos by Jurij Shumakov 2004 ©




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