Swedish version


At the foot of the Rainbow
By Jurij Shumakov

Part 2.

Day 3
Next morning didn't look too misty. Everybody enjoyed the scenery, decorated with strands of fog draped along the hillside and highlighted by early sunrays. Crews of rafts formed anew each morning, so as to escape possible dissatisfaction with guide or boring partner. This morning we went with guide Alexander.

Since I speak more or less acceptable English, I again got an American partner. Can't say I was too pleased, because when you live abroad for a long time and come to your homeland for some short days, you always want to speak your native language. The Russian guys joked about my fate. I gave them a friendly snarl, remembering that at least I had the opportunity to exchange experience with my foreign partner and to learn something about fishing in his home waters.

This day went even better than the day before. Alexander quickly moved our raft from one promising place to the next, and our hands, rods and reels never had a moment to pause in their work.

I again had a partner who preferred to take it easy and fish from raft. J Well, at that point, the river was still shallow enough to wade and banks had space that allowed an underhand cast. Then we came to a stretch of river with limestone banks and the character of river changed dramatically: gravel on bottom changed to perfect lies made in soft limestone. I often caught myself rather watching the breathtaking landscape than my fly line. At last, I managed to hook and land a few Mikizha in the 25-28 inch range. Up to that moment, I had only landed a couple such fat river ladies the very first day.

I noticed that fish definitely preferred really big flies, and didn't like to come near the surface for them. For these reasons, I added a heavy super fast sinking tippet to my line, and began to use double-decked tube flies. That's why I like them: you can adjust weight and size at any time with ease. The only real problem that disappointed me was that my hooks were too small, with correspondingly big loss of fish. Unfortunately, I hadn't brought any hooks bigger than size 6, while Americans used "anchors" of about size 2/0 to 4/0. I tried to calm myself with the thought that a "long line release" at least gave me the chance to escape handling fish on bank. J In any event, I had tricked fish with my lure, which was the main point, and proved that I was smarter - or so I thought. I had not come here just for the pleasure of holding fish in my hands. Please don't mention sour grapes.

Next stop we made in camp named "Gloomy". (You must be wondering who picked these names, but I really don't know. All I can say is that the camp was brighter than its name!J) After repacking and shower we landed in the cosy dining room. Quiet conversation ("How is it in your country…?") mixed with fragrant Russian fish soup and huge sandwiches of caviar. Can't say I have ever had a better possibility to watch and to learn more about my former "enemies" from the Cold war, or peacefully and friendly talk without swindlers and mad mediators from TV and the newspapers. Enemies? Just normal people, like you and me. Conversation smoothly glides from politics to fishing and back. Gliding like the waters of the Zhupanova. We exchange ideas and observations, dreams and hopes, fishing stories about home waters and the criss-cross lazy questions go on another couple of hours. Close to midnight, guys go to their cabins "complaining" of pleasant pains in hands and back.

Day 4
The beautiful and calm morning is starting to feel like home, but still toothbrush sees an opportunity to jump from regular working place and hit my eye or ear, because all the time my attention is drawn away by magnificent views around. My advice, if you want to shave here, on Zhupanova, better to do this by evening. It is safer. J After solid breakfast, people bring their stuff to the riverbank and "raft lottery" begins again. Once more, I crew with Americans. Definitely, guides swindle, and better I wouldn't speak English! J

I had fished with my tubes flies quite a lot, and wanted to try something new. Ed Word, American guide from our raft, readily showed his fly box. He is an expert on the Zhupanova and has guided here for 5 seasons. I had no reason not to trust him. Ed's flies are really huge! He gave me a couple of hand size black and dark purple leeches and big Flesh flies. All flies are armoured with terribly big hooks of about size 2/0-4/0 and I felt really anxious about how fish could survive being hooked by such anchors. O.K., lets try these American monsters.

River became much clearer and didn't carry as many leaves as the first days. Fishing was just perfect and American flies worked like a charm. There is only one inconvenience: their weight. All flies are equipped with lead on body, or with big lead eyes, and to cast them with a single hand rod isn't easy business. I noticed with pleasure that my double-handed rod managed the heavy weights much easier and with less effort. BTW, Ed is an admirer of Steelhead and has fished with 12-foot double-handed rod for the last 5 years.

While paddling downstream on the way from one place to another, we discussed our tackles and cast techniques. He set on the rod at next stop and loaded it with his handmade Spey fly line. His technique is perfect, clean and very graceful. I think that's what every guide should look like. We exchanged rods and tried partner's gear. It seems to me he liked the crisp action of Russian rod and was impressed with its price.

So, with fishing, talks and tests, the day rolled on. I had passed the first fever and no longer rushed to each and every promising place - experiments began. Moreover, the amount of fish in river doesn't let you worry about results. This day I caught my first Mikizha on mouse fly, and must say it was an awesome and very emotional feeling! You can watch all stages of attack on fly at quite a short distance. Sometimes fish attacks several times, misses the fly or even jumps out of water, taking fly from above!

After lunch, for the first time on that trip, I met face-to-face the "owner" of the river. I had left my partners and gone downstream a couple of hundred meters, hoping to be first at a promising spot. I had just started to play off my line, when I raised my eyes and saw across and downstream, coming out of some bushes along the bank, a pretty big bear. The distance was almost safe, let's say, about 50-60 metres. Almost safe - or was it? Out there, alone with the bear, I wasn't that sure. I quickly reeled line in (remembering that bears react on running and swirling hooked fish), and prepared my camera. It looked like bear hadn't noticed me standing in the middle of the stream. It slowly headed upstream by the riverbank. This bear slowly moved another 15-20 metres upstream, but then suddenly stopped and began sniffing the air. Perhaps wind had brought the smell of my partners from upstream? It was at the same time very exciting and a bit frightening to watch this predator from such a close distance.

Quickly the thought flashed in my mind: "bear needs less time to cover the 50 metres to me, than I would need to cover 200 metres to the company of my partners". Additionally, level of water in this place was just above my knees - a perfect running track for the visitor. J I must point out that all guides on the Zhupanova are equipped with huge cylinders charged with pepper spray, which is very effective in the case of a face-to-face meeting with bears. Guides also carry shotguns for the "local diehards", but use of these is absolutely exceptional.

The bear remained another minute without a movement, and then turned back and walked away in the water downstream. It was about a 3 to 4 year old bear, and as guides had told me, at this age bears lack experience, and, by curiosity or mischief, can attempt to hunt for fishermen. The prospect of becoming the "hunting trophy" of a "mischievous" young bear didn't appeal to me, and I started slowly back towards the opposite bank. And here, I don't know what took hold of me, but I shouted like Hell. Perhaps I wanted to scare this "Mishka" and see his reaction? If you say it was a stupid idea, I agree. Anyhow, the bear stopped, turned in my direction and performed classical observation position by rising on hind legs. "Oh, Sh…!!! I don't really need your attention" - I thought. I immediately remembered an anecdote told by one of guides: "One day, a man who had lost his way deep in the forest started to scream: "People!", Ahu-u-u! " "Is anybody there?!". After a few minutes he felt like someone touched his shoulder. He turned back and faced a big bear. They had the following conversation:

Bear: "Why are you screaming?" 
Man (shaking with all his body): " I lost my way."
Bear: "O.K., I get that, but why are you screaming?!"
Man: "I'm scared!!"
Bear: "Well, that's also understandable, but why are you screaming???!"
Man: "I hoped someone could hear me!!!"
Bear: "Yep! I heard you! Feel better?" J

Despite my frantically pumping heart, I made one nice shot. Bear stayed in circus position a few more seconds, and finally decided he wasn't too hungry and there was no point in bringing our meeting to the state of a "brotherly embrace". He turned on his heels and disappeared in the bushes at the riverbank.

Next stop was camp "Elastic". Hm-m, the name definitely means something, because after a whole day fishing you have to be very "elastic" to bring your stuff upstairs about 70 steps to the camp. J I admit the people who named camps on the river certainly had a sense of humour. At this camp you can watch the active volcano Karimski, which periodically spits smoke and ash. I asked myself:" In what fantastic dream could I hope to see all of this?!" Big rainbow hanging over the valley and the distant hills with Americans smiling: "Rainbow over Rainbow river!"

Kind-hearted mistress of that house had prepared an indescribably tasty Borsch and with glasses brimming with "Boston Waltz" (name of Russian vodka) my Russian friends and I exchanged impressions from the day that had passed.

Everybody had had an exciting day, and all came close to the magic line of 30 inches. Everyone had noticed that the number of Malma char (Dolly Warden) had increased dramatically. The char now positioned everywhere, and hung onto flies almost at each cast. Alex had caught his first Kizhutch (Silver Salmon). From this day Malma and Kizhutch were constantly present in catch, and that made hunting for big Mikizha more difficult.

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Text and photos by Jurij Shumakov © 2005


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