foot of the Rainbow
By Jurij Shumakov
Next day I went with guide Alexander. The river again changed
character: banks were built of limestone, very dense sand and
compressed volcanic ash. Water became perfectly clear, and fishing
conditions were just ideal.
Based on our catch,
we found that population of Mikizha in Zhupanova has two clear
subpopulations: one is coloured with a golden tone and typical well
developed crimson line along body and on gills, has quite high body
and when drilled prefer heavy fight close to bottom. The other
population is shiny silver bright, with less developed character of
crimson line on body and gills, and is more a torpedo shape. The tail
of this Mikizha has pearl rays. This fish showed tremendous fighting
abilities. Playing such Mikizha on line is accompanied with hard
takes, long runs and furious cascades of jumps. I think this fish was
responsible for a few breaks of line 0.40 mm, after powerful shock
takes I had.
Our supposition, that this fish might be a real Steelhead, was flatly
rejected by guides. Based on their experience - and many of them work
alongside guiding as commercial fishermen fishing for Pacific salmon
species with nets at river mouth - they had never observed Steelhead
in catch. The size of net cells would definitely bring Steelhead
running upstream. Moreover, Mikizha practically disappear about 30 km
downstream from last Dzendzur camp (situated about 100 km upstream
from mouth of river), and has never been observed in sportive catch
close to mouth of river.
From this part of the
river, local endemic char Kundzha became a regular in our catch. This
sea-run char in Zhupanova grows up to 15-17 kg. Of course, chars
we caught were not that full of power as fish before spawning, which
guides ranked near Mikizha. We didn't meet monsters, but caught fish
in range 3-7 kg and they were really good fighters.
I have no idea why, but this year even in second part of September we
were still catching unspawned Dog salmon (Russian name is Keta). I was
almost sure while playing next fish that it was "golden"
Mikizha, so I was surprised to see unspawned Keta in quite good
This day, when we stopped for lunch, the river offered us another
circus attraction: a couple of bears performing a fishing show.
Without the slightest sign of embarrassment at our company's presence,
they appeared on the opposite bank. They slowly followed the
riverbank, forcing us to drop our spoons and forks and rush for
cameras. The distance was about 40-50 metres, when one of the bears
stopped and very calmly and slowly for such a massive creature, went
down to the river and swift as lightning "shot" head first
into the water. Moments later it was carrying in its fangs a big Keta.
After that, the couple sedately disappeared into the undergrowth by
the bank, accompanied by our delighted shouting, whistles and
For the next night, we stopped at the base "Kedrovaja"
(Pine-tree camp). This was the final camp from which the American part
of our group was going to fly back to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski. The
base really impressed me with perfect shape, service and organization.
The following day we were going further downstream, but on a powerful
jet boat. The last supper took place in a very friendly and warm
atmosphere, accompanied by the ringing of goblets and glasses. The
Americans had brought to the table all they possessed, including
perfect French wine. Their team had performed very honourable results.
In fact, all had caught Mikizha of 28-29 inches, and three had fish
over 30 inches, and felt in a generous mood to celebrate the end of
this fishing expedition. Group photo and exchanging e-mails finished
this last day of our joint floating venture.
A calm morning peeked into our room, mild and affable sunrays gently
calling us to open our eyes, somewhat heavy and swollen after last
night's celebration. We took a warm and affectionate leave of our
American fellow travellers, loaded our jet boat, and soon guide Dmitry
steered the boat to a meeting with the most fantastic day of that
Indeed, we were so
loaded with impressions that we simply couldn't imagine what could
beat that massive slice of emotions and memories. But river and guide
had decided to surprise us yet again.
With a speed of 70-80
km/hour, we passed a big stretch of river, when suddenly Dmitry slowed
down near and slightly upstream one of the temporary camps. My friends
jumped from the boat on the left bank, and with Dmitry the rest moved
to opposite bank. I am left handed, so fishing from the right bank is
more comfortable for me. The place was typical for Mikizha: river
smoothly narrows, forming perfect long throat and enters into a big
and deep pool. Mikizha started to bite from the first casts. It was an
uninterrupted "celebration of backing line". As Dmitry
explained, fish here rested and hadn't been disturbed for at least
three weeks and that's why they were taking with such confidence.
Uninterrupted songs of reels were heard on both banks.
I may appreciate sour
grapes, but I can tell you I was happy to bring to net Mikizha over
that magic "30 inches". In about three hours of fishing, we
landed not less that 10 fish in the range 25 - 30+ inches.
Besides Mikizha, we caught countless Malma, Kundzha and Kizhutch. The
river appeared as if would like to hook and bewitch us at the end of
our trip. Can't tell about the others, but it seemed to me I spent all
my remaining reserve of adrenalin for those last few star-charmed
hours. Warm, filled with autumn colours, the day stretched ahead of me
to endlessness. I didn't want anymore to fight, to listen to the
scream of the reel, to hear excited exclamations from friends or watch
the madly running line and cascades of high jumps of enormous fish. I
had just hit the target of the trip.
I sank down into high
Kamchatka grass growing thick on those banks, unable to tear my eyes
from the magic landscape, with steep hills running down to the river,
while towering on the horizon the mighty Zhupanova volcano was covered
with midday clouds in a piercingly blue sky. I would be lying, if I
were to say that I hadn't lost my mind and my heart in this beautiful
corner of Earth, hidden between hills and volcanoes. The old people
say here that those who once visit Kamchatka, never forget for a
lifetime. I would add that those who fish Zhupanova, become its
We came to base
Dzendzur near lunchtime, hardly able to move our legs and arms. There
was no room in our hearts for further raptures: just imagine you moved
from hotel Kempinsky to hotel Savoy. J
The perfectly built base is situated on a high riverbank, with
a magnificent view over home pool and Volcano Zhupanova. It even has
its own thermal springs, where you can relax and soak your tired
muscles. After a luxurious lunch we went down to nearby river bay,
fully packed with Kizhutch, Malma and Kundzha.
Under the affable sunrays of that last day, we idly brought in Silvers
and chars, one by one, rather just for fun to complete a fantastic
fishing day than for fishing impetuosity. Later, we met another group
of Russian rods, who had just arrived. In big and friendly company we
sat around the dinner table, telling them about our floating
adventure, sharing our feelings. Finally, after dinner we all went to
the thermal bath, built over a natural hot spring. Bubbles of
serum-hydrogen gas together with hot water come from the bottom. The
temperature remains constant, about 38 degrees Celsius. Believe me,
after such a bath and such a day, you sleep like a baby.
Day 7th, last one
While breakfast was being prepared, we strolled down to home pool to
stretch our muscles and exercise with Kizhitch, Mikizha and chars. The
sun was whimsically playing with tiny wisps of fog slowly drifting
over the river. At the top of the Zhupanova volcano, before it
disappeared in a cloak of day clouds, we could see smoke rising from
Suddenly the peace was broken by a couple of shots coming from our
camp. At breakfast, Dmitry explained that a couple of young curious
bears had come investigating, and he had shot in the air to scare them
out. He smiled: "They were out of order! They have the whole
forest and river bank for themselves, but in camp they are not
After breakfast, we
were packed our stuff, took showers and prepared our unshaved faces to
meet civilization again. Another hour of waiting, and finally we heard
the grumble of the approaching helicopter. Copter made a final lap,
before landing on the ground. Last handshakes, words of gratitude,
greetings to newly arrived group of American rods, quick loading and
machine bringing us back to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski. Bye for now,
Zhupanova! The best river in the world, where our rainbow dreams came
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Text and photos by
Jurij Shumakov © 2005