Swedish version


At the foot of the Rainbow
By Jurij Shumakov

Part 3

Day 5
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 condition.

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 applause.

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.

Day 6.
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 fantastic week.

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.

Bright Malma

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 prisoners forever.

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 the crater. 

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 welcome".

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 true!


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Text and photos by Jurij Shumakov 2005


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