Swedish version


Yuri and Me
By Bob Kenly

Yuri with Kola salmon

  I'm sure you've met people like this during your travels through life, someone who had a profound effect on everything you do, for me that person was Yuri Shumakov. I met Yuri about five years ago after Mark Mandell contacted me with the idea about publishing a new book on tube flies, my job was to find tube tiers who were in the fore front of innovation. My feeling at the time was there were countries which were too long ignored by Western tiers especially Russia and Japan.

  In starting my research I found an article of Yuri's in Rackelhanen.se titled "A Russian Bullet Under A Swedish Wing", an idea that seemed to have particular usage for my own fishing in Alaska. When asked if he would like to contribute to our book he said yes but since he'd seen my work but was not terribly impressed since my ideas did not translate to Atlantic salmon fishing very well. At that time he had no experience with Pacific salmon and wondered just how he would fit in the overall theme of this new book. After that conversation we started to talk about other things such as our lives, families and work, soon becoming close friends who spent the next years building an understanding which few friends of radically different backgrounds seldom achieve.

  Yuri was Russian to the core looking at the World through Russian eyes and experiences, far different than my American way of translating events. According to Yuri, Russians have a unique sense of humor and take great delight at poking fun at the inept and pompous, politicians being particular favorite targets, both his and mine.

Thats me (Bob) on the right, circa 1954, Yuri said that our mode of dress looked like leftovers from pictures he'd seen in WW II, unfortunately he was right.

  We were both soldiers during the period called "The Cold War" however I was 20 years before him and until I met him had only encountered Russians once in my life, when as a very young soldier I was assisted after a truck accident in Germany by two Russian military diplomats. Every time Yuri thought of that story he almost fell over laughing since during that encounter I was severely chastised by the officer because I was saluting the sergeant not him, I just didn't know the difference. More than once he said he didn't understand how I was supposed to protect Europe from Communism when I couldn't tell who was who, and he'd again fall into fits of laughter. 

Yuri in the mid 1970's, I think this on the border of Poland

  I did tell him that being spooked once I saluted anyone who looked even mildly important, even saluting a German mailman as with his uniform, various badges and braid I thought him a general from some unknown country. Yuri thought that hilarious, saying Russia missed a big chance to invade Germany dressed as mailmen (I didn't think it was that funny but Yuri told that story to many of his friends). Its almost a universal fact that during peacetime and even war soldiers from all countries carry books to pass time when waiting for something to happen (something I still do). Yuri's Swedish family told me that during his tenure in the Army he read books by French philosophers, even though odd reading for any soldier, I wasn't a bit surprised since his interest in so many subjects had such a wide range.

  Yuri's family history reads like one of those very thick Russian novels you see in bookstores, stories that span years of a tumultuous history. The first part of his last name (Shum) means to shout in Russian. He once told me that his ancestors were border guards and shouted a warning when someone approached, thus his name. He also told me that his Grandfather was in the personal guard to the last Czar, after the Revolution put on a train to be shipped off to Siberia. He and his wife escaped from the train and settled peacefully to raise a family.

Yuri's father in pilot training before WW II

  Yuri's father, born in Kursk, trained in the banking industry however started a career as an airforce pilot and was wounded on the very first day of War II, called "The Great Patriotic War" in Russia. He was retrained as an engine mechanic since technical expertise was scarce however that career path had a downside, on his plane he also flew as a belly gunner in an IL-4 bomber. Yuri's father survived the war and his harrowing story can be read at: www.geocities.com/....Shumakov.html
Yuri's father, Leoned Michajlovich Shumakov, passed away shortly after Yuri's death at the age of 87.

  Few people realized that Yuri had another side to his complex personality. He graduated Moscow State Lomonosov University in 1984. He defended his Ph D thesis at Gamaleya Epidemiological Institute of Moscow in 1992. Then he came in 1993 to Lund University in Sweden for postdoctoral training. He resumed his scientific qualification as "molecular biologist". His research was in the field of genetics and immunology, that bringing him in contact with leading scientists around the World.

Yuri being shown the finer points of fly fishing,
Moscow, Russia in the 1980,s

  It was Yuri's fly tying that thrust him into prominence with a combination of Scandinavian artistry and a Russian penchant for innovation. He was in that very early group of fisherman who met in Moscow during the 1980's to start a fledgling fishing club. In 1986 Yuri read a pre-revolution book by Saboneev (Fish Of Russia) who is considered as the father of Russian fishing. The book contained references to fly fishing, this publication starting Yuri on the quest for the perfect fly.

  These formative years were hard times for Russians and tying materials weren't readily available but several companies around the world sent representatives to Russia to help them gain a foothold in fly fishing. Leon Chandler, of the Cortland Company, told me he was one of those who went to Russia and remembered that period as one of the most rewarding times of his life.

Yuri signing the roof of the Crystal River Fly Shop, England

  Yuri was most known for his Atlantic salmon and Sea trout flies but several years ago he was invited to test his theories in Kamchatka on Pacific species, that starting a blitz of e-mails back and forth. "Tell me everything you know about Pacific salmon" (which took all of about three minutes) was the theme of his first communication. When I called fish by their common name he wanted only the scientific name, flies for each, three or more letters a day being the norm. I invited a friend of mine from Oregon (Tanya Rooney, a superb tier in her own right) to help me before Yuri squeezed my brain dry. Slowly but surely (and painfully on our part) Yuri built a data base and started designing flies for his trip into Russia's famous "Bear Country". I asked him if I could send him any of my Alaska flies for him to play with, "I never fish with other peoples flies" his curt reply but he felt if I really wanted to send him something he would give them to others to try, better than nothing I thought. I chose two Alaska flies, Linda's Shrimp ( an exclusive fly for an Alaskan friend) and the Flash Fly (A traditional Alaska pattern). Yuri broke his long standing rule and fished Linda's Shrimp with good results. so much so he invited me to write an article about it in NAHLYST (Russian language fly fishing magazine). "I don't speak Russian, how the hell can I write in a Russian magazine", his reply indicated that he doubted I could even speak good English (being from New Jersey with my Tony Soprano accent he was closer to the truth than he realized) but he would do the translation, and again we both had a good laugh.

Yuri called this "A fine Russian suv" getting around the Kola can be difficult at times so its now wonder militaly personnal use APC's to transport families and fishermen around. Changing a tire on these things can be an all day affair.

  His second trip to Kamchatka started out with what can only be described as a total disaster. Yuri was invited to be in a party that was going to open a newer section of the Zhupanova River, sort of a mixed bag of American and Russians. Unfortunately, his group was dropped off by an errant helicopter pilot in a closed camp, their only provisions Snickers candy bars and whiskeys of various sorts. What he didn't say to others was he got very sick eating partially cooked fish (not a good combination with Snickers and whiskey). He told me he didn't know it was possible to be so sick and still walk around (neither he or I laughed at that).

  Eastern Kamchatka with its unspoiled beauty opened his eyes to a new Russia and he was eager to share this country to anyone who would listen to his tales. The Zhupanova was the place where Yuri tested my new pattern for Pacific fish species, the Turbo Shrimp, with such good results it again became another feature in NAHLYST (despite the fact he was accused of going over to the "Dark Side" by his countrymen). I believe it was this trip where Yuri got the nick name "The Elk" since his long stride and the speedy manner of fishing wore out all who fished with him.

Whats left of a fishing companion 
who tried to keep up with Yuri

  "Enemy At The Gates" (from the movie of the same name) was a private joke he used in his e-mail subject line when he was planning a trip to a country other than Russia. I think he was enchanted by the British Isles, mostly by the people in which he felt a strange kinship. When we discussed his 50th birthday trip to Scotland I asked him if he up to eating Haggis (a very strange stew cooked in a sheep's stomach, definitely an acquired local taste). He said if it were served then so as not to offend anyone he would eat it with liberal doses of Scotch to wash it down. Yuri loved the Scots especially their irreverent view of life, "No one was more like the Russians than the Scots" was his reply when I asked him how he liked Scotland and no, he was spared the haggis delicacy.

  One of the last e-mails I received from Yuri asked me if I knew how to cook Caribou (or Reindeer as it called in some places), of course I wouldn't even know where to begin since my culinary knowledge was totally devoid when it came to an animal not native to my local butcher shop. I did know that if not prepared correctly you would be better off eating your shoes. When I asked why such a strange question he told me that he was asked to go on an expedition to Siberia's northern most Taymyr Peninsula to fish an unknown area. The group figured since considering their length of stay and limitations of the helicopter's carrying ability plus fuel they would have to hunt for food, which started another one of my frantic searches at Yuri's behalf (caribou recipes in the wild not that easy to locate but I thought some Native Alaskans might have a clue). That was the last time I heard from him and was notified by his Swedish family that he passed away while fishing on the Kola Peninsula.

Now that what you call dedication

  Retrospect: Certainly I can't be so arrogant to think I was Yuri's only friend who he treated so well or shared his life with, he knew so many people he kept in close contact with I wondered how he had the time to do anything else. He was always interested in American history in particular our War for Independence, Civil War and stories of the American West especially the American Indians. He was fascinated by the American language especially our ever changing colloquialisms which invaded our daily dialect. Almost every week he's ask for a translation for this or that or why we use such and such a phrase, of course having so many grandchildren I have a definite edge when it comes to the use or misuse of the English language. Once he asked me where the phrase, "Dying with their boots on" came from, I told him it came from the American Western cavalry soldiers who died in battle, Custer's last stand at the Little Big Horn being my case in point. "Ah, you mean its like going fishing and dying with your waders on", he said. little did we know that's what would happen to him. I got the impression that Yuri's ultimate goal was to bring his home land into prominence in the fly fishing world and offer a look into methods and flies with a total Russian heritage. Whether he succeeded or not time will only tell but he had such a huge impact on so many people of different cultures it would be hard to think otherwise.

  Yuri Shumakov was truly a Renaissance man, my friend, and he will be sorely missed by all whom he came in contact with especially his families in Russia and Sweden.

Bob Kenly 2006 ©
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