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Word is that yet another airline may be stepping up to offer direct air service from Alaska to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Vladivostok Airlines has supposedly secured TSA and FAA approvals and is working on getting DOT approvals to fly in and out of Anchorage. Rumor is that airline officials are interested in this route not just for the seasonal Kamchatka travel, but also for the extensive year-round travel by the oil and gas industry and by Japanese tourists traveling to Eastern Russia and Alaska. It’s too early to know if or when Vladivostok would begin flights, and we’re not about to speculate as to their commitment, but we will keep an eye on any developments.

In the meantime, we have received our first two reports on those trips to Kamchatka via Seoul, South Korea. Subscribers John Weaver and Dan Masdeo both fished in mid-July with Will Blair of The Best of Kamchatka and report some travel-related complications. Masdeo flew with Korean Air, which he rates a 6 in service on a scale of 1 to 10 but does not report any major hiccups. Weaver, however, flew on Asiana Airlines, South Korea’s second major airline, with a connection in Seoul aboard Vladivostok Airlines. Weaver provides a multi-page detailed account of the various complications his group encountered, including security issues in Seoul that made carrying fly rods through the airport a problem and a chaotic and laborious check-in process with Vladivostok Airlines, which he says was very uncooperative when it came to upgrades and transferring air miles. Both also reported delays with helicopter flights that cost them fishing time. In sum, the travel was not the smoothest of experiences.

As for the fishing, Masdeo reports catching 10 to 40 rainbows a day up to 24 inches while fishing the Two Yurt River. Weaver fished the Levaya River and says fishing was great at times, but sporadic. He says his great days saw him land 20 fish up to 20 inches. Both Masdeo and Weaver remarked that the Russian guides they were assigned were not true fishing guides/fly fishermen who could advise them on techniques and flies. Moreover, they spoke very little English. Masdeo and Weaver also noted that the camps were on the rough side. If you are looking for a well-organized, on-time, sanitary trip to Kamchatka, I think you may as well cancel your plans, Masdeo concludes. If you are looking for a grand adventure with good fishing thrown in, this is a trip to consider.

We sent both reports to our Kamchatka fishing expert, Tim Jones, who says he would not consider either of these reports particularly negative, even though Masdeo concludes that the trip was too expensive for what he got and the fishing not as good as he had hoped. Jones points out that both of these anglers fished the first couple of weeks of the season, which are more of a gamble than mid-season trips. But he also says that 10 to 40 rainbows a day from 20 to 24 inches is amazing fishing by any standards. He concurs that most of the guides on Kamchatka indeed cannot communicate very well, or pass on any technical information, but says the Kamchatka Peninsula is not the place for beginners anyway.

As for lodging in that part of the world, Jones agrees that no one should expect First World-standard housing on Kamchatka. The lodges there tend to be wilderness camps, he says, which means tents and outhouses. Personally, though, in all his travels to Kamchatka, Jones says sanitary conditions were never an issue with him and he found the meals were excellent for a wilderness destination.

As for helicopter delays, Jones says this is just part of the experience of traveling to such a remote location. Bad weather conditions on Kam- chatka are a given. Conditions at the helicopter base are not usually the same as they are at the rivers or Petropavlovsk, so what looks likes unnecessary delays sometimes are actually safety-related hold-ups. In my experience safety and schedules aren’t always compatible on Kamchatka, and the Russians are very professional about safety, he says. If you go to Russia, you simply must accept unexplained delays as part of the experience, he warns.

Jones also concludes that whether you are flying to Kamchatka by Moscow or Seoul, you must be prepared for a very long trip with numerous hiccups along the way. The fishing on Kamchatka is so good because it is a very remote destination that is difficult to reach. Anglers with a low tolerance level for complications, who expect things to run smoothly and on time, or who need comfort and a lot of direction, are not right for this destination, he says. End of story.

(Postscript: Anyone else have feedback on Kamchatka? We’re eager to hear from you.)

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