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Another Kamchatka Peninsula fishing report came in this month, and it is every bit as positive as the one we received last month. This part of the fishing world is in the headlines, you’ll recall, because direct air service to the area from Anchorage, Alaska, resumed this past summer. Clearly, if that new air service continues, Kamchatka is set to explode in popularity. It has been likened by many to Alaska as it was 40 years ago. Returning anglers are giving the area off-the-chart reviews.
The new report that came in this month is from subscriber Kenneth Spint, who fished the Zhupanova River this past August 1–9 with the Fly Shop (www.theflyshop.com). He writes:
“Since I had no previous experience with steelhead fishing and most of my recent fly fishing was for tropical species from a flats boat, a trip to Kamchatka was not high on my bucket list. Well, it should have been. It was an amazing trip, and I can truthfully say, a life-enhancing one. When Ryan Peterson at the Fly Shop described the trip as being part scenic, part fishing, and part experiencing Russian people and their culture, I was intrigued and signed up. He was right on all of those counts.
“My first surprise was the Yakutia Airlines aircraft I flew from Anchorage to Russia. It was a brand-new Boeing 737-700 with gracious and attractive flight attendants (think Maria Sharapova). I had something different in mind, but this was an excellent sign of good things to come. The four-hour flight left and arrived on time. We were met at the airport in Petropavlovsk and taken to a large orange-and-blue helicopter (Mi-8) for the 45-minute flight to Zendzur Lodge.
“Once you left Petropavlovsk there was nothing but vast, uninhabited country with many large mountains (up to 12,000 feet in altitude) partially covered with snow. Some were active volcanoes. Zendzur Lodge is composed of a half-dozen two-story log buildings that can accommodate six fishermen plus staff. All the rooms were clean, had flush toilets, showers, and steam heat. After morning coffee, breakfast was at 8 a.m., which is when we got our boat assignments—two fishermen and one guide per aluminum johnboat.
“Each day we alternated the three different beats of the Zhupanova River. The total distance covered was 20 to 25 miles, and you never saw another fishing boat the entire day. Every day during the lunch break, the guide would set up a table and chairs and serve a variety of meats, cheese, fruit, and freshly caught Dolly Varden cooked over a campfire. We stopped fishing around 6 p.m., with most of us retiring to the lodge’s hot springs to relieve aching arm and neck muscles. Dinner was at 8 p.m. Most of us were so exhausted that we retired around 9:30 and slept like we were in a coma.
“The fishing was very productive for everyone. I believe all of us got the biggest trout and char (Kundzha and Dolly Varden) of our lives. The Kundzha is a Siberian white-spotted char that spawns in rivers and returns to the ocean. The rainbows are not steelhead, but resident fish. The average daily catch for targeted fish (Kundzha and rainbow) was about 10, with slightly more than half of those being rainbows. The fish were between 20 and 33 inches, with most of the Kundzha measuring slightly longer. If you added Dolly Varden to your count, your daily take could easily be 30-plus fish. My largest rainbow measured 30 inches, and my largest Kundzha 29 inches.
“The river was filled with spawning salmon (pinks, jacks, and silvers), and we all occasionally caught them though none of us specifically targeted them. Most of the fishing was with streamers (dark black or purple leech pattern was very successful) cast downstream, with most hookups taking place in fast water. My favorite was fishing with the mouse pattern both in active water and up against the bank in the deep holes. The hookup with streamer was very obvious, a sharp tug and large splash, dramatic bending of the rod and a run that took you into your backing. With the mouse it tended to be more subtle, commencing with a small amount of activity just behind the fly followed by the fish sucking the fly down with a big splash. The guides called the take a ‘toilet flush.’ The rainbows were the only fish that could be depended upon to jump.
“The Zhupanova is a freestone river some 130 miles in length. The section we fished was the middle portion of it. It is a fast-moving stream with slippery rocks that require cleated boots. There were some areas I didn’t feel comfortable wading. In those areas, I fished from the boat.
“Bears were numerous but not threatening. We generally had the lodge dog (a Laika) with us, and when he spotted them he would bark, jump off the boat, swim to the bears, and chase them back into the bush. We didn’t need any other deterrent.”
Postscript: Spint gives the cost of the trip package he bought as $5,950, but says total out-of-pocket expense was just over $11,000, including one night in a hotel in Anchorage ($280), domestic air ($1,600, presumably business or first class), travel insurance ($700), air service to and from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk ($1,800), guide tip ($600), and Russian visa ($100). He warmly recommends the experience to fellow subscribers