By this time, the drill seems familiar. It all starts a few weeks
before your trip. You begin by piling a bunch of gear on your basement
floor. Then over the next few days, you divide that big pile into a
few smaller piles that fall loosely under the heading of fishing gear,
clothing, camping gear, camera gear, toiletries, etc., etc. You double
up on the important stuff and can the rest. When an item gets put in a
bag, it gets checked off the list. To do otherwise invites pre-trip
paranoia (PTP) that leads to repeated unpacking and repacking.
Eventually, you run out of room in your bag and you have to make some
important choices. If it's a choice between that extra box of flies
and clean underwear, you of course, take the flies. (Packing hint:
you've got the rest of your life to wear clean underwear, but only one
week to catch a 25 inch Kamchatka rainbow on your new mouse pattern). Continuing, you
slide in an extra 6 weight rod and grab a 4wt. and an 8wt. just to cover your
bets. You throw in a sink tip line, even though you know you probably
won't use it. With flies sorted, leaders built, sleeping bag stuffed
and toiletries gathered, you still find time to madly rush about the day
before you depart thus annoying everyone in your family.
Then you fly to Anchorage, where you eat some halibut, drink a few
Alaskan Ambers and most importantly, buy a few more buggers. This
purchase is essential for it is hard to imagine what disaster might
befall you if you don't have that bugger with the big eyes and the
orange marabou tail in your third box of streamers.
The next day, you get up very early (on Friday morning) to take the
6:40 flight to Petropavlovsk which arrives on Saturday but is only a 4
1/2 hour flight (crossing the International Dateline is always
confusing and most of us never quite get a grasp on it, especially when
booking connecting flights or explaining to spouses when we will be
back in the states).
After you arrive in Petro, you go through a very slow and stern customs
process. While waiting, you listen to the other Americans alternately
complain about and then offer opinions on how this mind-numbing process
can be improved. You wonder what the Russians think of us. Last year,
one blue-blooded male with country club lockjaw and a full mane of
silver hair was festooned in a safari suit complete with silk ascot and
a felt fedora with a leopard skin hatband. I saw the Russians roll
their eyes as he passed. I smiled. They did not.
After exiting the terminal, you throw your gear in a truck and jump in
a van or a bus for the ride to the helicopter pad. At the pad, you
keep your eye on your gear and make sure all your bags get on your
chopper. You watch as the beer, gasoline, food, anglers and crew
load-up. Then you plug in your earplugs, watch the rotors circle the
orange fuselage of the big bird and hang on for the ride.
Slowly you lift off then jerkily rise over Petro past the MIG
bunkers and drab Soviet-style apartments. Quickly you're out of town
and into the country. You follow the only road north for a few
minutes, and then it's up and over the saw-toothed peaks past smoking volcanoes and countless
rivers. Finally, you're into one of the finest
unspoiled tracts of wilderness that remain on our big blue ball.
That's how it is supposed to go, and on each of our previous trips to
Kamchatka, that's how it went... flawlessly. But this time, on our way
to the Dvukhyurtochnaya River, there were some surprising twists in this
now familiar drill (from here on in, let's just call it the 2-Yurt
River 'cuz I don't want to continue writing out that tongue twister of
a name). To begin with, the weather in Petro was windy and rainy with a
very low ceiling. To fly a chopper in this weather would have been iffy
at best. In addition, on the 21st of August, a chopper had gone down
and the company that owned the chopper was now grounded by order of
Moscow. Apparently, the pilots had been ordered by the dignitaries on board to fly in marginal
weather. The flight recorder documented the
pilots' protestations that were unfortunately overruled by the
politicians (sometimes it sucks to have power without knowledge... guess
politicians are the same the world over). Combine that crash with a
forest fire and a lost hiker on one of the volcanoes that both
required helicopter support, and the chopper fleet was stretched thin.
As a result, we went directly from the airport to a hotel where we
spent the night hoping for clearer skies.
Rain and wind again greeted us in the morning. At 10:00 a.m., we got
the call to be ready by 11:00 a.m. The weather was improving! To make a
long story short, after many false starts, we left the hotel for the
chopper pad at 6:00 p.m. We didn't get in the air (under a better, but
still low ceiling) until 7:00 p.m. At 9:00 p.m. we refueled, one half
hour short of base camp on the 2-Yurts. We didn't make camp until it
was nearly dark, due to some backtracking and maneuvering to find open
passes. As the sun got lower, we had some nervous moments wondering if
we would have to put down for the night to await the light of dawn.
But we made it just fine and after a quick dinner, we shoved our bone-weary bodies in sleeping bags
and slept soundly in the cozy cabins at base camp.
Morning brought our first view of the camp that was built in a beautiful meadow
beside the 2-Yurt Lake. We soaked in the camp's great hot springs
before breakfast, then ate a delicious meal and choppered downriver to
The next four days involved fishing leisurely from Camp 1 to Camp 2, then
to 2.5 (built because the fishing is so good between 2 and 3) then onto
Camp 3 before finally arriving at Camp 4. We walked between Camps 1
and 2 and used six single catarafts and two doubles to get between each
subsequent camp. At each camp, wooden tent frames marked these
semi-permanent sites. Our staff of six moved a mountain of gear
including tent skins, stoves, kitchen gear and all our personal gear
each day between camps via rafts while we fished. Our camps were very
comfortable and included ingenious warming stoves in each of the
anglers' tents, a cook/dining tent, a shower stall with hot water, a
drying tent for wet gear, two outhouses and an outdoor fire pit. The
only bad news was the no-see-ums at dawn and dusk.
Our meals were wonderful. For breakfast we had fresh REAL coffee and
traditional breakfast foods such as cereal, eggs, ham etc. For lunch,
hot soups and sandwiches were de rigueur and were plentiful and
delicious. For dinner, we enjoyed typical Russian entrees with lots of
fresh fruits and vegetables including wonderful Chinese peaches and
local tomatoes and cucumbers. And man, did we all love that Russian
brown bread! We did not go hungry and we never wanted for anything.
The staff was incredibly accommodating and hardworking. The guides were
knowledgeable and fun to be with. Our cook, Lena, was superb and
very organized. This is a very well organized, very competent
operation. They heard no complaints and much praise from our group.
Thanks again to all of you!
If we had any regret, it was only that because of our loss of one day
while waiting for the weather to clear in Petro, we did not get to
spend a day exploring around base camp. Instead, we had to begin
fishing at Camp 1 to get back on schedule. Maybe next year!
The 2-Yurt is a small river shallow enough to wade across in many
spots. It is not always easy wading, especially in the upper river.
Fast water and slick boulders require anglers to be diligent,
conservative and mentally prepared for such conditions. Due to these
wading conditions, we were a tired group when we reached Camp 2 at the
end of our first day. Cold beer, a great dinner and a warm tent
smoothed out most of these wrinkles!
Each day the river changes its complexion and feel. The 2-Yurt goes
from fast, riffly water on day 1 to classic slower spring creek runs
that lead into a section of pool/drop rapids on day 2. The river goes
then into a wonderful braided section on day 3 that has a little bit of
everything and ends at the first big pool on the river that is just
loaded with fat grayling that are very cooperative on a dry fly. Our
last day saw the river settle back and relax into a series of deep,
slow runs punctuated by shallow gravel shelves. The 2-Yurt then changed
yet again and spread out into broad slicks, dotted with weed beds
layered over with gin clear water. This is classic mousing water and it
did not disappoint. (On this last day, I caught 25 'bows over 20 inches
with the biggest being 25 inches and lost count of the number of big
grayling I landed.)
The best fishing for rainbows was between Camp 2 to well beyond Camp 3.
We caught rainbows up to 25 and one half inches, mainly on mice and
streamers (especially white Clousers and wooly buggers often opting for
the egg sucking variety). Rainbows held behind rocks, especially near
the banks. On slower stretches, snags, tree trunks, rocks and cut banks
often held big fish. The average 'bow was 20 inches, but 21 to 23 inch
fish were caught every day. Most of these 'bows were fat and very hot.
They didn't jump often, but they were powerful and well suited to a 6
or 7 wt. We also caught three species of char (including a kundja), a 10 lb. jack
king and hundreds of grayling on everything from mice to skated dries
to big ugly streamers to glow bugs. A typical grayling was 16 to 17
inches, but 18 to 20 inch fish were common. One note, we used small
hooks on non-articulated mouse patterns. Because the 'bows took the
mice patterns so aggressively, articulated or big hook patterns were
swallowed too deeply and caused too much damage to effectively call
this "catch and release" fishing. We recommend small hooks and
attentive hook sets. If you delay, the 'bows put the flies "down the
gullet" very quickly.
Having said that, the takes by these big 'bows were classic and
thrilling. Cast to the bank, watch a big wake jet 5 to 10 feet, then
watch as the 'bow's whole head would appear before opening a white
mouth that would inhale your fly. My favorite section of the 2-Yurt
was between Camp 2.5 to below Camp 3. In this magnificent water, you
could see the 'bows confidently leave their bankside lairs to attack
your fly. This is classic big rainbow fishing. Wade, fish and then move on to cover all the
holding spots. With each new bend and turn
offering a new puzzle, you decipher the hydrodynamics, then cast and perhaps catch. You're always moving,
always enthralled, often rewarded and always challenged. Even though
you often are fishing alone due to the use of the single catarafts, you find yourself muttering, "That was
cool!" into the whispering clear 2-Yurt as it swallows up all that
remains of your last big 'bow.
Streamers were most successful when dead-drifted then stripped
S-L-O-W-L-Y on the swing. Also, dropping streamers in the moving water
then slowly stripping them up through bankside eddies worked well.
The 2-Yurt is a fantastic, really beautiful stream. Small as a
Michigan brook, the banks are lined with pine and birch. High hills
and rocky ridges provide a dramatic view from the well-chosen
campsites. This scenery makes sipping a cold libation at the end of a
great day of fishing a true pleasure.
We had a tremendous group on this trip. Dr. Charlie Walter added his
droll sense of humor and relaxed whatever-happens-happens attitude
while Dick Davis contributed similar skills when he wasn't laughing at
Charlie! These old friends are from Angling Destination's hometown of
Sheridan, Wyoming. It was a rare treat for me to be with some hometown
compatriots. Dick's son, Newt, was an added bonus, possessing both a
great sense of humor and a fluent grasp of Russian. Old friends Dr.
Craig Johnston, Dr. Stephen Peskoe and Dick Hanousek made this trip a
true pleasure. We have shared adventures all over the globe including
the Seychelles, French Polynesia, the Bahamas, Chile and Alaska and we
always enjoy seeing and fishing with each other. Thanks guys for
another great trip and certainly one of our best!
Our outfitter Victor got us as promised (if the weather looked
threatening), off the river and into Kozyrevsk on Thursday night. We
decided to go to Petro by bus as the weather there was sketchy and we
wanted to make sure we made our once weekly flight home. We dined at a
local "disco" and slept well at our guesthouse. At 7:00 a.m. we headed
south, took the ferry across the Kamchatka River, had lunch in another
nightclub in Milkovo, enjoyed the hot springs and showers of Malkynsky
and got into Petro at 6:00 p.m. in time for some shopping. The rest was
This was a great trip with difficult logistics. It lived up to our
expectations and turned out to be a great adventure. We saw much more
of the real Kamchatka on this trip, experienced some sensational
fishing and had a great time with each other and our Russian hosts.
Four of our group are already making plans to return to Kamchatka next
summer to fish a "new" river that Victor promises is even better than
the 2-Yurt! Given our experience this year, we have no reason to doubt