February 21, 2012
Kamchatka is about the size of Texas and shares the same longitude and Pacific rim geography as Alaska. However, unlike Alaska, it was never "civilized" by legions of float planes, fishing lodges, and national parks. While Alaska sells more than 250,000 non-resident fishing licenses annually, in recent years Kamchatka has sold fewer than 300 annually. It's like Alaska was 100 years ago—full of rainbows and salmon and char, and hardly anyone fishing there.
I'm floating a virtually untouched river there in July 2012, and I'd like you to join me.
Never Seen a Hook
Kamchatka did have a a bit of a "boom" around the turn of the millennia when a few outfitters in partnership with Russian businesses used army-surplus helicopters to explore the coastal rivers of Russia's farthest eastern territory. While getting around in the wilderness was difficult, getting there was relatively easy until 2008 when Vladivostok Air canceled its direct Anchorage-to-Petropavlovsk flights. Without those flights, Americans had to fly nearly around the world—through Moscow or Seoul—to reach Kamchatka before they could even board a flight bound for a fishing lodge. The time and expense involved with those itineraries threw up such a formidable roadblock, that tourist traffic to Kamchatka fell to a trickle.
Two of Kamchatka's finest trout streams—the Two Yurt and the Ozernaya River—lie within an exclusive fishing zone where a single outfitter (The Best of Kamchatka) has legal fishing rights. When Vladivostok Air cut its direct flights from Anchorage, the outfitter suspended operations there, and those rivers were left untouched during the ensuing seasons.
Now, Vladivostok Air has resumed service to Alaska, and the first fly fishers to arrive the summer of 2012 will not only be fishing in a vast wilderness preserve, but one that has been effectually closed to fishing for four years. Since on many productive trout streams, an adult 20-inch trout is five years old, it's not an exaggeration to say these fish have never seen a fish hook. (If these highly migratory trout did see a hook way back in 2008, they were likely too small to get it in their mouths.)
Here's the good part. When I found out the waters were once again becoming accessible, my mind drifted to those far eastern shores, and I wondered what it would be like to be part of that first expedition down the Two Yurt River. Six fly fishers, three rafts, pushing downstream to a different riverside cabin each night, discovering new braided channels, new riffles and runs gouged by winter ice, and tens of thousands of "new" rainbow trout that have never been fished for, let alone caught.
The Two Yurt is a small, wadable stream, about the size of the West Branch of the Delaware, or the American River in Alaska. The native rainbow trout feed heavily on the eggs and fry of chinook and other Pacific salmon, and of course on aquatic insects, but you don't have to resort to fooling these trout by nymphing with egg imitations. Big flies like skating mice, oversize white muddlers, and big dry flies are the most fun to fish and when the trout are as large and naive as these, you catch them however you prefer.
When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this arises, you seize it. I asked Best of Kamchatka owner Will Blair to reserve the entire first week—the week of July 12 to July 19, 2012—for myself, and a group of five other Fly Fisherman readers. I'm looking forward to it as the adventure of a lifetime. While I've spent the last 25 years pursuing trout all over the world, this is the first time I've ever had the chance to fish a trout stream as good as this in a nearly virgin condition, and I hope you'll join me.
To join our week, call me directly at my office 717-695-8070, and I'll connect you with our outfitter Will Blair at The Best of Kamchatka.