Two Yurt River, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
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After several months of anticipation and days of packing we were finally ready. On August 31 Martin and I flew from Seattle to Anchorage to be ready for our flight on Vladivostok Air to Petropavlovsk, Russia, the next morning. Vladivostok Air offered fine service, including a full meal, and we landed at 11 AM in Petro. After a two hour delay clearing Russian immigration we met our new friends John, Justin, and Sam who would join us on the Two Yurt River and loaded aboard a bus for a 3 1/2 hour ride via a gravel "road". Next stop a large field where our MI-8 helicopter was waiting for the final leg of our journey to camp, with three stops along the way for fuel, to let off passengers destined for the Ozernaya River, and to pick up camp staff and boats who had floated down river with last week's party.
After leaving our Anchorage hotel at 4:30 AM it is a major understatement to say we were happy to arrive at our first camp about 8:30 PM, unpack and have dinner about 10 PM. We would spend two nights at this first camp, then float down river each day to a different site. Each camp was similar and all were located in beautiful surroundings. Sleeping quarters were two person A Frames. Each had a wood stove, although Martin and I did not use ours. There was also a wooden bed with a 1" foam pad. Breakfast and dinner were served in a large tent where Sergey prepared plenty of good Russian food. There was always a big pot of oatmeal and a huge omelet for breakfast, excellent soup and more food than an army could eat for dinner, including fresh vegetables. Anyone who left the table hungry had only himself to blame.
IIt's finally time to fish. On day one we followed guide and bear gun bearer for an hour across country to intercept the river about 3 miles or so upstream from camp and then spent the rest of the day fishing back to camp. Remaining days were spent drifing in inflatable rafts with most fishing done while wading. Anton guided and rowed for Martin and me, while Keyreel - spelled as close as I can come to how he told me to procounce his name - took John, Justin, and Sam. In addition to the normal equipment one expects a guide to carry at all times Anton was responsible for keeping his bear rifle handy. We only saw one bear but they did visit our camps during the night, and the guides had to chase one away early the second morning.
Flying a few hundred miles over total wilderness and then floating and wading this most remote water was an experience far beyond simply great fishing. The Two Yurt river was never fished before the year 2000 when Will Blair and Victor Rebrikov first explored it as a possible destination for visiting anglers. Since then they have hosted about 350 - 375 fly fishermen. The Kamchatka Peninsula is virtually uninhabited with the exception of a few widely scattered native villages near the coast. The Two Yurt River is many miles from the nearest village. Obtaining the fish they need for food from the salmon streams near their homes, local villagers have no interest in hiking many miles through the forest to fish for trout. Thus, those 350 - 375 fishermen who have found their way since 2000 are very likely the only people who have ever fished the river and among the few who have ever seen it.
The majority of our fish were in the 18 - 19" size range, with a few over 20". The guides used measure nets and measured every fish. We caught mostly Rainbows, quite a few Grayling. Members of our group got a couple of Char and one Kunja. All Rainbows must be released. Using large mouse patterns was a new experience for all of us. And a thrilling one. When one of those large Rainbows decided he was going to attack a mouse, attack is exactly what he did. This was no "taking" of the fly, this was an explosion.
Fishing done, it's time to head for home. Our trusty MI-8 arrived on time at 10:30 AM, we returned to Petro, stopping to pick up the group of fishermen at the Ozernaya River and for fuel. We arrived at Petropavlovsk at 3:15, hung around the airport area until 10 PM departure time. After our Vladivostok Air flight to Anchorage, Alaska Airline to Seattle, and drining home it was about 3:30 PM when I got home. Total travel time for return including time changes: 25 hours.
A final thought on something important this trip has to say about our world. Those of us who spent the Cold War years sailing around the Pacific will remember photos similar to this one. The differnece is that those were satellite photos in target folders, this was taken from the passenger window of a Russian airliner by an American on a fishing trip. During those years we knew of Petropavlovsk primarily as the home of the Soviet Pacific submarine fleet, and the home of the Soviet long range Bear bombers and surveillance aircraft. Those submarines and aircraft followed the ships I sailed and targeted the US while the US forces I was part of targeted Petropavlovsk. Would either have been "the winner"? Now an American can fly in a Russian airliner to Petropavlovsk to connect with a Russian military operated helicompter for a fishing trip. A Russian citizen can reverse the trip, and many do. Our world is a better place.