I had been preparing the tackle for a bunch of mates heading off to Kamchatka in Russia, months before their trip. Listening to all the stories of this last frontier, the jealousy was starting to kick in from my side.
Two weeks before the group were to depart on their adventure I got a call from the team informing me that one off the guys had fallen ill and wasn’t going to be able to make the trip. The offer was too good to be true, a trip to Kamchatka doing a float trip on the world renowned Zhupanova River. I sat frantically tying flies night after night preparing for the trip of a life time. Tying new patterns and articulated Dali Lama flies by the dozen, white and black, olive and white were the colours suggested by the guiding outfitters. Morrish mice and the Hanky Mouse on the floating lines.
We all fished the new Xplorer T-50 7weight outfits with the RIO InTouch Big Nasty 4D WF7 F/I/S3/S5 fly lines for the streamer fishing and the RIO Intouch Gold WF8 Floating lines for casting the wind resistant Mice patterns.
The long journey departed from Johannesburg to Dubai, to Moscow to Petropavlovsk and then onto the renowned helicopter trip into the vast wilderness of Kamchatka. Flying over snow capped volcanoes and hundreds of glacier melt rivers flowing in all directions, a sight too beautiful to describe.
We arrived at our first camp on the Zhuponava River high up on what the guides called the “spring creek”. We all tackled up frantically and started to wet a line around camp as the guides got the drift boats ready for the trip that would cover over 90km over 6 days and 6 nights.
The excitement was all too much with very little sleep the first night all ready to head off on the trip of a life time.
We started the drift casting heavily weighted Dali Lama streamers as we made our way down stream, casting towards structure. The first hour or two was quite challenging getting in tune with the bears hunting the salmon all around us, something I had only witnessed on documentaries. The amount of salmon on the last leg of their life’s journey was mind blowing, all trying to get the spawn in before they start dying.
With a river of this size there was no shortage of water to fish. Both anglers on the boat had ample chances to cover the structure where you would expect the Rainbows to hold. As the day went by and the Rainbows started to show themselves, chasing down streamers right up to the boat. The size of these wild native trout was mind blowing. They were the most aggressive fish I have ever seen. With the fast flowing waters and the strength of these fish we used RIO Powerflex Plus tippet material in 0X -18LB, strong enough to land the fish quickly, these fish are certainly not tippet shy.
I had heard about the mouse fishing on the Zhupanova River and had to give this a go. Finding the right water for the mouse is important as you need to wade the river casting the mouse at a 45 degree angle to the bank skating the mouse on the current. The thought of one of these aggressive Bows attacking a mouse on the surface had me going. Finally my Guide Noah Thompson stopped the drift and asked me to mouse a bank that looked totally fishy, he didn’t have to ask twice and I was in the drink wading and casting the mouse. A couple of casts skating the Hanky Mouse off the bank and across the current had these Bows rolling on the mouse every other cast. The hook ups were amazing with fish in the excess of 70cm crushing the mouse and fighting hard.
The fish on this special piece of heaven get very little pressure throughout a season, only 8 weeks a year and six anglers max over a week. This is the reason you need to book at least two years in advance as the demand from fly anglers across the globe is high to fish this place that words can not explain. There are five different salmon species around in the month of August as well as the migration of the giant Kundzha or the white spotted char.
Above Noah Thompson with a fish of his life time measuring 37 Inches and his first Kundzha ever after guiding three seasons on the Zhupanova River. The Kundzha are strong and put a proper bend in your rod with powerful runs and a dogged fight.
I am planning a return trip in 2023 and looking for some clients willing to explore the Zhupanova river with me as a hosted trip. Give me a call if you’re keen to join me.