Lies, Damm Lies and Statistics, Thoughts and Beards

This will be my last post on my trip to Kamchatka,  it was an epic trip and it feels like an epic amount of work to chronicle it. When reading the stats please keep in mind that they may be wildly inaccurate, I only recorded the catched in the evenings when I got back to camp, so there may be some inaccuracies as I tried to keep count of up to 5 different species of fish in one day, the memory may or may not have been helped by the occasional shot of Vodka and definitely by the occasional lunch time beer.

Distances were measured by dropping pins on the Google “my map” app on my Samsung S6, no exploding screen issues there. The accuracy of the pins seems to be exceptional, the phone was only using the GPS system as it had no phone signal to correct off. The main issue is that when we were traveling I was generally interested in what was going on and forgot to record where we were, so some of the bus distances are rather rubbery.

Basic Stats

Distances Traveled  Comment
Jet 6000 km 4 legs
Helicopter 1000 km 3 trips, 8 legs
Boat & Bus 306 km 5 times
Raft 80 km
Walked 81,000+ Steps
Time
Days away from home 19 days  18 nights
Travle days 6.5  days  0.5 day for transfer
Fishing Days 11.5  days
Tourist days 1  days  boat trip
Fishing
Species Caught 7
Total Fish Caught 300+
Best Day 50+
Worst Day 10  Av size 20+ inch
Biggist Fish 26 Inch
Smallest Fish 6-8 inch
Average Fish 18 – 20 inch
Accommodation
Hotel 2 Nights
Guest house 3 Nights
Cabin 7 Nights
Tent 6 Nights

The number of steps were measured by the pedometer in my phone, I suspect that they are rather under recorded, mainly because I didn’t carry my phone all the time and for the fishing days I only averaged 3,000 steps, this seems odd as I normally walk 10,000 steps a day and I do an office job, it could have been something to do with wading and the step pattern being all wrong for the phone to measure.

The hotel and guest house averaged about $60/night.

Cured Salmon and Salmon Caviar in Vladivostok Airport

Thoughts and Questions answered

Would I do it again? Yes!!! an easy one to start with, I would not do the same trip alone again, but one of the other trips or with a group of friends I would be straight back there.

Are the Russians Cool?  Hell yes, the outfitting group were super cool and nice.

Was it luxurious? No, We were very well looked after but if it is a 5 star resort, h’aute cuisine and foot massage you are after don’t go ou will hate it. Some times it got uncomfortable, cold, wet and I was attacked by insects, but it was never even close to unbearable.

Was it Good Value for money? Who knows…. I have never been on a comparable trip, I doubt that there is comparable fishing anywhere else but in Kamchatka, and if there is it costs just as much. The wilderness and fishing values are unmatched, and in a strange sort of way the cultural experience was great too.

Was it awkward spending 2 weeks in a tent with a stranger? No, we weren’t strangers for long, we all had a good attitude and just got on with it. As per my answer to the would I do it again, I would love the opportunity to fish with the guys I traveled with.

Did I take the right Gear? Generally yes, it felt like I had too many warm cloths, but we mainly had sunny warm weather, if we had two weeks that were like the coldest day I am sure that I would have appreciated the warm cloths.  I would make some small adjustments to the equipment I brought, the 6# Guideline bullet was not up to the job of turning over the large mouse flies and streamers, but it was perfect for the dry flies, next time a Rio outbound short will replace it. The 8# outfit was spot on, I would suggest that any one going for 2 weeks make their primary outfit a 8#. Other than that the information provided by the Fly shop was good.

Beards at work in Korea

One of the final cultural thing that I had not been expecting was when I got back to work in Korea. As is normal for me (and most people) I didn’t shave while I was on holiday, I actually didn’t take any shaving gear, it seemed unnecessary, so when I got back to work I had three weeks growth. To my astonishment I had lots of very weird reactions to me having a beard, the most common (from younger men who make up the majority of the people I work with) was a hello when I got back to the office, then giggle and say something like “you grew a beard” giggle and not be able to look me in the eye and then run away. This happened time and again. The female reaction was far more variable, from “a beard, that is very manly” to the giggle and run.

Eventually at a team dinner, after several beers and shots of soju one of the juniors summoned up the courage to tell me I must shave my beard off. The reasoning was not all that coherent but there were things such as the Bosses would think I was not ready to work unless I was clean-shaven, beard were dirty, they caused embarrassment to people who could not grow one and several other things that I didn’t fully understand. After about three weeks I relented and shaved it off, the next day at work all was back to normal????? All just a unique cultural situation in Korea.

Next a weekend in Tokyo, Mt Fuji and Hakone.

Advertisements

Day 17, Wilderness Camp 6 to Petropavlovsk

Monday, August 8

Today 521 km, Total 4303 km

The Boys with their toys, no tree was safe!!

Today was the day we were leaving the river and heading home, I was hoping for and early departure so that I could get the evening flight to Vladivostok, it was not to be. We got up had breakfast and the guides called in and we were told that the chopper would arrive at about 10:40, all was looking good.  We packed our bags and packed up the camp and then to kill time the guides allows us all to  have a shot from their guns, however to do the they made us all wear a funny russian hat, the bushes in the middle of the river stood no chance.  After the bushes and river had been thoroughly shot up we packed the guns away and waited for the Chopper.

At almost exactly 10:40 a helicopter was heard then sighted coming down the river, we all took our position on the river bank with the luggage between us and the landing area and then squatted down. The helicopter was coming down the river and passed by us by about 50m, we were expecting that it would pass us then turn round and land into the wind. But it just kept going, it didn’t slow it didn’t turn it just kept going down river. There were lots of confused looks and WTF is going on discussion, after 5 minutes the head guide tried to ring Anatole again, no answer, that most likely meant that he was in the air and on his way. The helicopter did not return and we never found out what it was doing, other than the fishing operation it was the only sigh of human life that we had seen for the entire trip.

We waited another hour and a half ish and finally a different helicopter arrived. Anatole emerged from it with cold beer, Bliss!!! So we stood arround and had a well deserved cold beer while the guides packed the helicopter with the entire camp and rafts and luggage. Once that was done we all boarded the helicopter and we were on our way!!

 

Packing the Helicopter

But not for far, the helicopter took off, gained 5 to 10m, turned round 180° the flew about 50m then descended to about 1m and the load master opened the door and jumped out and then gave the pilot directions backward and forward, up and down for a couple of minutes until we landed again. At that point with the rotors still under light load the seven fishermen (including me) and one guide, one dog, a couple of bags and a box of beer were unceremoniously off loaded and then the helicopter departed with out us. Apparently it was overloaded and would be back in about the time it would take us to drink the beer.

20160808_144644

Tom, flat-out working, waiting for the helicopter to return.

So with the conversation revolving round how we would fashion a hunting speer using just the trees around us and a beer tin, we set to work to drink the beer (just to ensure we had some aluminum to make the tip of the hunting spear).  After each of us had a couple of beers the helicopter duly returned minus the wilderness camp crew, equipment and supplies for the coming week. We boarded it and flew to the Sedanka Lower camp to pick up the other fishing party and the Sedanka guides and equipment.

Me lying on the rafts near the back of the helicopter and the Sedanka guides having a beer  in the very back of the Helicopter

We arrived at the lower camp and said our hello’s to the other group and the guides, and the helicopter was loaded and we boarded. The helicopter went to take off just got in the air and then landed again. I was thinking “shit not again, we will run out of beer shortly”, however it was a balance issue and we just need to move some weight further back in the helicopter. So the back doors were opened and some of the guides climbed into the back of the helicopter and the doors were closed again and securely fastened with their piece of string!!! I and a couple of others crawled towards the back of the helicopter and lay on top of the rafts and other equipment.  This time the helicopter got airborne and I flew the entire trip from the lower to upper Sedanka camp in this position.

We made it to the Upper Sedanka camp and off-loaded the equipment, supplies and guides,  picked up a guide and a Korean outfitter who were hosting the group that would be fishing the following week. Then it was up up and away, no problems taking off this time, we were heading to a different refueling heliport near Esso.

Lined up at the bathroom at Esso

Once we crossed the mountain range the weather closed in some what and there wasn’t a huge ceiling between the mountains and the cloud base, however we made good progress and soon we were at the heliport in Esso refueling. Buy the time we made it to Esso it was certain that I would not make the flight to Vladivostok. Lucky I had reservations for a room at Martha’s and flights for the following days.

Tired bodies on the last leg back to Petropavlosk-Kamchatskiy

The final leg from Esso to Petropavlosk-Kamchatskiy took almost 2 hours, there was not all that much chatter, we were all tried and most of us slept during the flight. once we were on the ground we were transferred by bus back to the airport where we said our good bys to the americans and Oystein, Bob, Gene and myself continued  on  to Martha’s for a warm shower and Bed!!!!

Day 16, Wilderness Camp 6, last day on the river and a birthday party

Sunday, August 7

Today 21 km, Total 3782 km

20160807_060804
Early Morning Camp 5

Our last day floating the river, we had longer than usual to go as we were a day short on the float as we had an extra day in the lower Sedanka Camp due to the weather and the helicopter not being able to pick us up.

Making our way down river and clearing fallen trees to allow us to continue

It was a glorious sunny day, and the fishing was solid but not spectacular, but I still managed a 24 inch rainbow.  After lunch we reached the junction with the Sedanka, here we wer about 10km below the lower Sedanka camp and the river was wider and faster but still full of fish.

20160807_213420
impromptu washing line

Bu the time we made it to camp I was ready to have a break from fishing, and wanted to get myself clean and into a clean and dry set of cloths. Since the camp ground was chosen as a place that the helicopter could pick us up from there were no trees close to it, so nowhere to set up a shower. Therefore getting clean involved a swim in the river, it was cold…. it took my breath away, but I managed to wash properly with soap so I was no longer smelly, it was my first proper wash in 4 days, Oh I felt so much better. Once dry, with dry and clean set of cloths I was a whole new man.  I was thankful that everyone else in the camp also took the opportunity to get clean.

IMGP7678
Fishing finished, relaxing by the river

Once the day was done we relaxed with the last couple of beers beside the river.

20160807_204919
Dinner Spud & Fried Pork

Dinner its self was OK, tasted good but there wasn’t much to it, Spud and Fried pork. The reason was soon apparent.  As soon as dinner was over  Tatiana arrived with a cake, WTF we had been six days on the river and there was a cake with candles. So it was cake, shots of vodka and shots, we sang happy birthday then the guides gave Brian a happy birthday salvo. The guides had 20g shotguns, they were loaded with flares, so the camp was lit up with the green and purple glow of the flares.

A no bake birthday cake and Bryan with his birthday mug

Playing with cameras and some late night snacks

After dinner we gathered round the camp fire, relaxed, swapped stories, dank all the remaining vodka in camp, not that there was all that much of it to start with. As the night progressed the photographers started to  play and we took some very interesting photographs that light painting and similar techniques were used.  Then it was sleep.

 

Day 15, Wilderness Camp 5, completed the Salmon Slam

Saturday, 6 August

Today 11 km, Total 3761 km

20160806_091430

Camp 5, was well hidden on a small island

Catching another nice Rainbow just down stream from camp 5

20160806_154114
A Pink Salmon, the female humpback salmon

During the afternoon I completed my slam of Salmon in the river, I landed (and photographed this time) a Pink Salmon which is the female  humpback salmon. It was fresh run and large for a humpback, it would have been nearing the 3kg mark.

Although we saw no bears on the Turusheva we were constantly reminded of their presence, the trampled grass, fresh paw prints, the guides guns and the dogs suddenly barking in the middle of the night. Although it would have been sad to see a bear shot the dogs I was glad that we had the dogs and experienced guides.

20160806_194704
Borscht, of some sort, the longer we were from supplies the more creative the meals were.

Day 14, Wilderness Camp 4

Friday, 5 August

Today 11 km, Total 3750 km

Morning in camp 3 prior to departure

Today the fishing picked up and I caught many nice dolly vardon and rainbow trout, for the first time on the trip rainbows were no the most numerous fish caught. There are some very big predator fish in this river system, I caught a 20 inch ish dolly with two sets of matching teeth marks about half way up it, the teeth that made the marks were small, my guess would be that they were made by a huge rainbow, who knows, it was just something big.

Me with another nice Dolly

20160805_131810

Lunch on the River, when bread gets a bit stale, soak it in egg and fry it, all yummy.

20160805_17220320160805_172201

What fish is this???

In the afternoon, I caught yet another odd fish, we thought that it was a “Jack” or early returning salmon of some sort, the dots and bars were more like a Coho salmon, but they should not have been in the river at that time of year. No positive identification was made.

IMGP7596
What liquid? Beer, Vodka or Soup? (all 3 perhaps)

 

IMGP7624
Guides planning the next day

 

Day 13, Wilderness Camp 3

Thursday, 4 August

Today 9 km, Total 3739 km

20160804_071147

Early morning Cuppa at Turushever Camp 2 prior to departure

By now we were settling into a routine, get up, have a coffee, ablute, check gear, pack, start to disassemble camp, breakfast, complete packing and load rafts, head off and fish.

20160804_082754
Crepes and Jam for Breakfast

Food today was crepes and jam for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch on the river and soup and stew for dinner. One thing that worked very well in camp was the squeezy packs (as per the photo above) that many things came in, this included jam, mustard, mayo, sweetened condensed milk, and so on. We just had to be a little careful as they only had russian writing on them and they all appeared in the middle of the table together, a mustard crepe was interesting!!!

At all the meals there was a pile of snacks for us to put in our pockets for the days fishing.  During the first week Gene who was in his late 60’s often repeated the lines from, the bucket list “never trust a fart, never waste an erection…….” then he added “never leave a Snickers behind, you never know when you will need food”. So all of us got in the habit of grabbing a Snickers as we finished a meal. When I got home and was unpacking and sorting out my gear I must have found a dozen Snickers in various states of mangledness in all sorts of places.

According to my catch record today was the slowest days fishing of the entire trip for me, still I managed to catch a 23 inch rainbow and several nice fish and lost a very large rainbow. Also I also caught the smallest fish of the trip an 8 inch salmon smolt.

20160804_173146
Eagles Nest

During this part of the trip we were starting to get to know the guides they all had interesting and diverse backgrounds, the cook, Tatiana is half Russian half Korean from Sakhalin island, and the  camp hand Pablo is one of the local indigenous people. One of the great pleasures of the trip was sitting round the camp fire in the evenings hearing from these people and about their lives.

20160804_193231
A natural tinny cooler

Day 12, Wilderness Camp 2, new river new species of salmon

Wednesday, 3 August

Today 8 km, Total 3730 km

20160803_075527
Breakfast

Breakfast consisted of porridge and sausage!! Generally I don’t particularly like porridge but this was different, it had all sorts of dried fruit and bits of goodness in it, it seemed rather complicated for camp cooking, I later discovered it was just an oat based muesli that had been boiled with milk and water, simple!!!.

The Turushever was different in characteristic to the Sedanka, it had more narrow sections with deep slow pools and less riffley sections. The first morning was slow as we readjusted our fishing technique, generally we were catching Kundzha from the shadows under the bank.  However we were still catching our share of nice rainbows

Oystein with another nice Rainbow, after a week he still couldn’t keep the smile off his face

In the afternoon the fishing picked up and we were getting fish form both banks and mid stream, I was fishing the sunny bank as I had fished the shade in the morning and had the better of the fishing.  Mid afternoon I hooked and landed a Cherry Salmon, a fresh run female of about  20 inches, I was fishing alone (say 50m from Oystein and the guide) so I attempted to hold the fish in one hand, rod between my knees and camera in the other hand,  a sure recipe for disaster. And of course the fish made a dash for freedom as I was fiddling with the camera, the fish went one way and shook the hook out, the rod went another and the camera ended up in the river. There was no real problem the rod and camera were undamaged but I had no photo of the fish :-(.

 

Marking the extent of the poisoning on my arm and two swollen hands

I may have sounding like the trip was all beer and skittles (or vodka and fishing) but there were some things that were uncomfortable, one was the biting insects, I used a substantial amount of DEET but never the less I (and everyone else) had many bites, some of these bites did not agree with me, my left hand swelled up like a football and there was red swelling moving up my arm.   I assume that it was from the insect bites but it could have been anything.  The general consensus round camp was that it was most likely an allergic reaction to one of the bites, and I needed an anti histamine, benadryl were magically found (thank you Tom). So I had dinner, benadryl and a shot of vodka and disappeared into the world of nod for over 9 hours, it was still light when I went to bed and everyone else was still up.

The sleep was good for me, but the next morning the swelling was similar and the redness had not spread further up my arm. It was not particularly uncomfortable and since it was not getting worse I figured that there was no real problem. There wasn’t, it took three days for the worst of the swelling to go and over a week for it to be back to normal.

20160803_194331

Turushever Camp 2