“Spasiba Igor.” “Pazhalsta Michael,” Igor replied as he expertly netted another big shouldered, beautifully black spotted Kamchatka rainbow. After removing the streamer from the trout’s huge mouth, Igor laid it gently on his measure board. “25 inches. Big fish.” Barely noon, on a warm humid August day, we had already repeated the same routine ten times on the amazing Ozernaya River in the uninhabited remote wilds of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
Wild, native Kamchatka Rainbow Trout. Photo Courtesy: Michael Hamilton
I first glimpsed the Ozernaya River through a circular port- hole sized window of Russian M18 Helicopter just before 9pm on the evening of August 8th. I was crammed inside shoulder to shoulder with 7 other anglers that would join me for a week to fish and photograph the Ozernaya River. A mountain of dry bags, duffels and rod cases were piled to the ceiling in the rear. Headphones and earplugs muffled the roar of whirling rotors.
Three generations chase Kamchatka Rainbows. Photo Courtesy: Michael Hamilton
15 travel hours before the Russian M18 helicopter began its gentle descent to a violet flowered meadow above the big-shouldered spring creek waters of the “Oz”, our intrepid band of adventurers had arrived about 5:30 am to check in at Yakutia Air’s terminal at Ted Steven’s International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. Yakutia offers direct flights weekly each Thursday to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. At 7:30 am, our Boeing 737 700 departed right on schedule for the 4-½ flight from Anchorage across the Bering Sea to the Kamchatka Peninsula. Because we cross the International dateline, we arrive early on the morning of the next day. We gain the day back on the return flight.
Flying Yakutia is just like flying in the states. Similar safety briefing and same electronic rules apply before take off. Service on board was excellent. Business class passengers are served a full course dinner of fresh vegetables, smoked salmon, salad and desert. Juice, coffee and champagne are complimentary. Coach travelers receive a more modest meal with a Russian flare. No alcohol is served on board. Once airborne we settled back and enjoyed the direct flight.
Upon arrival in Petropavolsk-Kamchatsky, we deplaned and were processed in about an hour’s time through Russian customs. Thanks to Yakutia’s efficiencies our luggage was waiting for us as we excited customs. Too excited to be tired, we loaded up our mountain of dry bags, fly rod cases along with our appetite for adventure and began what would become a true trip of a lifetime!
Author: Michael Hamilton