What do fly fishing guides do when they’re on vacation?

Hello everyone, from the amazingly spectacular and brilliantly gorgeous fall light of Colorado.  I flew up here after my office catch-up to spend some long overdue time engaged in R&R with Doctor Tweed, and we wasted no time at all in getting to it.  After picking me up from the airport he drove straight out into the middle of nowhere, and in short order we were carrying big heavy backpacks into country we had never before seen in search of Cutthroats.  A few people questioned my motives when I expressed the desire to follow this particular plan having just returned from Russia and with an impending departure for India, as though Colorado and the fish that live here might somehow be considered passé, a been there done that, or something silly I was simply wasting time on between more serious endeavors.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.  It has been years since I last saw this incredible light as the trees of the Rockies change color and the face of autumn descends upon their forests, but once you’ve experienced it the feeling of the thing sticks with you, and no matter where in the world you find yourself in September you will think of it, and wish that you were there.  So, I’m here.  And it is beautiful.  Plus there are fish.

From Russia With Love

My friends, it will be hard to compress the experiences of these last two months in Kamchatka into a single blog post.  One post is what I have time to give it though, so I will try.  General description up here and then a long series of photos with comments and descriptions interspersed.  Hope you enjoy!  Kamchatka, is an amazing place. I’ve been all the way around the globe once already and have seen quite a few places in the process; hell, I’ve actually guided in every hemisphere on Earth already this calendar year – but nothing that I’ve ever seen before quite compares to Kamchatka in terms of difficult to access totally inhospitable yet strikingly beautiful terrain.  I mean, it’s out there.  And if it weren’t for those awesome Russian MI8 helicopters we wouldn’t have access to it at all.  Those of you familiar with this blog from years ago know full well that I am no stranger to walking the Earth.  When I started it back in 2007 I was embarking on a six month walk up the Andes all the way from Cape Horn to the top of Patagonia.  But I am here to tell you right now and in no uncertain terms that such a trip would simply be impossible in Kamchatka.  The terrain is just too demanding.  Hikers used to an average speed of three or so miles an hour would see that average cut to one mile an hour if they were lucky on the tundra, and likely end up falling in a hole they couldn’t climb out of in the process.  Hell, tanks have trouble crossing this terrain.  What this means though is that floating the country’s rivers in a raft is all that much more fun, because there’s never, ever going to be a single other soul around.  And this works out well for us flyfishermen anyway because as Rat said to Mole in Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows so many years ago “there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”  So mess about in them we did, floating all kinds of rivers through that amazing country including some which had never even seen an oar or a fly in their lives.  And the fish were there.  Rainbows, Dolly’s, Cherry Salmon, Pink Salmon, Chum Salmon, Kundzha – you name it, they were there; they were plentiful; and they were hungry.  Then to make it all the more amazing – they were hungriest for mice.  Lots of fly fisherman back in the states have a mouse pattern or two in their boxes, and a couple of times a season they even consider for a second tying it on, then usually decide not to.  It just seems like such a stretch; is this really going to work?  In Kamchatka the answer is yes.  A short summer season coupled with a lot of very tall grass makes the mouse a fish’s favored and most sought after food.  Not that there’s any scarcity.  The first rainbow I gutted up there had a dozen of them already in his belly!  One way or another, as I said above, the stories are too many and too diverse to go into all of them in this paragraph, so if you feel like it, scroll down through the photos and take a look at the country yourself.

The reason we went – Oncorhynchus mykissHow we went – MI8 Helicopter Where we went – a sinuous and fish filled Kamchatka River What it generally looked like when we got there What we generally did when we got there And an indication of what the fish had been doing before we did My boat for the season, the Myrtle II  What we had to watch out for while we were fishing – Big. Beautiful. Kamchatka. Bears.  Coffee in Kamchatka is all that much better for its scarcity And the char make great filets and caviar  My good friend Jordan, on the one day we had this year to explore out on our own, to the headwaters of the Sedanka system, and a new lake off a side branch of the stream  Then more helicopters…  more rivers, more clients, more fishing, and more explorations.  The minimalist’s Kamchatka fishing kit – water purifier, rod, gun, and ammo belt  A Kundzha, or “white spotted char” Asian coast specific member of the char family My team Koriak people inhabited Kamchatka before the Russians knew it was there And today they make some very beautiful artwork with wood  Our wonderful dog, Hann – may he rest in peace Petrified wood from over 66 million years ago, and other neat little details…  Flies we liked  Breakfasts we liked  Cooked by our wonderful Chef Nadya, the butterfly lover  Parallel Russian style green wood fire architecture – long burn, much smoke, dry waders  The dawn The day  The afternoon And the night…

Now everybody send me an email and tell me all about your lives – I’ve been in the bush for the last two months!  Also, anybody interested in going and seeing this incredible place for themselves, give me a call or drop me a line and lets head up there together next year.

Jungle Boogie

 

As I write this I am sitting in my usual spot in the Lima airport, having just arrived from Iquitos to wait through an already excessively long connection time for my flight back to Atlanta, then receiving the news that said flight has been delayed an additional six and a half hours.  Travel to and from the jungles of the Amazon is an exercise in patience and contrasts.  For the last few weeks I’ve been “out there”, mostly at the camp I work with outside town in the jungle towards Nauta, but also with some time spent in Belen and the surrounding areas, which always provide a spectacular variety of experiences for the open minded traveler.  This time, I bought a monkey!  Found the little guy tied to a pile of fruit in the market itself and looking just like the “Charley” I had in mind from a conversation earlier that week, so my buddy Sunay and I each pitched in and made him ours.  I had always wanted a monkey you know?  I mean, why not?  Other highlights of the trip have included all the usual hanging out with street dogs, navigating native shamanic practices, dining in, on, and of the great river herself, and generally just having a hell of a good time in a place that is as unique as they come in the world.  Now it’s back to the states though for a week of heavy office work, then off to Kamchatka for a couple of months of different sorts of rivers that run at markedly lower temperatures and tend to host the kinds of fish that all of us think of first when someone says the word “flyfisherman”, which is a word I sort of like the sound of, if you catch my drift… Charley likes to eat Bananas as we walk around BelenWhich is understandable considering what most of the other offerings there look likeStill getting the hang of my new Nikon Digital SLR, but some of the screw ups look cool Typical Peruvian Amazon Architecture – Photo by Jen KeirCharley in the driver’s seat on Sunay’s hatAmazon PharmacyLittle dude gets grumpy sometimes tooJungle camp machetes – Photo by Jen Keir Carmencita (La Bonita) my newest preferred vendor of Mapacho  The tools of the trade  Charley’s new “Home Tree”  Iquitos Boats – Photo by Jen Keir  Dogs of Iquitos Calendar Candidate  “Still Life with Hat and Fruit”  Big Greens  “Mesa Elegante”

On the Sailing Vessle Gitana

I’ve just completed a course that has been a long time coming, and which left me (after some serious final exams) with three different accreditations from the American Sailing Association.  Those of you who have known me for a long time, or have ever seen my bookshelves back in Georgia or down in Patagonia, know full well that the idea of sailing occupies a lot of my mental real estate on a daily basis and has for over a decade now.   It’s no secret that I have ideas about doing a long and open ended trip in one of these vessels someday, but for too many years there has always been some other project which has gotten in the way.  Well, steps are steps; and this was one of them.  Having saved up for quite sometime with the idea of buying a boat, and then actually beginning that search for the perfect vessel several months ago, it occurred to me that actually spending some time on the deck of one might be a good idea as I sort out what I am looking for in terms of design.  And this course did not disappoint.  Lots and lots of hands on experience was the name of the game in the course I signed up for out of Fort Lauderdale, as I found out upon leaving the dock the first day when the captain put me at the helm straight away as we negotiated drawbridges and maneuvered our way around container ships on our way to open water and our route South into the Florida Keys on the sloop rigged Gitana.  It was a wonderful experience overall, and I think I got out of it exactly what I needed, plus a great deal more I hadn’t even imagined when I signed up.  My sincere thanks to Blue Water Sailing School for a well run experience. Nothing quite like the feel of a well heeled sailboat under way.Plotting a course for the day – who knew there was so much mathematics involved!Early mornings I spent studying my notes from the day before.It’s a cool feeling when all you need to get under way is a little bit of wind.Our crew was only comprised of four students and our captain, all good folks to be sure.Looking East from the galley as I pour my first coffee of the day.A point of view I intend to increase my use of in the years to come.And a corresponding vista that isn’t too bad either…

 

A Winter in the Bahamas

This winter I was lucky enough to spend several months in the Bahamas chasing bonefish and tarpon and sharks, as well as shooting teal, swimming with wild dolphins, exploring with the kayak, and running mile after mile after mile of beautiful island trails.  Anyone interested in joining me for such activities on my next trip there send me an email and we’ll see what we can get set up.One of the unlucky bones.A Bahamas Oriole – less than three hundred of this species remain on earth.My digs, most of the time that I was there.One of my favorite fish on Earth – the Barracuda.The sea-kayak, an excellent mode of exploration on the flats.The last thing a bonefish sees before his release from the barbless hook.The best weather for duck hunting is the same no matter where you are in the world.Lemon sharks like flies too.I must have tied at least a thousand Crazy Charlies.And the bonefish ate them like they were candy.Sometimes you have to just outrun the storm, and it’s a good thing flats skiffs are fast.This is a sight that rocks any fly fisherman’s world – tarpon on the surface…Swimming with wild dolphins is an experience I will never forget.  They just appeared.  And once I was in the water with them, they hung around.  Their voices are amazing, and if I could have wished for anything in the world as I twisted through and between them down there, it would have been to understand what they were saying.