Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bystraya R., Kamchatka, September 2011

There are many rivers named Bystraya (swift) in Kamchatka.  This particular Bystraya River is 275 km long. It is the main source of the Bolshaya River, flowing into the Sea of Okhotsk.
The river is easily reached by car and is popular among the fishermen of the peninsula.  I was fishing the river with my friends, all flyfishermen.  We were lucky with the water level and transparency. 
The first fish was a spent female of Dolly Varden charr in full spawning colors.  We were surprised that some charrs were already spawning - normally the species is reproducing in much colder water, in the end of September.  
 The next bite was from something bigger.  Slow current in the pool made it possible to land this silver coho female with no difficulty.   
I was fishing with a tiny (3 cm long with a tail) silver-and-purple wobbler fly, 3x tippet, and 5 wt 2-handed rod.
 The fish was not tired and went home with ease. 
 We had moved to a different place and found some surface activity near the steep bank of a pool.  My first fish was nice size grayling. 
There was no room for backcasting, so we had to remember how to speycast  
 About noon the surface activity had disappeared, and we had started to fish with nymphs. My friend Arkady had hooked another Dolly Varden charr.  It is interesting: in this new place most of the charrs were silver, fresh from the sea, and in the former one we were catching mostly dark and skinny, spent fish.
Arkady with a charr

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kamchatka: Obryvisty Creek - after crossing the divide from the Shumny Creek

In the evening of September 10 the valley of the upper Shumny Creek (900 m above the sea level) was looking just lovely.   We had set a camp and were planning to cross the divide tomorrow.
 Next morning the same valley was looking gloomy, covered by fresh snow. 
Sally-bloom (fireweed) in the snow
 For some time we were able to move up along the old ATV "road", but then it had turned wrong direction.  We had to crawl through dwarf alder and at higher altitudes - through pine-bush.  
 At the divide it was a true winter.  Yury (left), Pavel & I had celebrated the summit by a homoeopathic dose of excellent Armenian brandy, and went down, into the Obryvisty Creek.  It took about 6 hours of bushwhacking in the snow to cross the divide, and some slopes were steep.  I was hiking in waders and neoprene booties with felt soles.  I did not expect snow, or I would had taken different boots along.  On the other hand, the waders were working fine - one does not get wet in melting snow.  Resume: it is not a big deal to cross snowy mountains in fishing gear, but do not do it on felt!
It was a big relief to come back into fall after winter at 1200 meters of the divide.  Solomon's Seal berries (Polygon├ítum) in the creek.  
The most beautiful type of vegetation I know - dwarf bushes of dry mountain tundra. 
 Yury and Pavel are hiking down the left source of the Obryvisty Creek.  In the water, on slippery rocks my felt soles work much better comparing with regular tourist shoes or rubber boots. 
 At the altitude of 750 m the creek is starting to look fishy
Further down, at 700 m, it is becoming a good trout water.  Nevertheless, Kamchatka rainbow trout is never found in such creeks - they are occupied by numerous charrs.  Normally such creeks host immature parr of anadromous Dolly Varden charr and its dwarf males.
 I was surprised to catch one ripe female, almost ready to spawn.  On the same day we were able to observe some tiny charrs spawning in the creek.  This is rather unusual - normally ALL females from such creeks become sea-run before maturation.
 At the altitude of 660 m we had found a 8 m waterfall!  This is why the fish above it had to become resident.  I had observed such situations in the other areas of the Far East - at the Kunashir (Kuriles) and at Sakhalin Island.
Below the waterfall in the Obryvisty Creek there is a typical stock of Dolly Varden charr - with dwarf males (below) and big females coming from the sea.  Big sea-run males were also present.  These 35-45 cm fish are coming up through Kamchatka & Kirganik Rivers from the Bering Sea (about 500 km). 
 The last evening at the creek - tomorrow we plan to reach the road where our truck should be waiting. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shumny Creek, Kamchatka Peninsula

Shumny Creek is a tributary to Malaya Kimitina River; it flows to the east from the Central Kamchatka Ridge.  Our group had to hike up Shumny to its sources.  On the way we will be taking water samples, collecting benthos & fish.  On the other side of the divide we hve to come to the source of the Obryvisty Creek and do similar survey along its whole length.  

Going by GTT ATV to the west from Milkovo.
 Young red fox on the road
 A family of brown bears is crossing the road in front of the vehicle.
 Shumny Creek 10 km from the source
 Sep 10.  The fireweed (sally-bloom) in the birch forest is starting to become red and purple.  
 Our team of 3 is leaving upstream the Shumny Creek from the camp of geologists. 
The only fish in the Shumny is Dolly Varden charr.  Most of small charr are immature parr of sea-run fish, but bigger and brighter specimens are dwarf males. 
Dissecting caught fish in a typical Kamchatka ichthyology lab.
 Two top fish - dwarf males; two smaller ones - immature parr of sea-run charr; three little dark fish - charr in the age of 0+ (born in 2011). 

The valley of the upper Shumny, 900 m above the sea level.  Here we will overnight in a tent, and cross the divide tomorrow morning.  The mountain in the background is over 1700 m.    
To be continued...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kopylie River, Kamchatka

Kopylie River is a 90-km long high-gradient stream, which is flowing through the valleys of the Central-Kamchatka Ridge, the spine of the peninsula.  Kopylie is one of the sources of the Icha River, flowing to the west, into the Sea of Okhotsk. 
 The fishing in such streams requires a search for the deeper areas with not as swift current: only in such places the anadromous fish running upstream could have a rest.
 In some places the river is not as swift  
 The easy part of the exercise is that if you locate a suitable place, the fish (if there are any) will be here.  Much easier than covering deep & uniform water of marshy creeks.
  For testing the new salmon streams I normally use a small, pink "wobbler fly" on #8 or #10 hook.  These lures are among the best for triggering a bite from even an anadromous, not-feeding fish.  This time the "fly" is presented with a 11,5' 5-weight trout-spey rod and 16' fast-sinking tippet.  Normally I am trying to move the fly slow, close to the bottom.  I could feel when it is wiggling its marabou tail on retrieve, or when it stops wiggling when touching the rocks.
 Fish on!  A bite of something in the stream which you had never fished before is always exciting. 
 This is sea-run Dolly Varden charr 
Spawning males of Dolly Varden are among the most colorful Salmonid fish.  The females are not as bright.
 This fish had spent not less than 2 years in fresh water as a parr, and made at least 3 summer migrations into the sea for feeding. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kamchatka-2011, Ozernovskaya creek

 Ozernovskaya Creek is a tributary to the upper part of the Kirganik River, which belongs to the Kamchatka R. drainagbe.  The creek is flowing among the mountains of the Central-Kamchatka Ridge, the "spine" of the peninsula.  The valley of the creek is covered with meadows, stone birch forest, and pine-bush. 
 On the way to the upper part of the Ozernovskaya we had seen several brown bears.  
The river valley is grown by mighty grasses, "shelomainik" in local slang. 
Our truck is parked at the end of the road.  From here we will hike.
Taking a sample of bottom invertebrates (benthos)
I had to find out how far into the mountains the fish can be found; so I went downstream the creek from the altitude over 900 meters above the sea level.  For some time I was not able to catch any fish.  This shot has an exposure of 1/400 of a second.
This shot has an exposure of 1/4 of a second.
 Finally I have caught the first fish, dwarf male of Dolly Varden charr.  This had happen at the altitude of 825 m. 
 In the valley there are several cold mineral springs which water is mixing with the creek. 
Further downstream the creek has lower gradient; here the small charrs are rather numerous.  There are hundreds of them on every kilometer of the river. 
 I was catching this fish with a rig of two small (#12 or 14), weighted nymphs.  In typical situation small charr dwelling in creeks are part of the anadromous Dolly Varden stocks of the main river.  All females do not reach maturity before 2 or 3 marine migrations (age 5-6 years).  On the opposite, lots of males become mature in the creeks, in the age of 2-3 years, when reaching weight of 20-40 grams.  Such dwarf males spawn with anadromous females coming from the sea.   
  Spawning sockeye salmon in the Kirganik River near the mouth of the Ozernovskaya Creek. 
Tiny charrs of the age 0+ years (born this spring). 
Aconite is a poisonous plant