Thursday, November 24, 2011

October 2011, Urmi River, Amur River drainage

Urmi is 458 km long river which is joining the Kur River of the similar size.  The result of this marriage is a mighty 90 km long river named Tunguska.  Tunguska River is floating into the Amur River from its left bank, on the opposite bank from Khabarovsk.
In October I was with my friend Sergey in the middle reaches of the Urmi River, upstream from the Kukan village.  After a 90 km long trip on a beaten dirt road from the city of Birobidzhan we are pumping up a 15' inflatable motor boat. 
In this area the Urmi is 20-60 meters wide stream, swift and clear.  The river has many log jams, so some of its channels are tricky to navigate even with a jet-boat. 
In the lower part of a tributary named Kosmun' there were lots of different graylings.  
"Lower Amur type" grayling is living in the middle reaches of the rivers; downstream from the lower limit of the habitats of this species in summer there will be no other Salmonids. 
 This is another species, so called "yellow-spotted grayling".  It is relative to the "Upper Amur type" grayling.  In the Lower Amur River this species is sympatric (living together) with the "Lower Amur type" grayling, but its habitats are different. The yellow-spotted grayling in summer is populating the swift upper reaches of the rivers on higher elevations.  This species is migrating down into the middle reaches of the streams only in the late fall. 
The next morning was morose and foggy.  A deep cyclone was coming, threatening with the rain by the next evening.  The fish was not feeding, so it was rather hard to catch anything bigger than grayling.  This is a sharp-nose species of lenok.  
A slightly bigger blunt-nose lenok was caught with a 5 cm long pink wobbler-fly, presented deep. 
A tiny cabin of a trapper at the bank of the Urmi River. 
 Below this rapid Sergey had found some lenok. 
 This small taimen was caught with a lure and released.  We are releasing taimen which is becoming rare in many areas of the Far East. 

A tiny, very skinny, immature taimen was caught below a shallow riffle.  It looks like taimen are more active before the coming cyclone than lenok.  I had observed the same behavior in the summer, on different rivers.     

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The last open water fishing trip in 2011 (November 10, the Gassi Lake)

 Today, when I write this message, it is -15*C and snow outside.  Lakes and rivers around Khabarovsk are freezing over.  We are already catching the first fish through the ice.  The winter had come to our region too late but truly in one night.  Not long ago it was +5-8*C at the days and no snow at all.  On November 10 I have decided to go to the Gassi Lake 140 km east from Khabarovsk.  I was thinking that lenok (Brachymystax) will be migrating out of the tributaries into the lake, and then down into the Amur River.  So, the lake outlet was looking a reasonable area to search for this fish.  In summer the water in that area is way too warm for any Salmonid, but not in November.  
The Gassi Lake is big and shallow water body; during the low water period in Amur part of it is dry.  The lower, narrov part of the lake is crossed with the road Khabarovsk - Komsomolsk.
 The road is crossing the lake with a mound and a 100 m long bridge. 
 The nights are already cold; the thin ice is formed at the lake during long cold hours.   It is drifting down the lake outlet. 
Some of the ice floes are over 10 meters across.  The ice is thin, but it had sharp serrated edges and can be dangerous for an inflatable boat. 
 My friend Arthur is roving upstream the lake outlet in his Waterfly inflatable kayak
 I was fishing from the anchored kayak with a 2-handed rod and 15' sink tip.  The only difficulty was the floating ice - it was necessary to look behind all the time and be ready to lift the anchor when the ice will be nearing the boat.  In two hours I have landed 2 lenok.  The one belonging to the sharp-nose species is at the image. 
 The best "fly" was a white-and-pink wobbler fly presented near the bottom.  This is the type of the fly designed to move its hook up.  I had decided to keep this lenok - it makes great fish soup named "ukha" in Russian.  In its stomach there were over a dozed of 6-7 cm long silver fish (fingerlings of some Carp species). 
 The most interesting was that all the bites did occur when the ice was passing the boat.  It looks like the fish was moving together with the ice, near it or under its cover.  I had observed similar migration patterns is salmon streams in April - the charr migrating downstream for the sea feeding was moving together with the ice.  
There will be no more flyfishing for me in 2011.  The next open-water season begins in April, unless I will be able to go to Brazil..

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Petropavlovskoe Lake, Nov 8, 2011

  Petropavlovskoe is a big shallow lake 20 km east from Khabarovsk.  I have decided to look for pike and other predators in the lake outlet below the village. 

My wife had decided to come along.  She had helped me to pump the kayak.

The lake outlet is 50 meters wide and 2-3 meters deep in the middle. 
 For several hours I was fishing in the current and in the bays, but with no success.  I had only one sharp bite; the catch was heavy and pulling the line to the bottom. 
 This was a freshwater mussel.  In the Amur River there are mussels up to 30 cm long.  When the streamer touches its body, the animal closes the shells, and they clutch the hook.  It is a true bite, even though the mussel is not trying to eat the fly..

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Late fall at the Khoidur River

Khoidyr is a small forest creek which is flowing into lower part of the Amur River between Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk.  It is crossing the road between these two cities 200 km from Khabarovsk.  The fall of 2011 is unusually warm; at the time when it is normally snow and cold it is mild and warm.  In the fall the fish from the creeks is leaving its summer habitats which will be frozen over soon, and goes down into the Amur River for wintering.
I have left the car at the bridge and was rowing upstream in a kayak.  I will never burn gas and listen the rattle of a motor if I can avoid it. 
 This stretch of Khoidur is crossing the great plain - the valley of the Lower Amur.  The banks are covered by the mixed forest and marshes - not as good a forest as we see in the mountains.
 In deep slow pools I had some bites of Amur ide.  This small fish is a predator.  The imitation of an aquatic beetle with an action was a good selection on that day. 
In such quiet forest creeks most of the fish (and all Salmonids) are found in the riffles.  
 Canadian beaver was stocked 40 years ago into the Nemta River 100 km to the west from here.  The animals are now moving down the Amur River and populating its valley.  
 This nest belongs not to a bird, but to a bear.  Don't you believe me?  In August the Himalayan bear is climbing the Maak's bird cherry tree and eating its astringent berries.  The animal is bending the branches, and pushes them under its seat at the tree to make the sitting more comfortable. 
 I was able to catch several little lenok and grayling
 It is a pleasant catch - one of the last fish of the 2011 fly season
The winter is closing up - it has already come to the north of our region.  In a month or less the fishermen will be catching lenok through the ice. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Amur River, end of October 2011

Normally the fly-fishing season near Khabarovsk ends by November.  In the end of October it is often below freezing in the morning; cold winds blow at the wide Amur River.  
The water level in Amur this year is very low - about 1 meter below the conventional "zero level".  Big sand spits exposed by the low water make the area look like the Sahara desert. 
 My friend Andrey and I were looking for Amur pike.  This time of a year it is normally feeding along the shallow, sandy banks.  The search requires lots of motor boat driving and hiking in the sand. 
 Andrey is casting a big streamer into a promisingly looking bay.  That day the pikes were not cooperative at all. 
 On a way home we had decided to fish from a boat near one of the faster areas near the main waterway of the Amur.  Such places have pebble bottom and attract different predators. 
That day the fish were not active; they were holding near the bottom below the drop of a riffle.  I had managed to get some bites only with a 50' fast sinking head, made of Rio T17 material.  This is a skygazer. 
 Mongolian redfin was caught closer to the bank, where the current was not as strong.  The fly which was so tasty at that day was an Antiwobbler with a foam back. 
Both its upright blade and foam strip at the back help the fly to stay suspended when the heavy line moves on the bottom and pulls it down.  During retrieve and in the current this fly is wiggling.   Antiwobbler is the best fly to fish with a sinking line which you let sink to the bottom.  In this case one is sure the fly is moving above the line, close to the bottom, but is not dragging in the mud.  It is not catching snags as often as a regular streamer. 
For more info on these new flies go here

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

August 2011, the second trip to Korf, north-eastern Kamchatka

Korf is situated at the narrow spit between the shallow estuary and the Korfa Bay (sunset at the bay). 
A calm day at the bay shore (view to the south)
Rusty fishing boat
Steel + salt = rust
 The fishing in the bay was not as good as in June.  I was catching mostly saffron cod.
Old wooden fishing boat called "karbas"
 A little town of Tilichiki is situated close to Korf, at the mainland 
 From here we will go by ATV (GTT) to the west.
 This is not a road, it is just a direction.  No wheels can pass here. I am sitting at the roof of the vehicle - when it is not cold, it is much better than sitting inside. 
 Peat bods in the valley of the Vyvenka River with the tracks of the caterpillars.
 The Vyvenka River is deep and wide, and has no bridges.  Our vehicle can float, so we will try to cross it.
 Our "tank" is on a float; the opposite bank is coming closer.
Crossing sloughs in the Vyvenka valley

To be continued...