Kamchatka Russia, Ozernaya River Trip Report and Gear List
November 15, 2018
The Best of Kamchatka Ozernaya River Trip
7 Nights/6 Days Fishing in the Ozernaya River Camp - $8695 Per Angler
*Flights are from Anchorage, AK to Petropavlovsk - We will help with this planning.
Joe Rotter and Shan Sedgwick from Red's Fly Shop personally hosted our first trip to Russia together as a team in 2018. We learned the in's and out's of the travel process, camp details, and of course the fishing which has been said to be the "World's Best Rainbow Trout Fishing". This is a wonderful opportunity to travel with a highly experienced angler and fly fishing mentor. During this week of July the goal is target trophy Rainbows on mouse patterns and streamers. We will certainly spend time using Trout Spey tackle in addition to traditional single hand rods. You can leave your egg patterns at home! We have chosen the Ozernaya River Camp because of its reputation and straightforward logistics.
Ozernaya River Trip Report and Planning Article
This was without a doubt one of the very best experiences of my sporting life. Minus the obvious like getting married, having kids, etc. it was probably tops on the list overall behind those events. Traveling to Russia, hearing the language, experiencing a new culture, being warmly welcomed, and the general ambiance of the camp and staff provided an experience that is difficult to parallel, or describe with written word for that matter. Brown bears, vodka, wild scenery, surreal trout fishing, and memories that will permeate the golden years are all the ingredients of a great fishing trip. This trip to the Oz checked all the boxes.
Listen to Our On-Site Podcast Recorded at the Oz
It was a trip of unforgettable measure and it met or exceeded the expectations of everyone in our group. Many of us weren't exactly sure "what to expect", we just knew that the reputation of Russia and the Ozernaya River were on a whole new level in comparison to most of the places this group had fished. It's basically a gigantic spring creek rich with unmatched fertility. It has a huge base of inset life, combined with returns of all of the Pacific Salmon.
Our group was composed of 10 anglers including myself, and another long time Red's guide Shan Sedgwick that is also hosting trips in late July to the Oz. It was a hell of a great group of anglers and a fun time. All good sports and ready to "roll with the punches" should there be any. We had been warned that in Russia, there may be logistical delays or other small issues that pop up so you should be prepared. Our trip however was flawless.
Late July Fishing on the Ozernaya River
When prepping for this trip I asked the owner at The Best of Kamchatka, Will Blair, lots of questions about various dates and the pro's and cons. Will Blair is a no bullshit dude and one of the grittiest guides and outfitters I've had the pleasure of spending time with. His experience in guiding for high latitude Rainbows all over Alaska and Russia may be second to none. The guy has been almost everywhere.
I could tell Will runs a "no excuses" type of guide crew and this was just the outfit we were looking for. I settled on the last week of July in hopes to get shots at some consistent mouse fishing because that's what most folks are interested in. Will suggested that the only downside would be that there are a few more mosquitoes, but the mousin' should be good. We signed up.
I asked the guides and Will tons of questions and it sounded like our experience fishing wise for this week was quite typical. The Chums were in the river and just starting to dig on some redds, in the lower river there were some massive Chinook and a few errant Sockeye and Pinks wandering in. Our target species were Rainbows, Arctic Char, and Grayling. Everything else was a nice bonus the first few days and a nuisance thereafter. Yep, it was just that good.
Traveling to the Ozernaya River, Kamchatka
Historically there have been flights from Anchorage, Alaska to Petropavlask, Kamchatsky. Cost was about $2,300 or so. While someday this flight may come back into service, the current flight plan is through Moscow with an overnight there before flying into Petropavlask. The upsides are that the cost is far less, and you go through customs in Moscow so that once you touch down in Petro everything goes much faster. Plus you can get a car tour of Moscow and check that visit off your list of amazing places you've visited.
Documents Required for Fly Fishing in Kamchatka
You'll need a Russian Visa to travel here. It's a few hundred bucks and it's relatively easy to obtain. The Best of Kamchatka provides an extremely detailed Visa acquisition document that walks you through every step of the application. Do this a couple months in advance of the trip to insure that all goes smooth. Nobody in our group had any trouble at all. Set aside about 2 hours and enjoy the process! This is all part of the fun.
Arrival in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Customs takes a little time as the airport is very small and personal. You'll eventually get checked through and documentation verified. After that you'll be greeted by Victor, Will Blair's Russian Partner, Svetlana the camp hostess, and a fancy bus dedicated exclusively to your group. Anglers from the Two Yurt River program will also be on this bus as well and possibly anglers from the Rainbows From Above fly-out program. Everyone on the bus is with The Best of Kamchatka. It's a neat bus ride north up the Kamchatka Penninsula. You get to see small town Russia first hand. I always love this part of world fly fishing travel. Some of my most memorable experiences are the scenic drives.
Transfer to the Mi-8 Helicopters in Kamchatka
Strategically, The Best of Kamchatka prefers to charter a bus and drive out of Petro en route to the helicopter base. Often groups can get fogged in for many hours or even days and can't fly out in helicopters because of the mountainous surroundings. To help abate this, our groups meet helicopters much further north. We met our chopper and found it to be extremely clean, well serviced, and a professional uniformed crew were dedicated to insuring a safe flight. The Russian Mi-8 is quite similar to a UH60 Blackhawk in basic appearances. I've personally flown and been around a lot of helicopters from my days of fighting forest fires, and can attest that these guys were on it regarding systems checks and maintenance protocols. I felt as safe on the Russian helicopters as I ever did back in the states.
We flew for about 50 minutes or so and basked at the incredible scenery in the surrounding mountains. Giant volcanic peaks protruded throughout the horizon like a fence guarding the world's finest Rainbow trout rivers. An endless expanse of untouched wilderness stretched your eyes ability to absorb the greatness of what you were witnessing. In some ways it was relieving to witness there are still frontiers on this great planet.
The Mi-8 stopped for fuel at their home air-base and we got to stretch our legs for a few minutes while they fueled up and performed service checks of the aircraft. After this we flew about another 40 minutes.. .first stop! Ozernaya River Camp!
I particularly liked the Helicopter with the bear paw paint job on the side. Pretty badass aircraft if you ask me.
Arrival At the Ozernaya River Camp
The entire flight has you looking at river, after river, after river! Which one is yours? Many are muddy but then you arrive at the Oz and oh what a site it is. Clear water, meandering bends, meadows, rolling wild flower tundra. You ask yourself, is this the most beautiful place I've ever seen? It's amazing. The helicopter touches down and you have to pinch yourself. Are you finally here? So much planning, wonder, and anticipation. It's finally happening. We're at the Ozernaya.
The friendly guide crew comes to help tote luggage and bunk assignments begin. Everyone found the camp to be rustic, basic, but accommodating. Don't sign up for this trip if you want to lounge around in leather chairs walk around barefoot. This is a fishing adventure camp. After all got settled in, the guide and cook team gave a camp tour and orientation over a few beers and cocktails. After that.... we fished!
Accommodations at the Oz River Camp
The yurts, or cabins, are quite comfortable and well appointed for your comfort. There is some debate as to whether they are yurts or cabins. I call 'em yurts. It gets the point across and it sounds cool. After a few vodkas Shan, one of our co-hosts and Red's guides, decided that in fact yurts are round in shape, not A frame and square. After much heated debate we have agreed to disagree. At some point down the road in Kamchatka we'll discuss this again. Over some vodkas. In Russia these are the types of problems we discuss haha.
You'll have a dry YURT with a mattress and you'll need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow. Beds have bugscreens and you can burn some mosquito coils (incense) type sticks and it chases the bugs out very effectively. I slept really well in Kamchatka. We never used the wood stove but it would be very nice if it ever got wet and cold.
Food Service at the Ozernaya Camp
The food is great. the Arctic Char sushi rolls were without doubt one of the finest delicacies I've ever tasted.
The dining house is full of laughter, great smells, and amazing food. The cuisine is Russian "soul food" and very tasty. Svetlana is an outstanding cook, hostess, and speaks absolutely perfect English with a proper and formal Russian accent. I can't say enough about this amazing woman and how she made us feel at home, had us laughing, and taught us about Russian culture. It as a joy spending time with her and she really adds a level of quality and spirit to the trip that would be greatly missing without her. Svetlana's son, Yeagor, is also one of the guides and its super fun to listen to the two of them chat and get to share in each other's lives while working in camp. It demonstrates the genuine "family" atmosphere that is the Ozernaya.
The showers are wood fired, basic, and feel amazing at the end of the day. Just be sure there is a mosquito coil burning and you won't get bit up on your ass in there. For whatever reason, the bugs didn't really infest the shower house like you might expect. Don't forget to bring your own towel.
A Typical Day Fishing the Ozernaya River
First off. The term "typical" day is nothing typical. You're going to catch big beautiful Rainbows, Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling, and see a few Brown Bears. What the hell is typical about that?! Well, nothing but its still a typical day on the Oz.
Coffee is on early in the morning but nobody rushes. The fish aren't going anywhere. Breakfast sort of happens as anglers roll in and everyone gets fed. Its so much fun staying up late around the campfire looking at stars, drinking Vodka, and talking about your day that most anglers aren't up at the crack of dawn. Mornings that I found myself up early I grabbed my camera and binoculars and watched the surrounding hills looking for bears hunting salmon or feeding on the Suckleberries that came ripe while we were there. These mornings were some of the most enjoyable I've ever experienced.
After breakfast, waders on and you'll meet your guide right in front of camp. The guides take their time working on motors, greasing engines, and being sure all is ready for the day. Don't pressure them to hurry. They are slow and methodical because one tool or step rushed or forgotten might sabotage the day. Fishing starts about 9 am and you're back about 5-6 pm. It's a nice full day and nobody complained about lack of fishing time. You can always fish at camp. I watched Will Blair hook about a 26" Rainbow on a mouse just upstream from camp on the last day using a Redington Butterstick rod! Good amusement.
The Guides and Beats
The guide team is well organized and each is assigned or takes a "beat". This means you will rarely ever seen another angler or person all week. You'll jet boat anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour each way each day. Our hosts try to mix up the anglers, guides, and the (5) sections or beats so that each person gets a fresh experience each day. Other than a couple of Russian spin casters that did a casual "fly in, float out" we didn't see another soul outside of our party all week.
The Species of Fish You'll Encounter on the Oz
While there are all species of Pacific Salmon, even the rare "Cherry Salmon", you'll spend your time focusing on Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char, and Arctic Grayling. It sounds bizarre to avoid Salmon but you'll get it once you are there! The trout and char are absolutely spectacular and the Grayling offer a wonderful side show when you feel like picking up a light rod and dry fly or small streamer. In late July the Chums pull hard and offer a good fight. You'll become proficient at the "Chum Moonwalk" which means simply walking backwards on the shoreline and beaching them in short order so you can get back to fishing for spotted Rainbows.
Arctic Char are spectacular and fight quite hard. You will catch some on Mice and Dry Flies... but the Dolly Llama is the hot fly. As you can see here.
Rainbows in the low to mid 20" range are an every day thing. These are the #1 target species and the OZ might be the world's best Rainbow Trout destination. These fish are spectacular!
Arctic Grayling are a wonderful aside from hefting big Rainbows and Arctic Char. They are really special fish and can be caught on smaller flies and light rods. A 5 weight makes a perfect Grayling rod.
Fishing and Strategies in Kamchatka
I was hoping for good mouse fishing and got exactly what I got. The big trout there are voracious predators and tackle anything that "might" fit in their mouth. I'm not going to say that the fishing is "easy" because that isn't the way I felt. It was "rich". The river itself is fertile beyond compare with lots of insects, millions of salmon fry, sculpin, salmon flesh, eggs, and of course the errant rodent that attempts to swim across the river.
Anglers shouldn't bring a strike indicator or an egg pattern. Don't bother going to Russia if that's how you want to fish. At risk of sounding like a jerk, just go to Alaska. If you want the highest quality Rainbow trout fishing experience with mice, streamers, and dry flies then go to Russia. There is no parallel.
The wade fishing was by far my favorite and I enjoyed taking off from the guide and treking through side channels, down gravel bars, and exploring the river by myself. I would usually stay within site of the boat and stay "bear aware'. The wading is small gravel, easy wading, and not too slick. Wear felt soles with lace up boots. A wading staff is a good idea if you are at all unsteady.
The guides walk the boats and its a very stable, fun, and highly effective platform to cast and fish from. They will get you ON the right spots.
The guides love fishing from the boat and they work their butts of walking the little jet boats all over the river. Anglers can fish from the boat, standing, and its a blast casting from the elevated position. You'll see fish chasing your mouse and streamer from up top! The visual effect of being elevated during a mouse take was really cool. I still enjoy the intimacy of feeling the current against my legs and being connected with the water in which I fish. Wading to me enhances the angling experience.
Dry Fly Fishing - The Secret Bonus!
This is one of several fabulous Rainbows I caught fishing Mayfly patterns. I spotted this fish sipping Drakes near the shoreline. I took off the mouse, caught him on a Parachute just cause it felt "proper"!
The Split Wing Parachute Adams #12 was the most effective pattern for us, and it floats great!
Nobody told us about this! I think it might be unique to fishing early in the season before the salmon begin to drop their eggs and spawn. We stalked 22-27" Rainbows sipping big mayflies and Caddis. I knew that the Arctic Grayling would take dry flies but had no idea that 5-7 pound Rainbows would be sipping bugs. This added an element to the trip that was unexpected. It was among the best Spot 'n Stalk Dry Fly Fishing that I've ever experienced. The best fly that we used was a #12 Split Wing Adams. I had some Drake patterns that exactly matched the hatch, but were ignored. Make sure to bring some of these big buoyant parachutes.
How to Deal with Mosquitoes and Bugs in Kamchatka Russia
The bugs can be annoying and a few of us caught ourselves bitching about the bugs. Then you realize, ok, its just a few bugs. Relax and man up. You are in Russia! Don't let bugs take anything away from your experience. If you prepare for the bugs, you'll enjoy yourself more and relax.
Early in the season like July, the mosquitoes are at a premium. Later in the summer you'll deal with White Sox flies. We dealt with mosquitoes. Here are some tips.
DEET - yes its nasty but its only a week. Keep a small spray bottle handy at all times.
Ultrathon Lotion - rub this around your ears, neck, and head. This stuff works.
BuzzOff Clothing - the Simms BuzzOff Hoody was the ticket. A few other companies make similar products.
Buff Neck/Face Gaiter to cover your head. Spray it with deet.
Long sleeve shirts with thumb holes. This covers the backs of your hands. Use Ultrathon as well.
Hooded sweatshirt or light jacket. Try to wear something in the evenings that they can't bite through your shoulders.
Simms BuzzOff Hat - We sell a Simms hat with a built in headnet. Very handy!
Bears on the Ozernaya River
This bear was stalking Salmon on the other side of the river from us. It was quite a show!
Yes, the highest density of Brown Bears in the world is on the Kamchatka Penninsula. Bonus. I enjoyed the bear watching and photography nearly as much as the fishing! It was amazing. I packed my son's 8x32 Vortex Razor HD binoculars and had a great time. So glad I did that. Other than the watching a lot of questions will be about bear safety. The guides all have bear spray, and the bear dogs in camp are incredible! We watched the dogs police the camp and run off several bears taunting, nipping at them, and annoying them enough to get rid of them. Watching a dog that has been bred for eons to police for bears and protect its master from bears was surreal. The would smell and hear bears and take off on a run to the other side of camp! We would follow and look for an opportunity to see the bears. The dogs completely abate an issues might have around camp regarding bears, they are ON IT. No worries there.
These bear dogs are incredible. They guard the camp and fended off numerous bears that were roaming the nearby terrain. We got to watch them do their thing several times!
All the guides are bear aware and have spray along with a good head about them. Stay within site of the boat and if you aren't comfortable, then don't wade far from the boat. There has been no history of a bear mauling ever at this camp and the bears, unlike Alaska for the most part, run the other way when the see boats or people. The Russians don't seem to be as tolerant about pesky bears and the bears know this. They give you a wide birth.
Kenny and I hiked to the top of this cone. It was a killer view and we glassed up 5 bears with our binoculars!
On my last day I had caught enough fish and asked our Russian guide, Sacha, if we could hike to the top of an old cinder cone about 700' above the river. If you fish the upper Oz you can't miss it. Very unique geological formation. Kenny and I were stoked to hike up there and get a bird's eye view of the stream. Of course I took my binocs and we spotted 5 different bears feeding on Suckleberries in the surrounding terrain. As a wildlife enthusiast my entire life and avid hunter, this was a highlight for me. I love watching WILD animals and bears do what they do. National Parks and parts of Alaska have bears that don't necessarily act wild. These bears acting the way they have since their creation were pretty fascinating to observe. I loved it. Don't bring bear spray, they have in camp. Don't bring a gun under any circumstance whatsoever. The Best of Kamchatka's Trip Planner will reiterate this.
Tackle and Fly Rods for Kamchatka Fly Fishing Trips
The most popular rod for the week was the Sage Bluegill and Smallmouth series of rods. Both handled the big fish well and have fighting butts which is very nice! While these mini-sticks were designed for pitching large flies for warmwater fish, the 7'11" length and build is ideal for tucking mouse patterns and streamers up against the shoreline. Plus they are super tough. About 5 of the 10 anglers were using these rods after testing them at Red's Fly Shop, and the satisfaction level couldn't have been better. Look closely at many of the photos and you'll see these gold and maroon colored rods all over the place.
Rods should be medium fast to fast action 6-7 weight rods of high quality. You are going a long ways, don't skimp on having a rod that you absolutely love to cast and is capable of making accurate casts again and again. Distance casting isn't essential as most of the fish are caught at 30-40'. A good fly line that turns over big bugs is equally important.
Fly Lines for Streamers and Mouse Patterns
It's my belief that the line is as important as the rod for big flies. After all, it actually delivers the fly to the target. Here is a great line for this destination. Don't over-line your rod with this. It already has plenty of mass to load the rod deep for delivering big wind resistant and weighted flies.
Felt wading boots with a secure lace-up system or a BOA system are encouraged. Bootfoot waders are sure nice, but I think you'll appreciate using stockingfoot waders and a good boot for walking. Be sure to sanitize your felt soles in a light bleach/water solution and rinse them well before going to Russia. They don't need any invasive species there. Zip fronts are sure nice on the waders!
Flies for Ozernaya River Fishing Trips
The big issue here are the hook sizes. Small hooks injure less fish. Some of these fish are practically dinosaurs of unknown age. They could be 20 years old for all we know. Trout lives matter to this outfit and they are strict about the flies that you bring and the hooks on the flies. Short shank #6 hooks are preferred and the only Moorish Mouse allowed is the #6, and the Moorish 2.0 Mouse is preferred. We also sell the Mr. and Mrs. Hanky patterns (my most productive pattern).
Need an assortment put together? Just email email@example.com and I'll put together a box personally.
Fly List for Ozernaya River Trips
Mini Loop Sculpin
Dolly Llama #6 - White, Olive, Black, Pink
Scupzilla #4 - Natural, Olive, Black, White
Moorish Mouse #6
Rainy's Mouse Trap
Moorish 2.0 Mouse
Split Wing Adams #12
Packing List and Tips for Gear on the Ozernaya River Trip
Misc Gear and Packing List
Airline tickets (make photocopies)
Passport and visa (your visa is glued into your passport)
Photocopy of passport and visa
$1500 Cash (new bills for fishing license, souvenirs, tip, etc.)
Some stores take credit cards but travelers checks are not accepted. You will not need Rubles
Antihistamine (Benadryl - to alleviate insect bite inflammation)
English/Russian dictionary (fun but not essential)
Insect repellent (anything with lots of Deet) - Ultrathon is the best!
Binoculars - excellent for watching bears and wildlife from camp
Waterproof sling pack/hip pack
Waterproof boat bag
Sleeping bag/pillow - Guests also can bring a top sheet if they desire
Personal liquor supply - The camp will have vodka
Wide rubber bands (to secure clothing from insects)
Large garbage bags for dirty clothes and wet waders/boots
We had so much damn fun on this trip. It was very special and in Russian tradition we colored and wrote our names and some quotes on a piece of Birch bark. The wall is covered with these as every group "signs out" with this tradition. It's super cool and I can't wait to get back there and fill in another one.