Few Nepalis know where Kamchatka is, and the ones who do probably heard about it from the board game ‘Risk’, where it is described as the remote region between Asia and North America.
Kamchatka Krai, as it is known in Russia, is a land of active volcanoes and hundreds of thousands of pristine rivers that flow down to the Sea of Okhotsk. It teems with brown bears, salmon and trout.
For a group of eight Nepalis brought together by their passion for fishing, this was paradise. In the past, they had explored Himalayan rivers in Nepal and India in pursuit of the iconic golden mahseer. But overfishing, habitat loss and failures of conservation have led to massive depletion of this magnificent fish.
Taking a roundabout route via Muscat and Moscow, the Nepali fishermen landed in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Airport 43 hours after leaving Kathmandu. Our guides for the trip, Andrey, Victor and Serge, and our cook Tanya, met us at the airport, and took us to a store to buy supplies – including a stock of vodka, an essential in Russia for warding off the cold.
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We had all bought waders in the hopes of fly fishing, but these were more useful as wind breakers. Despite the thick thermals we wore under them, we found it too cold to stand in the water of the Bystraya River for more than 15 minutes at a time. Meanwhile, the macho Russians bathed in the frigid water and walked around in t-shirts.