May 28, 2013
Fly Fishing in Russia: Step One, Getting There
By Kirk Deeter
I will say this on writing about fly fishing for a living: It won't make you rich in the material sense, but it definitely affords a wealth of adventure. And I'd never trade the latter for the former.
I've now lost count of the number of times I've found myself in a surreal setting: Sitting at a table and drinking Coca-Cola in a sweltering conference room with a Bolivian army colonel; Grilling fish over a fire on a desolate beach in the Baja with a retired member of the "Hollywood by the Sea" gang; Casting in downtown Ballina, Ireland, as the nearby church bells chimed; Climbing out of a bush plane to stare at a Kodiak bear fishing the other side of the river; Riding a dugout canoe at night amidst an array of glowing red caiman eyes after an evening of chasing giant arapaima in the jungle in Guyana—the list goes on, and on...
So here I am in Helsinki, Finland (pictured here, several hours ago on my walk to dinner). It's 3 a.m. Last I heard, my luggage was still in Amsterdam. I will meet my friend Chris Santella in a couple hours, and we'll join a group to take a charter flight to Murmansk, Russia. From there, we'll board a Soviet era Mi-8 helicopter to fly two more hours down the Kola Peninsula to reach the preeminent Atlantic Salmon fishing camp in the world: Ryabaga, on the banks of the Ponoi River.
Naturally, at times like this, when one contemplates heading above the Arctic Circle without spare underwear or wool socks (I'm planning on going, luggage or not), I find myself asking this simple question: Why?
And the answer is always the same: Because I can. Or maybe, because I must. It's always about the fish. I am told that I will find more bright, leaping Atlantic salmon where I am headed today than I probably will experience anywhere again in my life. That's good enough for me. Thankfully, my family understands.
Of course, it's also about the people and places you encounter along the way. This is indeed shaping up to be an amazing adventure, though as I write, there are still some questions bouncing through my head: I hope I get my gear; I hope I can stomach that chopper ride.
One thing I'm not worried about is the story. I know I'll find something good to write about and I'll share it all with you. I don't know exactly when that will be, but stay tuned. Things are definitely getting interesting.