Will Blair of The Best of Kamchatka guides on the remote waters of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. He has made a career of exploring some of the most remote and sought after trout and salmon waters on Earth. Blair recently sat down to take on some questions for the Venturing Angler:
1. Why do you guide where you do?
Back in 1994, I was working in Alaska (at Western Alaska Sportfishing) and really loved the place, but I had just read an article in Fly Fisherman Magazine about this mysterious place with huge trout and no people. I interviewed with Katmai Lodge – they were running the program on the Zhupanova (the river in the article) – and like most other guides they were attracting, I was told if I worked out I could guide for them on Kamchatka. Well I stuck it out and when my friend Steve Perih left to take a job on the Dean, I was in. Why do I still guide on Kamchatka after 17 years? – It is the most remote unspoiled salmon and trout wilderness on planet earth. It is the last place to be explored, and I am the luckiest trout fisherman I know.
2. What is your favorite fish specie?
Rainbow trout. They are beautiful and I love their wild nature.
3. What is your favorite thing about guiding?
I like the ability to run my own day. I have an idea in mind in the morning about who I am guiding and what I will do with their day. I am lucky to guide on rivers that make me look better than I am. More than anything I like to see the child like glimmer in my client’s eyes, to hear them laugh and have fun with them is what I enjoy most.
4. What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
I am the ultimate what’s around the next corner fisherman. For me the best trips are ones where I see new rivers. Last summer we ran Rainbows From Above, the only full flyout program on Kamchatka. The first day we landed on a tributary of a big river – it was absolutely loaded with huge rainbows, I am sure we were the first ones to ever fish that creek. There were other days we fished completely unknown rivers I picked from the air, every one of them loaded with steelhead size trout willing to eat almost anything. Variety is the spice of life.
5. What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
Funny – Maybe the time I took off in the jet boat, hit a rock, throwing me out of the boat landing in the river on my feet with my hand on the corner of the boat and it spinning in circles until I grabbed the throttle. That was funnier for my two guys who were laughing wildly at my expense.
6. What makes your guide service great?
At The Best of Kamchatka we strive to do our best, every day, for every guest. Kamchatka presents its own set of problems and we tackle them head on. I have been working with my Russian partner since 1999 and Victor Rebrikov is without a doubt the best logistics and organizational person on Kamchatka.
We also put things in order and fishing comes first. I know a lot of people say they have the best fishing, but lets cut to the hard facts, when it comes to trout fishing nothing compares to the Ozernaya River and Rainbows from Above. These are places time forgot and offer historical intact native trout populations; I know of no other place that this is true. At least not without a lodge on every river bend.
Just the size of our area is immense: from Two Yurt Base Lodge to the upper reaches of the Ozernaya River; downstream on the OZ to the Maimlya River and back south to camp 5 on the Two Yurt River encompasses 1.9 million acres. We fish it all with our three programs. Imagine one outfitter in an area just slightly smaller than Yellowstone Park.
7. If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
In 1998 I guided for steelhead on the Sopachanaya River on the west coast of Kamchatka. The first week us guides were there the group had cancelled and what a dream for me, Monte Ward, Ryan Lampers and Scott Howell. I would go to the spot Scott Howell had named the Heart Stretch and just camp there. The steelhead are only a few miles from salt and covered with sea lice, chrome, big and mean, that would be the place. I still have dreams about that week.
8. What are your favorite three flies?
Tony Paglia ties a mouse called the Jacks mouse, named after Jack Gartside – it is a tube fly and I love it.
Parachute Adams – that is the only dry fly you really need.
A black string leech.
9. What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
I have two things I need to have with me or I feel naked. On my wading belt I have a pair of needle nose pliers and my knife.
10. Do you have any other passions?
My biggest passion by far is my daughter and my wife. I also enjoy photography, history and literature.
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