Fly Fishing with Mikhail Skopets

On May 19, 20, and 21, I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Mikhail Skopets on some of my home-waters, where we fished for spring chinook in Tillamook Bay and on the Nestucca – and for black rockfish in the Pacific Ocean.

Mikhail Skopets is  – and I quote – “Author, professional scientist, Ph. D. in fish biology, and also a dedicated flyfisherman. Mikhail has written two sport-fishing books and over a hundred popular articles for the leading Russian sport fishing magazines.

Mikhail is a man who speaks multiple languages fluently, but is not inclined to engage in idle chatter.  His professional accomplishments are truly impressive:  he has literally pioneered vast regions of the Russian Far East, cataloging new species of fish, and – get this – he has caught something barely under a hundred different fish species around the world on a fly!  From my perspective of a fly angler who has been living in a paper bag for decades, pursuing our local stocks of salmon, trout, and steelhead – Mikhail’s adventures are the stuff of dreams and legends.

Mikhail described rivers like the Amur, where the ecological diversity of the basin is of epic proportion, fostering the evolution of more species than I recollect precisely  (something like 120-plus species have been cataloged in the Amur, many by Mikhail’s professional work). The evolution of such vast species diversity is made possible because the environments in the huge river basin are hugely different from main stem to tributary reaches, with some areas that are very warm in the summer and others that are very very cold during the winter.  Ecological diversity supports evolution of species diversity and places like the Amur are playgrounds for Mikhail, who related the fascinating life histories of species after species, while my mind drifted back to my local rivers where diversity between and among species is scant in comparison.

Anyway, Mikhail is currently engaged on one of his international fishing, exploration, and writing adventures, all of which are part of his personal quest to study fish around the world.  One friend described Mikhail as a guy who can head out into the wilderness with a bag of salt, and a knife – and re-appear three months later.  Forgive me if I bungled the description, but clearly this is a man who is at home fending for himself under the harshest wilderness physical conditions.

Our three days fishing consisted of two days fishing for springers and one morning fishing with John Harrell in his dory out of Pacific City. Springer fishing was hard work, often crowded, but we hooked an amazing leaper, that shortly broke off on a snag far from the boat. Mikhail got the in-air, hang-time photo for the memory book, and  I was able to show Mikhail a photo of a spring chinook I had hooked on a different day, so he could see what we were fishing for.

Our Dory fishing was a different story altogether. The surf was down and Jack Harrell pushed us off the beach where John captained us out into the briny nearshore waters.

A five minute run put us on a big school of black rockfish, right where John had found fish congregating a few days earlier.  John assessed the wind and current drift, cut the motor up-current from the school, and instructed us to begin our casting.

Our few hours on the ocean were a refreshing change from two full days chasing mostly lock-jawed spring chinook.  Many rockfish hooked, many brought to hand, lots of fish lost, and several times when all three of us were hooked up with hard pulling fish.

We headed in to the beach as the wind began to pick up, another great morning on the ocean under our belts, and a full fish box to share with friends in Pacific City.

Thank you, Mikhail, for the opportunity of sharing my home waters, our local fishing culture, and our passion for fish and fishing.  Come back soon, and we will take another shot at the elusive chinook salmon, and see if we can get out on the ocean again too.

Jay Nicholas, June 11, 2014

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8 Responses to Fly Fishing with Mikhail Skopets

  1. doublebluff says:

    What a great report. The fact that the guy came to fish with you is a testament to how unique your skills are. Great aerial pic of the salmon. Thanks for the post.

  2. Mrmachinist says:

    I was more impressed with “air Chinook” photo than anything else,….great shot.

  3. Two Dogs says:

    Jay, Great ariticle. Awe inspiring…..makes you want to get out and get a line wet.

  4. Rich Y. says:

    Thanks for sharing Jay. Hope to get over that way soon…..Rich

  5. Jay N. says:

    Thanks for all your kind thoughts and encouragement. My time fishing with Mikhail reminded me that my sphere of fishing diversity is but a tiny slice of the pie that is available to anyone who likes to fish. I feel very diverse when dabble in the ocean, fish for trout in lakes and streams, and chase the elusive steelhead and salmon. But there are opportunities I have barely touched right here in Oregon that offer fun and new discoveries. Think about whitefish, shad, perch, walleye, bass, Northern Pikeminnow, bluegill, surf perch, and more. Yes, halibut on the fly is on my list, and I’m hoping that this summer’s ventures into the ocean will include bottom fish, albacore, salmon, and sharks. So many choices, so little time. Today I think I’m going to skip out on the pesky salmon and chase trout in a coastal lake. But who knows what the day will bring? Again, thanks – and I’ll promise to share these silly little stories as they unfold. Jay N.

  6. Jon Tobey says:

    I’m proud to be editing, designing, and publishing Mikhail’s book Fly Fishing Russia: The Far East, which we have been working on for 8 years (!) and I never met him until he came out to fish with you. As a sign of how humble he is, I had no idea he had a PhD! We hope to have the book out this year. He deserves it, he is a great explorer, teacher, conservationist, and human being.

  7. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Thank you for your note Jon, and please keep me posted on your progress as this will be a great book, and I look forward to seeing Mikhail someday soon. JN.

  8. John G. Aronson says:

    Dear All: So glad to congratulate Misha on publication of his life’s experiences in RFE, quite a lot of it witnessed personally by myself. Is that your favorite AATA fishing hat? Great stuff. So many fond memories of Amur, Kamchatka, Aginskoe, Kubaka, Omolon, and many more! Way to go Misha! You are one in 6 billion! It is my great honor to know you as friend, colleague, scientist, and author. JGA

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