Yakutia — A Siberian Exploration

Go Behind the Scenes of Capt. Jack Productions’ Latest Film.

The Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) kicks off in Denver this weekend and like many of you, all of us here at Simms are stoked to check out all the new films and tip a few beers back in the process. One film we are extra excited for comes from Capt. Jack Productions. Founder, Jako Lucas, is the kind of guy who is perpetually days away from his next off the grid adventure. So before he could escape to Gabon on his next angling quest, we snuck in a quick Q&A to learn more about his latest film, Yakutia and why it’s his favorite piece to date.

Simms: So the last time we saw you, we were scrambling to take our booth down at ICAST and you were scrambling to get to the Orlando airport to catch a flight to Siberia. Well, how was it?
Lucas: Let me see how I can put it. I guess I would preface the whole experience by offering a little advice for any angler thinking about setting out on an exploratory mission and that is: When you are on an exploratory fishing trip, you have to go into it with zero expectations and be willing to accept failure as much as you welcome success. In short, the trip was nothing short of an epic adventure but it definitely came with its fair share of frustrations. But nonetheless, those frustrations were offset by some unbelievable, once in a lifetime moments/sessions of fishing.

Simms: Before we get into the highs and lows, tell us about the film. Where exactly were you and what was the main inspiration behind the project?
Lucas: So the title of the film is, Yakutia which is the region we were in. As far as the inspiration, I would say that really, the mission we tasked ourselves with was to find and catch a nelma on fly which had never been done before in Siberia.

Simms: Give us a little background on the trip. In the trailer, you refer to an expedition that took place in 05 in the same region, is that correct? How did you guys find out about the area and the fishing opportunities?
Lucas: Good question. It was really the brainchild of Ilya Sherbovich. From what I understand, it all started somewhere between 02 and 04 with a rafting trip set up by a Russian company called Team Gorky that specializes in adventure travel. A few of the guys on the trip brought along some spinning gear and caught a handful of big taimen. One of the guys on the trip came back and told Ilya what they saw and that’s when the planning for the 2005 trip all started.

Simms: So what was the reason for going back?
Lucas: Ilya is the type of person who loves to achieve what nobody else has achieved. In 2005, he and his crew set out to catch a nelma on fly and didn’t. So I think it was a little bit of that and also just trying to do the same trip only on a larger scale. It sounds kind of funny to say but back in 05, they were somewhat limited in terms of how much water they could access because they only had a helicopter. Back then, the were only able to fish two rivers. This time around, Ilya took it to the next level by hiring a mothership which conveniently had a heli pad  on top. So between the mothership, catarafts and a helicopter, we were able to access so much more water. In total, we explored 10 rivers. I feel pretty confident in saying we fished many areas that nobody ever has.

Simms: We’ve know you long enough to know when you say you are in the middle of nowhere – you really mean it. How does the Yakutia region compare to other remote areas you’ve fished?
Lucas: I can honestly say this was without question the most remote fishery I’ve every experienced, so remote it was actually a little scary.

Simms: In what way?
Lucas: Just how barren it is. The landscape puts of a weird vibe almost like it doesn’t want you there. It’s also knowing just how far you are away from civilization. To give you an idea, it took 5 flights just to get to the port where we boarded the mothership. Once on the boat, we sailed over 1,000 kilometers up the Lena River and then used the helicopter and catarafts to access all the spots we fished. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be that remote again. Planning this trip literally took over a year because it was such a logistical nightmare.

Simms: After all the planning and prep, was the mission accomplished this time around? Did you find and catch a nelma on fly? 
Lucas: I don’t want to give away too much. I will say that there were a few local fisherman that we tried to extract intel from who were incredibly contradictory. We first asked if nelma could be caught there. Their answer was “absolutely not, all the nelma are further north.” We followed their answer by saying, “So, it’s not even worth fishing for them here.”. They responded by saying “Well, yeah, you can fish for them, maybe there are a few around”. So again, we had no idea what to expect at all.

Simms: Earlier you mentioned accepting failure as much as you welcome success. How did that statement ring true on this trip?
Lucas: You know, people have this idea that when you go somewhere really far away, that’s in the middle of nowhere, that’s only been fished by a few people, the fishing is automatically going to be off the charts and easy. It’s not that way at all. Mother Nature doesn’t care how much time you spent planning, how much money you spent to get there or how many miles you traveled to get there. It’s still fishing — you cant’ control the weather nor the shape of the rivers. We had some areas that we found on Google Earth that looked unbelievable but when we arrived, the river was too high and/or blown out. We also found plenty of primo stretches of water that looked amazing but just weren’t holding any fish at all. It really took us a little while to get dialed in. But on the other hand, as an exploratory angler, I’m use to coming up with a Plan B. That’s something else I would press on all exploratory anglers — never underestimate Plan B, sometimes Plan B doesn’t just save the day, it ends up blowing your mind.

Simms: Were there any mind blowing Plan B sessions in Siberia?
Lucas: Definitely, and that’s really where the ultimate highs of the trip came in. During the last couple days of fishing, the rivers we really wanted to fish were a mess. So we decided to look for pike. We didn’t know what to expect but figured it was our best option. On my first cast, a 30 pound pike came completely out of the water and smashed my fly. From that moment on, it was insanity, the action just didn’t stop. I’m now completely broken for pike. The other standout was a day of taimen fishing that I simply didn’t think was possible.

Simms: Tell us more about that.
Lucas: Well believe it or not, out of all the seasons I’ve spent in Mongolia, I really havenb’t caught too many taimen because all my time there is spent guiding. In one day, actually less than a day, I achieved more in terms of taimen fishing than I could ever have hoped for in a lifetime. I mean, I didn’t catch a 60 or 70 inch fish like we know is out there but that day, we literally defied what we’ve all come to know of taimen fishing. In a 200 yard stretch, nearly every cast we made was rewarded with our fly getting smoked by a taimen.

Simms: How many taimen do you think you landed that day?
Lucas: Not sure if people will believe it or not but no joke, in that one day, we landed over 60 taimen which of course is absolutely unheard of. We weighed the largest one I caught and it was 36 pounds. It was just mind blowing. Never in a million years would I have ever guessed that there could be so many willing taimen stacked up in such a small stretch of water.

Simms: That was a Plan B day?
Lucas: It was. Back in 2005, the crew fished the same stretch and it didn’t produce anything. We weren’t planning on fishing it but in the end, we decided to go for broke and give it another shot. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Simms: How about the film. How do you feel about it as a filmmaker? Pretty proud of this one?
Lucas: In my mind, this is my best work to date and I’m so stoked to unveli it on the F3T.

Simms: What’s next for Jako Lucas and Capt. Jack Productions?
Lucas: Well, I’m off to Gabon next week hoping to land a giant tarpon from the beach. I’m sure I’ll have some stories when I return. In terms of Capt. Jack, we’ve got some pretty cool plans in the works right now but I’ll have to tell you more about those later — exciting stuff for sure.

Don’t miss Yakutia and all the other great films featured in the 2017 F3T. Buy Tickets