The creeping red colour change that would mark their rotting death had not yet begun and they were still virile and powerful after returning from the Northern Pacific to the Sea of Okhotsk. A lifetime had prepared them to now unerringly find the narrow mouth of the Palana River that had spilled them to the oceans seven years before. Now all that remained was to run the final gauntlet of watercourse that would take them deep into the heart of Kamchatka to their long remembered spawning pool.
Sasha looped the net’s large metal anchor-ring over a stake embedded in the muddy bank and pushed off. Taking the oars, he propelled hisbattered little boat out into the rip of river for the last time with strong, confidant strokes. Behind him the net trailed out over the stern to form an arc of bobbing cork floats. On the bank his brother Victor waited for the boat to sweep back to shore and close the net. For long moments he watched another far more practised team in the distance – at the estuary, a pod of baluga whales harried the schools and took their share, their snow-white backs breaching then vanishing in tail-thrust whirlpools.