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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Lure of Fishing on the Moscow River

Pyotr Rusakov has caught his first fish of the day, a shiny, 1-kilogram bream that has just flapped its way out of the Moscow River. Rusakov, a 42-year-old builder, will boil it or fry it up for the night's supper.

Like any good Moscow fisherman, Rusakov keeps his rod and supplies in his car at all times, anticipating that a bit of sun might break through the spring rain clouds when he has free time. Today is one of those lucky days.

Rusakov drove to Berezhkovskaya Naberezhnaya in the late morning and parked along the river across from the thermal power station. Here, thanks to the power plant, the Moscow River is unseasonably warm, and fish are known to congregate.

Gradually, more men arrive, and by 2 p.m., 10 rods are over the water.

"This is a hobby for me, and I come very often," Rusakov said. "This relaxes me."

It is legal to fish in the Moscow River, but with no more than two hooks and a catch limited to 6 kilograms of fish per day.

Igor Saburov, a retiree, has stopped by to see how the fishing is today. The former military pilot quotes an adage: "The time we spend fishing is not counted by God."

While it takes a certain temperament to be an ice fisherman, spring river fishing can be done by almost anyone. Those gathered here on the embankment have found a way to adapt their leisure activities to their work as builders, businessmen, taxi drivers, military men and factory workers. The cars parked along the river, from Volgas and Ladas to Range Rovers and Mercedes cars, suggest a diversity of means and backgrounds.

And age. The men range from 20 to 70, and others like them can be found in many locales along the river -- near the bread factories, even below the Kremlin wall.

From their perch on the embankment, there is a view of Moscow State University, the Foreign Ministry and Novodevichy Convent, where former President Boris Yeltsin was recently buried. A faint, pleasant, river breeze wafts past now and again.

It's all very peaceful -- except for the six lanes of traffic hurling by at manic speed, shaking the parked cars, coughing exhaust and kicking up small dust storms.

Here the Moscow River is so slathered with oil and pollutants that it doesn't even fully freeze in the winter. Yet somehow the place doesn't lack in atmosphere.

"It's relaxing, because I fish and stare at the water," said Ivan Aglodin, 20, an Ice-Fili ice cream factory worker. "I don't even hear the traffic."

"Everybody, all the fishermen come here," observed one man, who did not want to give his name. "I don't eat the fish, however. I give the fish to the old man," he said, pointing to an elderly angler next to him. The old man, sporting a big white beard and designer sunglasses, is fishing worms out of a battered Nescafe can.

The talk is scene-specific: How are the fish biting? When will they bite better? Technique is discussed -- Rusakov gets the most fish, but he casts constantly, trolling the water with his line and bare hook. After the bream, he catches a small roach and a carp.

Boris Yakubov, a 47-year-old taxi driver, is more meditative. He sits in his car and watches his rod, which hasn't moved, while smoking a cigarette.

"I have work in the mornings and the evenings, so I can fish in between," he said. "You can catch any kind of fish here. I eat the fish in the spring when they're fresh."

Sometimes the men discuss bait. A few dig their own worms at the dacha or the park, while others bring bread, which they roll up into small balls and stick on their hooks.

Mostly, though, there are long periods of silence and the occasional smile or nod when a rod twitches.

It's almost 4 p.m., but the clouds are moving out and the sun is beating down. The Moscow River even appears to sparkle.

"Look, the weather is improving," said Aglodin, a late arrival. "This is my first time out this year, and it's my day off. I'm going to catch some fish."