The BEST Way to Experience Fishing in Alaska
Here’s a summary of my summer of guiding anglers in Western Alaska.
When I headed out June 1st to the fishing lodge in Western Alaska, we had about seven days of set up before our first guests would arrive. The entire staff piled bags and gear for the 130 day season into one of three Beavers and two 180 float planes. Of course the flight over was incredible as all of the remote country West of Anchorage is.
The first day I was headed to float the Copper River with one of the veteran guides at the lodge.
In recent years, the Copper River has lacked the fishing quality as compared to other local rivers. However the adventure here is what had me excited, and still has it pinned as my number one favorite trip I guided all summer. The several mile float requires two portages, one being a 30 foot waterfall.
In June I fished several small rivers some about 110 miles South of the lodge.
These creeks were loaded with large grayling, the biggest I have ever caught and the pools were shared by many willing Dolly Varden. Some days you could leave here with 40-50 fish per rod. On one particular day my two clients landed over 100 fish together on a mouse!
I also fished the braided section of the Alagnak River where we have jet boats stashed. This is just a 10 minute flight from the lodge. Here we got into many nice rainbows on streamers and mice. I fished the Kvichak River a few times in June which allowed for some really nice rainbows as well as the start of the sockeye salmon fishery. I personally really enjoy the spring fishery in Alaska due to the large variety in rivers and fishing techniques used at this time.
As July began I spent many days fishing for sockeye salmon, chum salmon and some King salmon.
I’m not a king guide, so the main king fisheries are left to our other guides, but we also fished rainbows, dolly varden and grayling on many different rivers. I had many fun days floating from rafts and fishing streamers to aggressive rainbows at this time. Dry flies and nymphs for grayling was also fun after a limit of salmon was caught. July is a fun time to come if you want to take some salmon home and also experience the variety that June offers.
In August the fishing began to heat up for bigger rainbows.
We experienced unusual hot and dry weather in July which made many rivers run low and fish differently in August yet we were still able to find plenty of big rainbows. I mainly floated the famous Moraine Creek where you can catch 10-50 rainbows from 20-26”+ in a day and see just as many brown bears. The bears really add to the trip.
In August we also start targeting silver salmon as they come into many of our rivers.
One of my favorite trips and a guest favorite was the trips to “the coast”. These are about an hour flight from the lodge depending on whether and offer an incredibly scenic flight over many glaciers and rivers. You often see seals and otters near the mouth of these coastal rivers. Fox and bears are ever present along the banks of those rivers. Of course the fishing is good and you can almost expect to bring back your limit of silver salmon. Usually you have caught enough before lunch and with sore arms will enjoy a fresh caught silver fillet over a fire! Be sure to take some home and try this smoked salmon recipe.
The Kvichak starts to fish good in August as well. Once the chums start spawning the big rainbows drop out of Lake Iliamna to feed on the fresh eggs.
As September begins fall is here and the cold nights and sometimes frosty mornings are here.
Anyone who has ever fished during this month in Alaska knows why it is a favorite. If you are a serious rainbow fisherman fall is the time to come fish Alaska to target trophy trout!
In September we find the rainbows have put on some serious weight since June and are still eating heavily on salmon eggs and flesh to put on weight for the winter. They become professional feeders and are without doubt the hardest fighting rainbows in the world. Again working with a fly out lodge I fished several different rivers in September to target rainbows and silvers.
The bears tend to be very concentrated on the rivers that boast the last sockeye salmon for them to feed on before hibernating. You will fish among the bears on the smaller rivers and creeks but it is not something to worry about as your guide is trained and both us and the bears have a mutual respect for one another.
If you are hoping for a 30”+ rainbow then the Kvichak and Naknek rivers are the rivers you will want to be on. Fishing long leaders and indicators with beads or flesh flies might land you a chance at one of these giants! However never come to Alaska and expect one of these giant rainbows, they have a way of taking even veteran anglers to “school” once they are hooked. In any event a true 24”+ rainbow is a great fish anywhere and I promise you the ones in Alaska fight harder than the lower 48 trout.
Lastly October it gets cold and weather can be a factor.
You will see less quantity but quality of fish rises above. We will target Arctic char in October as well, these days often provide excellent fishing. One particular day I guided for them we had multiple fish over 28” and two char went over 30”. We also had a wolf run along the beach near us and a bull moose cross the river right in front of us! Alaska is wild and I love it!
Summing it all up.
In my season I fished at least 18 different rivers and as a lodge we fished at least 30 rivers and have the capacity and permits to fish up to 40 different rivers in the span of the season.
With so many options we always have an option where to fish even if weather or other circumstances prevent us from fishing a certain river. It is especially nice as a guide to fly over a river and decide to not fish it for any reason that could be water level, other anglers, not seeing fish from the air etc. As a guest it’s nice to know your guide and pilot have the best interest for you and your experience while at the lodge and won’t just drop you on an unproductive stretch of river.
In my opinion the best way to experience all that Alaska has to offer is to go with one of the premier fly out lodges. The variety of fishing and what you will experience here in a week is unrivaled. You will be planning your return as soon as your schedule allows. I guarantee it!