Every year in the summer months of June or July, I host a group to visit the Alagnak Lodge in the legendary Bristol Bay region of Alaska. This year my planning had a bitter sweet cloak as one of my best friends who is the marketing manager had left my and formerly his home state of Virginia to move to Kuwait. His wife had accepted an offer to join a pediatric group there and he will continue to be a stay at home parent. He tried valiantly to arrange a schedule for our annual visit but at the last minute was unable to make it.
This year’s group now consisted of a father with an adult daughter from Virginia and two friends from the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. One of these two guys owns Despedida Lodge. Trust me that’s a long ways to come to go fishing! I could only hope they would think this arduous amount of travel was worth the effort! I had completed the planning for the group to meet in Anchorage and travel from there to King Salmon where we boarded a chartered float plane for the half hour ride over the tundra to the lodge. All went well and we all enjoyed a low calm flight where we saw nesting swans and some groups of the young born earlier.
Once at the lodge we were shown to our rooms where the guides had placed the luggage while we were provided lunch and a brief introduction to the planned fishing periods. We assembled gear and gathered at the dock. It was explained in pre-trip letters that we would be targeting Chum (Dog) Salmon during our week. This species is known for its explosive strikes and strong, long runs. We attached short four foot 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader to the floating fly lines. The guides provided and tied on their own versions of flies that were pink, purple and mylar blend flash material with loop knots that allowed the flies to articulate. The guide selected a sand bar a short distance from the dock still in view of the lodge and anchored.
Alagnak guides performed brief but necessary boat safety explanations then make suggestions about casting weighted flies in the company of others! This is one case when a tight loop is not proper! The fishermen have a choice of casting from the boat or wading on a hard sand bottom in three feet of water. The fish are constantly coming across the sand bar in waves….wave, after wave, after wave. This is great fun for the fishers that are paired. Double hook ups are very, very common. The cast is made at 45 degrees downstream and the fly is allowed to swing in the current until below the angler then left to sway in the current a bit before a slow erratic retrieve.
During our visit the third week in July the King Salmon (Chinook) should have completed their run….those trolling incoming tides using very stout boat rods with wobbling lures were still catching very large bright fish! Sockeye Salmon (Red Salmon) were still around but not in great numbers. An early Silver (Coho Salmon) was caught the day we departed, early for that run. All salmon species on the Alagnak were long and strong. This river is legendary in supporting species and good upriver Rainbow Trout fishing as well. Fly outs were available daily but no one felt they were needed with what was right at the lodge!
The steps (48) from the lodge to river seemed a bit steeper this year as I am dangerously close to 8 decades use of life’s calendar. I plan to be there next year and already have a few committed to the group. If all goes as I plan it I will be returning to Nicaragua for a demonstration to guides of the Rio Indio Lodge. The New Guinea trip for this November is ALMOST the bottom of my bucket list…we shall see?
Stop by The White River Fly Shop at Bass Pro Shops – Richmond, VA for all your Fly Fishing needs!
Pro Staff at Bass Pro Shops - Richmond, VA