Brad Waitman at Igiugig Lodge graciously invited us to his lodge for a couple days of fishing and filming for our recent fly fishing film, Long Live the King. Located at the mouth of the Kvichak River and the outlet of Alaska's famous Lake Iliamna, sits his humble, family-run fishing lodge. The beach front location on the giant lake makes it feel you are on the ocean somewhere - maybe the Oregon Coast. Waves were licking the shore, and we really felt like we were out there - in the REAL Alaska. Brad runs a small operation, hosting just 4-6 guests per week. Brad is a pilot and a guide. So, he flies a Cessna 206 to many different fisheries in Bristol Bay and Katmai National Park, where he puts his 29+ years of Alaska guiding experience to work for you. The truth is, the guy is a fish hound. I mean he is fish nuts! One of those guys that has a sixth sense, and just knows how find fish, with every type of tackle and skill level. We asked Brad to try put us on King Salmon on fly rods on the very large Nushagak River, which does not naturally lend itself to fly fishing. Nevertheless, Brad was able to put us in the right spots at the right time for outstanding success. Nothing like having an ocean bright King Salmon tearing line off your reel at slack tide!
In addition to Brad's skills as a guide/pilot, he and his wife Brenda were incredibly generous hosts. The family atmosphere, good home-cooking, and comfortable accommodations made for a fantastic apres-fish experience. If you're looking for serious fishing, comfortable accommodations, with a first-class family owned lodge - consider Igiugig Lodge.
Homewater - Located on the Kvichak River, their operation is based on one of the most productive fisheries in Bristol Bay for both salmon and giant rainbows. When weather doesn't allow you to fly, it will not affect your day of fishing. It just might improve it.
Small Group Exclusivity - The lodge is available as exclusive with just 4 anglers.
Serious Anglers Take Note - If you're interested in fishing and fishing hard for a solid week, you've found the right place. If you want to swing for the world's hottest rainbows on the Kvichak with one of Alaska's most experienced guides, Igiugig Lodge.
Price - As a Bristol Bay operation offering fly outs, Igiugig Lodge's week rate sits at a modest $6,200. With special pricing available through us at Fly Out. Questions? Contact Us
Oh no, not another post on C&R tips and techniques! I know, I know, everyone knows about these bullet points. But in my experience, many of these best practices for catch-and-release are ignored during the excitement of the moment. It's just natural - I'm guilty of some slip ups also. Fish are brought in and banged against rocks. Big rainbows are held out of the water for 5 minute photo sessions. Hasty hook removal rips cartlidge on small fish. A fat char's guts are squeezed and compromised for the one-hander shot. There's no time to rescucitate because there are so many more fish to catch - how about just under hand tossing it into the fast current.
The truth is, if we're goint to practice successful C&R, we need to follow the commandments - religiously. For most of us, that means slowing down, and doing the things that we already know about taking good care of fish. Don't get in a hurry. The photos can wait. The long cast, the secret spot, the big fish, and the hero photos mean nothing without the resource. Here are a few bullet point reminders:
Pinch the barb on your hook flat so it's easily removed.
Choose your tackle wisely, plan ahead.
Land the fish as quickly and carefully as possible to avoid extreme exhaustion and injury near shore/boat.
Keep the fish in the water and resuscitate it. Handle the fish gently with wet hands or moist gloves.
If you must net it, use a release net made of soft knotless fabric and keep the fish under water in the net. Don't lift the fish up in the air or squeeze it. Minimize time out of the water.
Don't sacrifice the fish for the photo. Never squeeze your fish. Keep fingers away from gills and eyes. Minimize handling.
If you plan to keep a fish or two for the table, let the hook-up decide what you kill. Many people who claim to practice catch and release are in fact doing what commercial fishermen call "high-grading". They are sorting out the smaller fish, looking for the bigger fish. If a trophy size fish is hooked in the lip for an easy release – let it go. If you catch a smaller fish that is bleeding – keep it.
Locate the hook, then decide how to approach it. Back the hook out with hemostats or other hook removal tool.
Fish responsibly. Alter your method or your gear to minimize hooking mortality. That may mean going to circle hooks or setting the hook a little sooner. Apply deeply hooked fish to your bag limit and release the fish with good survivable hookup. If we are responsible in our approach today, it will mean more fish in the future for everyone.
In 2012, the Scorpion Reef expedition took the fly fishing world by storm. A group of close friends -- anglers from a variety of backgrounds and locales, pooled their talents for an exploratory trip to a remote atoll in the Gulf of Mexico.
What they found was something truly amazing. The wildlife, the camaraderie, an untouched fishery and a wild adventure resulted in one of the most unique and unforgettable adventures of a lifetime. They realized something profound -- the deeper one travels into remote and untouched locations, the greater the drive to go even deeper the next time. The experience becomes addicting... there are always new limits to push, new edges to nudge.
Scorpion Reef would be a hard trip to beat.
In planning the next great adventure, the crew wanted to take crewmember Alejandro "Sandflea" Vega Cruz, a Mexican from Isla Holbox, out of his element and show him something life changing. The result was an expedition into the heart of the Alaskan bush. The crew revisited an unknown and largely untouched river system -- explored by RA Beattie and Alaska guide Mark Rutherford almost a decade earlier.
Their intention? To target sportfish primarily with topwater.
To learn more about this film please visit the official website for more videos, photos, reports and a full tour schedule: http://alaskafishingfilm.com/
Our friend Ryan Peterson from Alaskanist Stories participated in "End of the Line", a story telling event put on by the Salmon Project in Anchorage. The stories are about fishing, eating, and living with wild Alaskan salmon. If you're a guide, you'll probably relate well to this story.
Also, if you haven't seen Ryan's short film "sea-swallow'd" - check it out.
What strikes most visitors to Alaska is the sheer scale of things (Sorry, Texas eat your heart out). The mountain ranges go on forever, appearing to be spilling over the edge of the Earth. The rivers and tributaries meander across prehistoric landscapes, colliding with giant glacier ice fields that mimic something from a science fiction movie . Moose, bears, dahl sheep, and other large mammals dominate the state's population, and meander without notice of civilization. Let's face it, it's hard to look past the enormity of Alaska. It drives home a brand of humility that is difficult to find in the human-centric world of smart phones and rush hour.
Occasionally (actually quite often), I thumb through our large gallery of Alaska photos from many different areas of the state. In those images, I find examples of the more subtle beauties of Alaska. A close up of the scales on a big Coho Salmon or a grizzly track impressed sharply into a river bank. It is quite amazing to encounter these tiny miracles and glimpses of infinity at the smallest micro scale. One moment you are soaking in the grandeur of an Alaska sunset, the next you are looking at the intricacy of bear scat. There is beauty at every scale in The Last Frontier.
The foundation and namesake of our company "Fly Out" is based in the beauty and freedom of flying wild Alaska. The opportunities for genuine adventure exist in Alaska because of the remoteness, the truly unspoiled wild country that is increasingly rare on this Earth. Ultima Thule Lodge truly represents the spirit of our brand. We would like to join them in presenting the 2nd installment of their web series, Beyond - Key to the Wrangells. The planes at UTL truly are time machines, as you travel back to a world unfathomable by our modern culture. Sit back, push play, and enjoy the ride.
Fly Out ambassador Nick Seiler put together a short video on some hot mouse fishing from last spring on the Talachulitna River. It's a gray day in the video, but the fish takes are worth it! It got me pumped up for those Alaska rainbows.
The best lodges in Alaska have incredibly high return rates. In many cases, guests have the first right of refusal for returning the same time next year, which means there can be few openings for new anglers. Your best chance to get a high-demand date is to book 6-12 months in advance. You can contact lodges directly through the Fly Out Directory.
2. Choosing the right Type of Operation
There are many types of fishing and adventure offerings in Alaska. In fact, it's an outright wilderness of options out there. Each lodge/company is unique in their culture, fishing operations, and other services they offer. Trying to classify the variety is a task – one with a lot of gray area. With that said, this is our attempt to categorize the Alaska fishing trip types:
Fly Out Lodge ($$$) – The most exclusive and luxury way to see and fish Alaska. These operations fly to different remote rivers, lakes and ocean locations daily. A fly out lodge allows you to experience the wonderful variety of Alaska, in addition to accessing the most remote fisheries in North America. For many, just the views from the air and the daily flight experience are worth the price of admission. In addition to having the most versatile and mobile fishing options, in general, Fly Out lodges offer extraordinary accommodations and dining.
Fly-In or Wilderness Lodges ($$) – Naturally, these lodges are located in remote locations, always from the road system, and only accessibly by air - hence, the name fly-in lodge. These lodges can be located on a lake system, ocean bay, or river; and it is this homewater that is the foundation for their fishing programs. Wilderness lodges do not have a daily fly out routine, but sometimes fly out options may be available a la carte. The meals and accommodations vary with each operation, from borderline luxury to "homestyle" country cabin and cooking.
River Lodge ($ - $$) – Located on Alaska's road system, river lodges provide comfortable accommodations, and delicious meals at a great value. The Kenai River boasts many reputable river lodges in Alaska, offering the complete Alaska experience including bear viewing, flight seeing, fishing, glacier tours, and more. At Alaska's river lodges, an angler gets the opportunity to experience everything that a single fishery has to offer with an easy accommodations package that doesn't require complicated travel logistics.
Float Trips ($ - $$) – A classic Alaska adventure focusing on a genuine wilderness experience, self-reliance, and a world-class fishing adventure. Despite the roughing-it nature of a float trip, most outfitters provide accommodations that are surprisingly comfortable, and the food always tastes good after a long day on the river. This is a great option for those fishermen and women who are looking for quality in fishing without all the fluff. If adventure is your passion, a float trip may be the best fit and value for your vacation.
Guide Service ($) – Individuals with a reputation. That is how we define the "guide service" category. Their strength is in intimate knowledge of the fishery, personal attention, and outstanding customer service. In most cases, a guide service will be able to provide food and accommodations with partnering lodging.
Often times, lodges have discounted weeks that are traditionally difficult to book. These weeks can be a great deal if you act on them while they are available. And, you won't sacrifice much in your Alaska experience or world-class fishing. On occasion, lodges will offer up to a 50% off as a result of a last minute cancellation. AlaskaFlyOut.com will start posting to our "Specials Page" for the most up to date discounts and cancellation rates. Stay tuned.
4. Find Reviews
User reviews are an excellent way to get genuine and honest information on a particular lodge or operation. Guest testimonials displayed on a company website are mostly handpicked, and usually a small sample size of the overall experience. Customer reviews are raw, showing the true quality of the product. Don't limit yourself to just looking at the rating or score, but read the comments, where the most valuable information can be found. Popular review sites that are linked through our directory are Trip Advisor and Yelp.
5. Consult an Alaska Expert
There are many guides, veteran anglers, and travel professionals that have first hand knowledge of different Alaska adventure and specific lodges. These folks have valuable 3rd-party information that you cannot find anywhere else. Whether you are planning your first trip to the Last Frontier, or you would like a 2nd opinion on a new adventure, there are resources out there to help. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Or, better yet, let someone else do it for you. Use an expert to help you cut through the clutter and marketing fodder that you see on the company websites. In most cases, that advice is free to you! You can Contact Fly Out for advice on planning a trip to Alaska at no cost. We're happy to provide unbiased and honest information on Alaska lodges and adventures.