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.
Check out the action off the dock at Mission Lodge. It's a lot of work to operate a 1st class Fly Out fishing operation. Mission Lodge is located on Lake Aleknegik in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The name "Aleknagik" comes from the Uupik native tongue meaning "wrong way home". It seems that quite often fishing and hunting parties returning to their villages on the Nushagak from Bristol Bay would mistakenly turn and follow the Wood River. The surroundings of the Wood are so similar to that of the lower Nushagak, a simple mistake in navigation would go unnoticed until the parties turned the corner and found themselves at the lake. At this time the lead boat would declare "ALEKNAGIK!" (wrong way home).
For hundreds of years the village of Aleknagik was the hub of trade and culture for the Alaska native peoples who lived throughout the Bristol Bay region. The ideal setting along the shores of Lake Aleknagik and the safe haven this location provided from the harsh winters of Southwest Alaska, proved to be the reason many of the regions natives made Aleknagik their winter home. Fur was the main item of commerce along with dried fish, berries, and hides from the previous summers harvest. Lessons learned from fishing and hunting expeditions were shared, creating strong ties amongst the people who came here.
Flying is part of the adventure in Alaska! This video showcases the beautiful landscapes that you can see each day as you travel to your fishing destination. Tikchik flies in the Wood-Tikchik Mountains, in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, and in the Wood-Tikchik State Park. Enjoy the flight!
Music: Open Air by Lemolo itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-kaleidoscope/id575354928
The Fly Out team had the opportunity stay a few days with Crystal Creek Lodge on the Naknek River in Bristol Bay, Alaska this past summer. As expected, Katie and I arrived to a well oiled staff and guide crew, with everyone being incredibly friendly, making us feel like part of the gang. We fished and filmed for two days in early July with Dan Michels and his crew of pro guides - Alex Oberholtzer and Aaron Rogers-Richter. The first day, we flew all the way down to the Alaska Peninsula past Ugashik Bay to fish a little-known river for King Salmon. The authentic Bristol Bay snot was in full force, so the skies were a bit gray for the cameras. However, we did find plenty of hot King Salmon and Chum Salmon that were very accessible with the fly rod. You can see scenes from that day in our short film - Long Live the King (showing at the Fly Fishing Film Tour).
The following day, we took a quick trip to a very small wadable creek in Katmai National Park. Alex flew the plane, walked us across the tundra, and put us on 5 species of fish in a matter of 4 hours. See the short video above for a quick summary of that day.
I can confidently say that Crystal Creek Lodge is the nicest lodge facility I have ever been to in Alaska. In addition to their incredible accommodations, the dining program is top tier. But besides all of that, the genuinity of the staff, the welcomed feeling and the atmosphere is what makes CCL special. If you want the authentic Alaska experience, you can find it here.
Uses: The Blood Knot is a favorite knot for fly fisherman. It is primarily used to join two lines of similar size, e.g., when joining sections of leader or tippet, and is one of the best knots for this purpose. The strength of the knot depends on making at least five, and up to seven, turns on each side of the center
Pulling the Knot Tight: When lubricated and pulled tight, the knot changes its structure. Pulling on each line forces the wrapped turns to redistribute the twists so that the inner strand becomes an outer wrap (not illustrated in the animation using rope).
Tying it: There are several methods of tying it. The animation shows each half being created separately, which provides a good picture of the structure.
Alternative: An alternative method is to just overlap the two ends and twist them together for about ten to fourteen turns. Then go to the center of the twists and create a hole. Pass the two ends the opposite way through the hole.
Whichever method is used, the knot is usually symmetrical about the middle. Although the twists usually continue in the same direction either side of the center as shown in the animation, it can be tied so that the wraps are mirror images of each other.
Advantages: The Blood knot is a simple, easily learned and very effective way of joining two similar sized lines.