Two Weeks In Alaska

• By Jason Hansen • Fishing Spots

Combat fishing in Alaska
Combat fishing in Alaska

I never thought I would think this, but some aspects of fishing in Alaska make me appreciate what Idaho has to offer. Sure, Idaho doesn't boast chinook salmon that top the century mark, or silver salmon that make flyfishermen's arms ache, but it does offer fish that actually feed on bugs and the luxury of seclusion even on its more well-known waters. Both of these points became readily apparent in my recent two-week excursion to Alaska.

I travelled to Alaska with a friend in hopes of getting into at least a few salmon, but expecting more to get into substantial numbers of trout. The surprise of the trip happened during the first couple days while we were visiting Lake Clark in the Lake Clark National Forest, when we discovered northern pike on a fly rod.

Large northern pike
My friend with a northern pike.

The third day at Lake Clark we rented an aluminum boat with an outboard for the day and planned on trolling for lake trout in the morning with our fly rods, followed by searching for northern pike in the afternoon. My flyfishing trolling setup needs some refinement as I was only able to land one lake trout. In the afternoon, we motored up a slow-moving tributary of Lake Clark and beached the boat on a grassy island that just screamed "bear country." As my friend got off the boat he spooked three northern pike sitting close to shore - a good sign. We spent the next couple hours patrolling the grassy shoreline of the river island stalking shallow northern pike. Once spotted, a cast and retrieve with a large streamer drew pants-peeing strikes as the fish would suddently dart four to five feet to devour the fly. Nothing is quite like seeing a voracious fish lie motionless, watching your fly undulate through the water until something snaps in its primitive brain and it slashes through the water in a heart-stopping instantaneous attack, making a grown man scream in simultaneous horror and amazement. Nothing, that is, except when the 24" pike you're reeling in is viciously assailed by a 30"+ pike that's decided to try to eat your pike. Sideways.

After Lake Clark, my friend and I rented a car in the city of Kenai. Amusingly, the Budget rent-a-car lady reminded us that there was a $300 deposit for the car and that if it smelled like fish when we returned it, the deposit would not be refunded. When we returned it in four days, it did not smell like fish. I think a fish smell might have actually been better, as we had just spent four days sleeping in the car with all of our smelly waders, socks, shorts, fishing vests, and everything else. A $5 can of Febreze was probably our best investment of the trip.

Kenai River rainbow trout
Kenai River rainbow trout.

We spent the four days with the Budget car investigating the Kenai River, Russian River, and various lakes along the stretch from Soldotna up to Cooper Landing. One of the days was spent on a guided trip down the middle section of the Kenai River fishing for big rainbows. My friend landed several brutes just over 20" while I landed the big fish of the float at 24". We also spent a few days fishing the lower stretches of the Russian River, just above the confluence with the Kenai River. The amount of people fishing for sockeyes was incredible and at times frustrating. My friend and I started to figure the river out a bit, stalking fish close to the bank that would normally be overlooked by other anglers. We caught several nice rainbows and had a few very nice sockeye on.

The second week of our trip was spent based out of Homer, Alaska. We were able to get in a chartered trip in Cook Inlet for halibut, even catching a few on a fly rod.

Anchor River king salmon
Anchor River king salmon.

The Anchor River became our main focus because of the proximity to Homer, the clarity of the water, and the very large chinook salmon that inhabited it. I spent many hours fishing until midnight or later thanks to the northern latitude, and only caught one chinook and one pink salmon on the Anchor. They were both great fish but its frustrating when you can see the large fish in the water, snubbing every perfect drift you put by their nose. The surprising element of the river was that we never got into any decent Dolly Varden or rainbow trout fishing. Talking to a local angler, he mentioned the dollies had not made their way into the river from the ocean yet.

The trip was a fantastic experience overall. The following are my better pictures from the trip.

Lake Clark is beautiful, but it rained the entire time we were there.

Lake Clark glaciers viewed from the plane.

Me (left) and my friend (right) with nice lake trout.

Alaska panorama

Northern pike were the big surprise of our Alaskan adventure.

The Kenai and Russian Rivers.

Alaska's main inhabitants - bald eagles and bears.

Fun with underwater bubbles.

Pink salmon carcasses are wicked.

The Anchor River and a fresh pink salmon.

Fly fishing for halibut - who knew?! Also, the big glacier across the bay from Homer, AK.

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I like how in the pictures, your lake trout is huge in comparison to your friend's.

Your blog and this site are a fantastic resource. I'm glad to have found it.

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