Alaska is the last place on the planet where one can catch all 5 species of Pacific salmon in abundance. The fishing is still stellar compared to other areas of the Pacific that once had amazing runs of salmon. Fortunately, Alaska is well managed and has been able to keep away from Dams that are and were one of the major reasons for the declines of salmon in the lower 48. Sure, there are other environmental issues that are in battle right now as I type that could possibly upset the last great runs of salmon but that is a whole other topic.
Alaska salmon coming from the Bering Sea side of the Peninsula are still pristine. The fact is that there are no hatcheries here to enhance the runs, just a pure biomass of salmon rearing rivers, estuaries, and of course the Bering Sea. King, Sockeye, Calico, Pink, and Coho salmon roam the rivers and are still in abundance supporting not only a thriving commercial fishery in July for sockeye salmon, but also an incredible sport fishing industry for all 5 species of salmon. The salmon supports all bonus species of Trout, Arctic Grayling, Arctic Char, and Dolly Varden as well.
The fishing show season is officially underway for the 2020 season. These shows are a great way to not only meet new customers but to also spend time with past and present customers from years past. This is also a great way for anglers to participate in several different courses on casting, fly selection, and trip planning for that dream fishing tip of a lifetime.
The Denver fly show has come and gone already with a flash. The Denver show was a huge success and is now the largest one of its kind in the Fly Fishing Show circuit! We were able to stay engaged with current or past guests the whole show while answering a lot of questions for possible new guests. My voice is finally recovering from all the talking I did over the course of the 3-day show.
Spey fishing has really taken off in the fly fishing world as of late. It has to be the latest revenue maker for the industry as far as gear goes, but why? Trout spey, single spey, double spey…it’s all spey fishing but why is it gaining more popularity every year?
Spey fishing originated in the British Isles, Scotland to be exact; back in the mid 1800’s on the river Spey. The main concept of spey fishing that makes it so different than conventional single hand fly-casting is that it requires no back cast. This lack of a back cast makes it much more efficient to fish rivers near the bank without hanging up in the foliage on a routine basis that all honest fly anglers can relate to. The other main difference with spey fishing is that if the swing is the chosen presentation for the fly, then a spey rod is the tool. It makes even more sense when a sink tip is involved in the formula. It does not take long for a single hand angler casting a 400 to 500 grain sink tip to ask for a break to give his arm a rest, but put this same scenario into a spey rod angler and casting that sink tip all day long is a non-issue.
2019 Angler's Alibi - Season In Review
The state of Alaska had the hottest summer ever recorded and those warm temperatures combined with lower than average stream flows – certainly made for a challenging year! The hottest day we recorded at camp was a sweltering 89 degrees on July 4th. Fortunately, our amazing rainbow trout fishery was impacted less by these warmer river temperatures and we also had another strong sockeye run during the peak of this record heat. The king salmon run never really got going this year with fish going into survival mode and not feeding as aggressively as they normally do. Nevertheless, we did manage to catch kings throughout July - just not at the levels we were accustomed to.
To put it mildly, Mother Nature could not have been any tougher on us for our inaugural season on the Nushagak River. Alaska experienced the hottest summer in recorded history. With low water conditions to start the season, this was a recipe for one hell of a tough start. Warm water and salmon do not mix. Pacific salmon are coming out of the ocean on every tide to start their migration up river to spawn. When the salmon go from low 40-degree ocean temps to warm 60 to even 70-degree water, they kind of go into a survival mode and a lot of the king salmon will not bite anything. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to find willing king salmon on a daily basis despite the less than desirable conditions throughout the entire season.
2019 Trout Opener on the Alagnak River
The Alaska trout opener has become an amazing way to kick-start the Alaskan fishing season on the Alagnak. Just imagine hungry, eager, trout that have not seen an angler of fly in over 8 months! These trout are more than willing to strike both top water and sub surface patterns on June 8th - and four fortunate guests of Anglers Alibi were ready and willing to present a fly as the clock struck midnight. We had set up a small camp for just the night and enjoyed a nice dinner at an extremely remote area of the Bristol Bay Watershed. With a nice campfire and some spirits, the guests were more than amped up for a trout opener that they would never forget.
Trout, lake trout and Arctic Grayling were slurping dry flies as we all waited on baited breath, constantly checking our watches to see just how many minutes were left on the day until it was legal time to make that first cast. Bets were placed on who would have the first trout on the fly and, sure enough, the first trout was stripping line off a reel that all could hear in seconds from the opening yell of “go time”. Yes, one of the guests had hooked up on a trout on their first midnight cast!
If it’s been a while since you visited Angler’s Alibi in Alaska, or are considering a first visit, then some updates we made last spring (2018) may be of interest.
If you aren’t familiar with us, Angler’s Alibi is a premier tent cabin lodge on the Alagnak River and the somewhat unexpected update was to our main dining tent. We had to make some decisions about a rotting floor and a very tired canvas top so we decided the smart decision was to build a new main lodge, including dining, instead of repairing the old one. Russ was the main carpenter on the project and together with the rest of our crew, we managed to get a brand new dining room with a small bar, stand alone fireplace, and plenty of seating for both dining and relaxing.
The rainbow trout opener was another first for us at Angler’s Alibi in 2018. We wanted to share what our lodge fishing guides and I have been experiencing for the past several summers with some guests on the now annual trout opener in Bristol Bay Alaska. This trout opener is always on June 8, and has been a good break for the staff to head up river and target trout on mice patterns, dry flies, or swing flies.
We only took 4 guests for this special opening event and the results were actually better than we imagined they could be. We started out by splitting up the guests into two groups. One group headed up to a special place where they camped out for the midnight opener while the other pair headed up river to some very solid places in the Alagnak River Braids for that first cast of the season at midnight.
The group that was on the overnight got lines in the water at midnight and fished until about 3am, landing more trout than they could ever imagine on mice patterns. The rainbow trout were extremely concentrated with an appetite that was literally ferocious. By 3am, our guests were tired out and ready for bed, so they went back to the tent for a short rest. By 10am, they were back at it all day until the pick up at 5pm. One of the anglers in this group was quoted as saying:
“This is literally the best trout fishing I have ever seen in my 35 plus years of trout fishing all over the country,” they went on “After several trout openers in Yellowstone, this is by far the most superior opening day event ever!”
Fishing Season Summary: 2018
The 2018 fishing season was nothing short of amazing for us on the Alagnak River in Alaska. A very late run of sockeye salmon and king salmon to Bristol Bay made for a slow start to the first week on the Alagnak but once it got going, just after the 4th of July, we quickly forgot about the first few slower days. The weather was finally “average” with probably a little more rain than usual. This is not the greatest for flying out but was fantastic for our water temperature and keeping the salmon on the bite. Once the sockeye started, they did not stop until the last days of July – late start…but a late, and very good, run!
The Alaska sockeye fishing season was another one for the record books here on the wild Alagnak River. Although it started extremely late, I would say around the 5th of July was the first day we could really go after them with limits a non-issue. This run usually starts on the 29th of June – July 1 like clockwork, but not this year. Many were getting very nervous about the fish having some high seas catastrophe over the winter but I can assure you this was not the case. The sockeye salmon started late and ran later than we have ever targeted them. We were still catching limits of sockeye in the mornings and catching silvers in the afternoon in late July. I have to admit, this is something I have never seen in over 25 years on the river.
The upper rivers where they spawn will have plenty of biomass to feed a thriving wild trout population. These wild Alaskan trout are so coveted to the many sport fish anglers that fish this watershed on an annual basis. The huge biomass will also feed the entire ecosystem from the trees and brush that line the banks of the river to the bears and many bird species that call this river drainage home. The sockeye are no doubt the largest supporters of this watershed in terms of fertilization, and this year is a banner crop yet again.
The primary contributor, John Perry, is the owner and manager of the lodge. He'll offer fishing summaries and tips too...check back or sign up for the email news to get updates when posted.