After an exceptionally high water year in 2016, some saying the highest water levels in 40 years; 2017 saw some of the lowest water levels in perhaps the past 10 years for most of the season. The great thing about seeing such extreme conditions in back to back years, is the sense of being convinced of what an amazing location the Alagnak Wild River really is! Regardless of water levels the river delivers and the fishing has been fantastic!
The trout fishing was better than it has been for a decade and everyone the whole length of the river attested to the fact that when it comes to trout fishing, the Alagnak is BACK, and back with a vengeance! Many trout were brought to hand, after careening runs and acrobatic leaps, that taped out at well over 20” with numerous brutes being measured between 25” up to 29” and even a few of 30” inches!
What a thrill to see these aggressive trout smashing a mouse pattern skated across the surface of the river! A truly fun way to spend the day. We were even catching grayling on mice!
This year saw record returns of Sockeye Salmon across the whole of Bristol Bay watersheds. The Alagnak was no different, with massive pushes of bright chrome salmon arriving on every tide, filing their way past our lodge for week after week. We were catching fresh Sockeye even into the second half of August, at first glance mistaking them for Silvers, as chrome Sockeye fishing should have ended weeks before!
With the arrival of the Sockeye, our neighbors moved in as well. Seeing big Alaskan Brown Bear on the river, is a real highlight for all of our clients, be they fishermen or photographers.
photo by client Patti Larson
In fact we saw bears most days from the lodge itself throughout the whole of the season from late June through September when we left. This meant that with low water conditions, photography opportunities were perfect to capture amazing images of these majestic creatures as they captured one salmon after another, packing on the calories during their short feeding season. These bears can almost double their body mass in just 3 months! They are here for the same reason we are….all those fish!
photo by client Tricia Honour
Not to mention, one of the best rivers anywhere to target them with a fly rod! It was not unusual for us to find pools holding a dozen, two dozen, 50 and in some cases we had pools holding in excess of 100 Chinook Salmon.
It was not unusual for our anglers to tie into one after another aggressive, sea-liced Chum with many doubles, triples and quadruples happening throughout the day. Rarely would a whole 5 minutes pass without someone’s rod being doubled over by these hard fighting salmon on some of the bars we fished!
But also true to form, when they did arrive, they arrived in big numbers and continued to arrive even up to the moment we closed our doors and walked away for the season. I personally caught 4 Silvers, including one extremely bright fish, in almost as many casts right off our docks the morning we left.
Drift and wade fishing produced 100’s of 20” to 25” inch trout as copious numbers of salmon copulating in the river began to drop their eggs. These trout, together with the other “egg-eaters”, (grayling and big number of beautiful arctic char); gorged on eggs for weeks on end deep into September. By mid-September we were switching over to flesh patterns and continued to catch some real trophy trout and char with fishing remaining strong through the last half of the month when we called it a wrap for this year!
Multiple years of healthy, big runs for all our various salmon species bodes well for the Alagnak Wild River! We anticipate that fishing will only get better, if that is possible, and our system will continue to fish well for years to come. Abundant food, in the form of salmon eggs, flesh, fry and smolt will continue to sustain this world class fishery for resident species such as leopard rainbow trout, arctic grayling and char. All those spawning salmon mean that future runs should also remain strong into the foreseeable future as this natural spectacle and “cycle of life” on the river continues!
Report by Wayne McGee
Owner ATA Lodge, Alagnak Wild River
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