So after many years of saving up and a lifetime of dreaming about it, I was finally able to put together a trip to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. I will try to capture the experience in words but suspect that I will fall short of it by a considerable margin. I just do not think it is possible to convey it completely in written form...but I will do my best.
I planned this trip to take place at the beginning of August. I did this for several reasons. That time frame is just about the end of the Sockeye run peak in the Kenai and Russian rivers. I had never caught a Sockeye before and really wanted to get one...especially a pic of a really red male with a green head. While not great to eat at that point they still have a lot of fight and just plain look awesome.Fresh (silvery) Sockeyes are supposedly the best eating of the salmon. Once my haul is shipped home I intend to test that out immediately. With the ending of the Sockeye run the Silver (coho) run starts. Having caught numbers of these in NY I was less concerned about them but still wanted to catch them as well because they fight so well. My research showed that many sockeyes are spawning upriver at this time, which means wild rainbows and Dolly Varden (char) will be upstream as well right behind mating salmon gorging on their eggs. I sooo wanted to catch a Dolly (and possibly a grayling). There is something special about getting on a new species! Mission accomplished (minus the grayling which were only in lakes this time of year requiring a long hike through bear infested wilderness....no thanks).
Landed in Anchorage at 1:00 am AK time and started the 2 + hour drive to Sterling, where we would be staying at a cabin. This was the only time I saw true darkness during the entire trip. Dusk lasted for hours. We fished until 11:00 pm most nights. It was more of a house then cabin, with heat, electricity, a full kitchen, shower, etc. but even more importantly, the Kenai was right behind it....30 seconds from door to shoreline. Nice. Some shots of the ride in:
Arrived at the cabin. Our view:
Fished the Russian river that evening:
Got my first sockeye right away:
The next day we were on our own. Did some exploring and found a total honey hole of salmon (props to my friend Ian for the hole score).
Hero shot and the wicked teeth on the "Christmas Tree" sockeyes...
Did a driftboat trip on the Kenai for trophy rainbows and dolly varden the next day. I have had many guides over the years, but this group "Alaskan Angling Addiction" and our guide (co-owner Lee) were top notch. We slayed them...all on 10 mm beads (egg imitations) and all on fly rods. Crazy numbers of 20+ inch rainbows. My friend Ian landed a 28" wild rainbow (no stockies up there) that was the biggest the guide had landed so far this year. My pb was this almost 24" rainbow:
We had 6 consecutive drifts over one area alone the netted a 20+ inch rainbow each drift, including the above! Also got my first Dollies on this trip, landing about 8 or so. Fantastic. If anyone does Alaska and wants a driftboat this is the outfit to use....trust me! Next day we were on our own again. This time, having become used to fly fishing a bit more, we set out to chase dollies and rainbows on a smaller creek. As I mentioned earlier they would be following the spawning sockeyes so after some research, that is what we did too. You cannot fish for salmon on this creek because of their spawning (wouldn't want to anyway there) but trout are fair game. Serious bear country as this was way off the beaten path. It was a good thing our rental was a 4WD suv! We stayed close together and didn't wander too far from our parking spot, but we didn't need to. Ian dialed in right away drifting an 8mm egg imitation over the Dollies and Rainbows that we sitting behind the salmon. Pure sight fishing at it's finest! Some of the dollies were as big as the salmon and though I hooked up on two easy 5+ lb dollies I didn't get them to the bank on my light gear. Those are some strong fish!!
We fished there most of the day and had a blast. If I had one regret it is that I didn't have one more day at this spot...it was just perfect. We finished up the day fishing for some more reds on the Kenai.
The next day we did a float plane trip across Cook inlet. We landed 5 silvers but there we bazillions of them and sockeyes around. The fishing was ok here, but by this point the bar was pretty high. For some reason I have no pics of these fish? I have never seen such numbers of fish. Sockeyes and Kings may not strike a lure so much, but I am here to tell you that Silvers do. I fished a $ 4 blue fox spinner high in the water column (to avoid snagging reds) and several times I would see a silver chase my lure to the boat, bump it, or bump it - wait then come back and bite it. All of those that I caught were landed this way. We were not the only ones fishing for salmon here:
There were black bears everywhere coming out of the woods for the salmon. This area (Wolverine creek) is super remote. No roads, houses or humans. I doubt I will ever be further from civilization.
The last day we didn't fish much but were pretty satisfied anyway. We took our time to get back to the airport to see sights like this:
This trip by far exceeded my expectations. It was so much better than any other trip I have done and doubt I will top it...at least that is, until I get back up there It is not a cheap trip and everything is expensive up there it seems. Shipping my haul, which I kept limited, was $200.00 alone, and I did all of the fileting and wrapping! But it was soooooo worth it. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to fish and also has a sense of adventure. It won't be anytime too soon, but I will be back!