Fly Fishing the Alagnak River

Posted by John Perry on to Fly Fishing

The Alagnak River is one of the major rivers in the Bristol Bay Watershed. It is actually a tributary to the massive Kvichak (Kwee-jack) river that flows from Lake Illiamna. The Alagnak River is way down the system and flows into Kvichak Bay right before it turns into Bristol Bay. What separates this river from the rest is it's equally massive runs of all salmon species. Most of the other rivers have huge runs of just Sockeye, or Chum, but the Alagnak River actually has a solid run of all 5 species of salmon. The other thing is that it is wadeable from the near the mouth all the way up to it's source, the Nonvianuk and Kukaklek lakes.

All 5 species run the river starting in late June with sockeye and kings, followed by chum, silver, and pink salmon. This happens from late June through early September. Rainbow Trout live throughout the entire system as well with the largest concentration located in the famous Alagnak River Braids. There are also Dolly Varden and Grayling in the system, and most numerous in the braided sections as well where the salmon spawn and provide nutrients for a rich aquatic life. It is the salmon though that are the basis for all this incredible life that the Alagnak has.

Photos above used courtesy of Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alagnak River, Alaska

The best times of the year for each species

  • Sockeye: July- Lower River by end of the third week, upper reaches can have good sockeye fishing into early August.
  • King- The whole month of July, season ends July 31.
  • Chum- Second week of July through late August
  • Pink- (Even years only) Late July though late August
  • Silver- Late July through early September
  • Rainbows, Dolly Varden, and Grayling- These are always present and can be caught from the opener on June 8 through the end of September.

Prime time for Rainbows on mice is June and July, but peak numbers are caught once the salmon are in and are spawning in August and early September.

How remote is the Alagnak River?

The Alagnak River is remote. It is only accessible by float plane. There are some commercial raft operations that float the river annually, as well as 4 lodges on the river spread out over 80 miles of river. This is a great river for a novice to raft, but most would agree that the use of a lodge really helps in not only comfort off the grid, but also in the knowledge of the guides. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I have helped rafters out that are struggling to catch king salmon or even trout. It is a pretty solid river, but without some good intel, it may prove to be hard for a novice angler trying to do it on their own. Fishing the Alagnak requires only a fishing license from the state. If one is to float through the National Park, then there would have to be a fee paid (albeit minimal) to the Park service.

King Salmon (the town) is the hub reached daily from Anchorage that has air taxis that service the Alagnak River. We use Branch River Air for all our guest and supply shuttles. The flight to get to King Salmon from Anchorage is just over an hour, and the flight to the river is 30 minutes or more depending on where one wants to get dropped off.

The best sections of the river to target salmon are definitely the tidewater. This is where the salmon are chrome bright and full of maximum fight! They are also most aggressive in this section as they just arrived out of the saltwater and have just ended their feeding patterns. It is here where we are located and where we catch salmon in numbers most would not believe.

Fishing the Alagnak

The best sections for trout are up in the fabled Alagnak River braids. It is here where the salmon spawn and there is also a rich insect and sculpin population to offset the feed needed for the rainbows. We never target salmon so far away from the ocean in this section because it is here where they spawn and are less apt to fight as well. It has always been our belief that if they made it this far, let them spawn so we can enjoy their offspring later in the life cycle again in the tidewater. Great trout, grayling, and char fishing occurs in this section of the river.

My favorite time of year to fish the Alagnak is really any time I can! There is never a dull moment and each month has its highlights. Rainbows on mice in June, Kings and Sockeye salmon on the swing in July, offset by chum salmon on dries. Silvers in August, offset by even more chum salmon as well as pink salmon on even years. Rainbows all throughout the summer and peak numbers in August and early September behind spawning salmon. There is never a "bad" time in my opinion.

Wildlife & Hiking Opportunities

My favorite non fishing things to do would have to be wildlife viewing. There are moose, eagles, osprey, and of course the huge Alaskan Brown bears. There are also wolves in the area too! There are daily occurrences that coincide with fishing or we can just do a nice wildlife viewing session all on its own. Constant opportunities for photo ops for all wildlife in the area are happening constantly. We have even observed seals, beluga whales, and otters in the river! Never a dull moment!

The hiking out from camp is a fun option as well, with a few small lakes nearby. The trails are game trails and we always bring a gun and pepper spray along on these hikes just to be safe. We have found some moose kills not far from camp so always a good idea to do these hikes with a guide.

About the Author: John Perry

Owner: Angler's Alibi Lodge - Alaska

John Perry, originally from Michigan, began his guiding career in Colorado in the early 90's. It was here that he met fellow guide and now lodge manager/head guide TR Rafferty. TR left Colorado to guide in Bristol Bay Alaska, and came back with a summer worth of pictures and stories that that John could not imagine living. Two summers later after teaching fly fishing classes and guiding all over Colorado for trout, a guiding job opened up for John to come up and guide at a new small lodge called Angler's Alibi. It is here that John met the original owner Karl Storath. John worked for Karl through the year 2000. After life had it's changes with marriage and the need for a more year round career, John left Alaska but told Karl that he would love the opportunity to buy it when he was ready to retire. In 2007, John came back to Angler's and the change of leadership began as well. Today John is the owner of Angler's Alibi, and lives in Colorado in the off-season raising 2 boys Grey and River Perry with his wife Holly.

To learn more about Angler's Alibi Lodge visit www.anglersalibi.com or email John at John@AnglersAlibi.com.

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