Guide’s Reflection on Fly Fishing in Remote Alaska
By Guide Jordan Romney (reprinted with permission; original 2015 post here.)
Where to begin? If you haven’t seen Alaska in your life you haven’t seen shit. I have always had my eye on guiding in AK and when I saw how bad the drought was getting here [in CA] it was time to make it happen. Getting a guide job in Alaska is not the easiest and through a few connections I was put in touch with a outfit called Epic Angling and Adventure (www.epicaaa.com). Epic is a smaller operation that truly shows guests a very different remote side of Alaska. We offer two different camps which have two different options in terms of accommodations and fisheries. Both camps are on the Alaska Peninsula and there the adventure begins.
Alaska Wilderness Outpost June-July
My journey started with running a jet boat 180 river miles in two days with the owner Rus Schwausch. Luckily he was an awesome mentor and trained me well on how to run it. The weather was crummy with low visibility in a glacial river with thousands of braids to navigate. We finally made it to our location and spent three days just the two of us setting up the camp. We refer to this camp as the “beer and beef jerky” camp because the accommodations are very basic compared to the second camp we operate. After we set up we spent two days fishing and getting me up to speed to the fishing and access points.
In all my years of fishing I haven’t seen anything like this, the numbers of happy fish that wanting to eat your fly is unlike any fishery in my experience. The diversity was a shock too. We used a lot of top water flies mainly mouse to tease up grayling, rainbow trout, and dolly varden. When that wasn’t working which was rare we would switch to streamers and get the same results. I do not like to qualify fish numbers for a good day of fishing but you do not go to Alaska to work hard for fish.
Our guests showed up about the same time the chums entered the river and they showed up in numbers. I really hate the poor names given to these fish. Anyone who has fished for them knows what an awesome sport fish they are. They are big, slam a fly, and will kick your ass on a 7 or 8 weight.
It was shocking to see the chinook salmon show up in such large numbers. Like a light switch from one day to another the river was empty of them and then full. Since we were pretty far up in the river at that point the kings were showing a lot of color. We had some really fun days sight fishing for them in clear water. They are the color of a fire engine so they stick out like a sore thumb. Some days were tricky though to get them to take a fly but if you were persistent you were probably going to catch a few in the 20-30lb class.
If you are interested in this camp or want more info send me an email. [email protected]. The good thing about the camp is that it is small. It maxes out at 5 anglers which makes for a real personally experience with the groups. My disclaimer is that you need to be in good shape because you will be doing a lot of walking across the tundra which can be draining if you are not up for it.
Alaska Wilderness Safari July-October
The “steak and lobster” camp. In the middle of some of the toughest remote Alaskan terrain on the Pacific side of the Peninsula lies a fly fishing camp unlike any other. This is the most beautiful place on earth where the wild life is as stunning as the scenery. The only way in and out is by a fixed wing plane or helicopter. Your cell phone has no use here and do not even ask about wifi.
We start setting up camp in mid july just as the chums and pinks start making there way into our tidal estuary. We have a much bigger staff here plus a chef that can make anything taste good. It takes our staff of 6 12 days to set up camp. There is much to do in getting ready for our guests. We must build all of the structures including guest/staff tents, outhouse, shower tent, and cook/dinning tent. In the mean time we have to set up a full stainless steel commercial grade kitchen all ran of propane and solar power. There are pontoon boats to build, water systems to set up and a washer pit to get ready. Plus we have to fish and learn the lay of the land.
The fishing is very diverse here in terms of types of water to go after them. There is a river valley all fed by a glacier where the dolly’s are as plentiful as you can want them. We do catch a lot of salmon up here but try not to target them here. Right in front of camp is a tidal estuary. The estuary looks like a giant lake at high tide or a manageable river at low tide. One of the daily challenges is to figure out your day on where to be at the right time. When the flat is channelized the salmon fishing is as good as it gets.
Being that you are less than a quarter mile from the ocean these fish are fresh and powerful. We have options to walk a sandy beach and fish for salmon in the ocean which was one of my favorite things to do but the winds had to be in our favor. Another thing just to show you how diverse this place is would be the bay fishing out of the pontoon boat. There were places to fish for rock fish on the fly or jigs and even halibut. There are times when you could fish for halibut on the fly but I didn’t really get to do much of that. Maybe next year.
Around mid August is when the real fun began. The coho (silver salmon) start showing up in our estuary and if the tide was right and the you stay ahead of the seals the fishing was really good. When the silvers showed up the structure of the week changed. We would fish around camp for five days and the last two days of the week we would heli fish. The helicopter would fly us out to other bays and river systems where we would chase silvers in the 8-15lb range with occasional bigger fish. Just the flight alone in the helicopter with Sam Egli (Egli Air Haul) is worth the experience.
I cannot rave the experience of this camp enough. You get to see the real deal of Alaska. There is many things to do here other than fishing too. We feel that if you do not take a least a half day to hike you are really not getting the whole experience. There are waterfalls to check out, tide pools to explore, and vistas with unforgettable views to hike. The wildlife is abundant with coastal brown bears eating fish right in front of your eyes. We see numerous bald eagles, seals, ravens, and foxes. This year was light for some of the other animals but we did see some caribou, moose, and wolves.
The bears are plentiful. This is an area in Alaska where you will see several in a day if not in the double digits. We are the only human contact these bears have so they act like the wild animals they are and are far less interested in what we are doing then some of the other more traveled areas in Alaska. That being said, all of the guides get a lot of training around the bears and know how to conduct themselves in bear country.
The views from camp are unbelievable. The food is fantastic, our chef cooks very hardy angler style meals. We eat a ton of fresh fish and get fresh shipments of produce and other goods weekly. If you want any other info on the camp. Shoot me an email [email protected] Cheers
Jordan is well known for his guiding and casting skills, his fancy home-spun beanies and his proper Alaskan guide beard. He, his wife and two kids moved from CA to Bend, OR in 2020. Jordan currently works at Confluence Fly Shop.
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