By Pete Gray
It had been a few years since I visited Katmai Lodge in Alaska, and this visit reminded me why it has always been one of my favorite places on the planet. Our Let’s Talk Hookup group was a unique one, and perfectly suited for this adventure. We had many couples, and several first time anglers. All went away with an unforgettable experience.
The new owner of the lodge Robert Follman and his operations manager Bob Kantor have made some major improvements to this legendary lodge. Several of the rooms have been remodeled; the lodge now has an honor bar where you pour your own cocktails, and have beers or a glass of wine while trading fish stories in the comfortable setting. The food has also been taken to a new level- such as Eggs Benedict for breakfast and Filet Mignon and seared Ahi for dinner. One of the favorite meals at Katmai Lodge is the shore lunch on the river of fresh sockeye salmon barbequed on the boat by your guide.
We choose the middle of July for the abundance of fish in the river and the many choices you have. This was the peak of the sockeye salmon run. The Bristol Bay area, which the Alagnak River is part of, boasts the largest sockeye run in the world. Millions of fish make their way up the various rivers in the area, and the Alagnak has one of the most abundant runs. It is also prime time for a very good king salmon run, and most of our guest caught kings in the river. It is also the beginning of the hard fighting and super aggressive Chum salmon run. The Alagnak is one of the rivers that actually get all 5 species of Pacific salmon. Of course, there are many people like me that enjoy the amazing native Alaskan rainbow trout fishing that made this river famous.
One of the huge advantages of Katmai Lodge is the location. They are right on the Alagnak River, almost in the middle. This gives you the option of going down river for salmon or up river for trout. They have a large fleet of boats right out the front door of the lodge, all Yamaha powered outboards with either prop or jet drives. All the guides have many years of fishing experience either at Katmai or other lodges, and often you can leave the lodge and be fishing in less than 5 minutes. My wife Lolly and I fished with one of the senior guides, Jeff Topp. He has been at Katmai for over 20 years, and knows every hole.
Both Lolly and I love to catch trout, so that was our concentration 3 of our 4 days of fishing. The water was higher than normal; in fact, Jeff said it is the highest he had ever seen, wading was quite a challenge and the trout fishing tough. Even with the conditions, we still managed to catch and release several of these beautiful fish. Lolly out fished me every day! The primary method we used was “the mouse”, skimming a fly that looks like a small mouse and watch as the big trout erupt on it. You miss a lot of fish, but the sights are incredible. It’s like surface iron fishing with a fly rod…the take is everything! We did spend one day salmon fishing and had our limit of 10 sockeye in less than an hour as well as a beautiful king salmon. The king fishing was really fun, using Shimano CI-4 spinning reel and a light G-Loomis rod with specially designed Rapala like lures casted into the holes from the boat. The take from these aggressive fish was incredible. To watch a 30 pound salmon jump all around the boat was quite a sight!
One of the most rewarding parts of my trip is always hearing the fish stories upon our return and at Katmai Lodge there are plenty. I had several of our guests come up and hug me after each day and say “This is one of the best experiences of my live- thank you for bringing us here”. This is the type of place that Katmai Lodge is. Novice or expert, conventional or fly angler, you will catch a lot of fish, see spectacular sights and experience something that is very unique. It is one of the best places on earth.
One day, a big part of the group took Katmai’s very own Otter float plane to the famous Brooks Falls. Manager and pilot Bob makes this 25 minute flight to the falls regularly during this part of the year to see the brown bears feeding on sockeye salmon jumping up the falls. It is truly Nat Geo stuff! Another part of the group had Bob fly them to one of the incredible rivers in the Alaska Range, and rafted down this scenic spot while catching trout. Later in the season, by early August, the sockeye have moved to these upper rivers to spawn, and are followed by millions of huge trout. This is the ultimate trout and bear experience.
Speaking of wildlife, we saw plenty on the Alagnak. Bears feeding on sockeye, moose crossing the rivers, huge bald eagles, porcupines, otters, beavers and more. The sights are a good as the fishing. I could go on and on about Katmai Lodge, I truly love visiting this place.
The group did a fantastic pre-trip on the Alaskan Railroad to Denali National Park for a couple of days, which is highly recommended. There are several other side trips you can do before or after your Katmai experience like glacier visits, halibut fishing in Seaward and more. As your trip starts and ends in Anchorage, there are many possibilities. For those interested in the Alaska Rail Road, we booked the group through Cass Tours. 800-593-6510.
Our 2017 Katmai Lodge trip is set for July 15 to 19. We have partnered for this trip with Harold Davis from Davis Boats, which promises to add lots of fun and excitement. You will need to be in Anchorage on July 14 in order to catch the private charter flight to the lodge on July 15. A very special price for our group is $3995 for the 4 day package which includes everything but airfare and your night in Anchorage. This is a $450 discount. Katmai Lodge does not normally discount, so take advantage of this special rate as we only have 20 spots available, and at least half are already sold. Call Katmai Lodge to book at 800-330-0326 or check www.katmai.com for details.