Bristol Bay, Alaska

The Naknek River:

Flowing west from Naknek lake for 35 miles before dumping into the Kvichak Bay Branch of Bristol Bay. The river is known for having the largest run of Kings in Bristol Bay and this is probably due to the rivers emmense size. There is also a great population of large Rainbows.

I headed for the Naknek in July of 2003. My Wife and I made a visit to Rapids Camp Lodge for the second leg of our honeymoon. We landed in King Salmon which is several miles down stream of the lodge and then took a long van ride down the dirt road (King Salmon has no paved roads) to the lodge.
We took several day trips to other rivers and streams, taking one of the lodges float planes to rivers such as the Lower Morraine, and several others, but nearly every evening included fishing the Naknek with two-handed rods. Most of this was for Kings on a run across the river from the camp, usually fishing until midnight. While I really didn't land any big kings, I did hook a few big guys and I brought a few smaller fish, up to about 13lbs, to hand.

Even the Smaller Kings fought incredibly hard, incredibly similar to bright steelhead. They would go on screaming runs and jumped with abondone.

We also fished two handeders for the rainbows of the Naknek. One evening, I fished with Clayton, one of the guides, in the rapids that the camp is named for. We landed lots of rainbows in the low 20" range as they chased down bait fish. Mostly the evening fishing on the Naknek was for King Salmon, that despite being late in the run for most rivers, were vry bright and aggressive. There was a run just across from the lodge. This was a nice long run.

I also Fished one morning with Scott O'donnoll the Head guide, we fished runs up river from the camp and Got some really great fish including one truly big bow that he landed.

Scott O'donnell lands a solid July Rainbow
The Naknek has a considerable bear population, as does the whole area of Bristol Bay.
The Lower Moraine River:

This is a small river that flows into Lake Illiamna. We flew into to the river from Rapids Camp Lodge and then floated several miles of river in inflatable rafts called Water Masters, I have since bought three of these wonderful little boats.

We fished big rainbows on swung flies. The largest fish that I got was about 26" and the fight was great.

Chris Anderson and Scott O'donnoll guided my wife and I down the river and fished with us.

We saw lots of bears.


The Coast

In four days of fishing Rusty and I covered a lot of ground, going from the Sandy to the Coast.
Rusty and I started our trip fishing the Sandy River. We rolled tent camp and Fished the runs around the Ox, but we just weren't feeling it, even though all the talk was that the river was fishing. So we called up Kaufman's to see where the run was hot. Dude there turned us towards the Oregon Coast and a no name river there, said he had just had some great fishing there and, since we were up for adventure, we headed to the coast.
On the first afternoon on the coastal river, we stumbled around looking for good water, and we eventually found it, and on our second run I got a tug. On our third run I hooked steel and it broke free. Then it was dark so we headed for the City and got a motel in town. Great town with one of the coolest rock island right off the coast, called the haystack.
Our second day on the river went real cool. We drove from Pacific City to the run I hooked up on the evening before on some increasingly snow covered roads and ours were the only tracks. Rusty led the way and half way through the run he hooked and landed a solid wild hen.
We then fished a few other runs, aand next we headed over to the rivers around Tillamook. Both those rivers had so many private property signs and it seemed impossible to get on decent water with out a raft, so we hit a run on each and head back to the our previous coastal river.

We hit some real small spots, 10-20 cast runs. I got a reel zipping grab on one but no fish. Rusty and I headed back to the run where he got his fish that morning, I led this time. I worked through the run and when I got to the spot where rusty hooked up I got a grab and again no fish. Rusty followed me through and picked up the fish 20+" wild buck. I had been using Gami B10S size 6 hooks on all but the fish that broke me off, so I switched to dropshot no.2 hooks.

The fish seemed to be holding in pretty slow water, so we headed for a run below an old defunct bridge, that had a heavy head and a good sized creek dumping in on the wadable bank the other bank was an unfishable sheer cliff. I was able to pick up a decent sized hatchery fish, the hook worked out. That was it for the day and another night in Pacific City.

The next day we hit the river early. No fish on Rusty's hot run, which we called "Red Hook". I did get to watch a large, 15-20#, beat up buck partol up and down the run several times. He stay close to shore in shallow water to he was easy to see with battle scars and all.
We hit another favorite run to no avail, then we hit the short runs we check out the day before and again I got a solid grab and no fish, I checked the hook and, guess what, B10S. Then we went back to the run where I got the grab on day 1. I worked the same far trench as before and fish on, drop shot awesome. then, fish off.

From here we headed up the coast to check out the the Little Nehalem River, it was a bust. So we set up camp at Nehalem Bay State park and we called it a trip.

Well, we got nine grabs in less than two full days of fishing, not bad. There are so many rivers to fish on the coast, I have only seen a few. One thing I really have learned from the ones that I have fished, is that if a person shows up with the wrong gear fishing can get really frustrating. There were runs that we fished where you would be waist deep in the river with your butt touching the bank and trees a few feet behind you, and the far slot that you know holds fish is an 80' cast away. Thank God for Airflo Compact Skagits and the new rio Skagit Shorts, I have been using a 540 grn Compact on my 13'3" Burkheimer 7wt, I might change to a Sage 6126 or 8110 as it seems that shorter rods are easier to use in such close quarters.

Thanks to Rusty for taking the pictures.