Alaska; “The Last Frontier” is on many peoples hit list for adventure travel and very well should be! When most people think of Alaska they think of prolific salmon runs, brown bears around every corner and float planes. The iconic Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park is one of the most sought after destinations to watch bears as they snatch salmon out of the air as the fish desperately try to get over the falls. The salmon have one thing on their minds, they are singing Marvin Gay “let’s get it on” as they swim their way to the spawning grounds upstream, but sadly some don’t make it, so much for a romantic rendezvous.
The only problem with Brooks in my opinion is the amount of people during bear season! To me it’s like going to a downtown shopping mall with giant 1,000 pound brown bears that can rip your face off. Although I would take the bears over that many people any day of the week, and that is one of the reasons we decided to be here during the trout opener in June this year……. Oh and giant Rainbow Trout !!!
We departed King Salmon Lodge located on the beautiful Naknek River in our “Cadillac of the sky” Cessna on floats on the morning of the trout opener. From KSL it’s only a short 20 minute flight over to the Brooks River. The Brooks River is only about a two mile long stretch of water in between Brooks Lake and Naknek Lake but holds one of the richest fishing rivers in the area for sockeye salmon and rainbow trout. But we were here on this trip strictly for rainbow trout. The state of Alaska closes down the rainbow fishing in key spawning areas like Brooks River to protect the fish and their delicate spawning areas and we were heading in on the day it opened back up!
We landed on the beach, started unloading camera gear and was immediately reprimanded by a park ranger for peeing in the bushes…. In the Alaska wilderness ……. This might be a long day. After attending a very generic, touristy “bear school” taught by a park ranger who had only been in the park for about 3 days and had yet to actually see a bear in person, we were deemed safe and let loose to rip some rainbow trout for the camera.
We decided to walk to the very top of the river to get away from the handful of anglers that were there that day because who wants to be in Alaska and surrounded by people. As we made our way down the river we started figuring out the fish were stacking up in the shallower riffle sections as if waiting for anything to come rolling down the river to feast on after a long month of spawning ….and possibly a cigarette.
We started swinging big streamers right down in front of their faces and one after the other started smashing our flies with reckless abandonment as if they hadn’t had a meal for a month! As the fly would swing gently down and across the current, swimming its way into position the big bow’s would come rushing up to get behind it and track it, just before surging forward to crush the fly and immediately become airborne. The Alaska Rainbow Trout are so strong and hearty they don’t give up without a fight and almost all take you deep into your backing while leaping out of the water and putting on a show.
The entire area is full of amazing trout fishing opportunities and most people don’t think about going that early but if you are a diehard trout angler you might want to give this time of year a try and avoid the more touristy times at Brooks and Katmai.