Camping and Fishing in AlaskaRead Time: 6 minutes | Published: 28th December 2021 | Author: Schuyler Deeney
Alaska is known for a few things. Vast land, remoteness, bears, salmon and of course big rainbow trout. All of those combined create an experience that will change how you perceive the resource. I have been guiding on the Ausable River—which is in the Adirondacks in upstate NY—for the majority of my career. But this summer I left and decided to guide at Intricate Bay Lodge (IBL), which is located on the eastern side of lake Iliamna. While there, out of everything that I was able to see & do, camping was far and away the best way to fully immerse myself in the wildness of Alaska.
Preparing for the flight
Getting a camp trip ready takes a lot to coordination and preparation. As a guide, I have to make sure that we have enough food, tents, sleeping bags, bear fences, rafts, oars, rods, reels…the list goes on. You then try to packed everything so that it will fit into the containers and require the least amount of planes possible. It’s the Alaskan version of Jenga. When preparing for a trip like this, two thing are key: a durable, waterproof pack and extra layers. Alaskan weather can turn bad in the blink of an eye. Staying warm and dry is really important. Other necessities would be UV wader repair and a good rain jacket… Are you sensing a theme here?
Landing on the lake
The mountain ranges in Alaska are like nothing I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of the Adirondacks in some ways, but these mountains are much taller and have snow on them all season long. It made me want to break out my skis. Even when the clouds are somewhat covering the area, it adds mystery and curiosity. What will the river conditions be for that day?
After our morning flight, we descend through the clouds towards the lake. As they clear, you’re able to look around realize you’re landing in a massive valley. It takes the words right out of your mouth. The Katmai National park is a truly breathtaking place.
Setting Up Camp
After arriving, Abe, John Kelly and myself row from spectacle lake to the river and set up camp. There’s a nice section of fishing just a few steps away from the tents. The last thing to do on our list before we can eat is set up bear fence around the cooking tent and rafts. This one is key.
Our dinner on the first night without clients was a true delicacy—a beef stroganoff Mountain house. If you’ve ever had one of these, you’ll know they do taste good when you are moderately hungry. But, after the long row down river along with camp set up, these things are a five star meal. After eating, we spent the night listening to bears eat sockeye. This sounds like if you were to eat the bone of a chicken wing. It’s something you get used to when camping in Alaska. Our clients were scheduled to arrive in the morning.
Fishing begins on the Moraine
Rods are rigged. Stomachs are full (both clients and bears), and the trout are ready to be caught. We spread out on a mission to see how many fish we can catch before dinner. At this point of the season, we are fishing beads because of how far in the “egg drop” is from the sockeye. Once you lock into the right color and size, you can usually stand in one spot and catch the rainbows cast after cast.
The next day is when you go above and beyond for your “step” goal. It is all on foot when it’s not a raft day. 5 miles of walk/wading is common on a camping trip. When it’s time to float down to the next camp spot, everything gets broken down, loaded up and then clients get in. Then we are fishing to the next spot. Then the process repeats again till the take out.
Wrapping everything up
When the trip is coming to an end, everyone is loaded on the boats for the last float. The river turns from mountains and bluffs to lowland tundra. The fish become more silver as newer rainbows are entering the river and bears are napping on the sand bars with a plethora of salmon carcasses surrounding them. After we finish the final float, we load everything up, say farewell to our clients, and prepare to do it all again.