The Kanektok River with Dave Duncan and Sons
Alaska happens to be the largest state in the country, hosting many fisheries from rivers and lakes alike. On a trip to Christmas Island, this year, myself and Scott Cook (owner of Fly and Field Outfitters in Bend, Oregon) met Clint Duncan, one of the owners and operators of Dave Duncan and Sons, an outfitter based out of Ellensburg, Washington but operates in a variety of locations in Alaska, including two camps on the Kanektok River, a float trip on the Kanektok River, and a steelhead head camp on Kodiak Island.
The Duncan story is exceptional and fascinating, essentially pioneering these fisheries four decades ago. Dave Duncan and Sons is a family-owned and operated outfitter that has the utmost respect for the fisheries, their guides and staff, and most importantly, the villagers that inhabit the Kanektok River. These are essential aspects of running a successful fly fishing operation. Scott and I were fortunate enough to receive an invite from Clint to attend his Upper Camp on the Kanektok River to create photo content and to experience their program and Camp. They run a 10-week camp, and we were headed there for the last week of Camp at the end of August for a chance to fish for silver salmon, colored up arctic char, grayling, and leopard bows. Take a look at photos from our journey!
The Camp and Getting to the Kanektok
The Upper Camp is roughly 40 miles upstream from a small village named Quinhagak. The journey from Central Oregon to Quinhagak was four quick flights, and the planes continued to get smaller as the destination became further away. Although it is quite the trek, we were able to make it from Bend, Oregon, to the Upper Camp in just one day. An early rise at 315 am and arrival at Camp around 5 pm made the day-long but worthwhile. The moment we stepped in Camp, we were blown away by the amenities. A large dining tent, waterproof tents with two cots/air pads and propane heaters, on-demand hot showers, and flush toilets! All this just 40 miles upstream from the village. The food is hearty, homemade, and delicious. The lunches are sandwichs or can opt for a streamside lunch of freshly caught salmon on one of the days!
The Guides on the Kanektok River
The guide program is one of the best I have experienced! We had six guides in Camp, and most of them had been working for the Duncans for several years. The longest being 13 years! The guides are assigned their beat, and you spend a day with each guide while one hung back in Camp to take care of camp chores with Clint. The guides know their beat like the back of their hand, which is vital due to side channels and braids that split off in many directions. The guides have respect for the fishery, and it is evident while out on the water. They will pass up fish that may have been targeted earlier in the week, to give the fish some rest. These guides HUSTLE! Up before 5 am and in bed after the guests. They are cooking breakfast, filling waters, preparing lunches, dinners, etc. There is never a lack of work to do. Let’s not forget to give Max the Camp dog a shoutout!
Fishing the Kanektok River
Whether it was fishing for leopard trout on mouse patterns, pulling poppers or wogs for silvers, or sight fishing for colored up dollies, this fishery is AMAZING! Check out some of our catches over the week:
The Upper Kanektok River with Dave Duncan and Sons was an incredible experience! Words and images cannot describe how amazing this experience was. If you are interested in heading to one of their camps, give us a shout at Fly and Field Outfitters or reach out to Dave Duncan and Sons directly and let them know you read this photo essay!