Anchorage, AK. 12:00 AM.
I landed in Anchorage around 11:30 PM, the sun was still just considering setting and I was immediately reminded of just how far north I was. It was my first time in Alaska and having only seen it’s stunning landscape and wildlife in pictures and TV shows, I was pretty stinking excited to finally be setting foot on it’s rich and mostly unblemished soil.
I met up with the male side of my in-laws (father and brother) and we flew out the next morning on a vintage Navajo (small 9 passenger twin propellor engine plane) to head for Kulik lodge, a small fishing lodge nestled on the edge of Kulik lake in Katmai National Preserve. Flying down to the landing strip, I really got a sense of just how remote we were — not a single imprint of human presence as far as the eye can see, other than the dirt and gravel airstrip ahead of us and a tiny, winding dirt road that lead to a small cluster of cabins at the edge of the lake.
Katmai National Preserve, AK
We touched down and were greeted by a handful of warm and friendly staff, then hopped in an old beat up Ford van for a quick ride down to the lodges. We were sent directly to the dinner lodge for a warm lunch, then a quick registration/orientation, and we were off fishing, just like that.
Our cabin, Kulik Lodge.
The rest of that day and the next were spent fishing there in the Kulik river — a 1.5 mile stretch of shallow river that sees an enormous amount of Sockeye Salmon returning to spawn every summer and an abundance of Rainbow Trout, who like to feed on the salmon roe. By the time the salmon reach the Kulik they have fully completed their gnarly, werewolf-like metamorphasis and are no longer good to eat, nor will they take a fly, but the trout are-a-plentiful and are a ton of fun to catch.
We did a fly-out on our third day and caught a tiny 5 passenger pontoon plane out to the Kamishak river, just about 20 mins away.
Packed into the pontoon Cessna, flying out to the Kamishak river.
Alaskan sunrise from the air.
The flight alone was worth the trip. It’s truly humbling when you see just how grand and beautiful the Earth can be. Following the breathtaking plane ride was another equally breathtaking boat ride up the river. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
Glacier, taken from the air.
Aerial view of one of the hundreds of small waterfalls.
Landing in the Kamishak river near the Kamishak bay to start our boat trip up river.
We reached a spot where our guide thought would be promising and it was on. I have never (and will likely never again) experienced anything like it — we were hooking fish left and right. Char, Chum Salmon, a couple Pink Salmon, and most importantly, a handful of Silver (Coho) Salmon which 1) we were allowed to keep, and 2) had just barely swam in from salt water and were still fresh (un-scifi movie-ed). So new to the river in fact, that we were one of the first of the season to hook any. It was hardly even fishing (I mean that in the best way possible). I stumbled on a spot were literally every 1-3 casts, I would hook a Char or Chum. I actually ended up moving because it was just too much.
The Chum were the feistiest of the fish and really put up a hard fight…and we caught a lot. It got to the point where if I saw a chum chasing my fly, I’d stop stripping the line to stop drawing it’s attention. The Silver were fun to hook as well because they were much more rare, they were keepers, and they put up a decent fight as well. Lots of acrobatics. We honestly caught probably 100+ fish between the three of us just in that day. I also got to check off one of my life-goals — eat a piece of salmon sashimi river-side, fresh as it can possibly get.
Filleting a Coho Salmon (Silver) river-side. Note the roe.
Yes it was delicious.
The bear were a-plenty there on the Kamishak as well. I’d never been as close to a large wild animal as I was to these guys. Oh, and they’re Kodiaks, aka Grizzlies. They’re BIG. In fact, the Grizzly Man documentary/movie was shot in the same range just several miles away. They seemingly had no fear of man and would lumber slowly toward you as if you weren’t really even there. They would go about their business and hardly even acknowledge our presence, but still, you couldn’t help but feel a bit uneasy when something that powerful is just 20 yards away. By the end of the day though, we were fairly used to it.
One of many Kodiaks we encountered.
Remains of a Kodiak on the side of the river, most likely killed in a bear fight. It’s guts were eaten out and gulls were picking on it. Grizzly sight….zing.
The lodge is a family operated business that has been in operation since the 50’s, with three different lodges (Grosvenor, Brooks, and Kulik) in the region. Kulik lake and river are known worldwide for it’s sockeye salmon run and unbelievable rainbow trout fishing. Grosvenor is the smallest and most secluded compound, with a max capacity of something like 6 adults. Brooks lodge is located right on the Brooks river, which is home to Brooks falls, where the iconic bear-lazily-standing-on-edge-of-small-waterfall-as-salmon-hop-up-into-their-mouths photos/videos are taken. Our stay at Kulik was perfect — amazing fishing, friendly staff, knowledgeable and helpful guides, an overabundance of tasty meals — well worth a recommendation. I really hope to do this again some day.
The water was pretty cold as it was literally melted snow coming right off the mountains.
A little vintage sartorial inspiration. So good.