Fishing Bear Alaska’s Most Humble & Hospitable Lodge
By Ken Morrish
Kulik Creek, home to incredible scenery and sight fishing. Photo: Paul Imperia
Photos by Paul Imperia
ustin Johns, owner of Fishing Bear Lodge, is one of those people you are immediately drawn to. Meeting him and liking him are simultaneous activities. He is a modest and sincere family man, a fisherman, a woodsman and a hunter. He and his wife Lisa embarked on the building of Fishing Bear back in 1994 with a few thousand dollars to their name and two kids, Conner and Kia, still in diapers. Slowly over time they built a humble and befitting little lodge in the wilderness where their kids grew into outdoors people and guides themselves. The Johns are a highly functional and affectionate team, no doubt in large part due to the amazing wilderness they chose to make home. Backing up against the surreal spires of the Wind River Range in the heart of southwest Alaska’s 1.6 million acre Wood-Tikchik State Park, Fishing Bear Lodge is in the middle of one of the most beautiful of Alaska’s fish-rich regions. The Wood-Tikchik is the largest state park in the U.S., whose defining characteristics include a remarkable watershed of huge interconnected lakes as well as literally millions of wild sockeye salmon that fuel and feed a unique and quintessentially Alaskan ecosystem. Here, those willing to rough it a bit will get it all: bear and moose, floatplane flights over a stunning landscape, jetboat rides across mirrored lakes and fish galore. Whether you are after rainbows, char, sockeye, pike or grayPAGE 66
ling, this place has it all. Better yet, Fishing Bear represents one of the greatest values in all of Alaska.
Fishing Program Fishing Bear Lodge is centrally located at the mouth of Alaska’s Peace River in the center of the Wood-Tikchik State Park. This park was created in 1978 to protect the area’s tremendous fish and wildlife habitat and its stunning natural beauty. The region’s signature lakes vary from 15 to 45 miles in length and all are fed by numerous streams and interconnected by clear, world-class fly fishing rivers. Guests fly into this roadless region by floatplane. Once there, all fishing is accessed by jetboat, meaning that irrespective of weather, chances are very high that you will spend everyday fishing great water. Guests fish two per guide in simple 18-foot johnboats with 40 horse outboards. Run times vary from five minutes to over an hour for some of the least-visited venues. While a good deal of fishing is done on foot, those whom would rather stay in the boat will have lots of productive, all-day options. Whether you are an experienced angler or a complete novice keen on learning the sport, Fishing Bear will exceed your expectations. The following are some of the highlights of Fishing Bear’s diverse fishing program.
FISHING BEAR LODGE The Pak: The Agulapak River, known commonly as the ‘Pak’, is one of Alaska’s most famous rivers, especially among those who cherish the opportunity to fish Alaskan rainbows with dry flies. The Pak is a broad, shallow river reminiscent of the Madison that connects Lake Beverley with Lake Nerka. The upper half mile of the river is a long contiguous riffle that is home to lots of rainbows, Arctic char and grayling. July through late August the Pak can be one of Alaska’s best dry fly rivers and in late August and early September, when the sockeye begin their late spawn, catch rates on egg patterns can be off the charts. This river can be fished while wading or from the boat. While other regional lodges like to fly into the Pak, Fishing Bear will, on special occasions, head there in the evening after the other operators have left to enjoy private fishing coupled with simple streamside dinners.
Grayling Central: Fishing Bear has access to three outstanding grayling streams. Kulik is the most popular with guests, in large part due to its crystal-clear waters and stunning backdrop of snowcapped, spired peaks. Here, anglers can sight cast to large grayling (some of which are in the 20-inch class), with dries and watch as they slowly rise from the bottom to engulf the offering. This system also offers great sight fishing for char and exciting jetboating. On a good weather day, this venue is a must-see attraction, and for light tackle, dry fly enthusiasts, all of Fishing Bear’s grayling venues offer incredible angling experiences. Hike In Rainbow Streams: During a limited window, around the first three weeks of August, a number of small regional tributary streams become spawning hotbeds for countless sockeye salmon. A good number of larger rainbows are keyed into this phenomenon and migrate up these little systems for
FISHING BEAR LODGE
“Fishing Bear is a friendly modest lodge that offers its guests just the right amount of roughing it.” a few weeks to gorge on eggs. These streams are small and brushy and guests often hike overland for a mile or so before entering the systems and fishing back down to the nearby lakes. For those with walking legs and a sense of adventure, this is a great rainbow fishing experience. Pike Patrol: The Wood-Tikchik region has some great pike fishing, especially in the first half of the season. Guests can stalk the weedy shallows of specific bays on Lake Beverley, hike into a secret lake that only gets fished once or twice a year or motor some distance to a special undisclosed spot where very large pike stage to spawn in the early season.
Accommodations and Meals Fishing Bear is a friendly, modest lodge that offers its guests just the right amount of roughing it. If you want a friendly
and sincere wilderness experience with focus on service and relationships over white tablecloths this is your place. Hearty delicious meals are served family style in the main lodge. In addition to a woodstove and a small fly tying area, there is always tea, coffee and the Johns’ homemade cookies on hand. Accommodations consist of small, warm double-occupancy cabins made of spruce and cedar. Guests enjoy electric heat and lights while the generator is running and can either use their own sleeping bags or use roomy new cotton camping bags provided by the lodge. All cabins have two single beds with warm cover blankets, chairs, table, clothing shelves, art work, decorative candles and floor rugs. Not far from the cabins, there is a structure with three separate flush toilets and well-lit sinks with running water. There is also a structure with two separate shower units, each with on-demand hot water.
Travel: Guests will fly into Anchorage Alaska and then on to Dillingham where they will stay overnight. The following morning they will take a floatplane into the lodge and head out for a full day of guided fishing. Season: Mid-July through early October Capacity: Eight anglers Essential Tackle: This is a fun place to have a range of rods so bring your favorite and the lodge will have the rest! Top Flies: Parachute Adams, egg patterns and a Morrish mouse. Rate: $4,250 per person for a 6 night/6 day package
Top: Sights around the lodge. Middle: Justin and Conner Johns, a family team that really makes the place. Bottom: Good times on the water. 1-800 -552-2729 PAGE 69 Photos: Paul Imperia
Published on Jan 5, 2018