THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE FOR THE DISCERNING ANGLER
ALL ABOUT THE FLY-OUT
Alaska’s Best Rainbow Fisheries
Keep Your Fly Rods Safe, In-Tact
B.C.’S WORLD-CLASS STEELHEAD FISHING
Skeena, Kispiox, Bulkley, Morice, Kalum, Exchamsiks, Babine, Sustut, Copper VOLUME 7, ISSUE 2, 2013
WORLD’S BIGGEST TROUT
Argentina’s Jurassic Lake
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Alaska A La Carte
Based in Lake Iliamna, Rainbow King Lodge serves up a veritable smorgasbord of trophy trout water. by pat hoglund
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ou’d thought Gus had a bag full of candy and was handing it out during recess. While he sat at the table in the lodge rec room, a pencil in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other, he filled out the next day’s itinerary while guests hovered around him like bees to honey. Fishermen from various parts of the country waited for their turn to get their name on the list. All of them were guests at Rainbow King Lodge. There was the couple from Tennessee, a group of six fishermen from Anchorage, four friends from Salt Lake City, my son Peter and me, and John and Bill from Atlanta, Georgia. John had retired from his law practice while his son-in-law Bill was able to steel away from his job for a week of trout fishing. “We’d like to fish Gibraltar tomorrow,” Bill said. Bill is a polite southern gentleman from Atlanta who was on his 18th consecutive visit to Rainbow King Lodge. He and his father-inlaw, John, are regulars. They know the rivers in Bristol Bay intimately and he was calling upon a vault of personal history. Gus looked at his sheet, penciled in Bill and John’s names and turned to me.
It was my turn to decide where me and my son were going to fish the next day. I was doing my best to get a feel for what other guests were thinking, and where they were scheduled to fish. The choices varied from a dozen premier trout rivers, to salmon on the
coast, or halibut fishing. I had been to Rainbow King Lodge one other time, so my bevvy of personal choices were limited. I looked at Bill and John and I figured their 18 summers had to account for something. “If there’s room on the Gibraltar, we’d love
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to fish it.” Gus, who’s real name is Craig Augustynovich but goes by “Gus” for obvious reasons, looked at me and smiled. “That’s a good choice. It’s been fishing really good lately.” It was settled. After dinner, we’d hit the rack, wake up for breakfast at 6 a.m. then jump in the van and drive three minutes to the lake where we’d hop aboard the DeHavilland Beaver and our pilot would fly us to Gibraltar Lake. Our guide would be waiting there when
we arrived. When the Beaver’s floats touched down on the lake the next morning our pilot, John Lucas, taxied the plane to the shoreline where two blue rubber rafts and two young bucks waited. Bill and John piled into Devan’s raft while Peter and I stowed our gear into Justin’s raft. Our guide for the day was Justin Schillaci, a 23-year-old trout bum from Pennsylvania. A high school history teacher during the school year, he guides fishermen
in Alaska during the summer. Located on the south side of Lake Iliamna, the Gibraltar flows north into Lake Iliamna. The river is barely six miles long, but it is without a doubt one of the prettiest trout rivers in all of Alaska. From Gibraltar Lake the river tumbles through alder groves and stands of spruce trees. In several places granite walls dictate the river’s course before it reaches Lake Iliamna. The river is crystal clear and the cobblestone bottom makes for near-perfect traveling angler
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Peter gives chase to a nice rainbow on the Gibraltar River.
thanks to Rainbow King Lodge owner Rodger Glaspey, Peter was fortunate to see a slice of Alaska that few people his age get to experience. Rainbow King Lodge has been in operation since the early 70s when Ray Loesche started it. Glaspey and his partners Ted Sheely and Jim Fletcher are the third owners. They bought RKL after Tom Robinson passed away in 2009. They have since trimmed back the number of guests that stay here each week, and spent a lot of money on improving the lodge itself. The rooms have new, private bathrooms, along with new mattresses and bedding that is fit for a 5-star hotel in New York City. There is high-speed Internet service, as well as a revamped menu. It makes for a great place to hang your hat after a long day on the water. Which is ultimately what you come for. Rainbow King Lodge has made a name for itself by whisking fishermen to some of the best trout and salmon rivers in Bristol Bay. It maintains upwards of a half-dozen private
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salmon spawning habitat. The Gibraltar gets a sockeye run, a small coho run, and most importantly it supports a healthy population of rainbow trout. The trout here are not overly large, however it does have its share of trophy fish. Which was evident at the first hole we stopped to fish. Located about a mile from where the plane dropped us off, the holding water was on the inside bend of a long sweeping run that was backed up by a logjam. Justin pulled the raft up on a gravel bar and directed Peter to the top end of a deep run. With a red bead below a strike indicator I watched him make his first official cast into Alaska waters. I know it was something he wanted to do for a long time. I also knew that he had visions of gracefully casting his 6-weight long distances to rising trout. I’m suspecting he was a little disappointed when he learned most of his casts would be 15 feet or less. He casually flipped his bead into the river, gave the line its customary mend, and was welcomed to Alaska with a massive strike from a rainbow that exploded out of the water. It threw the hook and was gone in a split second. Peter was dumbfounded. “Did you see that?” he asked. I was equally shocked. It was a beautiful fish that might’ve gone 30 inches. It was a classic Alaska rainbow. Big, beautiful and strong like an ox. But Peter’s inattentiveness on his first cast proved to be his undoing. I couldn’t help but think it wouldn’t have been right had he stuck a 30-incher on his first cast anyway. He was already getting spoiled enough just being there because there aren’t too many 14-year-olds who get to experience a week at a flyout lodge in Alaska. But
Shore lunch included fresh salmon cooked over an open fire.
leases on rivers that are a plane ride away. They own and operate three airplanes, two Beavers and an Otter. The Beaver normally sits six people while the Otter seats 10. Because of its location on Lake Iliamna, Rainbow King is able to pick and choose the best places to fish within close range of the lodge. It can also fly guests to places that are not so close. During the week Peter and I fished here, we fished the Gibraltar River, September Creek, the Kamishak River, Brooks River, the Newhalen, and one far away salmon-infested river on the coast where it was an every-cast affair for silvers. The only time we didn’t fly in a plane was on the Newhalen. The operation is first class and the available waters the lodge has to fish is extensive. After Peter lost his first trout he was a little more focused. He spent the rest of the morning pining away for a crack at another big one. “I can’t believe I lost that fish,” he’d say. Each time Justin responded by telling him he’d get another chance. Sometimes I chalk that up to guide speak, but on the Gibraltar I felt like it was true. I personally was waiting for my chance, which never did come. I caught plenty of rainbows in the 18- to 22-inch range, but never got beyond the 24-inch mark. Which in my world, that’s a really big trout. A trout that big has shoulders, it’s incredibly strong and will put up a memorable fight. After a shore lunch that included fresh salmon cooked over an open fire, we jumped back in the raft and made our way downriver. I was positioned on the bow, while Peter was on the stern. Justin was between us rowing the raft. We slipped below an island and Peter placed his “fly” in a pocket that looked “trouty”. His strike indicator disappeared and he lifted his rod to set the hook. Out of the water bolted a thick rainbow. This time he was prepared. The fish raced down river and Peter and Justin jumped out of the raft and gave chase. I stayed back with the raft and watched the scene unfold before me. Using the fast water to its advantage, the rainbow ripped downstream taking with it all of Peter’s fly line and 20 or 30 feet of his backing. Had it continued farther downriver I am convinced Peter would’ve lost it, but the trout tired and as luck would have it, Peter managed to get it within arm’s length. Justin slipped the net under the trout to help Peter claim his prize.
It wasn’t the 30-incher that he hoped for, but it was a damn nice trout (it taped out at 27 inches) and he was proud of it. I was equally happy for him. I snapped a dozen photos and he released it. Justin was genuinely happy for Peter and he reminded him that I still hadn’t hooked a fish that big. That made Peter feel that much better. Trout fishing in Alaska is like a lot of things in this state: straightforward and pragmatic. It’s no different on the Gibraltar in August. The sockeye run arrives in June and once they begin spawning in August the trout key in on salmon eggs. For the better part of the two months, 90 percent of the trout in Bristol Bay are caught on beads. Some people refer to them as “flies” but they’re nothing more than small, plastic beads that slide onto the leader. Of course we use fly rods and reels
loaded with floating line, which is where the lines get blurred. The beads are either tied or pegged to stay in place, usually about 3 or 4 inches above size 4 or 6 hook. The beads come in different color and the guides at Rainbow King Lodge pride themselves on their own shades, which they dictate by painting the beads with different colors of fingernail polish. And while you might think that any old bead will do, you’ll learn that color and size matters. Most, if not all, of the trout we caught on the Gibraltar were taken on a 6mm red bead with shades of milky white painted onto its exterior. These were Justin’s own creation and they worked like magic. Split shot is attached to the leader and a strike indicator is used to determine whether your bead was taken. As my son came to
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Gibraltar River The Gibraltar River’s sockeye run starts in June while the silver run trickles in August.
Bottom, Bill and Devon with an average-size rainbow from the Gibraltar.
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Below, fishing beads for rainbows, the author works his flies in and amongst spawning sockeye.
tendency is to stay in one place longer than you should. But who could blame you when you’re ripping fish? Before you know it the day draws to a close and the plane is coming to pick you up. Justin rowed through the bottom end of the river and found the slough where Harry had landed the plane. Within minutes the rafts were deflated, disassembled and packed into the back of the Otter. The six of us piled into the belly of the airplane and taxied across Lake Iliamna. Once in the air Harry banked the plane to the right and I watched Bill look down on the river. He was smiling. If nothing else, 18 years taught him one thing: he knew a good thing when he saw it.
Pat Hoglund is publisher of Traveling Angler magazine. He lives in Portland, Oregon. When he’s not fishing for salmon and steelhead, he’s usually thinking about fishing for trophy rainbow trout.
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learn, the presentation is anything but sexy. Visions of casting dry flies to rising trout in Montana were quickly dashed when he learned the chuck and duck method. Cast upstream without hitting yourself in the head, give the fly line a mend to ensure a drag free drift, and once the indicator disappears set the hook. Like I said, it’s simple and straightforward. If you’re lucky you’ll end up with a trout on the end of your line that leaves its lair at breakneck speeds with a tail-walking dance burning a lasting memory. I can’t speak for Peter, but watching him land that trout is something I won’t soon forget. Toward the end of the day we heard the unmistakable sound of a turbo prop engine buzzing overhead. We looked up and it was Harry, who was flying the Otter. It was time for us to go. The day came to an end with us having to pass up a lot of good-looking water on the lower end of the river. It happens that way on streams like the Gibraltar. The trout population is so abundant that your
WHAT YO U N EED TO KNOW
WHEN YOU GO
season June through September. location Located in Southwest Alaska, much of the better fishing centers around Lake Iliamna and the rivers and streams nearby.
alcohol Iliamna, Alaska is a dry town, which means you must bring your own spirits. Either bring your own, or have it shipped to the lodge via Brown Jug Alaska by ordering online or calling ahead. Give at least four weeks of lead time. brown jug alaska 800-478-2413 www.brownjugalaska.net/bushorders.aspx
weather You’re in Alaska, so be prepared for everything. Temperatures in June and July fluctuate in the mid-50s (F) while it reaches in the 60s in August and September. August and September sees the heaviest rain, upwards of 4 ½ inches each month. species In the Bristol Bay area the species of fish varies from rainbow trout, char, grayling, salmon (king,
sockeye, silver, chum).
june rainbow trout, char, grayling,
sockeye, king salmon july rainbow trout, char, grayling, sockeye, king salmon august rainbow trout, char, grayling, sockeye, silver salmon september rainbow trout, char, grayling, silver salmon insects Mosquitoes are an issue early in the season as are no-seeums and black flies (also called white sox). Later in the season the mosquitoes become less annoying (mosquitoes peak activity period is June and July), however the no-see-ums and white sox can be relentless in August and September. bears Brown bears are very common in most of the waters fished by RKL. Caution is advised. It’s important to know, however, that bears rarely bother fishermen in the
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travel concerns Make sure you plan ahead to make your connecting flight from Anchorage to Iliamna as you will leave from Merrill Field
aboard Lake Clark Air. Plan on a 15 minute taxi ride between airports.
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about rainbow king lodge Rainbow King Lodge is located on Lake Iliamna. It has guest rooms that sleep two per room. The main lodge has a dining room with a large sitting area with a stone fireplace. The recreation room has a full service fly shop, a pool table, and a big screen television with a fireplace. It is the main gathering area before and after dinner. Each day guests at RKL board one of two float planes, either a De Havilland Beaver or a De Havilland Otter, that fly you to various rivers where you fish for trout, char, grayling, salmon or halibut. getting there After arriving on a commercial flight to Anchorage, you’ll take a chartered flight to Iliamna where Gus and his crew will be waiting to pick you up and drive you to the lodge.
flies Size 6 and 8 millimeter beads in shades of orange and red. Guides at RKL use fingernail polish to paint their beads and they supply the most effective color shades. When targeting silvers, there isn’t any one pattern that works better than another. Anything that is big, colorful and undulates in the current will attract the attention of a silver. Don’t forget to bring a selection of deer-spun flies to wog for silvers. Pink wogs are deadly and an extremely exciting way to target silvers as they chase and attack the topwater fly. lures Pixie Spoons, Blue Fox spinners in pink for silvers. FlatFish and Kwikfish for kings.
Bristol Bay area and most seasoned guides are well-versed in making sure the guests are far enough away that there is little threat. fishing style Predominantly fly fishing for rainbows and silvers; however casting spinners and spoons on spinning rods for silvers isn’t uncommon. During king season, lures are most common. For rainbows, fish your bead below a strike indicator or swing a weighted flesh fly. fishing equipment Fly rods: 6, 7 and 8 weights are most common. Use a good reel with a good drag system loaded with plenty of backing. Weight forward floating lines for rainbows and for wogging for silvers. Sink tips for wet flies for silvers. options A unique fishery that several people have enjoyed includes fly fishing for halibut. RKL flies guests into halibut waters, and several areas they fish are shallow enough that halibut can be targeted. Conditions must be right. what to wear Rubber sole wading boots. Felt sole wading boots are illegal in Alaska. Breathable waders. Long underwear or fleece pants. Long sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, and a waterproof wading jacket. Stocking cap or hat with brim. Polarized sunglasses. Small backpack to pack non-essential and fishing essentials. non-fishing essentials Multitool, insect repellent with Deet, wading staff, Bandana, Buff, insect head net, polarized sunglasses, stocking cap, brimmed hat, first aid kit. fishing essentials Leader material, 3- to 5-pound tippet material for trout, char, grayling; 10- to 15-pound leader material for sockeye and silver salmon; 35-pound leaders for kings. Nippers. Pliers. Fingerless gloves. Split Shot. Strike indicators. licenses Resident annual license, $24; 7-day, non-resident license, $55. www.adfg.alaska.gov.
RAINBOW KING LODGE IS THE PREMIERE ALASKAN ANGLING EXPERIENCE. EVERY DAY A LIFETIME MEMORY IS MADE
“Rainbow King Lodge is the best lodge in Alaska, no doubt about it! The number of places they fly to and fish, with exceptional amenities, meals and service at the lodge, makes my trip the highlight of my summer. Rainbow King Lodge is a family tradition for me and my sons. You cant beat it.”
“My experience with Rainbow King Lodge has been the most positive one could expect. A true, top-quality, professionally-operated lodge in Alaska’s top fishing area. If you are looking for your trip of a lifetime or a place to go year after year, then look no further than Rainbow King Lodge.”
— Johnny Miller, Professional golfer with twomajors and 25 PGA victories, World Golf Hall of Famer, NBC Television Golf Analyst and avid fly fisherman.
— Jim Teeny, Professional fly fisherman, owner and founder of Jim Teeny Inc., a leading manufacturer of specialty fly lines and fly fishing accessories.
1-800-458-6539 • www.rainbowking.com