Last week I had the greatest time ever hosting a group of anglers, and fellow members of the #defectivegeneclub (including my dear wife Rikki) on a return trip to Tikchik Narrows Lodge in the Bristol Bay region of S.W. Alaska.
We had a great trip to say the least, but it’s difficult to convey in words just how great it was. Yes, we caught lots of fish and plenty of big ones too. But like all fishing trips, a journey to Tikchik and the Alaskan wilderness is about much more than just catching fish. It’s about the people you are with, the wild places you experience and see, the wildlife, and spectacular timeless beauty of it all. And of course… hopping around Alaska in a 1956 De Havilland Beaver float plane! This trip is truly one of life’s great adventures.
Tikchik Narrows Lodge is in a simply awesome location. The lodge sits on a thin spit of land that forms a very narrow passage between two large lakes known as “The Narrows.” The views from the main lodge and the guest cabins are simply spectacular. Water and mountains in every direction. And fish swimming everywhere!
Tikchik is a good size lodge with a capacity for 24 guests and 38 employees. Due to it's remote, roadless location everything is flown into the lodge from Dillingham, AK which is approximately 90 miles due south. The logistics of running an operation like Tikchik are complicated and serious but the owner, Bud Hodson, and his crew do a great job at it. Bud has owned and operated Tikchik for over 30 years now, so they have the program down.
From the get-go, Carol and her hospitality staff took great care of us. Thank you Carol, Sara, Emily, Chase, Kylee, Jen and Chris for treating us o well. We either shared a double occupancy cabinn room or stayed in single rooms. Although not fancy, the accommodations include everything you need for a comfortable week of fishing and adventure. The main lodge is a short walk up a hill from the guest cabins, and is where meals, daily trip planning and most of the socializing took place. It’s also the only spot at Tikchik where you can maybe/kinda connect to thre outside world via the lodge WiFi.
Chef Chris is top-notch and the food he prepared was excellent the entire time! From the made to order breakfasts, sack lunches, to the gourmet appetizers, dinners and desserts it was just fantastic. Don’t plan on dieting at this place! Most of us also enjoyed a couple different fresh salmon shore lunches prepared by our guides over an open fire.
And speaking of fishing… Whoa!! The fishing program at Tikchik is diverse and deep. Tikchik sits between the Nushagak River to the east, and the Togiak River to the west. There are endless lakes, rivers and creeks of all sizes that feed these two major drainages. Near as I can tell, they are ALL INFESTED with fish! Within a 45-minute Beaver flight from the lodge, there is a huge variety of species and different types of water and fishing available. Collectively as a group, we caught all of the available species and a couple anglers caught all of them single handedly. The species list includes: King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Silver Salmon, Pink Salmon, Chum Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Artic Grayling, Artic Char, Dolly Varden, Lake Trout, Northern Pike NS MOUNTAIN WHITEFISH! Much more highly revered in the 907 than the 406. Nevertheless, 1 more species for our list. Our primary targets last week were Rainbows, Dollys and Silvers. There is a reason that these are Alaska’s best fly rod species.
We had great weather alamost all week and all flew out to a wide variety of different locations every day. “Stone Cold” Steve Larsen, Charlie, Tor and Bud are some of the most experienced bush pilots in Alaska and flying around Wild Alaska with them is an amazing life experience. We enjoyed their company and always felt we were in extremely capable hands.
We also fished a few excellent venues within a short boat ride from the lodge. In fact, we caught the biggest Rainbows of the trip on the Tikchik River which is just a boat hop from the lodge. Some giant Bows were also caught in The Narrows right next to the lodge.
The primary fly-fishing tactics in the Bristol Bay area this time of year are streamers, mice and beads. We took big fish on all these tactics using both floating and sink-tip fly lines. Which tactic was most effective was largely dependent on the location. For example, fishing the Agulapak with Josh and Tricky Bill, the Dali Lama streamer in olive/whote brought many 20” + Rainbows to the net. Whereas on the Tikchik River with Adam and World Wide Will, the 14mm bead and indicator rig was the ticket. I caught my largest Rainbow there, and largest of the trip (27”) were also taken there on bead rigs. Those fish were absolute beasts! More like Steelhead than Trout. These 25” "chromers" probably weighed between and 8 and 10lbs!!
When we moved over to the Togiak River and its tributaries to the west we were able to catch some 2-foot Bows and giant Dollys on Mouse patterns. IMHO, that is a good as it gets in Alaska!
Targeting Silvers is a different game altogether. We stepped up from our 6 and 7wt rods with floating lines to to the 8 and 9wt rods with sink-tip lines and busted out the pink streamers. The Silver run was just beginning in this region, so we fished lower reaches close to the ocean. The fish were all bright and strong! We fished Silvers in 2 locations: The Lower Nushagak to the east and the much smaller Kulukuk River to the west. The Kulukuk was our favorite as it was a truly wild Alaskan Salmon river experience and the fishing was nothing short of ridiculous! Maybe not a fish on every cast, but it was close. I was even able to switch over the pink “Wog” and quickly get a few waking the dry fly. What a blast!
I must give a big shout-out to the Tikchik guide crew. They are first-rate fishing guides and every one of them worked hard for us and were fun to be with. Thank you to Chip, Adam, W.W. Will, John, Steve, Ryan, Bill, Josh, Matt, Max, Aaron, Cameron and Butch!!
Another awesome part of any trip to Bristol Bay is the potential to see some of North America’s mega fauna. Brown bears, moose and wolves are a few of Alaska’s best-known big game animals roaming the landscape and a bush plane is a great way to find them. We saw many bears and moose, although no one had any scary or adverse encounters. Nick and I did have a benign close encounter with a grey wolf on a small creek. Very cool.
Several members of our tribe elected to spend half a day visiting the Brooks River Falls in Katmai National Park where they watched lots of brown bears frolicking and fishing for Salmon at the falls. They all said it was a highlight of the trip.
I could go on and on about the fishing and other aspects of the trip, but we all know a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are some highlight photos from the week.
It was a great week and we are already planning a return to Tikchik So let me know if you are interested and I’ll get you on the list for more information. 406-581-5150 firstname.lastname@example.org