by Michael Bales, Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge
Good morning, it’s 6:30 a.m. The knock on the door says it’s time to wake up and go fishing! A tray of hot coffee and juice is placed on the bedside table and you’re told breakfast is made to order in the main lodge.
What would you like for breakfast? A hot plate of homemade blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage is delivered in a few moments and consumed about as fast. Then it’s back to the room to put on waders, fleece, jacket and hat. I load a few essentials like my camera, bandana and sunscreen into my daypack and head for the planes down by the river.
The pilots are warming up the airplane engines and the sound echoes through the river valley. It’s our first full day of fishing at the lodge and we are ready to go. Today we’re fishing the Kamishak River, targeting Silver Salmon and Dolly Varden. The plane lifts us into the air with four guests and two guides. We fly across open expanses of tundra and plains towards the coastal mountains of Bristol Bay. The landscape changes dramatically over one hour. Snow-capped peaks and waterfalls dot the landscape through the windows. You can now see the ocean.
Then you see the Kamishak River. The pilot lands expertly in the middle of the river and glides up to a string of boats buoyed in the water. We step out of the plane and into the boats, never touching land. In a few moments we are headed upriver in two jet boats. The river starts off deep, fast and wide. It’s actually salt water where we begin. The farther we travel upriver, the water turns fresh and the river shallows and narrows. In about ten minutes we see our first bear, eating a salmon by the river’s edge. Then we see another, and another, and then you realize–they’re everywhere you look.
Our first stop is a gravel bar on a side channel of the main river. It’s packed with Silver Salmon as far as you can see. First cast with a leach into the pool and it’s on! We spend the next few hours running up and down the riverbank catching and releasing the Silvers until lunch.
And today’s lunch is…fresh Silver Salmon, grilled streamside with stir-fry vegetables, hot homemade mushroom soup and an ice-cold beer. Our guides are experts at this streamside lunch, and we fish until they call us.
The second session of the day begins with a trip farther upriver. We are now targeting Dolly Varden. The boats beach where the river splits and we bail into the water with our fly rods in hand. The fishing approach to catch Dolly Varden is drifting imitation salmon eggs under a strike indicator. The rule is, the better the drift, the better the catch! So we practice and practice. We need to get this drift just right and bang! Our first Dolly Varden of the trip has been caught. And there will be many, many, many more on this fine day on the Kamishak River in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Something primal in you takes over and all you can think about is catching another fish. You can’t stop. You wonder, how many fish have you caught? Who knows? You just keep fishing. Occasionally you stop to take a picture, but not often enough.
Time to go boys and girls! Wrap it up! One more cast! And we’re off. The trip downriver is fast. We’re back in the plane, we’re in the air and the Kamishak River fades into the sea and forever into your memories. That was the greatest day of fly fishing EVER. Period. End of story. Nothing compares.
You can’t wait until tomorrow.
Stay tuned for day three.