by Michael Bales, Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge
Today’s adventure begins with a 45-minute flight south to the Becharof Range, to a very special place called the Ugashik Narrows. Our target fish is the rod-bending Arctic Char. But it’s important to mention that the Ugashik Narrows is home to the some of the best Grayling fishing in the world. In fact, it’s legendary for both the size and quantity of this excellent game fish.
As we fly south, you can’t help but stare out the window at the vast and endless tundra below. Mile after mile of empty, featureless land with one exception: the wildlife. We see moose, caribou, bears and wolves trotting down game trails. And then, on the horizon, we see the mountains of the Aleutian Range. We cross over Becharof Lake, the second largest lake in Alaska. The glacial green-blue water stretches out in every direction, and volcanic thermal plumes reach high into the Alaska sky. The beauty is beyond words. You’ve never seen anything like this.
Our pilot lands the Beaver on the lake and we begin wading the Ugashik for Char and Grayling. The current is strong. The fish are even stronger. We immediately land a tough fighting 26-inch Char on a 6wt. fly rod. The Char is beautiful in its fall colors. We take picture after picture of the fish. We land Char after Char. These fish are hungry. These fish are tough.
And then, we hook up with a monster. This fish is not like the others. The drag starts singing and fly line is ripping off faster than you can think. It’s into the backing. It’s deep into the backing. The fight is on. What is this thing? We dash up and down the riverbank, getting spooled twice. The beast is making its third run far downstream. Hearts are pounding, guides are barking advice and you’re praying don’t break off—please don’t break off. After what seems like forever, the fish is tired and you bring him to the river’s edge. It’s a ten-pound, thirty-inch Arctic Char and it just took you on an experience of a lifetime. This was awesome. Our guide checks the rig, replaces some leader, adds a new bead, and we’re back in the stream. Let’s do that again! And so the day goes.
It’s late afternoon. We’ve waded all day and arrived at another lake where we see our plane and pilot waiting. The day is gone. Did we ever stop for lunch? Of course we did, but you can’t imagine it’s time to go. One more cast. Maybe two? Let’s try skating some dry flies for these Grayling. First cast, nice presentation, boom! A Grayling is on the line. Now, all the other fishermen are skating dry flies to eager Grayling. In the distance, you can see the pilot smiling. Patiently waiting, he understands what’s happening. He’s a fisherman, too.
That was day four. There are three days left in this trip. What could you possibly do over the next three days that comes close to what you’ve seen and experienced over the past four? Stay with me and I’ll let you know.