by Michael Bales, Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge
Today is the last full day of fishing with Alaska Rainbow Lodge. We’re headed to fish the lower portion of Little Ku River, where we’ll sight cast for large bows. We’re airborne at 8:30 sharp. The flight takes us northeast about 35 minutes, where we land on a small pothole lake in the empty tundra.
From the air, the hike from the lake to the Little Ku River looked like it would take about five minutes. In reality, it takes about 40 minutes. As our guide, Juan, says, “It’s just over that hill.” The ground is soft, spongy and covered with white lichen. Then we realize there are billions of blue berries tucked into the lichen, growing on plants that are four inches tall. Clearly, this is a strange place.
From the crest of the hill, we see the river below, tucked into a tight canyon running both directions as far as you can see.
We pick up a trail that runs parallel to the river, about 100 feet above it. From this vantage point we can see every trout, salmon, boulder, bird, bear and opportunity.
Juan stops and points to a nice bow. We see it rise, then disappear into the current. It’s a nice fish, but there’s better. So we move upstream. He points out another nice bow, but we move on. Then he points out three great fish, but it’s still not what we’re looking for. So we walk another 15 minutes, till the river makes a sharp bend by a massive boulder in the middle of the water.
Then he says, “There she is, the Queen of the Little Ku. Let’s go get her.”
We drop down into the river and assess the situation. This is not going to be easy. The water is fast, deep and she’s hunkered down in the middle of the channel, just behind that massive boulder. We don’t want to spook her, so patience is key. Taking turns, we cast again and again. We want the Queen, but greedy char take our bead cast after cast. We put the fly above her, on her, beside her, below her but can’t get the hookup. Juan changes the fly on both our lines and we start again. Then it happens.
It’s hard to say who got more excited, but I’d have to vote for the guide. He’s been chasing that fish all summer and nobody has been able to land it. It’s been caught several times but never netted, photographed and released.
Sight casting for trophy bows, in Alaska, on a small river, with a great guide is priceless. In reality, everyday—every moment—with Alaska Rainbow Lodge is priceless and completely unique. In seven days, we fished over 2,200 square miles on seven distinctly different rivers. We’ve caught char, grayling, chum, silvers and rainbow trout in the most remote and most beautiful locations in Alaska, from the Aleutian Range coastline to deep in the interior of the Katmai National Preserve. The guides and staff have all become our friends; the guests have all become friends. And we all have one thing in common.
We will all be back next year.