Alaska Steelhead Company
Trip Report by: Kristian Cole
Photography by: Justin Jantz
Kristian Cole recently returned from an R&D familiarization trip to visit the Alaska Steelhead Company on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. He was completely blown away by the overall experience including the over-the-top lodging/cuisine as well as the “easy” nature of the fishing. Unlike many steelhead fisheries in the world that are not well suited for anglers of all skill levels or have a 20 year waitlist, Alaska Steelhead Company provides the perfect alternative to check the box on this amazing species – as well as a lodge you can return to year after year.
The following is a Q&A session with Kristian that recaps the experience and sheds some light on what is involved with visiting and fishing the Alaska Steelhead Project.
What is the Alaska Steelhead Company and who is in charge?
Alaska Steelhead Company was founded by owner/operator Matt Sprecher and his wife Rosie. Matt found a Passion for steelhead after visiting Alaska more than 10 years ago, and visited frequently while owning Minturn Anglers in Vail Colorado. Matt’s experience with owning and running a profitable guide shop in Colorado, allowed him to transfer exceptional service and attention to detail to his newest project in Alaska. Matt also guides and runs a Steelhead camp in Idaho during the offseason of Alaska. Traditional steelhead camps usually consist of suffering through slow days, the elements, and often have a rustic approach to lodging. The complete opposite can be said for the Alaska Steelhead Co. experience. What does that mean for the angler? A true lights out Steelheading trip that any angler of any skill level can enjoy, while also finding comfort in ASC’s fantastic hospitality and service they provide to every guest.
Where is this destination located?
Alaska Steelhead Company sits minutes from the small Russian Orthodox inspired town of Ninilchik on the Kenai Peninsula. A quick flight from Anchorage International Airport to Kenai Airport lands guests a short drive away from the lodge. With Breathtaking views of the 4 Volcanoes directly across the Cook Inlet along the way, experiencing Alaska with ASC allows guests to view more than the phenomenal fishing surrounding the lodge. True Alaskan wildlife can be seen around every bend in the road, and throughout the days on any of the 5 river systems ASC has to offer.
What is the primary species targeted at this location?
As the lodge name suggests, Steelhead are the primary target at ASC. Steelhead are notorious for being difficult to catch, and once hooked, will pull every trick in the bag for escaping. This can deter anglers with less confidence from targeting steelhead specifically in the lower 48. Unlike the rest of the United States, Alaska provides exceptional numbers of healthy Steelhead entering the river systems all season long. Steelhead are also protected on all of the river systems you have the opportunity to fish on the Kenai Peninsula. These fish are not allowed to be out of the water under any circumstances, and the guides take this to heart. Protecting a species allows populations to continue to rise, and prevents miss handling and in turn, makes for better fishing!
What specialized equipment is required, if any, for this location?
Clients traveling and fishing in Alaska should know that all 4 seasons of the years can happen on any given day on the water. It can be cold, wet, and rainy for a few hours in the morning, and completely change when the sun comes out to a comfortably warm climate. This means it is so important to travel prepared with many different layers in order to stay as comfortable as possible during your fishing days. Layering suggestions for any given day would be – Light to medium weight Capilene tops and bottoms, sun shirt or t-shirt, Light to medium flannel, Puffy Down or synthetic jacket, Heavy rain jacket. Note – Wool socks are very important every day under your waders to keep your feet warm.
Rain Jackets must be in good shape and not leak, in many cases, you will fish during light or heavy rain rather than wait for the rain to stop. Gore-Tex rainwear is highly recommended for this trip.
For guests that would like to swing for steelhead entirely, a 12’6 -13’3 7 or 8wt spey rod can be very enjoyable on the bigger river systems!
What is something that sets this fishery and/or operation apart from its competition?
In general, Alaska Steelhead Company is the full package. From the 5 Star dinners and lunches, the talented guides that are willing to teach and be patient, and to the incredible service provided at the lodge, ASC has something to offer for everyone and is very affordable for those looking to check the box on steelhead fishing. Steelhead fishing doesn’t have to be long, cold, miserable days aimlessly swinging flies hoping for a grab, or fall into an “expert only” fishing category. At Alaska Steelhead Company, every guest has tons of opportunity to hook and land their first steelhead on the fly.
How would you describe the accommodations, food and service?
Giant fireplaces surrounding the main lodge, ensure guests have a comfortable and inviting environment. It is VERY hard to have a bad experience at a lodge that is as well put together as ASC. Guests have shared stand-alone cabins, complete with a private patio, fireplace, and 2 Alaskan King Beds. Entertainment at the lodge can be had with good company in the fully furnished game room, complete with a 10 seat poker table, jukebox with all of your favorite classic tunes, and a pool table. On top of all the festivities to partake in, guests are blown away every day with fresh ingredients and made from scratch meals that are the cherry on top of what ASC does best. Simply put, the 5 Star service and dining will certainly put a smile on everyone’s face, and the fishing slowly becomes a bonus to a luxury vacation in Alaska!
What type of food can guests expect at this specific destination?
At Alaska Steelhead Company, no meal is forgotten! The staff understand that long days on the water make for hungry guests, and is something they are overly passionate about. Fresh ingredients, combined with a love for good food, make every meal as exciting as the last. Breakfast can be anything from homemade eggs benedict to a traditional pile of pancakes and eggs with all the fixings, to locally sourced meats and incredible creativity from the Chef. Lunch on the river is something that can be easily overlooked, but at ASC, lunch is as important as the final dinner service. Freshly baked in-house bread, combined with slow-smoked meats and delicious handmade spreads, will force anyone to be excited to see what is in the boat each day. Happy hour starts with fish stories from the day, accompanied by charcuterie boards, elk sausage pizza, and … the ribs! Dinner service is relaxing and if you aren’t already full from the day’s meals, you will be soon. Alaska Steelhead company does not mess around when it comes to dinner. Lamb risotto with bananas foster to wash it down, to seafood paella accompanied with homemade cobbler, the list goes on and on.
What’s it like to travel to this destination? Length of travel time? Ease of travel?
Travel time from Anchorage International Airport to Kenai airport is a quick and easy 25 minute flight on a prop cargo plane. During the short flight, Customers get their first glimpse of the Alaskan wilderness and beautiful scenery that awaits them. From Kenai, Alaska Steelhead Company transports all of their guests in a comfortable van to the lodge. The trip usually takes anywhere from 50 minutes to 1hr. Upon arrival, customers are greeted by the lodge staff, guides, and owners, given room assignments and allowed to settle in just before happy hour starts.
What’s the “best time” to visit this destination? Weather? Fishing? Seasonality?
Because Alaska Steelhead Company’s season is so short, the “best time” is really any week throughout the season. Guests that would enjoy some warmer weather days, and the possibility of catching silver salmon as well as steelhead, should consider the first few weeks of the season. Guests that are on a Steelhead specific mission, and don’t mind a few cooler mornings will be happy with the fishing later in ASC’s season.
Any specific tips or tricks when fishing or traveling to this destination?
Things to keep in mind while packing and preparing for a trip like this consist of:
- Make sure you bring plenty of layers, the weather can change drastically throughout the day, you can always shed layers, but may not be able to head back to the cabin to get more!
- A large roll top dry backpack would be the best bag for this specific trip. Because layers will come off and on throughout the day, you want to make sure your drybag has plenty of room for personal items, along with extra layers you may store. This is especially important when fishing with a partner, you may have to share space and squeeze thick layers into a bag, so be sure you have enough space.
- The guides on staff are very knowledgeable of the area and surrounding fisheries, so be sure to listen and take coaching tips from the pros throughout the week. Steelheading can be tricky, but with years of accumulated experience, your guide will set you up for success!
- Do not leave your camera at home for this trip! Alaska is such a target-rich environment when it comes to wildlife photography. Make sure your batteries are charged and ready for each day, between bald eagles catching salmon, to moose crossing downriver of you, and even seals feasting on fat rainbows in the river, you want to have your camera handy!
- Do not be intimidated by spey casting. For anglers who have never touched a spey rod, many may assume it is too difficult, and not touch it through the week. Your guides are all excellent spey casters and instructors and are happy to help every guest get proficient with a two-hander. Your first steelhead “on the swing” is such a memorable experience, and everyone becomes addicted as the week progresses.
How much does this experience cost? Where can I get more information on Alaska Steelhead Company?
The Total package price includes all meals, transportation to and from the Kenai Airport, and 5 full days of guided fishing. A week at Alaska Steelhead Company is $7395 per person based on a shared room/guide (guided half day of fishing on departure day included). Rates for an additional helicopter day are $1200 per person.
Was there anything uniquely remarkable about this lodge, the guides, the fishery and the experience in general?
Alaska Steelhead company has introduced a new and exciting way to experience the local rivers, fish untouched water, and enjoy the breathtaking views surrounding the lodge. The exploratory helicopter program checks all of those boxes. Every angler at the lodge has the option of adding 1 or more helicopter days to the menu each week, and is no doubt the coolest mode of transportation to the river. 2 guests accompanied by an experienced helicopter pilot and guide, get to lay casts in pools and runs that have little to no pressure. The chance to catch a wild Steelhead on dry flies, mice, and swung flies minutes after exiting the helicopter, is as good as it gets.
(888) 824-5420 or (214) 219-2500