Nushagak Wilderness Camps

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Upper Nushagak River

    Nushagak Wilderness Camps Overview

    This is a no-frills approach to Alaska and puts the emphasis on great wilderness fishing. Dave and Kim Egdorf’s Wilderness Camps on the Upper Nushagak are Alaska’s answer to Eastern Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula … Totally remote and isolated rainbow trout fishing and a true (yet comfortable) wilderness experience – yet at a very affordable price point.

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    Incredible Rainbow Fishing in Total Solitude

    There are still places in Alaska to fish in total solitude; where you have the river all to yourself.

    Unquestionably, Dave Egdorf has found the trout fishing mother lode. When he set up his camps in the 80’s, hundreds of miles up the Nushagak drainage, he did it because no one else was there. He could land his plane on the river, and the water was lousy with fish. The Nushagak is still stuffed with two to five pound rainbows, along with more char and grayling than a fly fisherman can count. Apart from getting a lift in Dave’s airplane, all other means of access to the upper Nushagak are difficult, expensive, and time consuming; it may as well be Dave’s private river. So a week on the upper Nush consists of solitude, red hot fishing, and good company at the day’s end.

    Comfortable Accommodations…

    Spacious, Yosemite-style Weatherport tents are situated on top of elevated wooden platforms, each with their own wooden deck to get in and out of your waders and boots. Every tent has two foam mattress bunks, each with its own sleeping bag complete with interchangeable liner. An electric light provides illumination for organizing tackle, or reading yourself to sleep after fish-filled days. Hangars are provided to organize your shirts, jackets, fleece and waders, and a table at the head of the bunks offers space for a book, glasses, a glass of water or late-night snacks. Nothing fancy, but cozy and functional. Considering where you’re at, a veritable lap of luxury!

    Destination Description

    This is a no-frills approach to Alaska and puts the emphasis on great wilderness fishing. Dave and Kim Egdorf’s Wilderness Camps on the Upper Nushagak are Alaska’s answer to Eastern Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula … Totally remote and isolated rainbow trout fishing and a true (yet comfortable) wilderness experience – yet at a very affordable price point.

    The Nushagak Camp, and sister Wilderness Camp sit right on the banks of two of the finest, least-impacted fisheries in the entire Bristol Bay watershed. To experience this quality of untouched Alaska angling, one normally has to put up with the inconveniences of mobile float trips; rushing through mandatory lengths of stream daily, setting up camps every night, cooking and eating on the fly, and breaking camp each morning…and it seems nothing ever gets dry. At the Egdorf’s operation, you have all the benefits of a river lodge – comfortable, permanent accommodations – combined with the biggest attribute of remote river floats, lightly-fished waters virtually untouched by anyone outside of your fellow camp-mates.

    There are still places in Alaska to fish in total solitude; where you have the river all to yourself.

    Unquestionably, Dave Egdorf has found the trout fishing mother lode. When he set up his camps in the 80’s, hundreds of miles up the Nushagak drainage, he did it because no one else was there. He could land his plane on the river, and the water was lousy with fish.

    Nothing, thankfully, has changed, and the Nushagak is still stuffed with two to five pound rainbows, along with more char and grayling than a fly fisherman can count. Apart from getting a lift in Dave’s airplane, all other means of access to the upper Nushagak are difficult, expensive, and time consuming; it may as well be Dave’s private river. So a week on the upper Nush consists of solitude, red hot fishing, and good company at the day’s end.

    The 100 river miles of fly water available from camp is made up mostly of shallow, gravel-bottomed fish filled, riffles and runs. While the lower 40 miles of the Nush are accessible to everyone and their grandma, there’s just one place on the upper river where a plane can land, and it takes a special kind of aircraft to do it. That’s were Dave put his camp in 1982, and he’s the only one there with the plane.

    There are no man-made trails leading to or through the woods here; no 4-wheeler tracks, and certainly no roads. Nothing downstream for 60 air-miles to the tiny Yup’ik village of Koliganek.

    The “Nush” is a fish bum’s dream come true. Rise as early or late as you please ‘cause there’s no competition to race to the pool. Fish hard all day on 100 miles of accessible river, come back to camp and recharge with a hearty meal and a few fish stories. Then head to the home pools for as many casts as you can throw under the midnight sun.

    That’s how fishing in Alaska used to be, and how it still is on the “Nush.” The sense of remote isolation is hard to match anywhere else in North America. Your only companions for the week are the folks that came with you, the moose and bears, and a million trout. The fishing is great and the overall experience is so much more than that!

    The Fishing

    From the rugged headwaters that begin on the western slopes of the Alaska Range, to its terminus at Bristol Bay, the Nushagak is a monstrous river, flowing wild for 282 miles. Its drainage envelopes 13,200 square miles, making it the largest, most important watershed in Alaska’s most famous fishing region. The habitat is pristine and it shows. “The Nush” and the river’s tributaries are home to exceedingly healthy runs of all five species of Pacific salmon, including the world’s largest run of wild King (Chinook) salmon. In total, over 10 million salmon return annually to this one single river system to spawn and, eventually die.

    Each morning you will be awakened around 7 am by a knock at your door, a steaming mug of coffee – or whatever your favorite morning beverage of choice may be – and given some time to wake up, get dressed, and amble on over to the dining tent. Here you’ll be fed heaps of delicious “camp-fare” breakfast, and sent staggering back to your tent to prepare for the fishing day ahead. Though the schedule is relaxed and catered to the group’s preferences (with no outside pressure on their rivers, there is no need to rush to secure the best water…), the guides are normally at their boats and ready to go at 8 am. Each guide is assigned a particular beat, or beats for the day (each beat being far more water than can be reasonably covered in a day by a pair of anglers), and everyone leaves at roughly the same time, but are all headed to very different areas.

    Typically, you will not even see other lodge guests during the course of your day, such is the magnitude of the water available. Depending on the time of year, you may motor downstream to skate mouse patterns off “woody” banks, or hit the river’s many massive salmon spawning runs. For one day of their week each two anglers will normally get a shot at fishing tiny McGeary Creek, a small and scenic tributary that often holds particularly large trout. If you’re there early to mid-season you may jet upstream and dead-drift streamers through inviting and productive smaller water; or if you choose to fish the King Salmon in July, you’ll wear your arms out casting to and landing beautifully marked rainbows and dolly varden.

    The Nushagak trout’s diet consists of mice, sculpins, smolt, and caddis in the spring. They feast on salmon eggs and flesh in the summer and fall, but they don’t get total tunnel-vision for eggs like seasonal fisheries in other parts of Alaska. It’s a river where a wide variety of techniques are effective. The surrounding sub-arctic taiga is a real wildlife safari. Sightings of bear, moose, caribou, and eagle are commonplace and it’s not unheard of to spot wolves, wolverines, and lynx. The rolling hills are topped in tundra that is rimmed with fireweed in the summer, and blazes red and orange in the fall. The banks are lined with a lush band of willow and Black Spruce, and the river runs clear through all but the most severe of storms.

    The majority of the Nushagak has an easily waded pebble-bottom and the classic pool, riffle, cut-bank pool, provides a picture-perfect fly fishing scenario. Most fly rodders on the river prefer a six-weight rod and use a floating line the majority of the time. Streamer fishing under the cutbanks is devastatingly effective, and early season trout rise to caddis before the first of the salmon arrive in the Upper Nushagak. Even during the salmon spawn, hand-tied glo-bug style single eggs and flesh patterns are the confidence flies, rather than the plastic beads that you flat-out NEED in fisheries elsewhere in Alaska that get more pressure.

    Char, Grayling and Pike

    Rainbows get the bulk of the attention but it’s nice to know the entire river system is stuffed with other sport fish. Large grayling rise to high floating dry flies right through the summer and fly rodders usually bring along 3 or 4 weight outfits for the afterhours action. Colorful, char abound in August and September, and calm oxbows in the river harbor northern pike that take poppers and mice like a barracuda.

    Accommodations

    The money spent on this package doesn’t get you 7-course meals and massage therapists. It gets you flown into the middle of nowhere, all the guided and unguided fishing you can take, delicious hearty meals, and warm dry accommodations to sack out in. You’re hosted by owner/operators Dave and Kim Egdorf and their great team of seasoned guides.

    As the jet boats slide into camp on your day of arrival, you are greeted not only by Kim Egdorf and the rest of the staff, but also your first look at where you’ll be spending the following week. Physically, the camp has evolved steadily over the past two decades, and reflects what we believe to be an ideal combination of rustic creature comforts blending perfectly with its surroundings. Spacious, Yosemite-style Weatherport tents are situated on top of elevated wooden platforms, each with their own wooden deck to get in and out of your waders and boots. Every tent has two foam mattress bunks, each with its own sleeping bag complete with interchangeable liner. An electric light provides illumination for organizing tackle, or reading yourself to sleep after fish-filled days. Hangars are provided to organize your shirts, jackets, fleece and waders, and a table at the head of the bunks offers space for a book, glasses, a glass of water or late-night snacks. Nothing fancy, but cozy and functional. Considering where you’re at, a veritable lap of luxury!

    Dave’s camps are, in a way, a throwback to the 1940’s, when folks heading to Alaska for adventure fishing looked for nothing more than a dry tent and fishing that was right outside the door. The outfitters who accommodated them adopted a style of simple, comfortable, on-river camps that were easy to set up and maintain in super remote regions, and offered immediate boat or foot access to the river. Lodge fishing in Alaska has since moved away from this rustic “camp” style, as fly-out lodges, with their amenities and indulgences have set a new standard of sorts. But it’s good to know guys like Dave are still out there, in the middle of nowhere, offering hardcore fishing, complete solitude...and plenty of creature comforts.

    Dave and Kim’s Nushagak Camp accommodates eight anglers comfortably, though they sometimes hold occupancy at six, for integral groups. The dining tent is centrally located, separating the guests and guides respective quarters, and is a hub of activity – as is the bench-ringed fire-pit out front, at the river’s edge. Two chemical toilet bathrooms are located a short walk behind the guest accommodations, as is the shower facility, with its vanity and sink. Obvious paths lead from the tent areas to the best local fishing, much of which can be found a stone’s throw from the camp, a wonderful opportunity for post-dinner fishing sessions.

    Guest Tents & Dining

    These state-of-the-art Weatherport tent-cabins are a staple in remote wilderness living. They feature wooden floors, weather-tight walls, comfortable beds, electric lights, and provide everything die-hard fishermen need to stay warm and dry. Other camp amenities include a great kitchen/dining tent, hot showers, bathroom facilities, and cozy woodburning stoves for drying gear and warming hands on crisp September days. The lodge will provide sleeping bags with fresh liners, standard pillows with a pillow case and a fresh towel.

    The food is prepared under the watchful eye (and often by the talented and industrious hands of) Kim Egdorf. From succulent steaks to Cornish Game Hens, pasta to fresh fish, fresh-baked bread and an array of other delicious entrees and appetizers, you will not be disappointed in the food, nor are you likely to head home any lighter. As part of the package rate the Camp provides guests with a reasonable amount of beer and sodas during their stay, as well as all the iced tea, fruit punch and fresh water. Anglers should feel welcome to bring a bottle of their favorite alcoholic beverage in their luggage, if they so desire. Each week a load of choice meats, fresh veggies, and pounds of basics like flour, sugar, coffee and bacon arrive into camp by float-plane. The cooks use their scratch ingredients and spice racks to produce the best home-style meals in the Alaskan bush. Think cowboy-cook meets cafe gourmet.

    The Wilderness Camp

    Wilderness Camp is a two day/one night option during your stay, typically fishing well during the months of July and August. Dave will let you know upon arrival if it is fishing well, and as long as weather allows, he will fly groups of two interested anglers there with a guide (who will also do the cooking during the short stay) and let them experience this fishery. Wilderness Camp is definitely about numbers of fish, more than the chance at a lot of larger trout. Trout here average 12-16 inches, and when the salmon are in the prime of their spawning activities, it is not unusual for an adept angler to hook 30, 40, even 50 fish a day! This will be a mix of trout and dolly varden, but there are a LOT of rainbows…and during any given day, you are likely to have a shot at something larger, as well. As with the Nush, fishermen access miles of this smaller stream using jet boats, then getting out and wading the riffles and runs.

    Capacity: 8 Anglers Per Week

    Travel

    Although one has to figure in an extra day or two of travel time with a weeklong trip to the Egdorfs, this is merely due to the sheer remoteness of the destination. The payoff is well worth the effort.

    Travel to Anchorage, Alaska

    Guests begin their trip traveling from their home to Anchorage. Depending on the time of arrival and the available connections, it is often possible to continue directly from Anchorage to Dillingham, though many people will want to overnight in Anchorage, before heading on into “the bush”. West Coast travelers, in particular, may be able to skip the Anchorage overnight and go directly to Dillingham on their first day of travel. Anglers originating in the south or eastern USA will require overnight in Anchorage on Tuesday night.

    Getting to Camp

    The tiny outpost village of Dillingham is the final commercial flight destination for anglers destined to Egdorf's Nushagak Camp. Regularly scheduled (Alaska Air or Pen Air) flights to Dillingham, where guests spend the night before beginning their angling adventure. There are numerous overnight options in Dillingham, and most veterans choose the Beaver Creek B&B. Their service is top-notch, and the Beaver Creek folks have worked closely with the Egdorfs for many years. If they're full, no worries, because there are several other good options.

    Dillingham is a rough-and-ready little coastal fishing village, its Native population supplemented with a lot of both transient and permanent “outsiders”; mostly fishermen, or those who make a living from the fishing industry. There is essentially one restaurant and, thankfully, it is surprisingly good…we recommend the Yukon Cheeseburger for lunch (their blueberry milkshake is to die for, if they haven’t run out of ice cream), and their Crusted Halibut dinner special is excellent.

    The next morning, the Egdorf staff will pick you up at your accommodations and drive you to Aleknagik Lake, a 25-minute drive, where you'll board a float-equipped bush plane and make the exciting flight (a little over an hour) into camp. The flight to Camp is an amazing visual experience often highlighted by sightings of wolf, bear, moose, and caribou. Dave will land right on the river near camp, and his guides will be there to meet you and transport you the final mile or so in jet-powered river sleds. Home, sweet home!

    At the conclusion of a week of memorable wilderness fishing, anglers are flown back to Dillingham, where (depending on airline scheduling and personal travel preferences)) they'll either connect with an evening flight back to Anchorage, or again overnight in Dillingham before starting home the following day. Typically, both Alaska Air and Pen Air offer early morning flights that connect comfortably with all major airlines, allowing for a comfortable schedule if you would prefer a more leisurely return home.

    Sample Itinerary

    Tuesday

    Travel to Anchorage, Alaska. Spend the night in Anchorage at a recommended hotel. Hotel accommodations and meals are not included in package cost.

    Note: West Coast travelers, in particular, may be able to skip the Anchorage overnight and go directly to Dillingham on their first day of travel. Anglers originating in the south or eastern USA will require overnight in Anchorage on Tuesday night.

    Wednesday

    Travel to Dillingham (DHG) with Pen Air or Alaska Air. Overnight at Beaver Creek B&B (not included in trip cost). A shuttle will be at the airport to transport you to the Bed & Breakfast, where you will be overnighting. They can bring you into town to get your fishing license, or pick up any last minute items you may have forgotten, as well as driving you to a restaurant for dinner, if you'd like. They'll bring you back to meet your flight the next morning as well. The Bed & Breakfast offers a variety of room options including private guest cottages as well as double and single rooms.

    Thursday

    Transportation to camp will begin early Thursday morning, and your pickup time will be arranged the evening before. Dave or Kim Egdorf will provide auto transfer from your place of lodging to Aleknagik Lake, a 25-minute drive. At the lake you will board a float-equipped bush plane and make the flight (a little over an hour) into camp. The flight to Camp is an amazing visual experience often highlighted by sightings of wolf, bear, moose, and caribou.

    Dave Egdorf will land his floatplane on the river, downstream from Camp. Here you will be met by your guides, and once your equipment is loaded into the boat, motor a short trip upstream to camp. You will have a chance to stow your luggage and organize your tackle, and if you like do a little non-guided fishing in front of camp. For the next week, you'll be fishing in one of the most remote and pristine regions of Alaska.

    Friday - Wednesday

    For the next week, you'll be fishing in one of the most remote and pristine regions of Alaska. These are full fishing days and the daily schedule will vary depending on your stamina. Most often, anglers are awakened in the morning at around 6:30 a.m. with their favorite beverage delivered to their tent. Breakfast is served at 7:00 a.m. Your guides will have you on the river by 8:00 a.m. Lunch is taken on the river. You will be back in camp at approximately 5:00 p.m., in time for a hot shower, a cocktail or two, and appetizers. Dinner is usually served at 7:00 p.m. If you have any energy left after a very full day, you are welcome to fish the home waters on your own after dinner.

    Thursday

    You will depart the camp in the late morning or early afternoon (depending on whether you fly out as part of the first, second or third group). Dave strongly advises everyone to plan on spending this night of departure in Dillingham, as well, as weather (fog) often precludes him from getting everyone out on their morning of departure. If you absolutely have to get back to Anchorage this day, be sure and book the last Dillingham-Anchorage flight available (typically an evening flight), as Dave can usually get everyone out by this time, even with weather delays.

    When to Go

    As with every Alaska destinations, the fishing at the headwaters of the Nushagak is dictated in large part by the presence or lack of salmon in the watershed at any given moment.

    JUNE

    Before the first king and chum salmon find their way up to Dave’s operation - nearly 200 miles upriver from the salt - the river has two species of gamefish available to the fly fisher; big, beautiful “leopard” rainbow trout, and a seemingly endless supply of large grayling. Normally, this season will incorporate the weeks of June. Typical for Alaska, anglers can expect a wide array of weather possibilities this time of year, with cold nights and warm days the norm – this is early summer, in the north country.

    Unlike the masses of 15-18-inch “lower Nush” trout that follow the king salmon into the upper river later, in July, the resident rainbows in these headwater 30-40 miles of stream average 18-22-inches, with beasts in the 24”-26” range a daily possibility. For those who love to fish streamers and mouse patterns for large, hungry trout, this is a hard time of year to beat. To make it even more appealing, the water is usually a bit higher in June, opening up many miles of the river upstream from camp that can get a bit “bony” to run jet sleds in later in the summer. It is amazing to take an hour boat ride upstream to where the Nushagak is barely more than a creek, then float and fish your way back downstream, whacking big rainbows out of small buckets, shelving riffles and drowned logjams. There are often predictable daily hatches of mayflies and stoneflies, to which the abundant populations of river grayling rise enthusiastically. While these beautiful little sail-finned creatures average 14”-15”, there is no shortage of larger specimens in the 16-18-inch range, with the occasional trophy over 20”…and fishing them on a 4 or 5 wt with dry flies is a blast!

    JULY – EARLY AUGUST

    Sometime in late June or early July the upper river will flood with king and chum salmon, moving onto their traditional spawning grounds. There will sometimes be a few chrome-bright specimens available that are exciting to fish for, but most will be further along in their spawning maturity (bodies gaining striking colors and exaggerated kypes). Some of these “tanks” will push the 40-pound mark, and are incredible to watch as they pair up and build their redds in shallow water. Even more exciting to observe are all the trout, grayling, and newly-arrived sea run dolly varden as they line up behind the salmon, eager to take advantage of the drifting salmon eggs that escape the nests.

    For the rest of the season, the river will be loaded with trout of all sizes, hyper-aggressive dollies averaging 14-18-inches, and grayling, all of which depend upon the various salmon runs for their sustenance. July and August are a time of plenty, and highly recommended for people who like to see tons of life in the river, and catch a LOT of fish. Expect to dead-drift single egg patterns and/or small “flesh” streamers along the bottom now, sometimes to fish you can see; few things match the thrill of watching a big rosy-sided leopard ‘bow drift over and intercept your fly in a foot of water, then explode into the air when you set the hook! Somewhere in July you’ll also see waves of crimson-and-green sockeye salmon flood the river, adding an almost obscene amount of eggs and decomposing flesh to the already impressive buffet.

    MID AUGUST –SEPTEMBER

    Mid-August to early September brings the final push of salmon in the form of cohos, an aggressive species that will eat almost any bright streamer, and often surface poppers, as well. Cohos (also known as silver salmon) are often in better condition than the other salmon when they arrive, and a blast to target on a six or seven weight rod.

    September marks the arrival of autumn at the Nushagak Camps – cold, crisp nights, cool days, and a dramatic change of color to the forest and tundra landscape. The fishing begins to once again resemble early season, with very few salmon, and a continuing upstream migration of the dolly varden that sees their numbers dwindle in the prime fishing grounds. Once again, rainbows are the prime target, but the healthy trout of early season have now morphed into almost unrecognizable caricatures of their former selves… gorged bellies distorted and shoulders broadened by a summer’s diet of salmon eggs and flesh.

    September offers the trophy trout hunter the single best opportunity to connect with the rainbow of a lifetime here…the same fish available in June, but with several pounds more girth! The dollies that do still haunt the vacated salmon spawning beds are in full spawning blush, resembling nothing so much as oversized brook trout, with their vibrant colors and white-edged fins. Anglers should expect to fish a majority of whitish “flesh” streamers, sculpins and leeches, as well as a bit of single egg patterns thrown in…actually also very much like early season.

    Alaskan Weather

    The weather is about the only thing you CANNOT count on with your trip to Alaska. Guests must plan on every type of weather to occur at anytime. Daytime temperatures range from cool to hot and rain showers can occur at any moment. On any given day you could see hot weather turn to cold, calm turn to windy, and sunny to rainy almost before your eyes. If you decide to visit Alaska a rain jacket is an absolute must. Typically, June and July are a little warmer and drier than August and September.

    2013 RATES

    All prices based upon double occupancy

    7 Night / 6 Day Package - $4395 Per Angler

    What's Included
    7 Nights double occupancy accommodations; 6 Days guided fishing with shared guide; Three meals per day; Air transportation to/from Dillingham and camp; Soda and Beer

    What's Not Included
    Roundtrip airfare to/from Anchorage, Alaska -- Airfare to Dillingham, Alaska from Anchorage with Alaska Air (approximately $400.00 per person); Accommodations while in Anchorage (when applicable); Accommodations in Dillingham at the Beaver Creek B&B; Fishing licenses; Use of lodge satellite telephone; Guide & Staff Gratuities

    Terms & Conditions

    Tailwaters Travel must adhere to the cancellation policies of the guides, outfitters and lodges which it represents. Dave Egdorf’s policy follows: A non-refundable fifty-percent (50%) deposit is required at the time of booking to confirm all reservations. All trips must be paid in full 60 days prior to departure day. Refunds are not granted for non-flying days due to weather or reasons out of the lodge’s control. A deposit may be transferred to another person who is not booked at the lodge for the current season. Deposits are refundable for cancellation only after/if the cancelled space has been filled. Refunds of deposits/payments made on credit cards will be charged a 3.5% service charge to fully compensate Tailwaters Travel for all bank charges incurred. Receipt of deposit and/or final payment is acknowledgement that registrant has read and accepts the cancellation, refund and responsibility clauses.

    Consider Travel Insurance!

    Given the inherent strict refund policies associated with nearly all fishing packages, we cannot stress the importance of obtaining travel insurance to protect your investment. Travelers can obtain coverage for pre-existing health problems (related to yourself, your family, business partners, or your traveling partners), emergency evacuation, lost baggage, delay, life insurance packages; even “no questions asked” or “for work reasons” coverage.

    We will provide you with more detailed information about travel insurance from our sponsored provider, Travel Guard, when you book a trip with Tailwaters Travel. We can conveniently process a very comprehensive insurance policy for you in-house after asking a few simple questions.

    Call today to protect your investment: (888) 824-5420

    Please review our Policies & Cancellations section.

    Non-Angling Activities

    Fishing is the definitely the predominant activity at the Egdorf’s Nushagak Wilderness Camps.