Each evening before dinner, guests visit with the head guide to discuss the next day’s fishing plans. If you want to fish a different river or lake everyday, you have that option. ARL prides itself on a completely customizable fishing program, catering to guests’ ideal fishing experience. With three DeHavilland Beavers on floats, 40+ jetboats, and a Wooldridge sports boat, ARL pilots and guides work together to deliver guests where the fishing is best, each and everyday. In the event that weather precludes flying, the incredible rainbow trout and salmon fishing of the Kvichak River is right out the back door. In fact, many guests forgo one or more fly-out days for longer fishing hours and the convenience of the Kvichak. The Kvichak is home to some of Alaska’s largest Rainbows — many exceeding 30 inches (lodge record 34.5″) and tremendous runs of all species of salmon.
ARL guides are all well versed in the program and many have over a decade of experience fishing, guiding, and exploring Alaska. Guides travel from all parts of the country and apply their home water skills while guiding – and are well kept professionals with excellent manners and instructional ability. Whether you have your children in tow or are looking to learn to cast a spey rod, ARL guides can handle guests of all skill levels, ages, genders, and levels of physical fitness.
RIVERS & LAKES
Depending on the specific rivers to be fished, on any given day guests either walk and wade streams or access more remote fishing areas by jet-boat after delivery to the area by aircraft. Fish species available throughout the season include the Pacific Salmon species of king, chum, sockeye, pink and silver, as well as the resident fish species of rainbow trout, arctic char, dolly varden, arctic grayling, northern pike and lake trout. The lodge maintains a huge fleet of jet boats stashed on various rivers throughout the region ensuring that travel time is cut and that there is no shortage of exploration of each river in search of the best fishing. Float trips in comfortable rafts are also part of the weekly routine depending on the season and anglers’ interests. Southwestern Alaska offers an incredible diversity of fishing opportunities with eleven game fish species available throughout the season.
Alaska Rainbow lodge flies to over thirty of Bristol Bay’s best river systems. The following is a brief description of the most popular spots. With three airplanes on floats, flexibility, safety, and speed also allows for easy access on many other lesser known rivers that can seasonally fish off the charts and don’t have much competition from other fly-out lodges.
The Kvichak is ARL’s home river. Dumping out of Lake Illiamna, the largest lake in Alaska, the Kvichak is one of the most famous rivers in the world for harboring huge rainbows. It also has one of the largest salmon runs, with all five species present. The Kvichak is big water, and a must do river with any trip to Alaska. Alaska Rainbow Lodge keeps six jet boats on the “braids” section of the river, a renowned stretch of the river that lends itself to easier wading opportunities and the ability to sight cast to huge rainbows in the 25-32 inch range. The “braids” section is a comfortable 45 minute ride in the lodge’s Wooldridge. There, anglers load up in jet boats and head out for the day. The Kvichak has a spectacular run of chromed up rainbows during the annual June smolt migration, as well as a September swing for huge steelhead-like rainbows in the main stem.
The Naknek is big water for big fish! It boasts an enormous salmon run, with all five species present, and some of the largest rainbows in Alaska. The upper Naknek becomes more wade friendly, with many shallow shelves along the willow lined banks. 22-28 inch rainbows are par for the course on the Naknek, with numerous 10 pound + specimens coming to hand throughout the season.
Early season smolt runs offer incredible opportunities for rainbows as huge trout follow the smolt out of Naknek Lake busting bait balls. The middle parts of the season offer consistent bead/egg fishing for ‘bows. Experienced anglers from all over the world make a fall pilgrimage to the Naknek and Kvichak rivers during the latter half of September in search of the largest rainbows on earth. Starting around September 15th, “The Swing” turns on when the largest lake run rainbows enter the river system. This event allows anglers the world’s best chance for catching multiple 30+ inch rainbows. It is “steelhead style” fishing, often fished most effectively with two-handed spey rods while wading the gravelly shallow shelves and banks of this stunning freestone.
Tributaries of both these lake systems hold huge char; and ARL regularly has guests catch 35-inch trophies — oftentimes several fish over thirty inches a day per angler. Unlike many places where char of these proportions are found, ARL is within easy striking distance. Ugashik is accessed by float plane on one of the lakes and anglers easily wade the one mile connecting stream loaded with thousands of char feeding on salmon roe. It is like shooting ducks on the pond and a really fun distraction from the hard-core rainbow fishing.
BROOKS & BROOKS FALLS
You know that iconic National Geographic image of the bear catching the salmon in the air? The Brooks River contains the world famous Brooks Falls, where bears enjoy a perennial feast of salmon as they ascend the falls. This is a tremendous opportunity to see one of nature’s great spectacles. Brooks offers bear-viewing platforms to assist visitors in viewing and avoiding the bears. These platforms give you an elevated view of the bears in total safety; a must see for photographers.
The Brooks River can also provide excellent rainbow and sockeye fishing for anglers, provided the bears allow you to fish. At peak bear times there can be so many bears as to make fishing difficult, but the river is loaded with zillions of 18-28 inch rainbows.
With its crystal clear water, Battle Creek is a sight-fishing mecca. Although it can get a bit crowded at times, guides will conduct a float trip down the rich upper stretches in solitude, or stake out a proper beat of river on the lower sections bang away at the hundreds of gluttonous rainbows slurping on roe from spawning sockeye. The rainbows in Battle are constantly on the move with fresh fish moving up and down the numerous, windy, runs of the system. Right when you think you have fished out the hole and break for lunch, before you know it several more big targets visibly move into your spot.
Moraine Creek flows 15 miles from Spectacle Lake to Kukaklek Lake. Funnel Creek is its major tributary. The Moraine has the reputation of having some of the biggest rainbow trout in and around Katmai National Park. This stream consistently produces the largest trout of the season outside of the Naknek and Kvichak, with some fish exceeding 30 inches. Views of surrounding glacial valleys, wildlife, and river scenery also help make the Moraine one of the most popular spots for ARL guests.
The Upper Branch is a typical winding Alaskan river with a ton of structure. Islands, rapids, skinny riffles, downed trees and deep-water cuts are all part of this amazing stretch of river, offering anglers a fun variety of fishable water. This river is home to a huge number of “leopard” rainbows in the 16-22 inch range with the occasional 25 incher. Dolly varden, grayling and salmon are also present. For wildlife lovers, this is the river to be on for endless bald eagle encounters. Expect to see at least 50 if not more if you are on the lookout!
The upper (67 mile) section was deemed a National Wild and Scenic River System, making it illegal to store boats. Fortunately, Ron Hayes purchased a small plot of land in the 80’s allowing the lodge to legally store jet boats. Utilizing a jet boat makes exploring much more effective from a fishing standpoint and also saves a ton of time. The alternative is to launch small rafts at the top section of the river and do single or multi-day floats.
The American fishes great all season and is another river loaded with feisty 18-26 inch rainbows and char up to 27-28 inches. It is a steep drainage and is also a great spot to consider if you are interested in some mouse fishing. Some of the most beautiful hikes and often the best dry fly fishing in the state.
The Kulik is one of the most beautiful fly-out destinations in the Katmai region. Surrounded by mountains, the river is a little more than a mile long and drains Kulik Lake into Nonvianuk Lake. Kulik is a great fishery providing good numbers of aggressive trout ranging to 25 inches, with the average fish 17-18 inches. During peak times Kulik can be a little crowded, but on most days, the river is generous with fish, elbow room, and wilderness scenery. Alaska Rainbow Lodge operates unique float trips down the Kulik. It is a high volume style of fishing with medium sized fish, but is a great place for those looking to rack up the easy numbers.
The grand daddy of all Alaskan King Salmon rivers. ARL keeps two boats at the Nushagak for anglers who want to try their hand at the largest of the salmon species. Getting there is simple, a spectacular quick jump in the Beaver.
The Big Ku is a wide-open, larger river with beautiful views of Kukaklek Lake and surroundings. The Big Ku is a great early June trout fishery where trout lay in wait ready to attack clouds of salmon smolt as they make their migration to the ocean. Trout fishing remains good all season long – along with excellent sockeye fishing.
The Little Ku is a small tannic colored stream that empties into the west end of Kukaklek Lake. It is the smaller of the two rivers but the trout that return to it each year are not! The Little Ku has good numbers of big rainbows and can have a lot of bears. The Little Ku offers plenty of walking, however the appeal for those who endure the walk is the opportunity to catch big native trout without the crowds.
FISHING EQUIPMENT PROVIDED
Alaska Rainbow Lodge provides their guests with high end Sage and Redington fly rods and reels. The lodge rents waders and wading boots for guests who do not have their own or choose not to bring them.