10 Hot Adventures for Fall
By Troy Letherman
With the sore-armed, sleep-deprived height of summer slipping into sinking-line and salmon-fly memory, it’s not unreasonable to assume a generally pouty demeanor. However, while I enjoy the thrill of targeting bruiser kings, battling acrobatic sockeye and—for sure—the opportunity to toss some dries at the occasionally rising trout, for me the best part of the year is about to begin.
The arrival of fall brings the summer’s salmon to their spawning grounds, with tight packs of trout—fatter by the day—right behind them. And then there’s the autumn salmon, the coho, turning serene, scenic coastal waters to lively angling playgrounds; large, aggressive fish pounding flies and stretching lines from Bethel to Ketchikan.
As I prepare for my favorite time of year, here then are a few of the trips always near the top of my list. In no particular order:
1) Naknek River Rainbows; Bear Trail Lodge
There is no better time or place in Alaska to bump into trophy rainbow trout than fall on the Naknek River, where big water means hero casts are the order of the day—and where the runs are long and stuffed with impossibly hot fish.
2) Togiak River Silvers & Rainbows; Togiak River Lodge (www.togiaklodge.com)
A personal favorite of Fish Alaska publisher Marcus Weiner, the Togiak offers spectacular coho fishing, with fish averaging 12- to 14-pounds and rising to 20, as well as the chance to target rainbows nearly unmolested by other anglers. Venturing into the Togiak’s many tributaries and dropping beads behind the spawning beds for leopard rainbows makes for an exciting day.
3) Situk Silvers, Coastal Cutthroat and Silvers; Yakutat Lodge
While famous for its spring steelhead return, the Situk River near Yakutat also produces a solid run of silvers each year, with the added bonus of fewer anglers on the water. Side excursions up or down the coast offer anglers the chance to get deeper into the wilderness and ply remote fisheries for beautiful cutthroat trout returning from their summer feeding at sea, while also targeting some of the largest silvers in the state.
4) Silvers, Saltwater Bonanza; Fireweed Lodge
Located on the west side of Prince of Wales Island, Fireweed Lodge gets anglers into some truly explosive angling action, particularly in August when the coho fishing picks up. As an added bonus, anglers can fill the cooler with a range of tasty saltwater bounty.
5) Kvichak River Rainbows; Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge
Another of Alaska’s top trophy trout waters, the Kvichak fishes extremely well in the fall, when millions of Iliamna sockeye start dropping their eggs on the spawning beds. While big water, the Kvichak is a more user-friendly fishery than the Naknek, making wade-and-cast work downright pleasant at times.
6) Kanektok Silvers and Rainbows; Alaska West
Perhaps better known for its king fishery, flocked to by aficionados of the two-hander, I actually prefer hitting the Kanektok later in the year. The coho fishing is blatantly stupid, with the fish so numerous and so aggressive that I can rarely make it two days before I need to go exploring—and exploring on the Kanektok means pulling leopard rainbows from the lower river rootwads and sight-fishing clearwater braids for packs of marauding trout.
7) Kenai River Rainbows; Mystic Waters Kenai River Guides
Flowing right off the Sterling Highway, the Kenai is one of the most impressive rivers in the world, not least because it maintains its terrific stocks of wild fish, including trophy-size rainbows, despite the fishing pressure. Whether floating from Sportsman’s to Jim’s or targeting the middle river below Skilak Lake, hitting the Kenai for day-trip trout becomes the focus from August to October.
8) Katmai Rainbows; Angler’s Paradise Lodges
No matter the time of year, I love fishing the waters of Katmai National Park & Preserve for its fantastic numbers of wild rainbow trout. A fly-out excursion to the Katmai coast for silvers isn’t out of the question, but it’s always hard to fly away from rivers like the Kulik and Kukaklek, and American, Moraine and Funnel creeks, when the fall trout fishing is in full swing.
9) Iliamna Rainbows; Valhalla Lodge
Not many people have fished rainbows in Alaska and have not heard of Lower Talarik Creek, one of the most famous trout locales in the Far North. While the folks at Valhalla target a number of fisheries, each offering something unique, it’s Talarik that gets me going, knowing that every cast brings the potential of another 28-inch hen screaming for Lake Iliamna.
10) Kodiak Silvers, Dolly Varden, Steelhead, and Saltwater Action
Kodiak Combos (www.kodiakcombos.com), Fish Kodiak Adventures (www.fishkodiak.com), Andrew Airways (www.andrewairways.com)
Whether venturing into the saltwater for a day of backbreaking action, hauling hot coho and halibut to the deck, or marching around the boreal forest for monster coho, pinks or some of the most mind-blowing Dolly Varden fishing you can imagine, Kodiak Island makes for one of the most exceptional autumn destinations in Alaska. And later in the year, many of the island’s streams host strong runs of steelhead—maybe combine with a foray for Sitka black-tailed deer for a true Alaska wilderness adventure.