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Phil Lilley

Alaska 2018

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Looking forward to reports from @curtisce and @ozarkflyfisher

It wasn't their first time to Naknek.

Jeff Wenzlick showed up at NRC this last week.  I didn't get to fish with him but I think he had a good fishing trip.  Like I said, the weather was nasty for them unfortunately.

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Stinks it was cold and rainy, but looks like you guys still got after them.  Just some amazing fish and scenery there.  I'm super jealous, well minus the bear part...  Cool to see them that close, but glad she didn't have little ones with her.  Can't wait to see your videos.

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I had a great time at Naknek River Camp fishing with Phil and Curt (curtisce) the week of 23 June.

This was my 6th fishing trip to Alaska and my 5th trip at Naknek River Camp but I hadn’t been back since 2010. 

It was great to see Phyllis and Jim, the owners and their son James again.  They are really interesting people and they always have fascinating stories to tell.

This was my first trip flying straight through to King Salmon AK in a day.  It seemed much closer than the other times when I overnighted in Anchorage on my way up there.  It was so strange waking up in my own bed that Saturday morning the day I arrived and landing a 27 inch rainbow that same evening on the Naknek River while fishing with Phil and Curt.

Phil was a very gracious fishing companion.   He supplied us with spinning rods, reels, and jigs which really came in handy while fishing for the huge rainbows right in front of camp.  The Naknek River there is wide, swift, and deep and requires a boat to properly fish. Some of the biggest rainbows in Alaska are drawn down from Naknek Lake just a short distance above camp to feast on the huge schools of baby sockeye smolt heading downstream to the ocean.  At times you can see large rainbows slashing the smolt on the surface which draws the attention of gulls and terns.  If the waylay is close enough to reach with a cast then you throw your offering into it and hang on.  Sometimes you might hook a tern.  I landed two.  My biggest rainbows of the trip were caught here.  My biggest rainbows in front of camp were a 28, two 27s, and a 26 inch rainbows.  It is my understanding that there is a lot of good places in Alaska to fish for rainbows feasting on sockeye smolt but it is not common to see the large schools of rainbows slashing at them on the surface like they do on the Naknek River.  It seems that once the sockeye run is in full force the rainbow fishing slows down.  Some believe that the sockeye pester the rainbows so much that they return to the lake until the sockeye egg feast which starts towards the end of August.  During the egg season in September 2008, I caught four rainbows over 30 inches on the Naknek River in one day.

Curt and I spent one day on the Brooks River and I was anxious to see it once again.  I caught quite a few rainbows there but mine were all under 16 inches on dry flies.  Others caught bigger trout but mostly using leaches.  This is the location of the famous Brooks Falls, which is a famous bear viewing area that draws people from all over the world.  I only saw two bears.  One on the upper river and one at the falls.  These were the only bears that I saw on this trip to Alaska.  Other times fishing on the Brooks River, the place would be thick with bears.  Sometimes you might see 11 bears at once while you’re fishing, and they’re constantly on the move all around you.  The sockeye run was not in full force yet and so the bears hadn’t arrived.


Curt landing a Rainbow at Brooks



Juvenile Brown Bear on upper Brooks River


Large Brown Bear at the World Famous Brooks Falls

During my week there, it never seems to truly get dark at night so if you still haven’t had your fill of fishing during the day there is the option of taking a boat out and doing some more fishing after dinner.  Curt and I boated over to the slough across the river from camp one evening and we landed three northern pike on our fly rods.  Here is a picture of the largest one.  Curt went out exploring on his own a couple evenings but I understand that he wasn’t too successful.


Northern Pike taken with fly rode in slough directly across river from camp

Phil, Curt, and I spent portions of some days fishing the riffles at Rapids Camp for rainbows.  This is a place where the river is wide and is often low enough to get out a wade around with our fly rods.  I caught my largest rainbow of the trip using my fly rod here, it was 24 inches. 



Phil fighting a large rainbow trout at Rapids Camp on the Naknek River



My largest fly rod caught rainbow at Rapid Camp on Naknek River


The sockeye run was just starting the week that we were there and so that fishing as a bit disappointing.  I was able to creel a limit of 5 on only one day.  Usually, during the thick of the run, everyone could have their limits within a couple of hours and that was my previous experience fishing for Naknek River sockeye.  Between Curt and me, we brought back one box of sockeye and Curt plans to smoke them sometime this autumn.  We knew that Phil would no doubt experience better sockeye fishing in the next couple of weeks after Curt and I had left.



Sockeye Salmon Catch During the Last Full Day of Our Trip

When Phil, Curt, and I first boated up to Big Creek to fish for King Salmon we didn’t have any hits.  Curt and I stuck with fly rods.  Phil threw some plugs partly and fished with the guide’s two-handed fly rod partly.  Big Creek is usually quite dingy so you cannot see the where the kings are holding.  Sometimes you can see the Kings rolling or moving but not often.  It is not easy throwing heavy flies, with a 10 weight sink tip line for a few hours without any hits.

On Friday, on a last full day of the trip for me and Curt, we dropped Phil off at camp after a morning of sockeye fishing and our guide boated me and Curt back up Big Creek to try once again for King Salmon.  This time Ryan, our guide boated us much farther up the creek.  We decided to start fishing with the guides plugs and spinning gear.  Curt hooked a large King Salmon on practically his first cast and I took some pictures of him fighting the fish but the pictures that I took of him holding the fish are on his iPhone.  Curt then proceeded upstream to the same spot as before and prompted hooked another mature King Salmon and we repeated some more picture taking.  Curt is one hell of a skilled fisherman!!!!!  Then I hooked a large King on a plug in that same hole and I played it for several minutes but the plug eventually pulled out.  We boated back down big creek and stopped at several holes and got out and threw our plugs but we didn’t get any more hits by Kings.  However, I did catch small char on the plug.  I have caught King Salmon up this creek on a fly rod in years past and it is a hoot when the fishing is hot.



Curt Fighting King Salmon on Big Creek

I’m glad that I finally got back to Alaska.  Life is too short to pass up such opportunities and I’m glad that I didn’t pass up this one.

Thanks for hosting this trip Phil!  It was a pleasure fishing with you and Curt!!!!!!!

Best regards,

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