Lake Clark Sojourn

2011 grayling Kvichak River Lake Iliamna national parks salmon Sockeye Tanalian River

Beautiful Lake Clark National Park was just waiting for us as we traversed the magnificent, glacier-studded Lake Clark Pass on our flight from Anchorage to the Farm Lodge in Port Alsworth, AK. The weather was cloudy and rainy, but the mountains and the lakes were visible through the fog and the small runway rose up to meet us for a smooth landing. We were out of the plane in no time, and had eaten the sack lunch that awaited us in our cabins and donned our waders in record time.

One of the staff of the lodge took us by skiff to the mouth of the Tanalian River, where it appeared that the water was too high for us to cross the first channel and dropped us off in between the two main channels. We had the first grayling on in no time! Two of the four anglers were total novices to fly fishing, but the eager grayling helped me teach them how to present the fly dead-drift and were anxious to take it when they did. It was a fun afternoon, with the hook-ups coming fast and furious after a while. Our pick-up seemed to come all too soon.

Our second day was scheduled to be our fly-out day for salmon fishing. The weather was still cloudy, but we enjoyed the flight over Lake Iliamna to the Kvichak River and our favorite fishing spot. Sadly, the sockeye salmon were few and far between that day and we landed just one small fish and had just two other hook-ups all morning. So, after lunch, we decided to head back to one of the lakes near the lodge for some grayling fishing. Mother Nature had other plans for us, however, and we ended up enduring a very bumpy, fog-surrounded flight back to the lodge when we didn't have enough visibility to get to the lake. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, doing e-mail, and enjoying a glass of wine before dinner.

The next day we hiked to the gorgeous Tanalian Falls and fished for grayling in the plunge pool. The water was high and there was limited space for all four to fish, but we managed, and caught lots and lots of large fish. The hike home was lovely, and at dinner that night we heard that other hikers after us encountered lots of bear poop and bear tracks. Luckily, we had missed them.

We always spend one day of the trip on the boat exploring the pike pond on Lake Clark as well as some of its tributary streams. This year, the pike were very cooperative, and everyone caught several--some of them over 30 inches in length. We had a hard time leaving, but were anxious to sample the grayling fishing on the famous Kiijik River across the lake.

The first stop on the Kiijik proved to be too deep and too fast, due to the high water, but a run on the other side of the river bar proved to be grayling nirvana. We started out with nymphs so everyone could master the technique of "high-sticking" and the fish were coming fast and furious for everyone. Soon, however, all the rising fish made us switch to dry flies, and then it seemed almost like a fish on every cast. We really didn't want to head back to the lodge, but finally did, getting back just in time to strip off the waders and head to the dining room for another of the lodge's exceptional meals.

The last day of the trip always comes too soon, but we hurried up after breakfast to get our bags packed and our rooms vacated so we could fish as long as possible. The grayling welcomed us again, as everyone tried their hand at Czech nymphing because it was gray and cold and nothing was rising. While no one caught two fish at the same time on the double nymphs, we did have several "doubles" as two women had fish on at the same time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a picture of two anglers each with a fish, but we all were thrilled at how often it happened. By the end of the afternoon, the fish were rising consistently and all the catches were on elk-hair caddis. In the final minutes three of the four all had a fish on at the same time! It was a great end to a great trip.

The flight home through the other side of Lake Clark Pass was just the frosting on the cake. The glaciers and mountains were absolutely breathtaking. It's really hard to top this trip for scenery, a great lodge, super fishing, and a chance to experience one of the least-visited of all the National Parks.

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