I hope this Alaskan Trip Report might be of some value to those considering a fishing trip to Alaska. I had absolutely no interest in traveling 3000 miles to engage in combat fishing on the popular rivers. I wanted a genuine off the grid, bush country experience, and that is what I got.
A little background….
I am very new to the fly. Just a longtime gear angler for pike and LM bass mostly. Toothy critters were my comfort zone and Hewitt Lake, AK is full of pike. I booked a trip with Ard Stett’s Life on the Line Fly Fishing back in January. Soon thereafter Ard learned the AK DNR was launching a campaign to eradicate them as they are not native to South Central AK, and a serious threat to the salmon and rainbow trout. In short, gillnet them out very shortly before my arrival. I completely understand that the pike need to go, but nonetheless it was a huge disappointment and my timing could not possibly be any worse. We decided to fish at least one day for pike anyway, then give the rainbows and salmon a try at even more remote locations. The king salmon run was pretty much over, so I anticipated a lot of rainbow trout fishing.
Over the course of the next few days I will update this thread and share my five day trip, somewhat in chronological order. I have a lot of pics to edit so we’ll start with a few now.
The Journey Begins….
We traveled the Susitna, Yentna and Skwentna river drainages and surrounding area throughout the trip. These are wild and fast glacial rivers with many branches and feeder creeks. They vary daily (make that hourly) depending on glacial melt rate or rainfall. The 2 hour 40 minute jetboat ride to the cabin was exciting. Until the ride was interrupted by a brief but heavy rain/hail storm. Perhaps that is why Ard suggested I throw on my waders before we left? That mistake would not be made again. The last hour of the ride was cold at 30 mph. Fortunately this was the last of the bad weather for awhile.
This pic shows a typical view of the river, they are far more challenging in spots. Sandbars, logjams, submerged boulders, I saw about every navigational hazard short of a waterfall. I’m not river shy, but there is no chance I would venture up these rivers in anything but a jetboat, and a local guide behind the wheel. This would NOT be a good place to get lost or breakdown. Ard is very mindful of his boat maintenance, as there is a high price to do otherwise. His boat is an 18-6ft, heavy hulled, flat bottomed battleship with a Honda 90HP jet motor
Hewitt Lake Cabin
The cabin was headquarters for the trip. We launched from there as Ard, Boss and I traveled to even more remote sites to fish each day. The cabin is under construction. I’m sure Ard will share interior pics as he proceeds.
Modern Conveniences, this is where Ard raises mosquitos. DEET is your friend.
Mountains, mountains and more mountains. I have a lot of mountain pics, Ard will have to identify some of the named peaks when he has time.
Fishing Day 1 was pike day. Not much happening on Hewitt Lake proper. The DNR team was present and gillnetting the more likely spots we wanted to fish. We proceeded to Hewitt creek and it’s countless side channel pockets. Caught a number of these guys. Nothing spectacular, but numerous low 20” fish that were deep in the cover. Basically flipping and pitching with a flyrod. Had I landed a large pke he would have promptly stolen my lunch money. Eradicaton program or not, we made the best of it and I had fun. The pike were smashing my bunny strip leech the instant it hit the water. I also found out how hard Ard will work to please a client. For hours he paddled me through these little pocket streams like we were in a drift boat. I won’t waste much thread with smallish pike pics. This one is very typical of the day.
I was drawn to Hewitt Lake partially by Ard’s description of the large fish he had stalked for several years in the cove by his cabin. Ard’s not a pike angler, but a big fish hanging out by your dock deserves a few casts now and then. “Norman” the Northern Pike was nowhere to be seen. Ard described a mid 40” fish he had seen these past few years. He had struck other clients offerings in the past. We couldn’t find him. 40” pike are not plentiful most anywhere so I was skeptical. We spotted the netting team (The Pike Murders LOL). Ard sped across the lake to inquire with the netting team. Ard asked if they had netted anything large. Yes, two days ago they said they had killed the largest pike she had ever seen. A 42” pike that weighed just under 20#. Where? Yup, the cove by Ard’s dock, R.I.P. Norman, we will miss you but I don’t think the ducks will. As tempting as it was, I controlled myself and did not pull the drain plug out of the netting boat when they weren’t looking.
Day 2 we moved on to Rainbow and Salmon water. My photography skills need work, but you can see the coloration is nice. The very first cast brought a rainbow to hand. I could learn to like this A LOT!
Many fish in the 14-16” range were landed. Fish in the 17-19” range were caught in smaller numbers. It’s a very good day when you truly don’t know how many wild rainbows you caught. It's also July with it's unforgiving sun. y expectations were far exceeded. I can't imagine how awesome the fall 'bow fishing must be.
As I said, sun was hot for Alaska and temps were in the upper 70s. The water was still cold but we were trying to photograph without stressing the fish and my photo quality suffered. I’ll work on that. A couple small trout were hurt, all the big boys were landed as quickly as this rookie could and they generally swam off with great vigor.
I can’t properly describe the treacherous water some of these fish lived in. Good, as I’m sure that keeps the crowds away. The water must not be navigable when water levels are down more than just a few inches.
Lot's more pics to share later but unfortunately nobody mowed my lawn while I was gone.
Great report! As you mention, I've oddly noticed too how when someone local or your guide says "do this" in an area you don't personally know, it's best to do it.....Funny how that works huh?
Yup, Ard has frequent premonitions of what's about to happen next.
-Dewayne is about to get his azz wet and freeze half to death, that'll learn him
-Dewayne is going to put our last sculpin in a snag in three-two-one.....
-there's a big fish laying right there
-after navigating a nasty obstacle going upstream, he would state we eventually gotta come back and we're screwed.... yup, an adventure ensued everytime lol
He knew what was coming before it happened, it's obvious to me that Ard is a Witch.
---------- Post added at 04:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:05 PM ----------
Day 3, it's hot and we're getting thirsty.....
Ard offered to grab some beer at the beginning of the trip. The boat was overloaded already and I didn't want to worry about the little things so I told him not to worry about it. As I said, it's day three, the sun shines 20 damn hours a day and I am wishing we had a cold one about now. We're way off the grid. My CELL is useless but he has CELL reception in certain places. A bush plane drops three 12s of Aussie beer the next day. I was guarding the boat so I have no pics of this glorious event. I believe the mail plane dropped the precious cargo but I didn't see no priority postage on the cooler lol. Thanks to Ard's lovely bride for making that happen. She's a wonderful woman. Then Ard proceeds to bogart the first 12 pack that night and wakes up with a wicked headache. OK, maybe it was me who did that, sometimes I forget the details....
It's July 4th now, I'm 30 years+ military and ready for some celebratory fireworks.
Double Fail!!! Lame!!! WTH is this Ard? I'm just a little bit disappointed in your Witching skills right about now. A real Witch could make the sun go down so we can watch some damn fireworks in the Alaskan Bush lol. I'm just a little disappointed man. Guess we better get some sleep as these 14 hour fishing adventures are beginning to take a toll. Watching me try to pretend to be a flyfisherman has got to be hard, you won't admit it, but you're smoked and you try your best to not let it show.
I moved this to General Discussion to help it get seen, when it has been filled and starts to fade I'll move it back to the AK. threads. The thread may fade in time but I figure your memories of the good times we shared & the bad will last quite a while.