Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mad River Outfitters Alaska Trips

A week at the Naknek River Camp with Mad River Outfitters- The Ultimate Alaska Fly Fishing Adventure

by Jerry Darkes

For anyone considering a fly fishing trip to Alaska, Naknek River Camp with Mad River Outfitters should be high on your list of places to consider.  Located on the Naknek River, near the town of King Salmon, the camp sits on the edge of Katmai National Park and is a great jumping off point for the best angling opportunities the Bristol Bay region has to offer.
Located on a scenic bend of the river, Naknek River Camp is owned and operated by the Johnson family, veteran fly angler hosts and outfitters.  Guests stay in comfortable plywood cabins- each having a propane heater and portable toilet.  There is a main bath house with showers and regular toilets.  For couples, several cabins have regular showers and toilets built in to them.  The cabins, cleaned every day by camp staff, are warm, comfortable and dry.

Breakfast and lunch are served in a main dining hall while lunches are carried on the water by your guide each day.  The food is very good and ample portions are served.  No one ever need go hungry here and specialty dietary needs are easily met by letting Mad River know in advance. 

Guides are personable, polite, and experienced fisherman.  They are very knowledgeable about local waters and will do everything possible to make sure clients have a great outing.   They can quickly asses the skill level of an angler and determine who needs extra help.  The client to guide ratio is generally 2 to 1, but can vary depending on the schedule for the day.

For those interested in catching the most species possible during a week, the last two weeks of July are considered “prime time”.  During this period you will have the possibility of all 5 species of salmon- Kings, sockeye, silvers, chum, and pinks.  In addition, anglers can go after rainbow trout, dolly varden trout, Arctic char, Arctic grayling, and northern pike.
The weather during this time period can vary considerably.  It may be 50 degrees with rain every day or you may find periods of cloudless blue skies with temperatures in the 70s.  Come prepared for both situations and everything in between.  Both Mad River Outfitters and Naknek River Camp will provide lists of equipment and clothing you should bring with you for the week.
Your fishing week is an open schedule that is easily tailored to your individual wishes.  If you want to focus on walk/wade opportunities, this will be accommodated.  If an angler is less mobile and interested in mostly boat fishing, this is easily arranged.  The goal at the camp is to give you the best angling experience possible based on your physical abilities.
Those wishing to take fish home are encouraged to fish for sockeyes early in this time period.  The Naknek River system supports one of the largest runs of sockeye salmon in Alaska.   Sockeye are one of the best eating of salmon and in best condition when fresh in from the ocean.  The longer in freshwater and the further in their spawning process, sockeye eating qualities decrease significantly.  Your guide will clean your sockeye and make sure the fillets are individually vacuum frozen.

King salmon fishing is open to the end of July and a special license is required to target them.  King numbers vary from year to year, but significant numbers are often found in the main river and several tributaries.  The Naknek can produce world-class size Kings in excess of 60 pounds, with most in the 30 pound range.

A highlight of the week for many is the day at Brooks Camp across Naknek Lake to visit the world famous Brooks River Falls.  Guests cross the lake in a motorized launch.  You spend the morning going to “bear school” and then viewing bears at the falls.  The afternoon is spent fishing the Brooks River for rainbows where you are likely to have additional bear encounters along the river.


Several other trips across Naknek Lake that take place during the week include going to Idovain Creek for grayling and Margot Creek for dolly varden and rainbow.  Idovain Creek reminds you of a spring creek with its smooth, glassy current and high grassy banks.  Margot Creek is a series of riffles and pools with a picturesque creek mouth emptying into the lake.  It loads up with sockeye that in turn attract dollies from the lake along with rainbows.


Naknek River Camp also offers optional fly-outs to a number of destinations.  Done in a float plane with a local pilot, guests are picked up and dropped off at the main camp dock.  One of the favorite fly-outs is to Contact Creek.  A 25-30 minute flight from the camp, Contact Creek attracts significant numbers of King and chum salmon.  It also receives a huge run of Arctic char that run 20” – 30” inches in length and hold good numbers of large grayling and rainbows.  Anglers fishing here universally claim “it is the best stream fishing experience I ever had”.


The main Naknek River is also famous for its trophy-sized rainbow trout.  Any cast can produce a rainbow in excess of 30 inches.  A day spent trout fishing the main river can include stripping streamers along the numerous gravel bars and shoals, throwing dries to glassy slicks, or swinging flies with a switch rod or two-hander.  Though not always easy to catch, Naknek rainbows have a reputation as the hardest-fighting of their type found anywhere.

Silver salmon normally show up the last few days of July.  If you want to target silvers, best to opt for them at the end of the week.  These hard fighters load up in slower areas of the lower river and can be caught on a variety of streamers and some surface patterns.   
Guests at the camp are also able to take boats out on their own in the morning before breakfast and after dinner in the evening.  There is no extra charge for this and all that is requested is you stay reasonable close and that camp personnel know where you plan to fish.  Several sloughs are within sight of the camp and hold sizable pike and there are several key trout and salmon areas a short run from the camp.

Naknek River Camp offers arguably, the best value in Alaskan fly fishing and Mad River Outfitters serves as a full booking agent for the lodge.  Other lodges in the area charge twice the amount and more to fish similar Bristol Bay waters.  Accommodations are not luxury but they are clean, warm, dry, and comfortable.  The fishing opportunities equal, and often exceed, any found in the area. 

Whether you join them on one of their hosted trips, or have them set-up a trip tailored to fit your dates and needs.....MRO can help.

Note:  Special thanks to Bob Fout and Carl Shin for photographic contributions.

Jerry Darkes- September 2013

Mad River Outfitters Trips to the Naknek River Camp

July 19th- 26th, 2014 with hosts Jerry Darkes and Jeff Liskay

August 16th- 23rd, 2014 with hosts Patrick Kelly and Graham Stokes

Mad River Outfitters
813 Bethel Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214

Full-service booking agent and outfitter for the Naknek River Camp in Alaska