I just returned from The Sapsuck River, Nelson’s Lagoon, in far out Aleutian Islands of our most beautiful state, Alaska. The target fish for this trip was king salmon on the fly, something not a lot of anglers have ever done and one of the last fish on my unfilled personal bucket list.
It isn’t easy getting there, nor is it easy to return. The camp was tent structure, with generator and river water. The trip was arranged by Sweetwater travel…and must say it isn’t for everyone. Morning temperatures were in the 30’s and clothing needed to be warm at all times. The area is absolutely stunning with amazing views of active volcanoes, mountains, vast tundra and wildlife. Pavlof volcano is semi-active and in full view of our camp…a stunning sight indeed.
In this report, I’ll concentrate on the king salmon fishing…but I also caught rainbows, dolly’s, char, and sockeyes at various times during the week. Also, anyone wishing to know any other details of the trip logistics, environment, etc. feel free to PM me. I love to talk about Alaska fishing.
In addition, the river is generally well suited to spey casting with very heavy vegetation and steep banks which limit back casting.
The kings in the river were very fresh from the salt. They still had the lice on them that can only survive 24 hours in freshwater, so these kings were full bright and they were extremely hot. They were holding/staging for very brief times in deep pools of the river and the trick was using stealth and expert casts to get them to hit a fly. They were extremely wary.
In the first 10 minutes of the first day, a 40 pound king inhaled my fly, a chartreuse guide intruder and proceeded to try to destroy my Allen Kraken reel and TFO single handed 10 wt rod. It almost succeeded. I had just recently returned from the Baja fishing for roosterfish and had replaced the spool on the fly reel with a cold water sinking tip line. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t properly seated the new spool on the reel and the 40 pound king quickly exploited this mistake. The reel drag failed immediately, then the spool literally flew into the air (twice) as I scrambled to try to hold onto the huge king. My guide Mike sprinted to help me and reassembled the drag and reel with spool while I tried to hang on to the angry king by hand. We got in the boat and caught up with the king well down stream probably a couple of miles before finally landing it…what an introduction to king salmon fishing on the fly.
For much of the remaining week, I learned to spey cast and caught numerous bright kings ranging from the 10 to 20 pounds(called jack kings),several in the 20 to 30 pound class, a 31,33,35,and 36 pound king to go with the 40 pounder…but the crowning fish, the largest king salmon that anyone had ever seen come out of that river on the fly and caught on my single handed 10 wt was a 44 pound, roughly 45 inch with a 29 inch girth. It truly was the fish of a lifetime and exactly what I was after for my bucket list.
The huge king could not be landed from the bank. I simply could not stop its initial run, nor could I turn it in any way with the 10 wt. It quickly ran out 300 yards of backing before the guide could get to me in the boat and we could follow it downstream. We followed the great fish well past our camp downriver …some two plus river miles from where I hooked it upriver from the camp. I got out of the boat and was able finally to drag the huge fish onto a sand bar where we got pictures (and camp people came scrambling to see this magnificent specimen). The camp operator said it was the largest king salmon they had ever seen on this river and certainly the largest to ever be taken on the fly. Upon returning later to Anchorage, I read a news paper article summarizing the Anchorage King Salmon Derby which is a contest for the largest King salmon of the season…the winning fish was 37 pounds (you can check this out by googling the Anchorage news paper from Monday). My fish at 44 pounds easily dwarfed the winning fish…in fact my second largest king would have easily won the contest.
What a trip!! I’ll post only a few of the many pictures providing a representative sampling of these magnificent fish. Anyone wish more pictures or details just PM me.
1) the 44 pound king with camp in the background
2) close up shot of 44 pound king
3) the 40 pound king