Uganik River, Kodiak

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by Mike Ediger, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. Mike Ediger

    Mike Ediger Active Member

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    First I would like to thank all those who offered suggestions and ideas while planning this trip, especially Jeff B “kodiaksalmon” who went above and beyond with information and fly suggestions. He even sent me some examples of personal flies as he has spent many years on the island guiding and fishing. Jeff I am sure you got tired of all my emails but I sincerely appreciate all the time and effort you put in to helping my trip be a success.

    Now for the report. After several years of dreaming, saving, and planning, my father, brother-in-law and I finally headed out to Kodiak for a week of fishing. I had commercially fished out of Kodiak for a couple of years in the early 90s and I had wanted to go back for quite a while to show my father the beautiful island and the general area that I had worked. The trip was more than we could have ever hoped for.
    All three of us are trout fisherman at heart so we only had five and six weight gear. Also, the second week of August was as late as we could go due to my work, so it made our decision to target pinks pretty easy. I had met a bear guide who has a remote camp on the NW side of the island (Uganik Bay) when I commercially fished there, so I decided to book a week at is camp to get off the beaten path and hopefully see a few bears. We used his camp as home base but did all of our fishing up the Uganik River which was just across the bay. The week was more than we could have ever expected!
    The trip started a little auspiciously as we almost missed the last flight out of Anchorage, and while we made it, my luggage did not. So the next morning I went back to pick it up and the bag that had most of my gear in it had literally been destroyed. While it must have been stuck on a conveyer belt or something, it looked like a grizzly had been chewing on it for most of the night. It was absolutely shredded. I picked it up in the middle of the little one room airport (as stuff began falling out of it) and simply asked, “Who’s buying me all new gear?” All the airport workers gathered around in bewilderment as if no one had seen it arrive in this condition (yeah right). One person even asked if a bear got a hold of it. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but it is a good thing we arrived a day early so I could head to Mac’s to buy all new gear (waders, bag, boots, fly boxes etc.). We then rented a car and spent the rest of the day driving every road in Kodiak. What a beautiful island! I love it for it’s simplicity as much as for it’s natural beauty and wildlife.
    The eventful beginning continued as that night I began blowing chunks every hour which lasted for about two days. Apparently the midnight trip to Micky D’s for a handful of cheeseburgers our first night gave me a nice case of food poisoning.
    The next day we were met by our host and he took us to the marina to hop on a float plane and head out to our camp. After a beautiful flight across the island (where I held all chunks until we landed, thank you very much) we landed in a beautiful bay and unloaded the gear onto the beach in front of an amazing little camp. It was no four-star resort as it is a working bear camp, but it was exactly what we wanted. No electricity and nice dry cabins with wood stoves and lanterns really gave us the remote Alaska feeling, not to mention the out-house that overlooked the bay. It was remote and beautiful.
    After unpacking and gearing up we headed across the bay and up the Uganik River. While I was still puking quite a bit, I figured I could be sick at camp or lying on the side of the river, so I choose being sick up the river.
    Heading across the bay and up the river became the routine that we would follow for the next week; along with bears, eagles, bears, pinks, and more bears. As we entered the river from the bay we were always greeted by seven eagles taking off from their perches on the high rocks and trees along the banks, one after the other until it looked like a squadron of fighter jets swarming over our heads. Each day we would stop at a different gravel bar and begin catching fish after fish, interrupted by extended periods of bear watching. While pinks get a pretty poor reputation, we had an absolute blast. They were bright, up to 6 pounds (guessing), fought incredibly hard, and we never got tired of them. If we wanted to change things up we would just down-size and start to target the dollies and bows. The entire time we fished we had our head on a swivel looking for the bears, which we saw literally all day long. There were times when they might pop out of the grass or trees right up or down river from you, but mostly we would watch them work their way up/down the river or along the bank as they did a little fishing of their own. Keep in mind we are out in the middle of no-where in an area where they shoot nine and ten foot trophy bears every year. At one point the first day there were nine bears within 75 yards of us :eek: . Needless to say we weren’t doing much fishing as we stood and watched both for our own safety and because we felt like we were standing in the middle of an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom or a discovery channel show. We actually saw the same couple sows with cubs every single day, and by the end of the week we almost felt like we knew them, as we gave some of them nick-names, and even began to recognize some minor personality traits. I had no idea how mesmerizing the bears would be. Out of the 100+ pictures I took probably 80 of them are of bears. Most of the time they went around us back in the grass or bushes (by 15 yards or so) while we stood in the river as they worked up or down stream, but there were many times we had to reel in our gear, all gather together as they let us know we were in their territory by coming at us, barking or woofing, or shaking their head. No real bluff charges but they did literally run us off a couple of times. Being that close and watching those wild animals in their natural habitat is something I will never, ever forget.
    In our down time we did a small amount of halibut fishing in the bay (fun when it’s hot, boring when it’s not), explored a bear den, and even did some fly fishing from the deck of a whaler as we cruised around looking for schools of pinks in the bay. One nice thing was that the weather was beautiful the entire week, which isn't always the case. We didn't get rained on once.
    While the fishing was everything I had hoped for, the scenery and wild-life were more than I could have ever dreamed of. All fish were caught on flies that I tied on a rod that I built; our arms and backs were sore every night. I tied up 15-20 dozen flies for all three of us (and took up my tying gear) but really only needed two different flies, a Joe’s Smolt and a Pink Revolution. I even caught a few pinks on dries. Our cook was amazing, the accommodations and location was fantastic, and our guides were more like friends; it was instantly like we had known them for a long time. Most nights after a great dinner while tying flies, we could get them talking about bear hunts, bear attacks, bad clients, getting weathered in for a week at a time up on a mountain, an alien encounter on moose hunt :eek: , taking Boston Whalers around the island during winter storms; half the time we were laughing our heads off, the other half our mouths were wide-open in disbelief. They were absolutely terrific hosts, instructors, and fishing partners. If anyone would like to know who we stayed with “pm” me and I will give you all the info. Besides their bear camp on the Uganik, where you can fish for pinks or silvers, they have another camp that is strictly for silvers and steelhead that is right off the Straights.

    It was a trip of a life-time, and the greatest part was that I was lucky enough to share it all with my father, the man who taught me how to fish many years ago. We will probably bore our family’s to death with stories for years to come. I know the memories will certainly last me for ever.
     

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  2. Curtis

    Curtis New Member

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    Sounds like an awesome trip!!!
     
  3. Dylan D

    Dylan D Member

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    Wow, great report, sounds like a lot of fun. Good work on rallying with the food poisoning, must have been rough.
     
  4. wildatheartphoto

    wildatheartphoto Member

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    Great report...thanks!!! Sounds like you had quite the experience. It is these kind of post's that inspire us all to get out and explore. Keep it up.:beer2:
     
  5. FISHTOLIVE

    FISHTOLIVE MEMBER

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    Mike,
    Thank you for a GREAT report.......and thanks for the pic's. I remember the feeling I had seeing a mama bear and her two cubs this spring but to enter act with them the way you folks did for a week is awsome, glad you all made it back:thumb: Looking forward to your next trip and report.......hopefully without the Micky D's side effect's:thumb:
     
  6. Diehard

    Diehard aka Justin

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    Awesome report, thanks for sharing!
     
  7. Corey Kruitbosch

    Corey Kruitbosch Member

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    Fantastic report! Sounds like it was the trip of a lifetime! Glad you powered through the lost bags and mickyD's.. Thanks for the story and the pics!
     
  8. kodiaksalmon

    kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

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    Mike, it was entirely my pleasure. Being able to help out nice guys like you and your dad is immensely rewarding to say the least. It was almost as if I was vicariously up there with you. Like I mentioned in that last PM, I've actually been thinking about and wondering how your trip went! And it does me good to hear it went so well, and that your expectations were met and exceeded.

    Never too many emails or too many questions. I sometimes wondered if my replies were too long. I hoped I wasn't boring you with my replies.

    And remember what I said about bears? Sometimes you see 'em, sometimes you don't. I guess you saw 'em!! Good for you.

    Glad you had a good trip (except for you bag and illness) and glad to hear the island is still fishing good. Friends up there tell me the silvers ran/are running good this year.

    Take care Mike,
    Jeff
     
  9. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    did you catch any rainbows? Believe me pinks suck 95% of the time but if you hit em just right and in kodiak where they are big they sure are a blast.
     
  10. Mike Ediger

    Mike Ediger Active Member

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    We did catch a few bows, but nothing big. It was fun to go after the bows and dollies at times for a change of pace, but we didn't get anything over 17-18". So often it was right back to the pinks, which we all thought were great. Again, we are primarily trout fisherman so these are bigger than anything we usually fish for. But even for pinks we got some good fish. I think it is fair to say we had many fish in the 4-6lb range (guessing). Certainly not all were that big but catching 3-6 pound fish literally all day long is not something I will do very often. So we enjoyed it while we could.
     
  11. kodiaksalmon

    kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

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    How so? Or do you just not like pinks?
     
  12. jhorton

    jhorton New Member

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    What a great place that is. In the small world department, I installed a fresh water pipeline from the top of the mountain down to that cannery on the North side of Uganik Bay in the summer of 1980. Also fished on a dragger in the mouth of Uyak bay for a month. Most beautiful place I have ever seen.

    Jay Horton
     
  13. Mike Ediger

    Mike Ediger Active Member

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    Jay,
    It is a small world indeed. I lived on Bear Island for two seasons as I fished with a set net crew around Bear, Harvestor Island, and off Seven Mile beach; all of which are in Uyak Bay if I remember right. It is a special place indeed. I really loved the whole Uganik Bay area as well. We did some crusing on their boston whalers, headed up a couple other small bays and got out and explored some caves. It is just a fun place to be when you are used to living in a city in the lower 48. It is the place to go to quite literally get away from it all.
    Mike
     
  14. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    The are nasty as crap once they hit freshwater and are like a plauge in numbers. The only place I've ever had fun fishing for pinks after I turned 10 was kodiak (you guys are lucky!) because they were fresh and pressured so hard to catch. I really hate catching fish that I can catch on every cast, its just boring. Plus 3-10 cents a pound really sucks ;)

    I'd much rathher fish for something finicy like a rainbow or a dolly (not that dollies are finicy in kodiak :eek: ) Anyway I didn't know there were many resident bows on the island (outside of the stoked lakes) no resident bows at all down here in southeast.
     
  15. kodiaksalmon

    kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

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    I always target them in the salt as they school to run. They're fresh with lice and run and fight well. They're good in the rivers for when family comes up and wants to go catch a salmon.

    There's better amounts of rainbows off the road system than on. The Buskin holds some but you'll catch 25 dollies for every rainbow.
     
  16. Mike Ediger

    Mike Ediger Active Member

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    All of our fishing was several hundred yards up from the mouth of the river. Most of the fish were bright, still had lice on them, and in my opinion fought great. Some would even go on multiple runs. And if you didn't turn them before they hit the main current you were absolutely going down-stream to get them. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about my pink fishing experience. It wasn't the toughest or most challenging by any stretch of the imagination. But we had a blast.
     
  17. kodiaksalmon

    kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

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    Pinks are great Mike. I looked forward to pinks every year. If you catch them low enough in a river system, you can find them plenty fresh. The same for chum. Pinks and chum get a bad rap alot of times, which is why I questioned a_k_m about why he thought they sucked. You do have to be concious of how quickly they turn in order to get one fresh enough to eat if that's what you're after, and fish accordingly. Canned pink salmon is very good indeed. :thumb:

    I fished for them in the salt only on certain beaches. If you can find a low gradient, cobble beach without alot of silt and heavy river flow you can sightfish for them. They'll sit on outgoing tides, waiting to run up the river, which because it's so small, they can't get up otherwise. They'll school at the mouth and cruise. The water is gin clear, 1'-2' deep, and you can cast to their wakes or their actual fins and tail skimming the surface. I'd spend entire days doing just this. Fishing both tides, with a lunch and nap in between as they ran. One of my best memories of up there, which I hope to replicate as soon as I get back.
     
  18. papafsh

    papafsh Piscatorial predilection

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    Best Pink I've ever caught! Mouth of Polly creek, flew out from Soldotna, AK,
    August this year.

    There is also an excellent beach fishery for them in odd years, right here in the Sound.

    Excellent table fare when caught right in the salt, and bled out properly.:thumb:


    LB
     
  19. kodiaksalmon

    kodiaksalmon Jeff B.

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    That's a nice pink anywhere.
     
  20. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    yea thats a BIG pink, I guess I just live too far up streams to properly enjoy pinks. I did have an awesome time fishing pinks last august the way kodiaksalmon describes. Fresh pinks on a 5 wt is a tough fight for sure. Pinking is a nice way to reaffirm your belief that you know how to fish, I suppose. That being said I mostly don't like catching salmon, I usually get my limit as fast as I can and switch to trout and grayling. I do like catching the occational king, they are a lot more work then other salmon for sure. Pinks do have a bad rap, but if you fish the popular places in AK theres a reason for that, they are like snowflakes on denali, and nasty as crap, plus a lot of the locals make fun of anybody actually targeting pinks (I do for sure) but in places like kodiak the silvers and reds don't run at the same time as the silvers and reds thus people fish for em.

    I hooked about 2000 dollies last time I was on the buskin and one rainbow which I figured was a steelhead smolt, I just figured the rainbows on the island all out migrated like down here and the tip of the kenai pennisula.
     

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