Trip Report Ayakulik River, Kodiak Island - Solstice Kings

Thomas Mitchell

corvus ossifragus
Recently back from a trip to the Ayakulik River on Kodiak Island to swing flies for chinook. A few lessons learned:

1) Weather wins when traveling in Alaska, get used to waiting.
2) Big bears always have the right of way and get the best fishing spots
3) Small flies also catch big fish
4) I want a helicopter

Flew into Anchorage and caught a connection to the busting Kodiak City airport.

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Weather was beautiful. Locals were walking around in shorts and tank tops.

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The next morning, not so much. Got back to the airport and found we were on indefinite fog delay.

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After about 3 hours, the ceiling lifted enough for the small R44 heli to fly under the clouds. The original plan was to have a small plane haul all the gear and a few people to the little village of Akhiok which is closer tot he Ayakulik the shuttle the gear and people from there to the lodge with the little heli which only seats 4 people. Ended up having to do all the shuttles via heli but the lodge added a trip with a bigger Bell Ranger for the gear and supplies. I rode in the R44 all the way to the lodge.

Here's a short video of the heli ride to the lodge and heli/plane back which has some views of Kodiak Island:


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After arrival, we ran down the river close to the lodge to wet a line before dinner. it's a prime sockeye spot with a deep slot that also holds chinook. Unfortunately, it almost always holds bears too.

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Got started in earnest the next morning. The routine was a 60-90min hike upriver early. The group would split with 2 fishing the upper pools with the guide and the other two fishing the lower pools on their own, meeting up at the lodge pool at the end of day. One day I decided to grab a sandwich and just wander around alone which was a little spooky with all the bears but ended up being a really peaceful meditative experience.

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The Ayakulik is fairly small, 70-90 feet across and low gradient so I never had to cast more than my shooting head and 15-20 feet of running line unless I was trying to be sneaky casting and a sharp downstream angle. The wind, however, was brutal at times.

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First fish went to me, a smallish 'jack' which was a good bit bigger than a Washington springer jack...

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I was using a Sage Method 8119 and a Sage Evoke 8-10 with an Airflo 540gr skagit head and a MOW tip of 7.5' floating and 2.5' of T11. I tried a 5/5' tip in a few spots but it was in the rocks a little too much due to the slow current. I used pretty much the same fly all week, a simplified version of my confidence fly for all anadromous fish - "black and blue makes them chew" as Jim Kerr often says.

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Bear poop, half fish bones and half grass. We often saw them grazing like cows.

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Another nice fish...

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Big sky up there with no trees to be found.

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Down toward the tailout of a favorite run I noticed a big roll and eased down into the zone which resulted in a strong tug and a nice chinook.

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A smaller but bright one taken by my buddy on a sparse clouser.

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Saw these guys every day.

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This sow and cubs were often in this area which meant no fishing for kings in the far bucket.

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This was the most tense situation. Most of the bears would move away when they saw you but these two just kept coming down the trail we needed to take to get to back to the lodge. I just moved off into the grass and they walked on by but it was a little stressful.

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Dammit, low holed again...

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View from the lodge with a bear waiting on the heli pad. Pretty sure he won't fit in the R44.

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My last fish of the trip. A bit darker but reasonable size. I had to get up on the back and run him down to keep him in the pool. The bigger fish that went downstream were all lost with one very near spooling event by one of the other anglers.

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Uninvited guest to the beach cookout...

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Wildflowers were blooming everywhere. It was a very different environment than western WA and very beautiful. I really enjoyed just sitting and taking in the quiet, only the sound of the wind through the grass.

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The trip back went according to plan. We took the R44 heli to the Akhiok International Airport and caught an ancient Islander back to Kodiak City. Had dinner at a nice Japanese restaurant in town then back to Seattle the next day.

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Overall, it was a great trip. The fishing was a little slow by the lodge's standards and the river actually closed to catch and release fishing for kings the last day we were there. So we were the only group to fish for them in the lower river this season. I think they said about 1,300 had passed through the weir they use to count sockeye. Still, it was better than swinging flies for winter steelhead in the PNW... Over 5 days I think I hooked 10 and landed 4. Also caught two pretty steelhead and a 20" resident rainbow. The lodge is a family affair run by an extended family from Wisconsin. They were super nice and great hosts. The lodge itself is very rustic but completely comfortable. I never wanted for anything other than the sun to set before 11PM...

http://www.ayakulikadventures.com/
 
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Snopro

Active Member
Great report. Brings back a lot of memories. I spent 20 years fishing the next drainage over every summer. Similar river and had runs of 10k-15k chinook at the time. I've heard it's currently seeing hard times too.
 

Thomas Mitchell

corvus ossifragus
Nice report. Thanks for sharing. How were the bugs?
Since I brought plenty of repellent, a head net and two fancy Simms shirts with built in bug proofing I didn't see a single mosquito or black fly... Seriously, not a single biting bug. There were some little flies that got thick a couple warm afternoons but the worst thing was they would get under your sunglasses.

I'm guessing this is pretty unusual for AK. I asked the lodge owners and they said they didn't know why. Maybe the proximity to the ocean and the wind?
 

Merle

Not New, Just rarely post...
Love it... awesome photos and video. I've fished Kodiak several times for silvers in the fall, but only been on the "road side" of the island.

thanks, andy
 

muknuk

Active Member
Thanks for sharing your adventure! I take an annual trip each year to revisit my home waters and it's nice to see the A is still producing.
 

Thomas Mitchell

corvus ossifragus
Thanks for sharing your adventure! I take an annual trip each year to revisit my home waters and it's nice to see the A is still producing.
It was stuffed with sockeyes and they said they were expecting a good run of coho. The chinook fishery seemed to be suffering and they closed it the last day we were there. Given the habitat and lack of hydro or hatcheries it seems harvest and ocean conditions are the culprit. The lodge folks seemed to feel sockeye-optimized harvest practices were a big part of the problem.

I was amazed at the number of downstreamer steelhead. I saw 60+ in the weir one day before they opened it for them to pass. I bet it's a helluva steelhead river in the fall compared to what we have in Washington.

Amazingly beautiful place. It was hard not to get distracted while fishing and the heli ride across the island was a highlight of the whole trip.
 

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