Fresh king salmon on the swing
Big carnivorous rainbows
Chrome chum salmon by the thousands!
Alaska West, located on the Kanektok River, provides one of the best opportunities in the world to catch at least eight different species on a swung fly. The river features perfect swinging water and astounding populations of all five species of Pacific salmon. These massive runs nurture a rich aquatic ecosystem and form the basis of the food chain upon which abundant, large and amazingly beautiful "leopard rainbow trout", as well as jaw-dropping numbers of dolley varden, depend. While many focus on the river's strong run of king salmon and brilliantly spotted rainbows, there are always abundant fish to swing for, from the first week to the last. Bring all your gear to Alaska West, from your 5-weight single hander to your 9-weight two hander. Swinging, stripping flies, nymphing, mousing and surface popping for salmon all provide excellent fishing here.
The rainbows here are unlike any that you will find in the lower 48. First off, they are covered in an otherworldly array of spots, even on their eyeballs. We consider these the most beautiful rainbows in the world. But more importantly, these trout are almost entirely carnivorous. Seeing a Kanektok rainbow eat an insect off the surface is exceedingly rare. Instead, they feast on salmon biomass in one form or other, depending on time of year—salmon eggs, fry, or decaying salmon flesh. All of these food sources, along with sculpins, form the bulk of a Kanektok rainbow's diet and allow it to reach lengths of up to thirty inches or more in rare cases. Twenty inch fish are nothing special on this river.
One of the strongest runs of fish in the Kanektok is the incredible chum salmon run, featuring truly staggering numbers of fish that enter the river, unlike in many rivers, as totally chrome fish, supercharged and extremely willing to eat a swung, stripped, or even a surface fly. If you need practice hooking, fighting and landing fish, the Kanektok chum fishery should be high on your list. You will catch fish until your arms are sore. See the video below.
The chum fishery is rivaled only by the dolley varden/char population. These fish enter the river throughout the entire season, and provide a wide variety of angling opportunities. The first half the season sees huge numbers of chrome char pushing up the insides of the river's many gravel bars. These can be swung on double and single handed rods. Thick and muscular, they fight hard and provide excellent sport. The fishing only gets crazier as the season progresses, as thousands of dolleys school on in shallow bars and tailouts, where they can be sight fished with beads as well as coaxed to the surface on mouse and other topwater patterns. As the season goes on, these fish take on "clown" colors of brilliant red and orange bellies under rich green backs, with brilliant red spots and striking white-lined fins. These fish provide perhaps the best fishery in the Kanektok for the beginning angler, or the angler looking to take some beautiful fish photos!
Later in the season, from late July through the end of the season in early September, equally impressive numbers of silver salmon enter the river, stacking up in sloughs and high banks, where they provide truly heart-stopping topwater fishing on pink poppers and gurglers. Like the chums, the coho can be caught on a swung fly as well. To witness multiple species flood the Kanektok is to witness one of nature's true masterpieces, and it is a privilege to behold. Numerous Alaska West clients tell stories of hooking 30 fish or more, be they chums, coho, pink salmon or a mix of all four, without taking more than a few steps.
Multiple members of OPST have guided at Alaska West over the years, in no small part because the river, and the lodge itself, has always been very "spey friendly." The river, with long, gradual gravel bars, lends itself perfectly to swinging for a wide variety of species, with the most sought-after fishery being king salmon. Knowledge of spey and Skagit is a pre-requisite for Alaska West guides, and if you need to tune up your casting or refine your swing tactics, the enthusiastic and competent guide staff will be there to assist you as much or as little as your desire.
Take this world-class fishing and pair it up with comfortable, heated fixed-tent accommodations and plentiful, delicious food, and you have one of the best all-around values in Alaskan fishing. As an added bonus, guests can request a shore lunch, made from the day's catch, cooked right on the riverbank by their guide. Believe us, this minutes-old fish is the best salmon you will ever have.
-King salmon: mid-June to mid-July
-Sockeye Salmon: late June-mid July
-Chum Salmon: late June- end of August
-Pink Salmon (even years see much bigger runs): early July-early August
-Silver (coho) Salmon: last week in July through the end of August
-Rainbow trout: all season (mid June-end of August)
-Dolley Varden: all season. (Fish are chrome in the early season and color up beautifully towards the end.)
Grayling: All season, although fishing generally improves mid season on
From mid-June to mid-July, king salmon are the most popular target, with rainbow fishing picking up in July as well. The second half of July provides a shot at the salmon grand slam (all five species- king, sockeye, chum, and coho, all on flies, in one day), and the most varied rainbow fishing. During the entire month of August, silver mania sweeps the Kanektok and the trout just keep getting fatter as fall arrives.
Trips with Alaska West on the Kanektok cost $6395 per person for a 7 night / 6 day trip. They operate on a Sunday-to-Sunday schedule.
This price includes guided fishing, lodging, meals, and loaner gear upon request (rods, reels, lines, waders, wading boots and flies).
Additional costs include travel to, and overnight lodging in Anchorage, round-trip flights from Anchorage to camp (which we arrange), Alaska sport-fishing license, and gratuities to the staff.
Singles who are willing to share lodging and a boat with another guest are welcome to book with us at no additional charge beyond our normal rates.
Our seasons book quickly on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you’re interested in booking on specific dates or pursuing specific salmon species at the peak of their run you’ll want to contact us well in advance.
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your trip to Alaska West.