Leon Archer

The Sportsman’s World: June 7, 2012

Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

How can one explain Alaska to anyone who has never been there? How can one describe the fishing in Alaska without sounding like he is bragging or making it all up?

Well my friend, it’s not easy.

I guided for seven summers in Alaska and was part owner of a lodge on the Nushagak River and I still find it difficult.

Alaska, once one gets outside of Anchorage, is still pretty much frontier, wild, vast, and entrancing. I just came back from taking my first fishing trip there since 2005. My camera is full of images, mostly fish and people, sandwiched in between occasional pictures of scenery and wild animals, but even as I review the photos, I know they do not reveal the raw charm and ambiance of our 49th state.

I’m just going to try to give you a hint of what Alaska is like and how good the fishing was last week.

One of the first things that the new visitor is likely to notice is the large number of small aircraft plying the skies, many of them sporting pontoons.

The amount of highways and secondary roads is actually quite limited, especially considering the size of the state, and for many Alaskans, traveling equates with flying.

Alaska has the highest rate of private aircraft ownership of all the states and most of the landing strips consist of ocean, lakes, ponds and rivers.

Once a person gets to a small place like the “city” of Dillingham, travel for any distance requires a boat, small plane, or quite a few pairs of moccasins and plenty of time.

Nushagak Paradise Lodge sits on the banks of the Nushagak River at the confluence with the smaller Iowithla River. It is 58 miles by boat, 20 miles of that over open ocean before reaching Black Point and the river proper. I have made that trip many times and it can be beautiful, but it can also scare a person half to death when the waves pick up.

On this trip, my son, Tim, and I flew up river in a single engine Beaver aircraft. It was Tim’s first trip and the flight let him see the many small streams, the Nushagak, the numerous small ponds, and the green tundra.

We landed right in front of the lodge and unloaded our gear. The plane would not return for six days, during which time, I was confident we would catch large numbers of salmon.

The weather in June is unpredictable, and rain is never far away, but anyone going to Alaska to fish any month should take good rain gear. I have witnessed gorgeous Augusts with hardly a drizzle and some with hardly a dry day.

This past week we got mostly misty, drizzly days with just occasional breaks of sun during a couple of them. The temperatures had been in the mid 60s the week before, but the mercury had a hard time climbing to 50 while we were there and after midnight it got down into the wee 40s.

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