Sep 25th, 2018
The Alaska West camp offers anglers the best of the Kanektok River, namely legendary main stem fly fishing for sea-bright king salmon, chum, and silvers, and willow-lined side channels teeming with wild leopard bows, char, and grayling. The Kanektok river is by all standards a remarkably diverse fishery, perfectly suited to both single-hand and spey rod anglers. It offers one of Alaska’s best opportunities to target both king salmon and fresh silvers with the fly. High catch-rates, easy wading, and open backcasts are the norm. Alaska West is a large, comfortable tent camp set in the heart of the lower Kanektok River’s finest fly fishing water.
Expert Q&A with David Kalinowski
Top reasons to go
1. The Kanektok is an incredibly diverse and prolific fishery with all five species of Salmon, rainbows and Dollies.
2. Their riverside tent camp enables anglers to reach prime waters irrespective of weather.
3. AK West has long been a hot spot for really experienced guides, many of which like to teach spey casting to clients.
4. The Kanektok offers very easy wading and is built perfectly for swinging flies.
5. The Kanektok is one of best rivers in the world to target kings on the fly and it is also a prolific silver fishery.
Where is the camp?
Alaska West is located south of Bethel and north of Bristol Bay in western Alaska. The camp is about a 25 minute boat ride upstream of the the community of Quinhagak.
How do I get there?
The lodge coordinates a charter flight between Anchorage and Quinhagak. Once in Quinhagak, the lodge bus will meet guests and then drive a short distance to the river. At the river, guests and their baggage will be packed into boats for a 20 minute ride upstream to the riverside camp.
When should I go?
King salmon season runs from mid-June to mid-July. Chums are on the heals of the king run and peak in July. June and early July are the best time for anglers interested in mouse fishing for rainbow trout. August brings the salmon spawn and many Dolly Varden and trout are caught with egg imitations. August also ushers in some of the best silver salmon fishing one can imagine.
Where do they fish?
The lodge has 18 foot jet boats and access the lower 25 miles of the Kanektok River.
What are the accommodations like?
The camp has double occupancy Weatherport tents with wooden floors. Each tent has two twin beds with bedding and a heater. There are hangers for clothing, battery powered lights and pitchers of water next to your bed. Each day the bed is made and your tent swept keeping things nice and tidy. There is also a large recreation tent, a large dining tent and a screened in outdoor sitting area. There are portapotty style outhouses, on demand hot water showers and a large wader drying tent.
What are the meals like?
The meals are buffet style. Breakfast is a mix of standards like eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage and potatoes. There also is fruit, muffins and cereal for alternatives. At breakfast, lunch fixings are set out. Guests prepare their own sandwiches with your typical meats, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Chips, fruit and snacks are also available. You will bag your lunch and place it in your guides cooler after breakfast and your guide will bring to the boat. Dinners are also buffet style. Salmon dishes are always available, meats like pork, chicken and beef, sides of potato and vegetables and soup round out the scrumptious dinners. No one will go hungry here but if you are a serious foodie, this might not be your place.
How would you describe the general vibe and atmosphere?
The atmosphere is very casual and guy-ish. There is a lot of staff around and they are fun to interact with.
Is there an on-site manager, owner or point person at the lodge?
Jason Whiting is in charge of guest services at the Alaska West Camp, he has it dialed and was mentored by long time manager Mike Sanders. Kyle Shea is also on hand and manages the fishing program. Kyle will schedule you each day with a guide after explaining the fishing options.
Is there internet and cell service?
There is satellite internet, but as with most Alaska destinations, it is best for simple emails and such. There is no cell service at camp.
How do they fish?
How you fish will depend on what species you prefer to catch. The guides here are some of the best in the business and whether you desire to cast spey rods for large kings or cast mice to trout, they will be able to put you in the right spot and with the right gear. The Kanektok is one of the most diverse destinations one could visit in AK. Most fishing is done while wading.
How many fish will I catch?
Once again, this will depend on what species you choose to target and at what time of year you visit. King salmon anglers should have a couple interactions a day when conditions are good and even more if conditions are great. Rainbow and Dolly Varden anglers can have double digit days and there have been more than a few anglers that have tallied well over 50 silver salmon in a day when the river is at its best.
What are the guides like?
The guides here are very professional and some of the best in the business. Alaska West continues its tradition of hiring and training guides that have a strong passion for guiding anglers and many have gone on to long and distinguished careers in the industry.
Will we see other anglers?
Yes, the river has other camps and the local community fishes it as well. While it is a well loved river, its productivity keeps it a fantastic angling destination.
Is there wade fishing?
Yes, much if not all of your fishing can be done while wading and it is truly easy. Conversely, if you prefer, they can accommodate anglers wishing to fish from the boats.
How far is it to the fishing grounds?
The camp is riverside, so you can catch fish right out front. You could also travel nearly 20 miles upstream and eight miles downstream of camp.
Does the lodge provide equipment?
The camp can provide equipment with advanced notice, but best to come equipped with what is needed.
What is your favorite rod(s) for the trip?
King Salmon – spey rods in the 13 to 14 foot length capable of handling 600 to 650 grain skagit heads and tips. Trout – a stout 9 foot 6 wt. Silver salmon – 9 foot 8 wt.
What are the top flies?
Kings – intruder style flies with a lot of movement and in colors of chartreuse, pink, purple, blue and combos of each. Silvers – anything pink including surface poppers and wogs. Trout – Morrish Mouse.
Are there other activities?
Horseshoes, campfire watching, card games, more fishing.
What are the physical demands?
There are no real tough physical demands but it must be said this is a remote environment and guests need to let the lodge know of any medical or dietary concerns.
Dangers and annoyances?
While in Alaska guests need to be aware that brown bears are likely around but rarely encountered on this system. The guides and staff are well versed in how to fish around these furry friends if they show up. Mosquitoes can be abundant in the early season. Additionally there are risks associated with boats.
The Kanektok is an incredibly diverse fishery highlighted by great king salmon fishing, mousing for rainbow trout and high catch rates for silver salmon.
The riverside tent camp enables anglers to reach the water regardless of the weather.
With an incredible staff and top notch guides, every detail is well thought out and allows for a comfortable stay in a very remote region of Alaska.
The Kanektok is not overly deep, easily waded and sets up perfectly for anglers seeking king salmon on the swung fly.
The rare combination rainbow trout fishing and king/silver salmon fishing on one river makes the Kanektok a very unique and special system.