Oct 11th, 2018
In rare instances, geology and ecology come together to create ecosystems that are truly extraordinary. The interior of Alaska’s Bristol Bay region is one of those places, and it is home to Rapids Camp Lodge. The region is the epicenter of our planet’s highest-functioning salmon based ecosystem. Characterized by massive natural lakes with names like Iliamna, Kukaklek, Naknek and Becharof, the region also has countless clean, pea-gravel rivers and streams, the cumulative result of which is the world’s most productive salmon habitat and a bounty of connected species that benefit from it. If you were ever considering a trip to Alaska, it would be silly not to have this region at the top of your list.
That was the rightful conclusion that Jerry Schults and his daughter Amy made when they decided to build the ultimate Alaskan fishing lodge from the ground up. They wanted to create a turn-key operation that offered access to a wide range of rivers, all five species of Pacific salmon, huge rainbows and countless Dolly Varden. Moreover, they wanted a lodge that was easy to reach by scheduled jet flights and offered exceptional home waters in the event of bad weather. The result is Rapids Camp Lodge, a proven favorite for first-timers and seasoned Alaska veterans alike.
Rapids Camp’s location has a number of unique advantages. First, it is just seven miles by road upstream from the town of King Salmon. With multiple scheduled flights from Anchorage, weather related delays are almost unheard of and traveling anglers who miss a connection have a host of practical options to fall back on. Second, once you reach King Salmon you can reach the lodge by vehicle and are no longer at the mercy of the weather or VFR flight plans, in addition to having 24-hour access to medical help if needed. Third, the lodge is on the Naknek River, which in addition to having some great salmon fishing is one of Alaska’s most prolific trophy rainbow systems. While Rapids Camp is a full fly-out lodge, many guests have a hard time leaving the home waters when the rainbow fishing is on. Fourth, and most importantly, the lodge has a very strategic location when it comes to accessing an enormous range of fishing opportunities. Katmai National Park’s prolific trout waters are just a short flight east. Additionally, the park offers incredible sightseeing and the best bear viewing in the world. Rapids Camp also offers great access to the Alaska Peninsula, one of the state’s most remote and intriguing areas. This slender land mass extends nearly 500 miles southwest. Along its westerly course, snowcapped volcanoes rise upwards from sea level, and in their shadow anglers find some of the least-visited Pacific salmon, large char, and trophy grayling fisheries in the state.
By and large fly anglers flock to the greater Bristol Bay area for abundant rainbow trout, arctic char and Dolly Varden. This is not to say that king salmon and silver salmon as well as the other Pacific salmon are not a key component to the sports fishery, yet were it not for the tens of millions of sockeye salmon that return to these rivers each season, these coveted trout fisheries would not exist. The key to the entire region’s vibrancy, be it from the perspective of a brown bear, a rainbow trout or a fly fisher, is the inland migration of ocean-fed salmon biomass that essentially feeds and fertilizes the entire Bristol Bay interior. The following is an overview of some of Rapids Camp’s favorite and most frequented systems.
Rapids Camp Lodge overlooks the remarkable Naknek River which is one of Alaska’s sockeye superhighways. With annual returns of sockeye nearing 5,000,000 fish, it supplies the greater Katmai Park region with the biomass to support trout of epic proportions as well as some of the greatest brown bear densities on Earth. In addition to great king and silver fishing, the Naknek is a truly world class rainbow fishery and produces some of the largest and strongest rainbows in the state. The rainbow fishing is particularly impressive during the early season when the big rainbows slash through schools of downstream migrating salmon smolt and again later in September when they are trying to put on a few extra pounds before winter sets in.
Kulik has long been one of the region’s most famous rivers, in large part due to the incredibly high catch rates it provides visiting anglers. It is a short, broad, easy-to-wade system that is loaded with trout and bears and fully deserves its reputation as a classic.
The Moraine and its key tributary Funnel Creek are home to huge returns of sockeyes and as a result impressive numbers of large rainbows. Anglers typically fly into small lakes near the river, and then hike to where their guides inflate rafts. Moraine can produce some really large fish as well as some super sight fishing opportunities.
Battle Creek is an easily waded, low gradient tributary of Kukaklek Lake. While it is a small system by Alaskan standards, the fish here are anything but. With gin-clear waters and fantastic sight fishing opportunities it’s easy to see why this river continues to be a staple.
The Little Ku is another Kukaklek tributary that has easy walk-in access and great opportunities to sight fish to rainbow trout and Dollies. It is also great place to get up close and personal with big brown bears.
Remote Small Streams
For anglers with strong walking legs and a sense of adventure, Rapids Camp offers a handful of rainbow and char systems that are too small and special to be named. For the right folks, these systems can be a real highlight.
For spey anglers wanting to experience the pull of big king salmon, Rapids Camp offers a remote river they secretively call “Smokey”. With no crowds, fantastic swing water, and lots of action from willing kings and chums, Smokey is a winner.
The “Nush” is home to Alaska’s largest returns of king salmon. Guests of any skill level can fish there brutes with conventional gear and spey anglers also do well. Later in August, the Nushagak fills with thousands of fly-friendly silver salmon, making for great sport.
The Lower Peninsula
With the exception of Rapids Camp, few lodges are located far enough west to take advantage of the bounty of the northern reaches of the Alaskan Peninsula. Rapids camp not only fishes some incredible silver salmon and king systems, but they have several forgiving trophy char systems virtually to themselves.
Rapids Camp is a casual but well-appointed lodge that accommodates 16 guests in eight double occupancy rooms, all with private baths. They also have a two bedroom “house on the hill”, perfect for families, that can accommodate four guests for a maximum capacity of 20 guests per week.
Their lounge area has comfortable couches overlooking the river through large windows. Connect to the outside world through their high speed internet and a large bar with complimentary house wines and tap beer. The lodge also has a liquor license so let them know in advance if there is something special you would like. After angling, entertainment includes shuffleboard, foosball and darts. There is also a flat screen television behind the bar for big games or breaking news. The lodge also has a smoking room for cigars, a sauna and full time masseuse on staff.
Meals are an equally serious affair with two professional chefs responsible for hearty breakfast buffets and dinners featuring fresh local seafood, prime cuts of meat and some great local Alaskan fare. All dinners are paired with thoughtfully selected bottled wines.
Everything One Needs
One of the great beauties of Rapids Camp is that you can essentially show up with a change of clothes and a toothbrush and not worry a bit about your fishing needs. From breathable waders and rubber soled boots, spey rods to spinning rods, they have it all and it is included. You are always welcome to bring your own gear and flies, but it is truly optional. Likewise, the lodge has one of the state’s most spectacular fleets of deHavilland aircrafts, with three Beavers and one turbine Otter. With the highest seat-to-guest ratio of any fly-out lodge in Alaska, this means guests wait only on weather and have the greatest possible number of angling options at their disposal.
Last but not least, the lodge has an extensive fleet of jetboats stashed at various rivers, comfortable lodge-based boats for fishing the home waters and rafts that your guide can pack into small remote systems. Add to this included air charter service from Anchorage to the lodge and their commitment to personalized service, and we are confident you will be hard-pressed to find a better trip to Alaska!
Contact David at 800.552.2729 for more information on Rapids Camp Lodge