Fly Fishing photo
Jay Cassell
I recently got back from a trip I had been planning for 20 years – a fishing trip in Alaska with my daughter, Katherine, who just happens to be 20. If you’ve ever dreamed about going to Alaska, maybe this type of trip is the type you should consider. This is Katherine and me with a 14-pound silver salmon, taken off Baker Island in Bucarelli Bay, off Prince of Wales Island. More on the fishing later… Jay Cassell
The first night we flew from New York to Seattle, then on to Ketchikan in southeast Alaska. We spent the first night at the Cape Fox Lodge, on a bluff overlooking town. The view of the harbor was stupendous. Ketchikan is a major stopping-off point for cruise ships. Each day during the tourist season, this town of 12,000 residents doubles in size. Jay Cassell
The plan was to fly from the town out to Waterfall Resort, on the western shore of Prince of Wales Island. The 45-minute flight would take us over part of the 69.5-million-acre Tongass National Forest. Here, our DeHaviland Beaver floatplane arrives. Jay Cassell
After 45 minutes, we were greeted with the sight of Waterfall Resort. The place used to be the largest salmon packing plant in Southeast Alaska, producing a record 310,000 cases of salmon in 1936. The cannery closed in 1970, then was completely renovated and opened as a resort in 1983. Jay Cassell
The guest cabins used to house the cannery workers. Completely modernized, they now house most Waterfall guests. Total capacity of the lodge is 92 anglers at a time. Most guests stay for three nights and four days. Jay Cassell
We were on the water within an hour of landing at the dock. We headed out in a 25-foot Almar cabin cruiser, equipped with a Volvo Penta diesel engine. Onboard with us were long-time friend Chuck Baird, from Santa Barbara, California; his buddy, Jim Merriman, from the Nashville, Tennessee area; and guide Dennis Luckenbach, who lives near Seattle in the off-season. Jay Cassell
Katherine grabbed a baitcasting rod and started right in trying for her first-ever Pacific salmon. Jay Cassell
The fleet returns to dock after the first afternoon of fishing. Waterfall has 27 Almar cruisers. Jay Cassell
A wonderful day was capped off with a sumptuous dinner of local oysters for appetizers, grilled salmon and steaks, salads, potatoes, vegetables, corn, and desert. Jay Cassell
The next morning, heading through Meares Passage toward the Pacific, we came upon this humpback whale. Humpbacks were all over the place, but we were able to get pretty close to this one without making him sound. Jay Cassell
Another boat fished Meares Pass with us. Jay Cassell
Part of our morning take – silver salmon and snappers. Jay Cassell
Chuck and Jim with a double… Jay Cassell
…and me with a nice fish. Jay Cassell
The following day we headed 15 miles out into the Pacific, to a hump in the ocean floor. The floor itself was about 400 feet down; the hump came up to 115. Lingcod up to 50 pounds were the target, and we all got into them. They say these fish-the big ones are protected-grow about a pound a year. Now that’s a 50-pounder. Jay Cassell
A rocky uplifting called Pirates Cove was worth exploring. Jay Cassell
The world-record Halibut was taken near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in 1996, and weighed 459 pounds! This one, taken by Chuck, went 157 pounds and took 45 minutes to haul up from the bottom. Just make sure you dispatch them before you bring them into the boat. Stories of live halibut wrecking boats and tackle abound. Jay Cassell
Back at the dock, Chuck’s monster halibut towered over him. Jay Cassell
After a quick lunch break, we headed back out toward Baker Island. On the way, we came upon a small pod of killer whales. Jay Cassell
Time passed, and then we had to get on up to the Kenai Peninsula for the second half of our trip. Here, Waterfall staffers pack up our salmon for the various outgoing flights. Our plan was to store the fish in the huge freeze at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, fly to the Kenai Peninsula, then pick up the fish on our way back through Anchorage for the flight home. Jay Cassell
This was a dumpster out by the fish cleaning area. It looked kind of cool, so I took this shot. Dumpster art. Jay Cassell
The flight back to Ketchikan was as pretty as the trip in. Below us, that’s a rock filled with harbor seals. Jay Cassell
We spent the night in Anchorage with friends, then we were off to the airport for the 20-minute flight to the Kenai. This is the main lodge at Great Alaska Fish Camp, on the Kenai. It’s one of the oldest and best-known lodges in the state, and has been run by Laurence John since 1982. They can accommodate up to 50 guests at a time. Jay Cassell
Here’s the view of the Kenai River, from the deck. Not a bad view, eh? We arrived too late to catch the hour-long flight across Cook Inlet to Great Alaska’s famed bear camp. Guests told us the next day that they had seen so many brown bears feeding on salmon that they lost count. Great Alaska keeps a large tent-camp facility over near Katmai National Park, and we were sad we couldn’t get there. Jay Cassell
That’s Katherine fighting a dolly varden on Quartz Creek. When we were planning our trip, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to get a pair of waders that would fit her. At 4′ 11″ and 92 pounds, she can be a challenge, but the Simms custom shop got her a pair of stocking foot waders that were the perfect fit. Good thing, as we were wading in some areas where the water was up to our armpits. Jay Cassell
Guide Travis Sallander and Katherine with another Dolly. Jay Cassell
Matt Munoz, another guest at Great Alaska, took this nice spawning sockeye on an egg imitation. Jay Cassell
Floating the Kenai from Skeelak Lake down to the lodge, a 20-mile trip, the next day produced this dolly. Jay Cassell
And a rainbow, on a flesh-imitating fly. Later in the day, I hooked one of those monster ‘bows that we all dream about. He took me into the backing on my 6-weight in 10 seconds, I slowed him, then lost him when he made another run. Fish like that are the reason I keep going back to Alaska. Another guest had taken a 13-pound rainbow on a fly the day before. When he showed me the photos, I was green with envy. What an amazing fish. Jay Cassell
The silvers were also in the Kenai River. I didn’t catch any the next day on spinning gear, but got a bunch of ‘bows like this instead. Before we knew it, it was time to leave, back to Anchorage, then back to New York. It was the fastest eight days I can remember – but, eight days with father-daughter memories to store for a lifetime. Jay Cassell