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Alaska has been a bucket list trip of mine for many years, well I should say, a true Alaskan wilderness adventure. In the past, I have fished nearly every river mile of the Kenai River, and a few tributaries and other fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula. To me, that isn’t a wilderness experience or adventure. In my experience, on every river mile of the Kenai, I would turn my head and see anglers everywhere I looked. I tend to refer to this kind of fishing as the “Disneyland” or fly fishing. Quite literally shoulder to shoulder fishing in some stretches, people all over, cabins on each bank, boats all over, full LTE connection, etc. No disconnection from the real world. An incredible fishery, just not my first choice for heading out to the water. I look for solitude, scenery, and silence on the water.
Fast forward a few years to March 2019, when Scott and I were hosting a trip through the shop to Christmas Island. At first, Scott was stuck in the middle seat between Ryan and me on our flight from Honolulu to Christmas Island. Fortunately, the row in front of us was wide open. Scott hopped up there and was accompanied by a stranger who was also looking to get a little more free space. Within a few minutes, I watched Scott and this stranger start exchanging fishing stories and fishing pictures. Much like Scott, this stranger happened also own and operate a fly fishing outfitter. Scott’s new friend turned out to be Clint Duncan, one of the Owner and Operators of Dave Duncan and Sons. A well respected and fantastic outfitter that operates on the Kanektok River, Kodiak Island, and hosts a variety of trips to different locations. Scott and Clint chatted business and fishing for the entire 3-hour flight to Christmas Island. After arriving on the island, clearing customs and grabbing our luggage, we shook hands with our new friends and wished them a good week (or more!) of fishing on the island.
About a month after our trip to Christmas Island, I had edited photos and done some writing covering our trip. Clint had seen some of it and we had been interacting a bit together on social media. On a whim, I reached out to Clint to see if he would be interested in having me at his camp to shoot some photos for their website and social media channels. Much to my surprise, he was! Shortly after those messages, we hopped on a phone call and came up with a game plan. Scott and I would be heading up to the Upper Kanektok River, for their last week of camp. We confirmed this trip on my 30th birthday at the end of May. After the confirmation, we booked flights and tried to surprise the excitement for a few months.
August 24th came much quicker than we could have anticipated. Bags were packed, camera gear was packed, and Scott and I were leaving Redmond on the 5 am flight out. 4 flights later, we were standing on the bank of the Kanektok River, looking at a fleet of jet boats, a group of new faces, and a crew of bearded guides hustling to load our gear. 2 hours upstream in the boat, we finally reached the Upper Camp in the Togiak Wildlife Preserve. A camp that BLEW our minds the second we stepped off the boat. Enough of the reading, let’s take a look at some pictures now!
The camp was perfect! Nice waterproof tents with propane heats, cots and air pads for two. Flush porcelain toilets with running water, on-demand propane heated showers, and a big dining tent. Take a look at the video below to see around camp!
FEW OTHER CAMP SHOTS-
I don’t even know where to begin with talking about the guides. I think the best place to start is to describe them overall as a crew. Phenomenal. This is the adjective that pops into my head right off the bat. From the moment we stepped off the 6 seater plane in Quinhagak, they were working their tails off. The guide hustle on this river is a real deal. Up at 5 am, brewing coffee, rigging boats, and preparing breakfast for guests. 5 boats a day go out, and 2 guides stay in. The guides that are not on the water are taking care of random chores around the camp. Cleaning, filling waters, changing propane tanks, working on boats, and other minute details that most anglers wouldn’t normally think of. The minute details that most folks would not normally think of. As I said, the hustle is real. 10 hours of fishing, up at 5 and in bed by 10 or 11. These dudes are workhorses. The camp is 10 weeks long. At the Upper Camp, they have about a week to set up but only 72 hours to break down the entire camp! Unreal, truly unreal. Their camp makes me think bank to some of the bivouacs and fields ops from my military days.
Max- Camp Dog
Okay, first off.. this river is renowned for its mouse fishing. That’s right, renowned for MOUSE fishing. To me, fishing a mouse pattern is the pinnacle of dry fly fishing. A technique I had unsuccessfully attempted on several fisheries around Oregon and Idaho. With nothing more than fish erupting a few times on the mouse patterns. In my other Alaska fishing experiences, we mainly pegged beads and fished under a bobber. I struggle to call that fly fishing, however, still necessary at certain times. The fishing program at the Dave Duncan and Sons camp was unreal. The Duncans are the only outfitter in the Togiak Wildlife Preserve that can guide of jet boats, so you get to see and fish some water that many other folks can only dream of. Each guide is assigned a “beat” and they own that beat. They know their beats like the back of their hands. This river is incredible, side channels and braids everywhere you look. I am not even sure how much time we spent fishing the main stem of the river. Anyhow, Scott and I went up with a game plan. Colored up dollies (Arctic char), mousing, and topwater silver salmon. You spend each day with a new guide and get to learn and explore their beats with them. Scott is adamant on dropping the knowledge he knows about fishing and letting the guides show you how to fish their fishery. I found this to be a valuable lesson from Scott. Even though we both have caught our fair share of trout and other species, why bring our ego into a new fishery? Success doesn’t happen that way, success happens by listening to your guide on THEIR water. Anyway, here are a few shots of the fish we caught over the 6 days of fishing. Leopard bows, Arctic char, and a few salmon species… I hope you enjoy!