Alaska, the last frontier, is truly a remarkable destination that every angler should experience. Believe it or not, river fishing in Alaska can be done easily without a guide. I like to call it a “do-it-yourself destination.”
The famous Kenai Peninsula is a place I have traveled to for several amazing fishing trips. The beautiful scenery in this area alone is worth the trip, and the number of close encounters with wild bull moose, bears, elk, bald eagles, etc. were truly amazing. While there, I find myself not wanting to sleep, since the summer days are never ending and the fishing is usually catching!
My last trip to the fabled Kenai River was a last-minute journey that proved to be one of my most amazing trips to the Peninsula. It was mid-July, and I had been watching the salmon counts and monitoring the run charts for a few weeks. This was going to be my first attempt at catching the larger second run of sockeye salmon. Reports told of massive schools in Cook Inlet that were moving toward the river mouth. Predictions of a record season were starting to fill the nets of the commercial fishermen.
As they started to near the river mouth in the town of Kenai, estimates of their arrival at my anticipated ambush point in the small town of Soldotna began to filter in. It was now time to break the news to my wife of this last-minute fishing trip from Texas to Alaska. Fortunately, she understands my passion for the sport and was in full support. The facts that sockeye is her favorite fish to eat and that I had a free airline ticket didn’t hurt.
Four days later, the salmon and I hit the banks of the Kenai River in downtown Soldotna. Not only was its perfect timing for the arrival of these large acrobatic fighters, Alaska also increased the limit from three salmon per day to six. Jackpot! For some reason, the crowds were also lighter than what I had witnessed on previous trips. I was not complaining. I was fortunate to harvest my limit each day.
With easy limits of salmon in the morning, I found time to head to the Russian River for some rainbow trout on the fly. This is where I had a 15-foot encounter with a momma bear and her two cubs. Fortunately, she didn’t feel threatened, as the cubs were crossing the river on a fallen tree. She glanced at me, then to her cubs, back at me, and proceeded to follow her cubs across the river. I will never forget the sheer awe of that expeirience.
A visit to Kenai Peninsula would not be complete a hike to view Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefields. I have made this hike three times, and if I ever return I will definitely do it again.
Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Controlled Descent Lures and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.