13 FI
Nov, 2015: The Aniak River is one of the most dynamic rivers in all of Alaska, offering 7-10 species at given times throughout the season. The river holds all five species of pacific salmon, leopard rainbow trout, dolly varden, arctic char, grayling, pike and even the elusive sheefish. The Aniak is fed by the Kuskokwim River, a vast river with a majority of the salmon heading straight for the Aniak.

Aniak is accessed via commercial flight service from Anchorage International Airport. The flight is operated by Ravn Air but has an Alaska Airlines flight number. Ravn has its own gates in the lower level of the airport.

The Aniak airport is a speck on the map in this native community. Sam Sudore, the lodge owner, met me upon arrival and took me to the base lodge located on the Kuskokwim River. Upon arrival, I grabbed a quick bite for lunch and we headed to the mid-river lodge. We did stop and cast for sheefish on the way to the mid-river lodge. I am fascinated by this fish, which is a wonderful gamefish, but hard to find and harder to catch. Silver salmon were in the river at this time so I quickly caught three or four in my pursuit for sheefish. I can only surmise the salmon fishing is highly successful and productive for a fisherman of average experience.

After a couple hours of fishing, I boated with my guide and gear to their new mid-river lodge. The lodge is brand new and sits on the Aniak about 25 miles upriver. The Aniak branches off about 5 miles from base lodge, and the river reduces in size dramatically. Before long we turned the corner to see the new lodge. It’s in a great location and offers all the comforts needed for a cozy stay. The new lodge consists of six guest cabins connected via a boardwalk to the main lodge building. Guests enjoy their meals and gather in the living room lounge area of this grand cabin like lodge. The furniture is comfortable and the meals are savory. Danny, their resident chef, is a marvel in the kitchen and it’s a five star experience in all respects. Breakfasts are made to order and a sample entrée is tender lamb shanks cooked to perfection. Your last evening meal is a seafood feast fit for a king. You will be treated with the high quality meals served during your stay.

Due to the short amount of time I had at the lodge, we immediately geared up and started exploring upriver. About 15 -20 miles upriver lies their tent camp. The program allows for time at both lodges. Fishing begins on a Sunday from mid-river lodge and you switch to the tent camp on Wednesday. You pack gear on Tuesday evening and it’s waiting for your arrival at the tent camp the next evening. Wednesday and Thursday night is typically spent at the tent camp, and, fish your way to the main lodge on Friday where you spend your final evening.

The waters above the main lodge are typically trout waters. Braided offshoots are many and we did some wade fishing on these braids. A few great tributaries are fished as well, including the buckstock and the salmon rivers along with Timber Creek. These are small waters with deep holes loaded with trout and dollies. This is the best for “mousing” and it’s successful the entire season up here, which is rare for Alaska.

We did quite a bit of exploring on this brief trip, and I did manage to get a little trout fishing around the tent camp area. These fish are powerful, and the current in the river is fairly quick, which provides plenty of oxygen. The entire river system is loaded with wood. Flooding has stacked large piles here and there with significant submerged timer as well, creating perfect ambush sites for feeding fish. The trick is having the right amount of weight to get your fly down quickly. The closer to the wood you are, the better your chances of a hookup. It’s a cross between trout and bass fishing, and if you’re not getting snags occasionally, you’re not fishing tight enough. You need a quick approach and fast casting to cover water effectively. The current is swift enough to get one, maybe two, casts into a likely spot and you’ve drifted past.

My couple hours of fishing yielded about seven or eight nice trout. An adequate day will get you well above that number, and it does take a bit of skill to be successful on trout. This is one of the most vibrant rivers I’ve fished and there is absolutely no pressure. I didn’t see another fisherman the entire time.

By: Tom Gilliland

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Tom has been hunting and fishing his home state of PA from a very young age. Always looking for interesting outdoor opportunities brought him to Alaska in the early 90s, fulfilling a childhood dream. He learned valuable lessons along with a healthy respect for the unpredictability of the Alaskan bush and the importance of being prepared. Tom has hunted and fished various areas of Alaska, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and most South America countries over nearly two decades as a Frontiers specialist. Experiences include Brazil for Peacock bass, Bolivia for Golden Dorado, Argentina for Red Stag, Canada for pike/trout, and Alaska for steelhead, salmon, and trout. Outside of work, Tom is a dedicated archer and a diehard steelhead/trout fisherman.