At the confluence, the river becomes large and strong, almost intimidating. With this strong surge of water comes islands, lots of islands that create very nice fishable, wader friendly, channels as well as runs below the island breaks that will hold scores of salmon. While the upper river is encapsulated by a spruce forest, the mid section opens up in which several miles of land are visible.
Some 14 miles of river below the confluence are “the braids”. The river spreads out into numerous channels for about 15 miles. Every week, with ever changing water conditions (dropping), is a different venture through the braids.
Welcome to Alaska’s first National Wild River in the heart of Katmai National Park; the Alagnak. It is located about (60 miles) 30 minutes via float plane NE of King Salmon, AK, which is in fact the only way in, other than a very long boat ride.
Its origin begins at Kukaklek Lake, where it flow west, south west for about 74 miles and empties into the Kvichak (Kwee - jack) river, which empties into Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea.
They eventually return to the mother channel and the river becomes one again, and in places runs ever so silently. A moose running in shallow water only breaks silence, Brown bears loping along the shoreline, or a screeching eagle.
Kukaklek and Nonvianuk lakes act as a filtration system against silty run off from the Mountain range on the upper parts of the lakes. While the river may swell in the spring and early summer due to spring run off, she remains gin clear. Glacier silt and mud is not even an issue.
In the early part of the season, the river can be high, and some tried and true camping/fishing areas are too saturated to put a tent down. Over the course of years we have spent on this river, we have been able to scout out alternate areas that provide very easy, wader friendly channels, with fishing second to none. Through the summer months, the river recedes on a weekly noticiable rate, and by early August,
water conditions prevail. While we may duck and dodge a lot or rocks during the float, the low water tends to condense schools of salmon and rainbows, making them very predictable.
The river does not lack insect life, i.e. mosquito’s and black flies. They can be in swarms when the morning starts to warm up and again in the evening, as the weather cools off. During the heat of the day they are almost non existent. While rain and wind is common, the slightest of breezes also chases them into the brush.
DRY FLIES work best June thru early July, caddis hatches are prevalent then and rising fish are evident. Mousing for large, predacious rainbows is also great this time of the year and the strikes are explosive!
The Alagnak River is Alaskan Brown Bear country, more noticeable from the confluence down. They are magnetically attracted to the Sockeye salmon run, and the first 3 weeks of July, it’s not uncommon to see 30 bears in the course of a week, in fact I personally would be disappointed if we didn’t witness this animal in it’s purest form.
It’s main tributary is the Nonvianuk (non-vie-on-nuk) river, which originates in Nonvianuk Lake. It’s at this tributary where our trips begin. This clear water river flows due west for 11 mile to the confluence. It is considered a Class I whitwater river and about 5 miles downstream from it's origin are some Class ll rapids for a short distance.
These bears are not conditioned to humans, and we do all that we can to keep that from happening as in keeping all food stuff in large, aluminum bear proof containers. While we may have a close encounter or two, it is just in passing, as these bears meander up river, posting up on river banks, gorging on succulent, protein filled Sockeye Salmon, which creates very memorable Kodak moments.
While in the field and on the river, we carry firearms, but in no way, shape, or form, in 20 years, have we had to use them. By keeping a clean camp and giving bears their space, they are a treat to witness, in their wildest state; their home.
As the Sockeyes migrate through the system, so do the Alaskan Brown Bears, and by late July, early August, most of the Adult bears have relocated to the spawning grounds of the Sockeyes, in the upper tributaries of the Kukaklek and Nonvianuk Lake. From August on bears are less frequent but sightings are normally around.
As the days get shorter in August, the river is full of salmon flesh, eggs, and spawning fish. Silvers and Pinks are also starting their annual migration with strong runs of Pinks, by the millions, on the even numbered years. Beads, egg patterns, and flesh flies are the ticket as the rainbow's gorge and fatten for their winter hiatus.