Fly out fishing in Bristol Bay is the epitome of fly fishing adventure. My incurable addiction to it started many years ago. It starts with the sound of DeHavilland radial engines warming up in the morning and the romance of not really knowing exactly where you are flying too. All you know is that no matter where you end up fishing that day, it will be gallant and all things Alaska. Guaranteed. Its like Malaria, once it gets in your blood it never goes away. Dan Herrig said that to me when we first met. I never forgot it or how accurate the statement is. As a guest at Rapids Camp Lodge, we want to share that experience with you in every capacity. It’s why we all choose to do the jobs we do. We live for the lifestyle and the challenges of working remotely. Most importantly, its why you choose to trust us with your Alaska vacation.
During the 8 month off season, all the staff is planning and preparing for the next year. I can’t begin to count how many phone calls and emails exchange between all of us. We literally never stop planning and preparing for the following season. It takes a lot of work to run a fly out fishing lodge. If we didn’t plan correctly, the circus tent would collapse, elephants would stampede the grandstand, monkeys would be throwing rotten vegetables and well, you get the picture. No body wants that. While we are doing our part preparing, we want to help you prepare too. If you know what to expect during your vacation, you can be better prepared to keep your personal circus tent from collapsing.
So you have booked your Alaska fly out fishing vacation at Rapids Camp Lodge. Your travel arrangements are finalized. Now its time to start thinking about packing. Over the years, I have witnessed just about every level of packing skill level from super expert all the way to complete rookie. Truth is, every skill level works. However, the same question always crops up every single time. “What do I really need to bring?” Most of us always bring way more than we need. It’s a long trip full of uncertainty but, the important items sometimes are unknowingly neglected due to space/weight issues. When I pack for a fishing trip, I pack the essentials first and fill in with secondary items as is available. Let’s identify essential items.
Waders – at Rapids Camp Lodge, we have a vast wader room with an array of sizes. If you want to plan for using lodge waders, that could simplify your packing somewhat. Just let us know so we can make sure we have your size. If you require a special sizing either large or small, you may need to consider bringing your own.
Wading Boots – The state of Alaska requires all wading boots to have rubber soles. If you show up with felt soles, we will not allow you to wear them. Rapids Camp Lodge has a large selection of sizes at all times. If you want to use lodge wader boots during your vacation, just let us know so we can confirm we have your size. If you require special sizing either large or small, you may need to consider bringing your own.
Under wader wear – depending on the week you choose for your vacation will depend on exactly how much insulating you will want underneath. Breathable waders have no insulating value. What you wear underneath determines how warm you will be. I recommend two different types of garments. One pair of fleece pants, for days you might be standing in deeper water fishing and one pair of merino wool long underwear for days you will be hiking. If you are booked for late season you might consider two pair of fleece wader pants.
Socks – I take this one pretty seriously. I put on a clean pair of thick merino wool socks every day without fail. My recommendation is for you to do the same. If your feet are uncomfortable, you are uncomfortable. End of discussion.
Baselayers – a couple of hooded sun shirts are an often overlooked item that I have found essential. Not only because they provide you from sun protection, but the hood will keep mosquitoes away from your neck, ears and face. Combined with a ball cap and a little Deet spray, these hooded sun shirts will keep you bug free. That’s important.
Upper torso insulating – every day I dress my torso in layers. Plural. This always starts with the hooded sun shirt. Then it could be a fleece pullover, a primaloft vest or even a primaloft jacket. It could be all of the above or just a combination of any. Point is, I have all three available if I need them. The weather can and will change every day. It may be bright and sunny when we board the airplane at the lodge. However, 70 miles northeast is a different system of weather all together. It may be cold and raining there. Be prepared.
Rain Jacket – this is critical. For too many years I have watched lesser rain jackets completely fail. When a rain jacket fails, it is never at a good time. Most of us don’t ever wear a rain jacket unless it’s raining. If you have a jacket that you plan to use on your trip, test it. Put it on, go outside while its raining and insure that it works. The time to find out that it doesn’t work is not on your vacation. If it leaks, send it in for repair. If there is no warranty or repair available, buy another one. A water resistant wind breaker will not cut it in Alaska. There are plenty of quality rain jackets out there that don’t require a second mortgage to purchase.
Backpack – this one is commonly the most overlooked item on the pack list. We have talked about dressing in layers and being prepared for any and all weather conditions. During your fly out fishing day, you can and will experience every form of weather Alaska has to offer. you will need a place to comfortably store your layers when you don’t need them. While your guide will have a pack that looks big enough to carry the circus tent, it will be fully loaded with all the essential gear he/she needs for the day. A guide’s pack will have survival gear, a bear barrel for food, extra fishing gear, communication devices, gps, etc. Plus, your guide will need space to carry their own layers of clothing they may or may not need during the course of the day. You don’t need a huge 70 liter pack, just a small day pack to handle a few things. I guarantee it will make your life easier.
Polarized Sunglasses – work with me here. We have flown to a remote creek to sight fish massive Alaskan leopard rainbow trout feeding behind pre spawn sockeye salmon. We hiked a couple miles, dodged bears and we finally get to the creek. Your guide stops dead still and slowly points to the creek. “There it is, that one”, he/she says, “cast there now, please”. You turn, look at the creek and see nothing but a glare of sunlight beaming off the water surface. “Where is it?”, you say. Your guide points again. You still don’t see it but cast anyway. The cast is unproductive because your sunglasses aren’t polarized and you can’t see the fish. All eyewear is not created equal. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a pair of polarized glasses. Suncloud makes a great pair for $50. Polarized glasses will make the difference in seeing the fish you want to catch versus not seeing it. Not to mention, they are great eye protection from the hooks that are constantly flying around in the air.
Fishing Gear – This one is too much information for just one paragraph. I will cover it more in-depth with a blog post dedicated just to fly fishing with Rapids Camp Lodge. However, for our purposes here I can simplify. For fly out trout, char and grayling fishing, a 9’ 6 or 7 weight and floating line is ideal. If you have both and want to bring both, thats perfectly fine. If you plan to fish silver salmon, a 9’ 9 weight is ideal with a floating line and a sink tip line. If you want to use sinking leaders on your floating line, thats fine too. For Spey anglers, 14’ 9 weight for Kings with both floating and intermediate skagit heads with an assortment of tips. If you are late season swinging for big Naknek rainbows, I use a 13’6” 8 weight with both floating and intermediate skagit heads and a variety of tips.
These are the essential items I pack first. Everything else is packed as it can be added. There are always exceptions to the rule. Alaska wrote the manual on exceptions to the rules. My advice would be to reach out to Bryan Burke in our office in Anchorage about two weeks before your trip for the latest weather and conditions. You never know, it could wind up being 85 degrees in September………..
Thanks for reading,
Chad Bryson, Head Guide Rapids Camp Lodge