Alaska's Kanektok River
"The Chosen River"

 

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Alaska's Chosen River (AKA the Kanektok River)
Excerpted from an Article by Dick Mitchell, Appearing in Salmon, Trout and Steelheader Magazine.

I was attempting to connect my line to a pink Woolly Bugger with a palomar knot when my wife Sheila yelled 'fish on' and was fast into a dime-bright silver. She hooked the fish on her first cast with a 5/8-OZ. orange Pixie spoon. The more she shouted, the more complex the knot became. "God, why don't they make the eyes on fish hooks bigger?" I thought to myself. Finally the fly was secure, and I waded into the water to join Sheila. I stripped some line from My 8 weight Sage RPL 11 and began false casting. Why wasn't it working? After a quick inspection I discovered that I had missed a rod guide when I had strung up my rod. Most fly fishermen can well imagine my thoughts at this moment. Sheila lost her first fish, but was now firm into another, and to top off my frustration, two other boats from our camp were on their way to join us at the 'Hershey Bar.' I was now convinced that I'd be the last rod on the water. I was right, I was the last rod on the water. When I did get it together, it didn't take long to set the hook into a nice "buck" silver. When I looked around, I saw that Gary Hunt and his sons Steve and Greg were into fish. Italo and Anna, who were camp guests from Italy, had bent rods also. All seven of us had silvers on. I lost track of fish that were lost or carefully released. Fishing was fast and furious because a high tide had brought in plenty of fat, feisty silvers that were starting their long trek up to their spawning beds.

Sheila and I were fishing with Dave Duncan and Sons on the 'Chosen River.' Brad Duncan and his wife Mechelle were our hosts. Everybody should have the opportunity to run this 20-mile stretch of river with Brad in his Willie Boat. It blew our minds, making us wonder if we were fishing or riding a roller coaster at Disneyland.

The idea of this trip was conceived while fishing with Brad's brother John Duncan at their Yakutat base camp. We had a short four-day stay with John, and I thought we did quite well on silvers. John explained that his father and four other brothers had been fishing Alaska's remote wilderness areas for more than 20 years. Discussing their locations, John told me about the Chosen River and its strong run of all five species of salmon. John felt the Chosen River offered the best overall fishing in Alaska.

Four years later, and a lot of wishing in between, I called Brad to put together a trip for kings, sockeye and chum during early July. No luck, all dates had been booked years in advance. Suggestion to readers: the best dates and Alaska outfitters book quickly. Don't wait around until the last minute to book your trip. Plan your trip (if you can) a year or two in advance; put a reasonable deposit down and get what you want. However, Brad was able to confirm the last two remaining spots for August 17th, and promised good silver fishing. His promise proved to be accurate.

When we stepped from the plane, two things happened. Brad Duncan greeted us with a big firm handshake and said, 'the fishing has been great." I liked that! Just about the same time it started raining. I didn't like that! We got used to the rain which fell on us for the next eight days.

The silvers were in the river by the thousands just as Brad had promised. Most backwater holding spots would produce a dozen or more fish before the salmon would go off the bite. With polarized glasses and calm water, you could easily spot schools of silvers. The first five or six would fall to a colorful Flash Fly pattern, and then they wouldn't hit a fly for anything. Changing to spinning gear, we would pick up another half dozen silvers before they stopped biting completely. This method proved successful all week.

Probably the most memorable day of our trip was the afternoon spent at Battle Bar. The fish followed their script. After hooking a couple with a fly rod, they went off the bite. Sheila was fishing with her spinning gear about 10 yards away. Then something changed. She just kept ripping lips with spinners. I became a spectator for the next three hours, sitting in the boat and watching the fun. I wondered who would tire first, the fish, or Sheila. By the time we left the Battle Bar, we appropriately renamed it 'Sheilas Glory." By evening's end it was decided unanimously at camp that Sheila's new name was 'Killer.'

Everyone has a favorite fishing hole, and Brock had his: Hole in the Wall. Every night on the way back to camp we pulled up to a gravel bar. Then a short walk brought us to a well-hidden piece of gin-clear backwater that held about a hundred or so silvers. Kneeling on the ground, you could cast a fly right over the school, and by using a fast sink tip the fly would sink right in the middle of them. After a short strip you could actually watch a couple of fish pull away from the school. They looked like torpedoes. You could see their big mouths open and inhale the fly before you ever felt the strike. Talk about a high! After two or three fish, they would ignore any further offerings. Wow! What a way to end a day.

Sooner or later, all good things have to come to an end, and our trip was no exception. I've been home for a couple of months now, and my thoughts continue to go back to that beautiful river. I'll return next year in July (God willing) and give the king salmon a go. Truly the Duncans renamed this famous river appropriately - "The Chosen."

Excerpted from an Article by Dick Mitchell, Appearing in Salmon, Trout and Steelheader Magazine.

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