this season will incorporate the weeks of June. Typical for Alaska, anglers can expect a wide array of weather possibilities this time of year, with cold nights and warm days the norm – this is early summer, in the north country.
Unlike the masses of 15-18-inch "lower Nush" trout that follow the king salmon into the upper river later, in July, the resident rainbows in these headwater 30-40 miles of stream average 18-22 inches, with beasts in the 24"-26" range a daily possibility. For those who love to fish streamers and mouse patterns for large, hungry trout, this is a hard time of year to beat. To make it even more appealing, the water is usually a bit higher in June, opening up many miles of the river upstream from camp that can get a bit "bony" to run jet sleds in later in the summer. It is amazing to take an hour boat ride upstream to where the Nushagak is barely more than a creek, then float and fish your way back downstream, whacking big rainbows out of small buckets, shelving riffles and drowned logjams. As well, there are often predictable daily hatches of mayflies and stoneflies, to which the abundant populations of river grayling rise enthusiastically. While these beautiful little sail-finned creatures average 14"-15", there is no shortage of larger specimens in the 16-18 inch range, with the occasional trophy over 20"... and fishing them on a 4 or 5 weight with dry flies is a blast!
Late June or Early July:
The upper river will flood with king and chum salmon, moving onto their traditional spawning grounds. There will sometimes be a few chrome-bright specimens available that are exciting to fish for, but most will be further along in their spawning maturity (bodies gaining striking colors and exaggerated kypes). Some of these "tanks" will push the 40-pound mark, and are incredible to watch as they pair up and build their redds in shallow water. Even more exciting to observe are all the trout, grayling, and newly-arrived sea run dolly varden as they line up behind the salmon, eager to take advantage of the drifting salmon eggs that escape the nests. For the rest of the season, the river will be loaded with trout of all sizes, hyper-aggressive dollies averaging 14-18-inches, and grayling, all of which depend upon the various salmon runs for their sustenance. July and August are a time of plenty, and highly recommended for people who like to see tons of life in the river, and catch a LOT of fish. Expect to dead-drift single egg patterns and/or small "flesh" streamers along the bottom now, sometimes to fish you can see; few things match the thrill of watching a big rosy-sided leopard ‘bow drift over and intercept your fly in a foot of water, then explode into the air when you set the hook! Somewhere in July you’ll also see waves of crimson-and-green sockeye salmon flood the river, adding an almost obscene amount of eggs and decomposing flesh to the already impressive buffet. It is truly something to see.
Mid August to Early September:
Brings the final push of salmon in the form of cohos, an aggressive species that will eat almost any bright streamer, and often surface poppers, as well. Cohos (also known as silver salmon) are often in better condition than the other salmon when they arrive, and a blast to target on a six or seven weight rod.
September marks the arrival of autumn at the Nushagak Camps – cold, crisp nights, cool days, and a dramatic change of color to the forest and tundra landscape. As well, the fishing begins to once again resemble early season, with very few salmon, and a continuing upstream migration of the dolly varden that sees their numbers dwindle in the prime fishing grounds. Once again, rainbows are the prime target, but the healthy trout of early season have now morphed into almost unrecognizable caricatures of their former selves... gorged bellies distorted and shoulders broadened by a summer's diet of salmon eggs and flesh. September offers the trophy trout hunter the single best opportunity to connect with the rainbow of a lifetime here... the same fish available in June, but with several pounds more girth! As well, the dollies that do still haunt the vacated salmon spawning beds are in full spawning blush, resembling nothing so much as oversized brook trout, with their vibrant colors and white-edged fins. Anglers should expect to fish a majority of whitish "flesh" streamers, sculpins and leeches, as well as a bit of single egg patterns thrown in… actually also very much like early season.