We all dream, I think, of being the first to discover a remote Alaskan river, a stream so far off the charts, it has only been acknowledged, vaguely, by a few intrepid explorers.
A river so distant that even its actual name is in question. How amazing to be among the first human beings ever to walk the banks of such a river, not to mention casting a line into its mysterious flows? Until recently, even we thought such a scenario merely a pipe-dream. After all, as massive a wilderness as Alaska truly is, it has been explored aggressively over the past 50 years. There have been adventurous float fishermen who’ve canvassed the nether regions of the state, poring over maps, talking to the friend of a friend of a friend who once spoke with a trapper who said he’d spent a season near this river or that, then taking literal flyers to unproven ribbons of blue identified on charts with unpronounceable names; and there have been floatplane pilots who have dropped down onto distant rivers on the way to somewhere else, “just to sling a few casts and see what might be there”; and lodge pilots paid to explore for the next secret creek that will give their operation a leg up on the competition. For 50 years…
Imagine our surprise, then, to have just such a river dropped into our laps. At first, to be honest, we were skeptical. Admittedly, the river was in a scarcely-traveled corner of the state, halfway to Russian Kamchatka; true, the outfitter in question, Rod Schuh, had impeccable credentials from his many years as one of the top hunting guides in the state; and we couldn’t argue with the salmon escapements tallied faithfully by the Alaska Fish and Game at their remote little retractable fish weir, recording extravagant numbers of fish ascending the smallish river annually since the 60’s. But still, it just seemed too good to be true! The final straw was seeing all the photos of mint-bright kings, silvers and steelhead that Rod showed us, taken by the handful of his hunting friends whom he had hosted while building the lodge the year previous. We were convinced!
Almost a decade later, we are more convinced, and excited than ever. The king salmon fly fishing continues to exceed even our lofty hopes, with average numbers of fish hooked daily varying from great, to absolutely ridiculous…and these are almost all chrome-bright fish, a few short miles from the salt. The silver salmon fishing is well beyond ridiculous, with sheer numbers of fish simply mind-blowing, and plenty of them taken on surface poppers. Perhaps most telling here is that we have fresh cohos rolling into the river daily, from early August through early October! This is like nothing we have ever seen. As well, the lodge now accesses several other untouched rivers via both floatplane and wheelplane, wilderness streams that load up with kings, silvers and big searun Dolly Varden. For those wanting to sample what may well be the most consistent steelhead fishery on the planet, Hoodoo Lodge has built a lodge on the nearby Sandy River, a fishery that kicks out big numbers of 30″-34″steelhead nearly every day of it’s 4-week September/October season.
What we do now know is that Hoodoo Lodge is for real, and possibly the last true fly fishing gem to be discovered in North America. The facility is quite comfortable, the service and food excellent, the guides wonderful, and no corners are cut in Rod’s quest to have the finest anadromous fly fishing lodge in Alaska. The setting is remote almost beyond belief, and the fishery…well, suffice it to say it is everything we could have dreamed of, and more.