Some of the best salmon fishing we’ve found in Alaska; only 8 guests a week!
Lava Creek Lodge is a new small outpost lodge on the Aleutian Peninsula of Alaska, approximately 110 miles south/southwest of King Salmon, Alaska. The lodge accommodates a maximum of eight guests during both king and silver salmon seasons. It is custom-tailored for the serious King Salmon (Chinook) and Silver Salmon (Coho) angler who values remote and nearly untouched water, swing fishing for dime-bright kings, and popper and streamer action for big, hyper-aggressive silver salmon. With the ultra-low occupancy, anglers get the pick of the litter of the best pools on the home river, as well as other rivers accessed by float plane.
This is a classic jet boat and fly out operation. You will rarely if ever see other anglers on the river, so there is no rushing to get to the best water, and you will always be able to fish full days regardless of what the weather is doing. The boats are used for access only, and allow anglers to reach prime wading runs filled with fish. Each day, weather permitting, half the lodge guests will fly out to one of the other nearby rivers that are equally stacked with ocean bright fish, also using boats to access the best wade fishing opportunities. Since you will be fishing water influenced by tidal pushes daily, the boats can follow the fish as they shoulder upriver, or find the pools where they are stacked up at any given time. With two anglers per boat and guide, and only eight guests in camp at any one time, there is always plenty of fresh, fish-filled water to choose from.
Both the home water and the rivers flown out to are shallow, low gradient tundra rivers, easily waded and navigated. They are perfect for swinging flies on sinking tips for king salmon, or casting and retrieving poppers and streamers on floating lines to holding silver salmon.
In short, this is a pristine destination in a wild and beautiful place, with fishing that gets very little outside pressure. The country is spectacular, the lodging quite comfortable, and the fishing superb. It definitely rates as one of the finest king and silver fly fishing destinations on the planet!
The Story behind how we got to where we are:
Just when you thought you’d seen, fished or heard of every fishery there is in the great state of Alaska, something new shows up that completely blows your self-measured knowledge base out of the water. I mean, come on, The Fly Shop has been helping fly fishers with their Alaska trips for better than 30 years. Many of us here cut our teeth in Alaska – guiding at, managing and even owning fishing lodges. So how is it possible there could be a new, never-before fished area that we didn’t already know of? Well, the old adage of “you know what you know” could not be more accurate, when it comes to Lava Creek Lodge, our incredible new operation out on the Alaska Peninsula.
So how did this all come to fruition? Enter Mike Mercer. If any of you know Mike Mercer or had the pleasure of fishing with him, you know that he might be one of the best fly fishers in the world. You would never hear that from Mike, but truth be known, those are the facts. And not only is Mike an exceptional angler and world-renowned fly designer and tier, but he has an exceptional nose for good fishing. Mike was recently down in Virginia representing The Fly Shop at a fly fishing and wine show, when this young fella walks up to him and starts telling Mike about having just opened a fishing lodge on the Alaska Peninsula. He regales Mike with tales of amazing king salmon fly fishing on a privately leased river, yards from the Bering Sea, where double-digit catch days on chromer chinooks are the norm. He goes on to say his silver salmon fishery is just as prolific – high volume fishing for big bright cohos, a rifle shot from the salt. And, oh yeah, he says he has exceptional Dolly Varden fishing; not your average 12 to 16-inch “spinners”, but dollies that are measured in pounds, not inches. There is even a healthy population of rainbow trout, as well as grayling. It can’t possibly be that good, Mike thinks…but he likes this confident young man, can see in his eyes that he is not a bullshitter, and so starts to ask him all the important questions.
Back at the Shop, Mike makes some calls and inquiries about this outfitter – Phil Byrd – and hears nothing but high praise – “honest”, “hardworking”, “experienced in the bush”, and “a straight shooter”. Okay, it’s on – this one is worth checking out! Four months later, Mike is in a Cessna 180 on floats, landing on a small lake and walking over to a boat Phil has on the river, curious to see if all the talk over the last few months has been for real. Eight hours later, Phil has proven his claims, and more!
“In early July of 2017 I checked out a brand new king and coho salmon operation in Alaska, and it turned out to be absolutely amazing… In short, it is a modest but comfortable, remote (out on the Alaska Peninsula) fly out lodge, which only takes 2-4 people a week.”
“While one river is clearly among the best king fisheries in the world, the lodge will have boats on two other great king rivers for the five-week 2018 season. We flew over these other rivers daily, and could see big pods of kings stacked in some of the pools. The river we fished each day was so good, my partner and I landed FIVE DOUBLES the first day we fished, and one to three doubles every other of the five days we fished. That’s not counting all the normal single hookups we both landed…we were each hooking 10-20 chrome kings a day! I was there the first week of July – which will be the middle of their five week season in 2018 – and while there were zero dark fish, there were a small percentage of blushed fish…but because all these fish were in the first few miles above the ocean, even the blushed fish likely came in that color. These kings are fresh! A fair number of them still had sea lice, or at least sea lice marks. And this was all swing fishing with traditional swing patterns and sinking tips…I only used single-handed 9 weight rods, but it would be fine to use double-handed 8 – 10 weight rods, as well. The river is 150 yards wide in places…and you could wade across it if you were careful! Much of it is only 4-12 inches deep. The fish come upriver and hold in a series of troughs scattered about in this wide river – most of these “slots” are 50-100 yards long, 80-100 feet wide, and 4-8 feet deep. 200-grain sinking tips were perfect. The river was also full of chums, but bizarrely, they did not take flies at all…weird! So every time you got a grab, it was almost a sure thing it was a king. And these were beautiful fish, the vast majority in the 20-30-pound range. Oh, and Phil has already fished his rivers during Coho season, and assures me they are stacked with some of the biggest, brightest silvers in the state…I can’t wait to get back to experience that!” – Mike Mercer
Game on! We made arrangements with Phil to operate an abbreviated king and silver season in 2018 – two to four anglers maximum per week – and the fishing was just like Mike experienced the year before. The chinook fishing was off the charts, and the coho season just as ridiculously good.
So what’s in store for 2019? First, we are moving the lodge to a more central location, on excellent home water; guests will now have great fishing just a short boat ride away. The new location will also give us quick access to the aforementioned private water fishery (a 15-minute flight), as well as another exceptional river only a 5-minute flight away. Having the home water is huge, as it means anglers will always be fishing great water, even if weather keeps them from flying. The new lodge will be limited to 8 anglers a week in four brand new cabins, each with its own private bathroom and shower, and the rate includes the round trip air charters between the town of King Salmon and the lodge. In 2020, Phil will add another four cabins and offer single private accommodations for each angler. Each day, half of the lodge guests will be flying to one of the other regional, salmon-filled rivers, where boats are used to access miles of prime fish habitat. The other anglers will depart from the lodge via boats, fishing miles of the home water.
We are also adding four Grand Slam Weeks between king and silver season. These weeks are offered at a substantially reduced rate and specifically target ocean-bright chum salmon, trophy-sized Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and grayling. These weeks are perfect for fly fishers, families and young anglers wanting lots of action on big, ocean-bright salmon, as well as a mixed bag of other species in the event they grow tired of hauling in savage-fighting chums.
Reservations & Rates
7 night/6 day package (Sunday - Sunday): $6,900/person (2:1 angler/guide ratio)
• King Salmon: (June 09 – July 14, 2019)
• Silver Salmon: (August 11 – September 15, 2019)
7 night/6 day package (Sunday - Sunday): $6,000/person (2:1 angler/guide ratio)
• Grand Slam Season: (July 14 – August 11, 2019)
Included in your Lava Creek Lodge package are seven (7) nights lodging and six days guided (both home water jet boat fishing and fly out access fishing, weather permitting); all meals; lodging; flies; tippet and leaders as well as use of fly rods and reels if needed; the round-trip charter flights between King Salmon and the lodge.
Not included in your Lava Creek Lodge package are Alaska State Sport Fishing License ($70) and King Salmon Stamp (only needed in June and July, $45) available online; fly fishing equipment (though there is some at the lodge if need be); gratuities; alcohol (wine and/or beer served with dinner - otherwise BYOB).
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Guard Insurance
Seasons at Lava Creek Lodge
Lava Creek Lodge is all about offering some of the finest, most remote, lightly-fished fly fishing for king and silver salmon in Alaska. King salmon (Chinook) season usually starts in mid-June and runs strong through mid-July, and there are plenty of big chrome kings available throughout those dates.
Silver salmon season begins in mid-August and runs through mid-September – likewise, there are bright fish available throughout the season. The lodge accesses miles of river for these popper-eating brutes, fish which average large, even by Alaska standards.
These are typical Peninsula Cohos, and they love to smash top-water streamers and stripped streamers alike. This fishing can be fast and furious, and one has to pace themselves – the numbers and size of these salmon will hurt you! As with many Peninsula fisheries, the run remains strong through the end of September, with progressively increasing numbers of fish stacking into these short coastal rivers. We prefer single-handed 8-wt rods for silvers, with most situations calling for the use of floating lines. A 15-ft Type 3 sinking tip can be a useful backup line.
Grand Slam Weeks are between king and silver season, mid-July through mid-August. These weeks are offered at a substantially reduced rate ($900 savings) and specifically target ocean-bright chum salmon, trophy-sized Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, and grayling. These weeks are perfect for fly fishers, families and young anglers wanting lots of action on big, ocean-bright salmon, as well as a mixed bag of other species in the event they grow tired of hauling in savage-fighting chums.
Getting to Lava Creek Lodge
The day prior to arriving to the lodge (Saturday), you need to fly from home to Anchorage, then on to the town of King Salmon. Here you will want to have reserved a room at one of the several motel options. This will insure that even if your luggage gets bumped between Anchorage and King Salmon, the odds are very good it will arrive by the following morning, at the latest, in time for your flight to the lodge.
Day 1: (Sunday)
Branch River Air Service – the air taxi that will fly you from King Salmon directly to the lodge on a float plane - will provide auto transfer to their nearby operation located on the shores of the Naknek River. The drive takes only a few minutes and Branch River Air will meet you at your motel at about 10:30 am Sunday morning. Your round-trip charter flight from King Salmon to Lava Creek Lodge has been arranged for you by the owner of the lodge, and its cost has been included in your rate. The flight to the lodge via a deHavilland Beaver on floats takes approximately 1 hour (110 miles) and flies over some amazing country - have your camera ready.
Upon arrival to Lava Creek Lodge you will be met by Phil and Beth Byrd, owners of the lodge, and shown to your cabin, where you’ll have a chance to get settled in, unpack, and ready your gear for the action-packed week of fly fishing ahead of you. A light lunch will be served in the dining room. Your arrival day is considered a non-fishing day. Phil will give a brief orientation of the lodge facilities and outline the daily fishing schedule. The rest of the day is at your leisure.
Days 2 - 7: (Monday-Saturday)
Breakfast is served at 7:00 a.m. and you should be on the river fishing by 8:00 a.m. You'll be fishing each day, regardless of weather, in one of the most remote and beautiful regions of Alaska. Weather permitting, each day half of the lodge guests will be flying to one of the other regional, salmon-filled rivers, where boats are used to access miles of prime fish habitat. The other anglers will depart from the lodge via jet boats and fish the miles of the home water. You will return to the lodge around 6:00 p.m. in time for showers, cocktail hour, and relaxation before a 7:00 p.m. dinner. Please remember that this is your trip, and the lodge personnel will do their best to adjust the schedule to the group's preferences.
Day 8: (Sunday)
As with your flight to Lava Creek Lodge, the lodge has chartered a flight with Branch River Air Service for your flight from the lodge back to King Salmon. Depending on weather this charter flight should have you back in King Salmon by mid-afternoon, in plenty of time to connect with Ravn Air back to Anchorage (a flight you will need to have made in advance). This flight normally departs King Salmon in the early evening, arriving Anchorage a little over an hour later. You may be able to connect with a flight to start your journey home or overnight and take a flight the following morning.
Lodging at Lava Creek Lodge
Lava Creek Lodge is located on the banks of a remote lake, far out on the Alaska Peninsula, which is linked to the home river by a small channel.
There is a main lodge building (Weatherport tent for the 2019 season) where all the meals are served, then a series of smaller double occupancy wooden guest cabins, each complete with a bathroom and shower. The Lodge is located approximately 110 miles southwest from the town of King Salmon and can only be accessed via bush plane, an hour-long flight.
The lodge complex features 24-hour electricity, hot and cold running water including comfortable showers, limited wifi (adequate to send and receive emails) and facetime phone service (no cell reception), and all of the buildings are heated. It’s not fancy, but it is new, comfortable, and dry, and offers spectacular views of the coastal range and ancient Aniakchak Volcano rising 4,400 feet from sea level, separating the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea.
Your time spent at Lava Creek Lodge will be comfortable, and memorable in the extreme remoteness of the location. You are a long way from the nearest town, and the nighttime skies can be spectacular. It is a very special place, made even more so by the lodge’s tiny weekly occupancy!
Typical Fishing Day at Lava Creek Lodge
The angling package at Lava Creek Lodge includes three days guided fishing on the home waters and three days guided fly-out fishing on regional rivers. After a hearty breakfast, you'll put on your waders on the porch of your cabin, grab your tackle, and take the short walk down to where the jet boats and float plane will be awaiting to whisk you to a seemingly endless supply of picture-perfect runs, and deep pools. The guides will have you moving all day, jumping from one piece of water to the next with their boats, then getting out and wading. It is not unusual to cover miles of river in a day.
The Chinook salmon fishing at Lava Creek Lodge is classic down and across swing-fishing with a double handed rod or appropriate single handed stick. In some situations, especially in this type of fishing, a double handed rod is a better tool. The rivers we fish are not fast or terribly deep, and usually light sink-tips are all you need to get your fly into the correct water column. Additionally, the rivers we fish are not terribly wide, so long and difficult casts are not needed to be successful.
Silver salmon fishing is about numbers. They school up in pools by the hundreds, and these hyper-aggressive fish will jump on pink poppers and wildly-colored streamers during the months of August and September.
Typical of the Bering Sea coastal rivers in this area, Lava Creek Lodge silvers are large - 10 pounds on average with daily chances of hooking into a fish in the 15 to 18 pound range.
Anglers can expect high volume silver salmon fishing both on the home-water as well as the remote rivers creeks and inlets the lodge accesses by short float plane flight
Lava Creek Lodge guides are professionals who know the rivers and each daily fishing experience will be a memorable adventure, unique and full of action. Fishing days are full; expect long days on the water, only interrupted by a quick lunch break, then back at it. Lunches are normally taken in the field, prepared by the cook staff and carried by your guide, along with drinks of your choice.
At the end of each long, fish-filled day, guides will return their guests to the lodge, tired from hooking fish. A quick shower in your private bathroom is in order, and then you’ll head to the lodge for appetizers and cocktails and listen to your fishing buddies tell of the day’s events on the river.
The lodge serves up tasty lodge dinners, and after eating their fill, anglers will walk to their cabin and collapse, getting a good night’s sleep. The best part is that tomorrow you get to do it again!
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• Near private access to some of the best Chinook and Coho Salmon rivers in Alaska – light fishing pressure means guests have miles of these rivers all to themselves daily. This is what much of Alaska looked like 30 years ago. You won’t have to worry about being low-holed by another lodge or group of anglers; you will have the rivers almost or completely to yourself. As a bonus, there are also plenty good-sized Dolly Varden and even some heavy-bodied leopard rainbows in the home river.
• Classic swing water, relatively shallow and easily-waded rivers. Sinking tip lines are standard for the kings, and floating lines are about all that is needed for silvers. This makes casting and fishing all day, even for such impressive numbers of large fish, much less tiring and more enjoyable. The wading is relatively easy and straightforward, a perfect fishery for anglers that don’t like to wade to their armpits in fast water with a slippery bottom chucking heavy lines.
• A seasoned host, with years of experience operating in the Alaskan bush. He and the guides know all the details that help turn a good trip into a great one. All you need to do is fish and have a great time - the rest of your entire trip is taken care of and well-orchestrated, which is impressive in such a remote and challenging part of the Alaskan bush.
• Small venue operation limited to eight anglers per week maximum. This translates into maximum flexibility with the daily fishing program. The lodge is located in a beautiful setting between the mountains and the sea. With so few anglers, the fish remain happy and aggressive to the fly, meaning plenty of fish hooked daily.
• Daily fishing is accessed by either jet boat or floatplane. This puts guests on some of the best king and silver salmon rivers on the planet, and because you are not completely dependent on flying to daily fishing (though the normal schedule will have half the lodge guests flying out daily), you are assured to be on the water all day, every day, regardless of the weather.
• In addition to the world-class fishing, the lodge also offers some amazing non-angling activities, such as a visit to a walrus beach, landing the plane in the caldera of a volcano for lunch, bear viewing, birding, and beach-combing on trackless Bering Sea beaches.