Chris and Linda Branham own and operate what is, arguably, the finest trophy trout fishing lodge in Bristol Bay.
They really have little interest in fishing for salmon (though many of the streams they frequent are full of them); their program is built completely around the huge rainbows that frequent the streams surrounding this wilderness oasis. If you were to design the perfect trophy trout lodge, you could do no better than Royal Wolf Lodge. Located in the center of Katmai National Park – years ago the Branham’s were able to purchase 120 acres inside the Park, something unlikely to ever happen again – the floatplane flights to most of their targeted streams are only 10-15 minutes in length. They are the epicenter of Alaska’s revered monster trout region.
Legendary rivers such as the Moraine, Funnel, Battle, Brooks, Kulik, and Kvichak are within easy striking distance, and the lodge even has coveted permits to fish portions of limited access rivers like the Big Ku and Lower American, both world-class rainbow streams. In the unlikely event of a weather delay affecting daily fly outs, the famed Nonvianuk River is only a short few hundred yard walk from your cabin door, where the lodge keeps several jet boats; there are times of the year when this wilderness stream will outfit many of the more popular fly out waters. To complement the natural resources, Royal Wolf hires the most experienced, fanatical trout fishing guides available. These guys know and understand the rivers intimately, and in many cases design their own patterns for their clients to use on specific streams, at particular times of the season. Their physical lodge is beautiful, on a heavily forested mountaintop overlooking a series of small lakes and the Nonvianuk River; it is not unusual to have moose and bears wander through the facility!
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the week-long Royal Wolf Lodge package are:
• New Guests: $9,950.00 USD per person
• Returning Guests: $9,750.00 USD per person
Inclusions: Your angling package at Royal Wolf Lodge includes accommodations, daily fly-outs, 1 guide for each 2 guests, use of boats or rafts, lessons, flies, leaders, all meals and soft drinks and juice; wine and beer are available at the lodge. Loaner waders, wading shoes, rods and reels can often be arranged, on request.
Non-inclusions: Not included in your angling package at Royal Wolf Lodge are the round trip air transfer flights between Anchorage and the lodge*, state and borough bed taxes*, Katmai National Park daily user fees*, hard alcohol (please feel free to bring your own bottle), rods and reels (though loaner gear can often be arranged, if needed), fishing licenses, and staff gratuities. *These fees change on an annual basis and cannot be anticipated far enough in advance to be included in our set/published prices. These costs in 2019 are estimated to be between $750 - $870, to be paid in cash or check while at the lodge.
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 Royal Wolf Lodge
In the vast majority of the streams Royal Wolf Lodge fishes, there are two distinctly different types of rainbows: resident (those that live full time in the rivers), and lake-run (trout that live most of their lives in lakes, moving into the streams to feed at specific times).
In the early season – June through mid-July – lake-run trout will often migrate into rivers to feast on the downstream migration of the previous
year's salmon smolt. During this time, white-colored streamers resembling little smolt are deadly, as are more traditional black Egg-Sucking Leeches (many streams see spawning migrations of lamprey eels, which some believe contributes to the effectiveness of large black leech patterns). As well, both resident and lake fish are hungry after a long, cold winter, and in some streams will react aggressively to a surface-skated mouse pattern.
In early July the Katmai/Iliamna streams flood with a massive infusion of sockeye salmon, an escapement literally numbering in the millions. While at first these fish are more of a hindrance than a help to the trout fishing, by late in the month and particularly by the time August rolls around they become a trout bonanza, providing an egg and flesh smorgasbord seemingly without limit. Royal Wolf guides are acutely aware that different streams experience different timing of sockeye runs, annually; one river might have salmon dropping eggs (inciting gluttonous feeding by the rainbows) a week earlier than another. The key is knowing where to be, and when. There is often a secondary migration of lake fish into streams, following the scent of billions of salmon eggs being broadcast into the gravel. This is definitely the "time of plenty" with every available trout crowded in behind spawning salmon, often visible in the shallows as they gorge. Single egg patterns and beads are the most productive patterns, though smallish flesh patterns can also be very effective.
As August turns to September, the sockeyes fade dramatically, spawned out and dying, and the days get cool and short. This is the time for the serious trophy hunter. While the resident trout are at their fattest – many in the 2-5 pound category - there is a final upward push of lake fish into many of the streams. While there normally won't be as many hookups as in August, an angler's chance at hooking those elusive 6-10 pound fish becomes significantly better. As always, the importance of a great guide is paramount – some streams get few if any of these brutes, and even in those that do, knowing when and where to find them is a science (albeit a bit of an inexact one). Royal Wolf's experienced guides have a high rate of success this time of year, based both on the experience of years on the streams, and an intuitive sense of where these monsters are likely to be. Normally this time of year the angler will begin to fish less beads, and more large flesh streamers. As well, articulated leech and sculpin patterns can be deadly – it is the "big fly, big fish" time of year!
Getting to Royal Wolf Lodge
Guests arrive and depart Royal Wolf Lodge on Fridays. That is somewhat unusual since many lodges have their guests arrive and depart on Saturdays. Chris Branham's schedule allows anglers to fish some of the most popular regional fisheries on those Saturdays, when there is less pressure from other lodges. On the day prior to your arrival in camp, Thursday, you should plan on traveling to Anchorage and overnighting at one of the many fine hotels there.
Late the next morning (Friday), you will meet the lodge's private flight at the Lake Hood Airport, and fly approximately one hour to the lodge. The lodge staff will meet you and get you situated in your cabins, then bring you into the main lodge for a hearty lunch. Anglers are welcome to fish the wonderful home water on their own this afternoon, if they arrive early enough. On the day of departure guests are flown back to Anchorage, where they can either connect to a red-eye flight home if available, or spend the night at a hotel before returning home the following day.
Lodging at Royal Wolf Lodge
Royal Wolf Lodge is remote, only accommodates 12 anglers a week in a true wilderness setting, and boasts one of the finest, most tastefully-appointed lodge and cabin complexes in its genre.
Huge windows give gorgeous views out over the surrounding mountains and lakes, and the cabins are large, isolated from each other, each with a private bath, and very comfortable. Every cabin has a covered porch with
benches, as well as wader and rod racks on which to store your gear. Each evening, following a long day of fishing on nearby streams, you'll return to a hot shower, sumptuous hors d' oeuvres, and an open bar. After a chance to swap lies and share photos on digital cameras, an exceptional dinner will be served, after which you are free to hang out in the great room, or retire to your individual cabins. It is an exquisite location, and definitely helps to set the mood for your entire experience.
Fishing at Royal Wolf Lodge
Each morning there will be a wake-up knock at your cabin door, and a steaming mug of your favorite beverage left on the step.
After an unbelievably tasty breakfast, you'll put on your waders, grab your tackle, and take the short walk down to the shore of a nearby lake, where the floatplanes will be awaiting you. Equipment is a significant distinction separating Royal Wolf from the rest of the first-class fly out lodges in the
Iliamna basin. In addition to a Beaver, three float-equipped Helio-Couriers, unique in their ability to take off in a very short distance, allow Royal Wolf guests access to areas that could only otherwise be reached by helicopter or on foot. The Branham's have a wonderful reputation as pilots and anglers. They've been at it since 1949 and know every inch of the area. It's an unbeatable combination of machinery and over 50 years of the Branham family's pioneering lodge experience in Alaska.
There are jet boats on half a dozen rivers in the immediate area. The fishing in this region is simply outstanding! Though most of your trip involves fishing the complex maze of other regional trout streams, having a river like the Nonvianuk in your backyard is a bonus few other destinations offer, at any price. There are streams to fit almost any angler's tastes, from tiny creeks to large rivers. The lodge provides all necessary flies to all clients, so while you may choose to bring your own flies to fish, you don't have to. Many of the flies provided by the guides come from their own tying vises, patterns they have developed over years of fishing this area.
At the end of each day, the floatplanes will pick up their guests at a pre-determined time and place, and take the short flight back to the lodge.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• Royal Wolf Lodge’s location – a grandfathered piece of land inside of the Katmai National Preserve – means not only that you wake up each morning in one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska, but importantly, you have consistently short flights to the best trophy trout streams in the state. And you are staying in a true wilderness location far from the nearest civilization.
• Owners Chris and Linda Branham have decades of experience operating in wilderness Alaska, and offer a luxury experience at odds with the remote setting of their lodge. Guests get the advantage of the best fishing and the finest lodging. Guests could not be in more capable hands than the Branhams – they are true professionals that facilitate a world-class trip in a safe and enjoyable manner. You don’t need to worry about anything except showing up and having a great trip – they take care of all the details.
• Royal Wolf specializes in fishing for some of the largest rainbows in Alaska, largely in smaller to modest-sized streams. Most fishing is done with 6-weight rods and floating lines, and it is not unusual to spot the big trout in shallow water before making your presentation. For those that want to target numbers of large trout in easily-waded streams, there is no finer place to go than Royal Wolf Lodge. You will have the opportunity to hook and land large river trout every day!
• Much of the guide staff at Royal Wolf have been returning for years and even decades. They are not college kids looking to have a fun summer – they are dedicated professionals and full-time guides. They know where fish will be at all times of the year, under any weather conditions, and are legendary in their ability to put clients onto big rainbow trout. When you leave Royal Wolf Lodge you will be a better angler, having learned tricks that will work nearly anywhere in the world.
• The lodge operates one of Alaska’s finest fleets of aircraft designed specifically to give clients the best access to the best fishing rivers, safely and comfortably. This includes the comfortable and powerful Turbo Caravan that flies guests from Anchorage directly to the wilderness lodge; a DeHavilland Beaver on floats, the workhorse of the bush that can carry larger loads of guests safely; and the lodge’s trademark, STOL-equipped and nimble Helio-Courier floatplanes capable of astonishingly short take offs and landing in small lakes adjacent to the best fishing. There is no wasted time in long flights to reach the fishing here, and the planes get you as close to the actual fishing as is humanly possible. You will reach the water and be fishing – and sometimes to places where other lodges cannot – with less wasted time, meaning more fishing time.
• The lodge itself and separate guest cabins are almost unbelievably well-appointed, considering the wilderness setting. No expense has been spared to ensure the comfort of weekly guests. You will spend evenings relaxing in complete comfort, with amazing views from your cabin windows. This will allow you to relax and check out for a week, without giving up the comforts of home. Kick back and fish hard!
• Meals at Royal Wolf Lodge are an extraordinary event in themselves. Linda Branham is in charge of the chefs and food preparation at the lodge, and her menus are nothing short of spectacular! You will be served meals there equivalent to some of the best food found in the finest restaurants anywhere.
• As a daily sidelight to the fishing, guests are treated to some of the best bear-viewing in the world. As the Katmai streams annually flood with millions of sockeye salmon, the bears migrate from miles around to take advantage of the ensuing feast. It can be very much like stepping into the pages of a National Geographic magazine, catching big rainbows behind masses of neon-red and green spawning salmon, with huge brown bears splashing all around. A tremendous photo opportunity. This is real Alaska!