Categories: Alaska

2021 Alaska Lodge Openings

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2021 Alaska Lodge Openings

Published: February 4, 2021

Fantastic Alaska Lodge Openings in 2021 – Last Best Options!

Many Alaska lodges did not open due to COVID in 2020, instead rolling all their guests to 2021. As a result, most outfitters are starting out this coming season heavily booked. Yet there are still prime openings at some of the finest destinations in the state, and right now is the time to act if you are planning a trip north this summer. We have worked closely for many years with all of the lodges and camps listed below – we have fished their waters, eaten their food, slept in their cabins, and know their operations inside and out. They are good people and solid outfitters.

And there is no one more experienced or better equipped than The Fly Shop® to help you find and put together the Alaska trip of a lifetime from these options. This is by no means a comprehensive list of availability at our lodges, but it does give a taste of some of the amazing experiences still available. Feel free to give us a call (800) 669-3474 or drop an email ( if you would like more details – we would love to help you put together your dream trip. Remember, Alaska does not require a passport, operated safely in 2020, and is quick and easy to reach from the Lower 48. It is, of course, not an international destination, but it sure fishes like one. And when you’re there, immersed in spectacular wilderness and wildlife and catching big numbers of fish – some of which may be new to your species bucket list – it can definitely feel like a faraway and exotic country!

Alaska lodge openings for 2021Lava Creek Lodge
One of the most exciting new lodges in Alaska, Lava Creek Lodge is extremely remote, only a rifle shot from the salt, and has near exclusive access to three world-class salmon rivers and a number of smaller streams that can offer equally spectacular action. As well as epic king salmon and silver salmon action, Lava Creek has options for chum salmon, Dolly Varden, and some beautiful rainbow trout. Fishing is all via wading, though accessed by jet boat, both on the home river and on the other rivers that are flown out to, weather permitting (with the exception of one small creek that is loaded with dollies and some chunky rainbows that is walked and waded all day). This season the lodge owner is spotting a boat or two on a new stretch of river that has rarely, if ever, been fished before but is believed to have great trout and Dolly Varden fishing – we are very excited to give it a try!

Alaska lodge openings for 2021

  • June 6 – July 11, 2021 King Season: $7,900/person/week, from Anchorage
  • July 11  – August 22, 2021: Grand Slam Season (Chums, Dollies, Rainbows):  $6,800/person/week, from Anchorage
  • August 22 – September 26, 2021: Silver Season:  $7,900/person/week, from Anchorage

June 6 – 13, 2021: (1 rod)
July 18 – 25, 2021: (5 rods)
July 25 – August, 1 2021: (8 rods)
August 1 – 8, 2021: (6 rods)
August 8 – 15, 2021: (4 rods)
August 15 – 22, 2021: (8 rods)
August 29 – September 5, 2021 (4 rods)
September 19 – 26, 2021: (2 rods)

Alaska lodge openings for 2021

Big Ku Lodge
Big Ku is a very special and intimate fly fishing destination, featuring a small six-person lodge overlooking the raw beauty of Katmai National Park and a home water considered among the finest trout streams in Alaska. The program here is all about big rainbows. There is certainly the opportunity to catch beautiful Dolly Varden and grayling (and even lake trout and northern pike for those so inclined), but the lodge’s jet boats can also transport wading anglers to four incredible trout streams, and this is why you go to Big Ku Lodge. Guests can also choose to pay extra to be flown to other stellar rivers during their stay, though there is seldom a need to.

  • June 12 – July 24, 2021: $7,650/person/week, from Anchorage
  • July 24 – September 25, 2021: $8,350/person/week, from Anchorage

Alaska lodge openings for 2021The Fly Shop’s Chris King ( is hosting a trip to Big Ku the week of September 18 – 25, 2021, which is arguably the best week of the season for those wanting to swing streamers for some of the largest trout of the season. Chris is a great guy, experienced traveler, and world-class casting instructor who will be happy to work with you on your technique. Nearly all the fishing this week is on the home river.

June 12 – 19, 2021: (3 rods)
July 3 – 10, 2021: (2 rods)
July 10 – 17, 2021: (4 rods)
July 17 – 24, 2021: (6 rods)
July 24 – 31, 2021 (5 rods)
July 31 – August 7, 2021: (2 rods)
August 14 – 21, 2021: (1 rods)
August 21 – 28, 2021: (1 rods)
August 28 – September 4, 2021: (3 rods)
September 18 – 25, 2021: ( Chris King hosted week) (4 rods)

Alaska lodge openings for 2021Royal Wolf Lodge
Royal Wolf is unquestionably among the finest wilderness trophy trout fly-out lodges in all of Alaska. Its location on a grandfathered piece of land in the Katmai National Preserve puts it a short flight from any of the famous trout streams in the region … and there are a lot of them! The lodge’s specialty is placing anglers – along with highly skilled and experienced guides – onto the best portions of the finest trophy rainbow streams at any given time of the season. Their specialized aircraft means better access to these rivers, and fly fishers will be blown away at the quality of the fishing they experience each and every day. The lodge and the individual guest cabins are far more than comfortable, with beautiful vistas, and the daily cuisine is unbelievable. If catching big rainbows is what you love to do, there is not a better lodge to help you live that dream, all while nestled in the awe-inspiring wilds of Alaska.

  • June 11 – July 9, 2021: $9,250/person/week, from Anchorage
  • July 9 – September 24, 2021: $11,650/person/week, from Anchorage
  • September 24 – October 15, 2021: $8,950/person/week, from Anchorage

Alaska lodge openings for 2021The Fly Shop® owner, Mike Michalak, ( will be hosting the week of September 17 – 24, 2021, at Royal Wolf Lodge — one of the favorite weeks here. It has the advantage of offering some of the largest rainbows of the season, at a time when the fish are transitioning from six weeks of gorging on salmon eggs to feeding on salmon flesh and aggressively striking many other types of streamers as well. Mike is a true pioneer in the travelling fly fishing world and has had a hand in the initial exploration and development of many destinations that are now household names. A week with him is like a history lesson of the “who’s who” in the sport and is sure to entertain.

June 18 – 25, 2021: (3 rods)
June 25 – July 2, 2021: (2 rods)
July 16 – 23, 2021: (3 rods)
July 23 – 30, 2021: (5 rods)
July 30 – August 6, 2021: (4 rods)
August 6 – 13, 2021: (2 rods)
September 17 – 24, 2021: (Mike Michalak hosted week) (3 rods)

Alaska lodge openings for 2021Aniak River Lodge
This comfortable tent camp is the only operation on the entire, heavily-forested Aniak River, so guests can count on not seeing any anglers from other lodges. Fly fishers share many miles of this amazing fishery, fishing for big rainbows (who because of the lack of fishing pressure love to eat skated mouse patterns as well as streamers and eggs), unbelievable numbers of Dolly Varden, dry fly-eating grayling, all five species of Pacific salmon, and even sheefish and northern pike, if desired. Space here is almost completely gone, but there are still some superb openings left early (prime mousing dates), and late (prime streamer fishing for big rainbows).

  • June 19 – September 11, 2021: $6,495/person/week

June 26 – July 3, 2021: (8 rods)
August 28 – September 4, 2021: (10 rods)
September 4 – 11, 2021: (8 rods)

Alaska lodge openings for 2021Talaheim Lodge
A classic wood lodge in the rugged forests off Cook Inlet, Talaheim helicopters their guests into fish-packed smaller rivers in places no other lodges can reach. For anglers who love to walk and wade untouched streams full of trout, Dolly Varden, and grayling, Talaheim is your kind of place! Because these fish get so little pressure, the rainbows will routinely eat skated mouse patterns, and the dollies love skated dries or small poppers. And of course grayling are nearly always excited to eat dry flies. As one of the only Alaskan fly fishing lodges using helicopters to access their daily fishing, just the daily flying alone is memorable!

  • June 20-September 11, 2021: $8,600/person/week (6 nights, 7 days)

July 11 – 17, 2021: (4 rods)
July 18 – 24, 2021: (3 rods)
July 25 – 31, 2021: (4 rods)
August 15 – 21, 2021: (3 rods)
August 29 – September: 4, 2021: (5 rods)
September 5 – 11, 2021 (6 rods)

Hoodoo’s – 2020 Sandy River Lodge Steelhead Report

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Hoodoo’s – 2020 Sandy River Lodge Steelhead Report

Published: November 2, 2020

Steelhead Heaven – Sandy River Lodge, Aleutian Peninsula, Alaska

Our good friend and seasoned International fly fishing traveler Tim Hagerty had an amazing steelhead trip on the Sandy River this fall. Check out Tim’s report below…it’s a good one!

This is a report on a unique fly fishing adventure for the elusive and prized quarry, the steelhead.  One word – amazing – best describes my experience. I called the river I fished, Steelhead Heaven. The name applies both to the number of bright chrome steelhead hooked and landed each day, and to the remote and pristine Alaska setting where we were fortunate enough to spend a week. I will try to frame what made this fly fishing adventure so special for the author.

This was a fly fishing adventure to a remote part of Alaska on the Aleutian Peninsula, which extends westward towards Russia from the Alaska mainland. Hoodoo’s Sandy River Lodge is 500 miles as a crow flies from Anchorage, and located a short bush plane flight from Port Moller. The focus of my trip was one of the most sought after freshwater species in the fishing world – wild steelhead. Steelhead are ocean-going rainbow trout that grow to salmon size and feed in the ocean for a few years after leaving their natal river, only to return on spawning runs as chrome-bright, feisty fish. They don’t die like Pacific salmon after spawning, and can return 3 or 4 years in a row… and in one documented case, an amazing 8 years!  Reaching this extremely remote destination was an adventure in itself.

I had the great good fortune in this Covid travel restricted year to have The Fly Shop’s Pat Pendergast find me a rare opening at Rod Schuh’s Sandy River Lodge, to fish the last week of the season. This was mid-October in remote Alaska, not exactly a situation where balmy temperatures were to be expected, or sunblock was going to be needed!

My first hurdle was managing to secure my Covid test near Boston, my home area, then insuring I had it uploaded (negative results only, of course) on Alaska’s Travel Portal correctly with my arrival information. This test must be taken and uploaded within 72 hours of getting on a plane to Anchorage, per Alaska travel guidelines for entry.

Boston had a storm coming right when I was to depart, causing me to change planes 24 hours before take-off, which still insured I would arrive in Anchorage within the 72-hour timeframe. Upon arrival at Ted Stevens International Anchorage Airport we were met by officials who directed us to two lines; here we were checked to make sure we had negative Covid tests uploaded onto the Alaska Travel Portal. I was quickly confirmed, but not all were as prepared. The Fly Shop® had sent separate, updated communications with very clear travel instructions on how to link up with the Alaska Travel Portal. They also recommended a proven Covid test site that used FedEx next day service that would send test results within 48 hours. I did use the test center, obtained the results very quickly, and it was easy to upload onto the portal.

The next step – after spending a night in an Anchorage hotel – was taking a private charter with five other anglers to Port Moller (via Iliamna Air Taxi, a two and a half hour flight). The airstrip at Port Moller is not much; a simple storage building with no terminal or waiting room – just a tarmac landing strip. Rod Schuh, owner of Sandy River Lodge and Hoodoo Lodge, was there to meet us in his DeHavilland Beaver, and flew us and our luggage the 20 minutes to a strip on the Sandy River.

Rod carved out the landing strip himself and does all the flying. Landing on a gravel landing strip scratched out of the tundra, in the middle of nowhere, is always interesting. Rod has been flying since he was a teenager and it was a very smooth, short, fascinating flight. We had a bird’s eye view out the windows at the tundra and various river systems flowing to the Bering Sea.

The next day, after a great breakfast and good coffee we started our first morning loaded up in jet-boats, bundled against the frigid cold. It warmed up for me on my third cast. A chrome steelhead lit up my morning, glinting in the rising sun with the first of what would be several jumps as it tore downstream towards the Bering Sea. That made my day for sure, but the Sandy is a very generous river and four more chromers found their way to net that day (not to mention those I hooked and lost to wild cartwheels and sizzling, reel-burning runs).

Swinging flies on a Spey rod is the best approach on the Sandy. While I am certainly not a beginner double-handed angler, I had a number of terrible casts the first couple of days. Yet the guides, all excellent steelhead fishermen and patient casting coaches, had me up to speed in no time. They had me self-correcting my casting miscues by the end of day two, which allowed me to focus more on fishing. Their knowledge of the river and its lies for the steelhead was thorough, and I very much enjoyed their company.

The Sandy River is easy to wade, with an exceptionally smooth cobblestone/gravel bottom and no raging, hard-pushing current to contend with. I am 70 years old and had no issue wading anywhere, and never needed a guide’s arm to support me. Yes, I have experience (this was my 47th fly fishing trip to Alaska, all remote fishing – no Kenai River in a boat), but this river was so easy to wade it allowed me to move up and down, deep and shallow, wherever and whenever I wanted.

Our fabulous fishing continued through the week. To qualify “fabulous”, I averaged 5 to 6 steelhead landed a day. No exaggeration. Again, not hooked, but landed steelhead. We all lost several of these wild, crazy fish every day. I had 9 landed one day, and my low day was 3 landed out of 7 hooked. It was common to battle wild and crazy steelhead for some time before they ultimately came unbuttoned. The mean size of the steelhead I landed (not average – mean), was a measured 31 inches. My smallest were a few measured (by tape) to 29 inches. Most were in the 31 to 33 range. The largest I landed (and we taped most all the fish I landed at my request) was 35 inches. Several were also measured at 34 inches.

A couple guests said they caught larger steelhead, in the 38-inch class, but I can only report those that I landed and measured, leaving everything else to the reader to ponder. One guest landed 18 steelhead in a single day, confirmed by his guide. This angler was our most experienced steelhead fisherman and along with one another guest had the majority of double-digit steelhead-to-hand days of our week. It was just that wild and good!

I was not in the top 50% of the clients there for numbers of steelhead landed per day, at six, but given this was steelhead fishing and only my second major steelhead trip, I was ecstatic.  There was never a dull period of time; my fishing partner (a very good Spey caster and experienced steelheader) and I were almost always swinging over fish.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of going on The Fly Shop’s unique and special Kamchatka Steelhead Project (KSP) in Eastern Russia. That was my first real steelhead trip, and I was so spoiled from that experience I was hesitant to go fish for steelhead anywhere else. In Kamchatka I landed some larger steelhead than on the Sandy, so I had some basis for comparison when I recommend the Sandy for steelhead. I have not fished the fabled British Columbia steelhead waters, but some in my group of six colleagues had many years of experience there, including the Dean River and using helicopters to access hard-to-reach spots in western Canada. One had also fished the KSP and everyone, without exception, said the Sandy was best steelhead fly fishing they have ever experienced.

I will recommend to all that the Kamchatka Steelhead Project is exceptional and another wild adventure I plan to repeat. It’s the land of giant steelhead and beautiful and remote rivers cultivated, nurtured, and damn well taken care of by The Fly Shop® and their Russian partners; The Conservation Angler; Wild Salmon Center; and Moscow State University. At the KSP, anglers are participants in a scientific study of one of the last vestiges of un-impacted wild steelhead on earth.  We tagged, measured and took fin clips of every steelhead we landed – a very rewarding and exciting part of the trip.  However, I am signed, sealed and delivered to return to the Sandy next year, same week.

The remote Sandy River Valley is drop dead gorgeous. The scenery towards the headwaters and for 180 degrees surrounding was that of mountains and glaciers interspersed by two dormant volcanos, both with a new covering of termination dust (aka snow). This was in contrast to the other 180 degrees of fall colored tundra and low bush landscape. The Sandy River represents everything that has kept me coming back to Alaska for so many years.  No crowds other than a few like-minded anglers in camp, bear viewing at a safe distance allowing one to marvel at these creatures… and you could hear the stillness of this pristine wild remote river and its surroundings. It’s an experience that is harder and harder to find – unpressured waters holding strong populations of one of world’s greatest sportfish. I contrast this to the arguably diminishing steelhead fisheries elsewhere, strongholds of the past…

I used a single-handed 8 weight (Sage Saltwater HD) and a sealed drag Abel SDS reel one morning, managing to land four steelhead. It was a blast and my reel was “singing”. The sealed drag Abel was damn smooth and handled the surges of these great fighters very well, let alone the long initial runs or crazy somersaulting zig zag dances these gonzo steelhead often punish reels with. Many places on the Sandy leave little room for back casts, and there are spots where longer casts are necessary. But certainly this river does lend itself to single-handed rods, overall – just come prepared to double haul High-Speed High Density sink-tips in the 8-weight category more than 40 or 50 feet, and bring a 250-grain sinking tip and (just in case) a floating line with you.

Trying to manage all that line on the water when retrieving after a long cast and having current wash it downstream or tangle in my clumsy hands as I used coils to hold line off water before next cast, tired me out. I do fish single-handed rods in saltwater near my Cape Cod home all season using a stripping basket, but here I feel a double-handed rod is the way to go. I did not notice any diminishment of fight using a double-hander versus a single-hander. These are great fighting fish, period. Double-handed rods cover water more easily and, when needed, give you greater distance… and we needed that at times.

I fished two rods the majority of the time, a 7-weight double-handed Scott Radian, and Sage X single-handed 8-weight. The large arbor Hatch reels I used on my spey outfits were flawless, reels I also used in Kamchatka for steelhead, and for very large striped bass and hard-running false albacore on the Cape. Hatch reels have an exceptionally smooth drag with low inertial startup which handled these steelhead with ease. Skagit heads with 7.5 to 10 feet of T-11 were perfect for the river, as well. When the water is higher, I am told T-14 heads comes in very handy. All my gear is from The Fly Shop®. As with us all I have options regarding where I shop, yet I like their service, product offerings, return policy and especially their knowledge base when I call in with questions.

We experienced real steelhead fishing weather and there were several mornings where we had ice in our guides. Except for one day during our stay, it always warmed up by late morning and early afternoon. Even with cold water temperatures in the morning, fishing sessions by mid-morning saw us regularly moving fish.

Hoodoo Lodge on the Sandy River was constructed by Rod and his crew (he flew in all building materials himself) in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. It accommodates a maximum of six anglers between four rooms and includes two bathrooms and showers. Guide and cook quarters are in another building. Everyone enjoyed the warm-as-toast wader and gear drying room (boy did I appreciate that). We were well taken care of, and meals were excellent and quite filling if we could get past the hors d’oeuvres, which to me were a meal by themselves.  I am a coffee snob and I even liked the coffee they served!  Everything here functioned perfectly, all in the middle of nowhere and miles away from any sort of human habitation.

Yes, the lodge had internet and we were able to use our cellphones and call anyone and anywhere we wished using voice-over internet, with excellent speed to boot. The cook even asked us twice to put down our cell phones and pay attention to the subject at hand!!

Rod Schuh also owns the very well-regarded Hoodoo Lodge upriver from Nelson Lagoon on the Sapsuk River, further down the peninsula. Both the Sapsuk and the Sandy have excellent, fresh-from-the-salt fly fishing for king salmon and rods are hard to get – the word has spread. Remote out camps are also available to clients who book his Hoodoo Lodge. Rod is hands-on and everything was very well-executed. The guides I had were world-class and helped with advancing my spey casting and understanding more about steelhead lies, drifts, flies and more. Rod also operates a hunting operation in this area.

I hope this report is of some relevance to anyone who loves steelhead fishing and is looking for special places to consider. It’s here and The Kamchatka Steelhead Project where I intend to focus my steelheading in the future. I also plan to fish for bright king salmon on the Alaska Peninsula where I explored and caught sea-liced Chinooks on small rivers in 2010…but that is another story. Call The Fly Shop® for more information.


Tim Hagerty

P.S. I have no association with The Fly Shop® or any lodges except when I book. I write this on my own volition and with no financial or other issues influencing me.

Alaska lodge availability next summer will be tight, but space still exists. If you are interested in fishing Alaska next summer, please don’t delay in making your plans.  We have our fingers on the pulse of current availability and can help you with your 2021 Alaska fishing plans. Give us a call at (800) 669-3474, or email us at

If you are interested in fishing Lava Creek Lodge next summer or fall, we have some excellent weeks available.

The Fly Shop Team
(800) 669-3474(530) 222-3555


Lava Creek Lodge, Alaska

800 • 669 • 3474

Lava Creek Lodge, Alaska

Published: October 22, 2020

2020 Alaska & Lava Creek Lodge End of Season Report

There is always a bright side, no matter how dark things seem!  And that was certainly the case when it came to sportfishing in Alaska this summer. 

With Covid numbers escalating in the US this past spring, and nearly all other countries in the world closing their borders to outsiders, there was a lot of doubt as to whether anglers would even be able to travel to and enjoy their own 49th state’s many fishing lodges. Alaska was for some time ambivalent about allowing people from the rest of the nation to flood their borders for any reason, including what is arguably the lifeblood of the state, tourism and recreation. For some time they instituted a 14-day quarantine for everyone entering the state…and while certainly understandable, this obviously would not work for the majority of traveling fly fishermen. As the fishing season approached, with the 14-day prerequisite still in place, many lodges made the difficult decision to call off the season and roll their booked 2020 guests over to 2021. At that point there was so much uncertainty about Covid in general, many lodges decided it would be in the best interest of everyone involved – guests and lodge staff alike – to call off the season, hunker down, and attempt to ride out a year with no business. In a number of cases this decision was made for them, as several Native villages who play an integral role in anglers reaching specific lodges were making the sensible decision to shut down, in doing so closing off access to critical bush airports. It appeared the likelihood of anyone being able to enjoy a fly fishing adventure in Alaska in 2020 was quickly augering in.

Then, at the 11th hour, faced with the very real spectacle of having to shut down virtually all tourism in their state for the all important few months of summer, the Alaskan government relented and decided instead that they would allow visitors, albeit with a stringent Covid testing policy in place. At this critical juncture there were still a handful of lodges who had not yet made the decision to call off the season, though they were literally days away from doing so… operations whose normal Alaska travel logistics still allowed them to physically bring guests to their lodges. Part and parcel to making the decision to operate were a whole new set of operating mandates from the state that would help ensure the safety of anglers while at the lodges – largely dealing with cleaning protocols and reduced occupancies. One such destination was Lava Creek Lodge, a hyper-remote lodge on the Alaskan Peninsula tucked alongside some of the finest king and silver salmon rivers left on the planet. Owner/operator Phil Byrd had been closely following the Covid politics and decisions playing out in Alaska, and the same day the state decided to allow tourists access to the state with mandatory testing, he made the decision to run his season. Having anticipated this possibility, Phil was already at his lodge and had spent the previous weeks gearing up for a season that he could only hope would come to fruition. He had everything prepared and in a state of readiness including his lodge facility, guides, food service, and importantly, a private charter that delivered guests directly from Anchorage to his lodge, eliminating any potential complications from bringing anglers in through remote Native villages. 

So we quickly called everyone slated to fish at Lava Creek Lodge – it was a very fully booked season – and explained the situation. Phil understood that not everyone would be comfortable traveling, so extended the offer to roll over payments/trips for those clients to the following season. It was already too close to the first week of king salmon season to operate, so we began with bringing guests in for the second week, in mid-June. The remainder of king season was a balancing act, keeping the lodge as full as possible while avoiding the scenario of having strangers sharing a cabin. It worked! Where people were coming with friends or family, the sharing of cabins was of course allowed. Where we had single anglers, they were given a private cabin. 

While the bulk of the king run came in a bit later than normal, we did still have a taste of great fishing early on, which quickly escalated into the unbelievable Chinook fishing we have come to expect at this amazing destination, for the remainder of the season. We hesitate to even put into print the numbers of chrome kings that were landed on many days during the season; even the “slow” days here would have qualified as epic just about anywhere else. We’re talking double digits of chrome bright Chinooks to the hands of each angler per day!  All the salmon caught here are hooked within a rifle shot of the salt, so they are full-bodied, powerful, aggressive to a swung fly, and typically still bear the marks of recently shed sea lice. Combined with easy wading and shallow runs not demanding super heavy sinking tips, these fisheries are like a dream for serious king anglers. As well, Phil began flying guests up to a small tributary of the home river, where guests enjoyed fantastic Dolly Varden fishing, and even caught good numbers of quality rainbow trout. This action was so good, many anglers were willing to give up a day or two of salmon fishing just to enjoy such constant action on a light fly rod, on a trout stream that gets zero outside angling pressure. 

Our very own Justin Miller flew north to join the talented guide staff for the lodge’s silver salmon season, beginning in mid-August. The lodge benefitted from his years of experience guiding and running wilderness fly fishing operations in Kamchatka, Russia, and welcomed his enthusiasm, world-class teaching ability…and for introducing staff and guests alike to the now infamous game of tundra golf! As with the kings, silvers were a little late in showing up in their normal ridiculous numbers, so our first week of guests split their time between finding silvers where they could, and visiting the upriver tributary to catch hordes of dollies and a few quality rainbows on six weights. By the end of the week silvers were beginning to show up in earnest, and when the second week of guests arrived it was coho madness, as usual. One river in particular – a stream the lodge had only just begun to fish the previous season – produced ridiculous numbers of sea-liced cohos on a daily basis, often drawn to the surface by Pink Pollywog poppers. These are big Peninsula cohos, fish that average 8 – 10 pounds but which commonly top the 12-pound mark; most guests will hook multiple chrome beasts in the 15-pound range during their stay, and a few lucky anglers will land silver salmon approaching 20 pounds, fish that look like kings when hooked. Justin actually stayed on into late September after the lodge had officially closed, hoping to find some of the steelhead we know run up the home river at some point in the fall. While he was unsuccessful in this endeavor, it was only because of the sheer number of silvers that continued to pour into the river daily; it was impossible to swing an Intruder through any of the likely steelhead runs without it being immediately attacked by mobs of bright coho salmon. 

From Justin Miller – 
“I could not have been more excited for the opportunity to guide up at Lava Creek Lodge this past summer. With my wings getting clipped – forced to miss trips to Australia, the Kola Peninsula and then the Kamchatka Steelhead Project due to the ‘Rona – I was feeling like a caged animal. I pounced at the invitation to guide in the Alaskan tundra like a mountain lion. I had taken a group to LCL for Chinook in 2019, so I knew the rivers and the crew and was super excited to get back up there, this time to drive. The season went better than I could have ever imagined. Our team was amazing and all of them became among my closest friends on earth. The guests that came to fish with us were enthusiastic anglers who appreciated getting back out on the water as much we did in these crazy times. And then there were the fish… 

Witnessing Mother Nature send legions of salmon on a march upstream with us standing on the sidelines, throwing pink Hareball Leeches in their path…I have never seen such a ridiculous display. We had days like the old timers talk about – we could have walked across the river on their backs. It was an absolutely amazing season, one that saved me from the brink of insanity.”

So despite the Covid-related uncertainties of early in the year, it was yet another superb season at Lava Creek Lodge. The fishing was amazing, the country untouched and beautiful, the lodging comfortable and safe, and the food better than ever. Next season has limited openings, so if you are interested in booking some space, give us a call at your earliest convenience.  

It is worth noting that for those who were willing to travel to Alaska in 2020, a number of lodges remained open and operational and delivered their typical world-class fishing and service to those travelers. Places like Bear Trail Lodge, Rapids Camp Lodge, Hoodoo Lodge and Hoodoo’s Sandy River Lodge, Hidden Cove Lodge, Baranof Wilderness Lodge, Copper River Lodge, and Dave Jones’ Ayakulik Outpost all made the decision to operate, and their perseverance was paid off with superb seasons and happy clients. 

Overall, a relatively small percentage of fly fishing lodges in Alaska, understandably, made the decision to operate in 2020 – most postponed their operations until 2021 and rolled all or part of their guests’ deposits over to those future dates. Predictably, this made for very little angling pressure on a lot of the finest remote streams and rivers in the state, and fishing that was even better than usual. Just as predictably, with so many operations rolling all their 2020 guests over to 2021, there will be a general shortage of available space at Alaska lodges next season. If you would like to plan a trip, give us a call and let us help…we have our finger on the pulse of Alaska, especially in these challenging times!

Finally, one of the questions we get most from people considering a trip to Alaska in these times is, “What kind of testing do I need to do before heading north?” In the early days of Covid this answer was a moving target, seeming to change weekly as Alaska struggled to come to a consensus regarding how best to keep Alaskans safe while also allowing some tourism to take place. While it is impossible to know what this will look like a year from now, we found the answer that Alaska eventually settled upon to be workable, effective, and in the fly fishing lodge business, very successful. In all the Alaskan lodges we work with, there were no active cases that arose during the season. Basically, in order to enter the state, you had to have a negative PCR Covid-19 test result in hand (and loaded in a State of Alaska Portal) that was less than 72 hours old when you stepped on the plane to fly to Alaska. Early on, most people were able to accomplish this where they lived at various clinics, doctor’s offices, and even at some drugstores. As the country began to ramp up testing, however, it became more and more difficult to find such local sources. Fortuitously, Phil Byrd at Lava Creek Lodge actually put us onto a possible remote source for testing he had heard about, called Covid Consultants. After days of vetting the operation to make sure their protocols were in compliance with what Alaska was demanding, we were able to confirm that they were, and the majority of our guests from that point on took advantage of their testing services. In short, you call their offices to order and give a card number to pay for the test, and they FedEx a test kit to the name and address you specify, along with a prepaid return overnight FedEx shipping label. Receiving it, you wait until 72 hours before 

your departing flight to Alaska, then spit in the receptacle provided and FedEx overnight it to their labs (this is a saliva test, not a nasal swab, but both are the needed PCR-style test). They receive your sample, test it, and email you the official medical results in 24 – 48 hours. Now you have it on your phone to show at your point of entry to Alaska (it’s recommended that you print a hard copy, as well). The company proved to be exceptionally reliable at servicing our clients, and the $200+ charged was a small price to pay to facilitate easy and effective entry into Alaska.

As we stated, with so many Alaska lodges deciding not to operate this summer and rolling over 2020 anglers to 2021, lodge availability next summer will be tight, but space still exists. If you are interested in fishing Alaska next summer, please don’t delay in making your plans.  We have our fingers on the pulse of current availability and can help you with your 2021 Alaska fishing plans. Give us a call at (800) 669-3474, or email us at

If you are interested in fishing Lava Creek Lodge next summer or fall, we have some excellent weeks available.

JUL 11 – 18, 2021      JUL 18 – 25, 2021     JUL 25 – AUG 01, 2021

AUG 01 – 08, 2021     AUG 08 – 15, 2021     AUG 15 – 22, 2021

AUG 29 – SEP 05, 2021     SEP 19 – 26, 2021

Mike Mercer and The Fly Shop Team
(800) 669-3474(530) 222-3555

King salmon at Lava Creek Lodge

Lava Creek Lodge, Alaska