Kodiak 2009

Kodiak Brown Bears Alaska
Kodiak Bears at the Karluk River

2009/09/22 - 10/07: Road Side Fishing & Float Trip Karluk River, Kodiak

There we were again, Mättel, Rolando and I; this time at the outflow of Karluk Lake on Kodiak Island.


Surrounded by windswept , barren tundra expanses and snowy mountain ranges was our pure lust on the next adventure hard to describe. But let's start from beginning:

Kodiak Bear fighting Alaska, Karluk River
fighting bears at the Karluk River, Kodiak


Alaska Airline in Anchorage
Alaska Airline Anchorage

In March 2009, we forged the plan to spend two weeks in autumn on Kodiak for catching Silvers in the Roadsystem and doing a Floattrip on the Karluk River.


3 days Roadside Fishing around Kodiak City

7 days Floattrip on the Karluk River

3 days Roadside Fishing


We never was before in Kodiak, even not on the Karluk. But for all three of us was clear: we do it on our own! No Guide was needed.


We rented raft, tents and camping gear by Carmen form Alaska Fisherman Club in Anchorage. She let face all the material to Kodiak.

September 22, 2009 came and we got up early in the morning with all of our luggage at Zurich / Kloten Airport .

On the Domestic Airport in Anchorage we saw the first Kodiak Bear, which already got us some butterflies in the stomach. Although he was stuffed and behind a thick pane of glass, but its size and mass was impressive.

"OK, so this must have been a particularly big one, otherwise he would not display here!", we calmed us ourself down...

At Kodiak airport we took our rental car and went to our home for the next 4 days, the Salmon Run Guest House. The studio was very comfortable and equipped imaginable with all useful.

After a short reference to the room we went back to the city where we wanted to check out the local cuisine and brewing skills. A round-trip through the bars of Kodiak City was canceled - we wanted with a clear head and steady hand the next day go fishing.

Roadside fishing kodiak

Roadside Fishing Kodiak, Alaska
on the roads of Kodiak

The first fishing day greeted us typical of Kodiak: foggy, gray, wet and a bitterly cold breeze checked our Windstopper the first time.

First we went to the Buskin River. The Buskin is a quietly flowing river, quickly from Kodiak City accessible and leads the list with the largest silver salmon on Kodiak. The Salmon are spawning in the lake, which is not too far from the sea. At the top of this lake is the counting station of salmon.

As soon we opened the car door, stabbed us a biting stench in the nostrils. As we climbed down to the river, it was immediatly clear where the smell came: rotting pink and red salmon were hundreds in the water, on the shore, in the slope, on the street, everywhere. It was not a pretty sight to see all these bodies, but it is the way of nature.

A closer view in to the river, the adrenaline shot us immediately through the veins and the smell was quickly forgotten: Coho salmon! And what for bombers !!! Each of us had immediately a big grin on his face, sweaty hands and a tearing in the arm. The large dark shadows left us not long hesitate - "who is faster by the river?" - And we served the pink streamer with our 8 weight rods and floating lines. The first bites came suddenly and the Cohos let ourselves feel their joy and strength jump immediately. It was fantastic and now the trip had already been paid.

In the afternoon we moved to the Russian River and found a spot that is probably for the other fisherman too far away from the parking spot. It applies throughout Alaska the same thing: a few steps away from the road and you're practically alone on the river. We caught our limits (two Coho / day / person), drove in the dark back to the studio and beat the rugs to our tired but very satisfied Fischer souls. That was really a great start.

The next day we went again to the Buskin, then to the American-River and to the Olds River. In each of this rivers, you can catch a lot!!! Dollies, Pinks, Cohos - whatever you like.

Day 3 we had a few things to organize:
By Koniag Coorporation we needed the land-permit for the Karluk Area. With this permit you're allowed to camp on the Shore of the Karluk River.

Next stop was Island Air, where we had a look on our raft and tent and the other stuff, which was shipped here in advance.

To the end of the day, we stopped again at the Buskin River, just to get the feeling of big fish...

Floattrip Karluk

Flyfishing floattrip Karluk River Kodiak Alaska
flyfishing and floating the Karluk River on Kodiak

After a short night the day, toward which we cheered for so long was finally come: the float trip really started now!


First, we let transport the cleaned and frozen salmon to Anchorage to Alaska Sausage by air freight and then found ourselves by Iceland Air. The freshly serviced Beaver was loaded and transferred to the water aerodrome. With fresh engine oil, heavy fuel and funny pilot we took off towards Karluk Lake.

Flyfishing Kodiak Karluk River Float Trip
Spectacle Views on the way to the Karluk
Flyfishing Karluk River, Kodiak Island, Alaska
Kodiak Island, Alaska
Larson Bay, Flyfishing, Kodiak, Alaska
Larson Bay, Kodiak

After everything was unloaded and stored, the rods were of course immediately unpacked and we went to the outlet of the Karluk Lake. At first glance down the river itself Mättel's eyesight came true from the plane. He said, he already see bears standing in the river out from the plane. Rolando and I reassured him with "Mättel, clean your glasses - these are rocks!" The rocks were now proper alive.

Flyfishing at Karluk River, Kodiak
Outlet Karluk Lake

We did not really have great experiences with bears in the wild. Some times seen one in a national park; maximum of 40 meters. But here they were standing right in front of us, in the middle of the river, which we should float down the next day. "Let's see tomorrow - then maybe they are gone"...


Now fishing!  Swarms of sockeye salmon went up into the lake, between Dolly Varden and Arctic Char. The sockeyes were all very colored and more or less done. So we sitched to our 5weight rods with beads: Dolly after Dolly - no stopping. The Dollies were always behind the salmon schools.

Flyfishing Float Trip Karluk River, Alaska, Kodiak
Arctic Char, Karluk River

The Bears downriver took notice of us, but did their own business in fishing. We quickly realized that bears very well responded to our loud calls. Came one behind us out of the bushes, he stepped after a short but loud conversation back and ran away. The longer we were together with the bears, the calmer we were and felt the proximity of these large animals. Everyone went to his interests by and let the others alone. But we had to pay attention, that we did not lose track and always knew roughly where the next bear was located. This was sometimes not so easy, because we lost the overview by constantly having great and hard fights with the dollies.

Kodiak Bear Karluk River, Alaska, Kodiak
Kodiak Bear, Karluk River

The next morning sunshine held for us and the ground frost was gone quickly. The raft was loaded and we walked towards discharge of uncertainty. What can we expect here today? Can we ever start?

The situation on the river had changed slightly from previous day: five bears were ready - the question was, for us or for the salmon? We found it out quickly. Fortunately, they were like the day before no great interest to us. Since the Karluk led very little water, was a "fast paddling through" not an option. Only thing what was passible: to pull down by walking with the raft over the stones, right through the fishing bears.

Was approached a bear at 20 yards and gave paddle signs, he curled up on the shore and waited until we had passed. All very relaxed and supple. Nevertheless, the gun was always on top of the raft and each of us had the bear spray not far away. But we never had the occasion to use one of them. We got used to quickly turn this situation and we relaxed as the day before.

We really enjoyed the moment - it was such a Cigarette Advertising moment. So many bears so close to meet - other tourists traveling special to Alaska to see bears and come up empty.

Fight of Kodiak Bear
Showfights between the Bears

The Karluk River is from the outflow of the lake to the End by the Karluk Lagoon about 20 miles. Portage is located approximately in half. Due to the low water level and the lack of pools in the upper part of the river we floated on this first day directly to the yurt.

Erin Whipple, Alex Paranoff and a group of volunteers greeted us warmly and served us a pot of chili and Harry Potter on DVD in the Kitchen. We are liberated from our countless layers of thermal underwear, caps, stoppers wind and rain jackets, enjoyed the warm shower and joined us in the group. The guys told us proudly that they created a four wheeler trail using plastic plates which are screwed one by one the whole way from Larson Bay to Portage. It is, if I recall correctly, a 7-mile stretch.

Bushmills (one of the guys was an Irishman) and Glenfiddich (by us) have been prepared, we joked, played cards and had really great fun with the "Screwdriver-Group".

At seven-thirty the next morning, the group went out again to the trail work, and left us a rich breakfast, which we ate grateful.


Alex gave me the night before one of his "secret streamer" and told us a few hot spots further down the river. He is also guiding on the Karluk and was mighty in conflict between "fish with the Swiss Guys" or "plastic plates screwing "- he went plastic plates screwing - Erin's whip did show effects.

We walked down the river and fished the mentioned hotspots, which applies the best on the Karluk for steelhead. Third shoot, Bite! WAU what a fish !!! A large steelhead took Alex's streamer. But unfortunately, I lost him after a short time, grrr!

However, it was not long and Rolandos rod bent. Unfortunately, he fared no better than me before. But Mättel managed it and caught the first Steelhead of our float. Well done!! Unfortunately, that's all about it . No bites anymore.

The weather was uncomfortable, very strong horizontal icy wind and rain let us return to the yurt.

In my mind, I heard the song: "I'm nothing but a tin man, do not feel any pain - I'm rusted from the rain" by Billy Talent.

Portage, Karluk River, Steelhead Fishing, Alaska, Kodiak
Portage, Karluk River

After a short nap in the warm yurt, I went back alone to the river and gave him a second chance.

This time I changed the tactic and fished very deep to the ground. And it worked!

Steelhead Karluk River
Steelhead Karluk River
Steelhead Karluk River
Steelhead Karluk River
Late Run Sockeye Karluk River
Late Run Sockeye Karluk River

My two buddys came back for fishing. I told them my tactic and now all uf us made a few nice catches. Also a nice fresh Sockeye from the Late Run, which happens on Kodiak End of September, I could caught. This one we ate in the evening together with the group.

The next morning we said to Erin and the Screwdrivers "Good bye & thank you!" and left the Yurt. Further down from here, the Karluk gets more water and becomes faster. The pools hold lot of fish! In the fast water we caught Steelheads, in slow deep pools where Chars and Dollies. But no Cohos.

The second last day we had to float down to the Lagoon, because we would come pick it up the next day by the bush pilot.

The Lagoon of the Karluk looks like a big lake, but the soil is composed of numerous channel, where the char and salmon swim upstream. 

We were looking for a suitable place to camp, loaded everything immediately from the boat and were back on the water by fishing.

While fishing, we noticed that down here the Bears were up some saucy and constantly they where arround our luggage. Specifically, a bear mother with her two calvs seemed to be very fond of us. That can be a serene night ...

A delicious noodle soup gave us the necessary feel-good warmth to get in the sleeping bags. The night was bitterly cold temperatures of -7 degrees reviewed our sleeping bags and the constant splash and smacking the fishing bears do not let us sleep deeply.

I was woken up by junk from our kitchen tent. I thought that it was Rolando, cooking coffe, called out to him that I would give him a hand. His response did not come as expected from the kitchen tent, no it came from his sleeping tent, "and I thought that you'd be in the kitchen" We were immediately awake. Mama Bear with her two boys amused himself in the kitchen tent and all had white mustaches from milk powder.

We scare away the Bears out of the tent and started cleaning up, but the bears had come on the taste and kept coming back. The moment had come to use the pepper spray.

The effect was limited: a charge fully in thier faces scared the Bears, but they returned a short hand back, in contrast to us, because a light breeze, let us first-hand experience how aggressively the stuff is...

After this wake-up call, we started to prepare Coffe for ourself and went back to the river for fishing. The Dollies and Chars down here where huge. Was great fun to catch such nice colored fish down here.

The plane arrived late, but after a few moments, all the luggage was in stored in the Beaver and we headed back toward Kodiak City.

From the air we could enjoy the Karluk River again, saw the river course and each of us let the experienced inwardly pass in review: the first look at the Karluk upon arrival, with his rocks..., all the bears, all the uncountable fish, the untouched wilderness, the cold, the wet, Erin and the Screwdrivers, and, and, and. It already came already on melancholy. With these thoughts and the heat in the monotonous droning flyer I felt soon in a short sleep. Back in the studio all three of us showered extensively and we went out to the best restaurant in Town for a huge T-Bone Steak! Dined like royals!

Silver Days on Kodiak

Kenai River Confluence Russian River, Alaska
Kenai- / Russian-Confluence Alaska

On the two remaining days on Kodiak Island, we fished in the road system. Special mention is the Roslyn Creek. A small stream, which we have encountered almost in a mystical atmosphere. It winds through mossy misty forests first and and ends in the sea. Absolutely alone, we found at the Roslyn a great opportunity to flyfish on Coho's.


Another river, the Olds River ends with large ponds in the sea, where were staying a lot fresh silver salmon. It had a number of fishermen in these basins, but they seemed not to have the patience to do the right pelvis find, because not in every basin silver salmon were present. However Mättel and I had the patience and Mättel with his eagle eye saw something in a remote part of surface movement.

Very carefully and silent we threw our streamers and shortly afterwards I heard from Mättel a hearty "FISH ON!". The explosion in water followed immediately. The silver salmon struggled immensely, took several meters from the backing, jumped again, turned and left the fly line pipe in the water. After safe landing it was not long before I heard Mättel again "FISH OOON!". This salmon was slightly colored, we concluded that apparently some salmon spawn right down here and not ascend the river.

We both enjoyed these moments and after several clutches we returned with big smiles on our faces back to Rolando, who was fishing just above the road bridge. There was even a "from the bridge drill forming silver salmon hunter," that had problems to land the hooked salmon. The spectacle which he and the salmon made in this situation let other fishermen shake their heads and laugh us loud. I do not want to mention who of us this "bridge Snagger" was, cause of collegiate reasons ...

Considered retrospect this float trip and Roadside Fishing was the perfect blend of comfort, luxury and wilderness. Also, the length of the trip and the division were ideal, although I regret again while writing that we were not two months outside at the Karluk.

With the cold and wet, we had to fight, but we overcame this challenge and the friendship of the three of us in turn was strengthened by the experience.

Again, we were very helpful and welcoming supported by all people with whom we came in Alaska in contact.

Roland Fasel, Matthias Marro, Urs Wehrli
ready to fish in Kodiak !

The Karluk River has, as already mentioned, no big gap, so the float designed very quiet and is harmless.

For our taste almost too quiet. Due to the low water level rapid progress was not possible in practice, we had to drag the raft over the stones several times.

Due to the lack of water in the Karluk, silver salmon were missing during our stay. Two weeks later, Alex made a few great catches.

This is as always the risk associated with such trips, but it also carries the fishing opportunities from such a situation to another species to shift what we did last year with the graylings and this year with the char and steelhead. And these experiences are often the most beautiful. Assuming such a trip in an open mind and flexibility, it can't never go wrong and it does not come to disappointment.

This float trip we were again alone and enjoyed our very freedom. It is an unnecessary, in my view, to have several guides there, who could do the tent set-up or tie your streamer  at the end of your tip. The experience is a lot bigger, nicer and cheaper on your own!

If any one wants to do such a trip in the same way as we did, just contact me. I'm pleased to help you by planning or supporting.

flyfishing Kodiak Karluk
Lifetime memories