Jeff Hickman is a mainstay at Deneki Outdoors, with a bunch of years under his belt working at Alaska West and Andros South. His main gig now is guiding folks around Oregon, but he also hosts a group of anglers during the first week of our season at Alaska West. Today’s he’s here to tell us a bit about that trip!
Early Season Kings
In a month I will be back on the tundra swinging flies for the first kings of the season at Alaska West. A small group of friends takes this trip every year, because this is the time that we prefer to fish the Kanektok. The river is quiet, as there are few other people around. We love the feeling of intimacy on the river, and we love to kick the Alaska West year off!
As a steelheader, week 1 is the perfect time to be at Alaska West. After all this is the place swing a fly for a fish of a lifetime. During the first week of the season every king in the river is hot, chrome and has sea-lice. The higher flows that are common week 1 give the fish a sense of security and allow them to hold and travel in the softer flows on the inside shallows of the river’s numerous gravel bars. This means that shorter casts and lighter sink-tips keep you in the fish.
Week 1 is the fly fishing equivalent of a trophy hunt. After all, with kings, it only takes one cast to make your whole trip – but when you hook that 30+ pound fish, you better have your game face on! They break 15 pound Maxima like it was 7X. Reels can be left smoking after the first deep into the backing run. Two-handed rods explode like tooth picks when trying to lift giant heads into the net. Up there it is not uncommon to hook something that leaves you speechless. “What the heck just spooled me in 30 seconds? …Maybe it was a seal, we are in tidewater after all…”
It is a high risk, high reward time to be there. Week one is not for the faint of heart – you will work hard for the fish you might catch. There are no ego-boosting Chum salmon to pull on your line when you start to get tired of casting. Only kings are in the river, and if they are late to the party or not in the mood to eat the fly, it becomes a mental game…”maybe with 6 inches more of T-14 I’ll be in the zone”. But when the king flood gates open, which can happen during week 1, the fishing can be legendary.
Fortunately the trout are always there and they are hungry, making for some of the most aggressive takes of the season on mouse flies. They are well rested and have not seen a fly or a human in over 8 months – it’s mice and streamers only and the takes are savage!
“Week 1” is actually a 5 day trip this year. It happens in early June and we have a few open spots – drop us a line if you’d like to join us! We will have an awesome time together up there again this year.