Scott Ranney, our guide and Steve’s brother, took us to Bear Trap in a 32-foot aluminum workboat. Scott, a Captain who left the Coast Guard Search and Rescue team to teach school in Seattle and guide fishermen in Alaska, beached the boat, and we climbed over a small hill to the creek. A brown bear had reached the creek first, but he ambled off when we showed up. According to Scott, Alaska brown bears don’t like to be outnumbered five-to-one. I didn’t totally believe Scott and fished with constant looks over my shoulder for a bear who couldn’t count! Chris Batin, a good friend and also a registered Alaska guide, was fishing with us. It was Chris’ fly, the Batin Bunny Leech, which I used almost exclusively. Chris ties it with dyed red rabbit fur and barbell lead eyes.
It didn’t take long for Steven to rig his tackle and catch salmon no more than 30 or 40 yards from the lodge. He also learned from Scott which salmon he should keep for the freezer and which ones to release. The keepers, fresh from the ocean, were bright silver in color. Salmon with any mottled hues had already started the spawning process, and their flesh would be soft and not very palatable.
Scott also took us to a beach several miles from the lodge by boat. Orca Inlet is about three miles wide and 10 miles long from its mouth to Cordova. We never traveled the inlet waters without seeing bears, eagles, sea lions, salmon, sharks, and the world’s largest concentration of sea otters. This time Scott got us to a quiet beach before the bears. Wading was easy, and we started to catch salmon in knee-deep water. There was no reason to wade any deeper. Every third or fourth cast produced a pink or chum salmon. Neoprene waders are a must when fishing Alaska’s salmon runs. The air temperature during the summer months can be very comfortable, 60 to 70 degrees, but the water is always cold.
Salmon wasn’t the only species we found when we explored the small creeks off Orca Inlet. Scott and Chris had fished the area before, and they knew where we could find rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. In one area, under the watchful eyes of a black bear, we caught rainbows and a few Dolly Varden on small spinners. The waters of these small creeks were clear emerald green, much like the waters of the Florida Keys. It was easy to spot cruising fish. For the fly fisherman, Alaska proved to be a Mecca. I didn’t keep count, but I’m certain I caught and released a couple of hundred salmon on flies during our five-day trip.
Traveling to these small creeks by boat also allowed us to catch halibut, a specie that can grow to 500 pounds. We drifted bottom rigs with huge salmon fillets as bait. Though Orca Inlet is not noted for big halibut, we still caught these flatfish in the 30 to 40-pound range. All of our fish were filleted and vacuum-packed after each day of fishing. We traveled from Alaska to New Jersey, and our salmon and halibut fillets were still frozen when we got home.
Fishing the phenomenal salmon runs of Alaska has to rank as one of the world’s greatest angling experiences. Salmon runs in Alaska start in early May and run into early October. From May to July, the King or Chinook salmon is usually the most sought-after species. From mid-June to early October, the streams and rivers are full of Coho (silver), sockeye, and pink and chum salmon. Because of Alaska’s vast network of spawning waters, the annual arrival of salmon varies with region. In most of Alaska, from June to September, you will also get the bonus of rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and sea-run cutthroat.
The Orcas Adventure Lodge is located on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound, two miles north of Cordova. The lodge is surrounded by glacier-carved mountains, an abundance of wildlife, forests, and countless waterways. It’s a unique adventure destination and the best the great north has to offer.
Check Out Vin T. Sparano’s Books