The combination of skiing and fly fishing has been well proven to provide a week of non-stop fun in remote destinations such as Kamchatka and the Tordrillo Mountains. Most of these trips revolve around skiing corn snow and fishing for trophy King Salmon or Rainbow Trout in late Spring and early Summer. I’ve been eager to link the peak of Alaska heli season (March/April) with big fish, so Girdwood & the Kenai River seemed like the perfect trial location.
We reserved stand-by seats in the heli with Chugach Powder Guides for the first few days of the trip. But with the birds fully booked, it was looking bleak for us to hitch a ride into the backcountry. Fortunately, we woke up to 8-10″ of fresh at Alyeska Resort and it continued to snow throughout the day. Spring, mid-week, resort cold-smoke. The lifts were empty and we took full advantage. With our pow-thirst satiated, we moved south to the Kenai.
High pressure moved in for the next few days with plenty of sunshine and frosty temps. Mornings began with pushing the driftboat across the frozen expanse of Skilak Lake to access the open water of the Middle Kenai. It turned out that working up a solid sweat right before sitting in a frozen aluminum boat for 8 hours was a tough combo! We drifted through legendary sections of the Kenai like the Dunes, Rainbow Alley & Super Hole, but the 10 degree weather kept the Rainbows tight-lipped.
Malcolm and Hayley spent the evening trying to fashion their duffle bags into an additional warm layer of insulation for future river days. We managed to land a few fish further down the river on the second day, but the cold conditions made for challenging fishing. One mid-20″ fish was long-line released, but otherwise the monsters lurking in the deep holes avoided all that we threw at them.
It’s hard to picture the necessity for all the posted regulations along the Kenai, especially in early April when you get excited to see a single other group on the river. But hearing that nearly 300,000 fishermen utilize the relatively small river system during the short summer season lends credibility to the constant reminders of where to fish and where not to park.
Greg Schlachter is owner of Expedition Broker, Alaska’s premier adventure travel agency based in Haines, Alaska.