Larry's Short Stories

Fishing at Tikchik Narrows

These sockeye salmon are well past their prime and from a fisherman’s perspective are mostly just good for hauling in and taking pictures. Brenda and I pose, with some beautiful Alaska scenery in the background.
These sockeye salmon are well past their prime and from a fisherman’s perspective are mostly just good for hauling in and taking pictures. Brenda and I pose, with some beautiful Alaska scenery in the background.

Tikchik Lake is about 70 air miles north of Dillingham, Alaska - which is 300 air miles or so southwest of Anchorage. The lake is the source of the Nushagak River, which flows east, then south into the Bristol Bay area of the Bering Sea. Moose, bear, fish, eagles and other critters live there; but humans can only get there by float plane. Tikchik is a large lake, but on the west end there is a narrow waterway that connects it to an even larger one. Tikchik Narrows gets its name from that narrow waterway connecting the two lakes. The fishing lodge, bearing the name, started up nearly 50 years ago, and is a deluxe resort today.
You must “fly-in,” as there are no roads; and Tikchik is what is called a “fly-out” fishing lodge; that is, weather permitting, each day you load into a float plane and fly to a different location - usually the inlet or outlet of a nearby lake, or to one of the streams that is large enough to land on and take off again. The “take off” requires a longer stretch of deep, open water.
The fishing season is short - about June through September; and

A rainbow trout big enough for a picture is always special; daughter Sara displays this one well. Some lodges specialize in rainbows.
A rainbow trout big enough for a picture is always special; daughter Sara displays this one well. Some lodges specialize in rainbows.

even that short time is divided into “best” times for the various species of fish. People wanting to concentrate on King Salmon will likely have only two prime weeks, while rainbow trout are good all season and are bigger in the fall - after feasting on salmon smelt and eggs all summer.
Tikchik, like most Alaska fishing lodges practices “catch and release” on rainbow trout, but there's always salmon on the dinner menu back at the lodge; when salmon are running, they're really running. One guide for each two fishermen is the general rule, with concentration on the person who needs the most help tying on new flies or knowing where the fish are mostly likely to be.
People go there for the fishing, but the combination of the scenery, cabins, lodge and food can be most easily described as an “oasis” or small piece of paradise in the middle of the Alaska wilderness. The pace was always leisurely, the food was top notch, prepared by a trained chef; and the weather (though uncontrollable) was picture perfect. Places like Tikchik perhaps don't belong on everyone's bucket list, but if you like to fly fish, it likely should be on yours!

Son Russell displays a dog or chum salmon, easy to recognize because of the stripes.
Son Russell displays a dog or chum salmon, easy to recognize because of the stripes.
Larry's Short Stories