Alaska’s Bearclaw Lodge sits on a private parcel of land on a peninsula on Lake Aleknagik, with Jackknife Mountain as the backdrop, at the edge of the Wood-Tikchik state park. The park encompasses a vast, watery expanse that includes many highly productive rivers, lakes and creeks. At 1.6 million acres, it’s the largest state park in the country. There’s an almost unlimited amount of water in which to fish. Included in the species portfolio throughout the season are rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden char, Arctic char, northern pike, sockeye salmon and coho salmon.
Fishing, family, and fun
Melissa and I have been invited to visit Rob Fuentes’ Alaska Bearclaw Lodge on Lake Aleknagik in late July. During this time period, anglers have ample opportunity to catch Arctic grayling and rainbow trout on dry flies. This is a unique opportunity in Alaska, and we are eager to see it first-hand. Our itinerary will include time on the Agulowak River, Agulukpak River and on Sunshine Creek. In addition to topwater opportunities, we will also target sockeye salmon and Dolly Varden char.
“Ain’t nobody got time for that,” quips Rob Fuentes. I like him immediately. This catchphrase typifies what Rob is about. He’s a man of action, and spends nearly every moment in the pursuit of something positive. Thanks Rob, I’ve adopted your catchphrase and use it frequently with my sons.
To get to the Alaska’s Bearclaw Lodge, guests first fly into Dillingham on either Ravn Alaska or Alaska Airlines, and then are shuttled about 20 miles by van to the boat launch on Lake Aleknagik. It’s a bit more than a 10-mile boat ride from the launch to Rob’s lodge. One of the positives about a location like this is that weather will not usually preclude guests from making it to the lodge, which can sometimes happen at remote destinations around the Greatland.
Immediately, the family-friendly atmosphere is readily apparent. Rob is a strong family man, and these principles shape the type of lodge environment that he has created. While there, Melissa and I (brother and sister) are joined by a father and son, and husband and wife. It’s a place where people can gather, enjoy the comfortable environment, the fishing, the chance to be in Alaska’s wilds, and to bring your family for quality time. One of my greatest takeaways that truly defines Rob’s methodology is that guides share information, tips, fly boxes, don’t count or measure fish, show great river etiquette and generally seek to help one another as much as to help the guests. This is refreshing in a Bristol Bay lodge where egos, testosterone, and competition usually dominate.
The general manager of Alaska’s Bearclaw Lodge is a highly personable and entertaining guide named Greg Morgan. He’s both a storyteller and a coach, helping clients to decide on an itinerary that will best suit their desires. The whole time I’m there, we are either laughing with each other or at each other. I like him too. And his dog is definitely the lodge mascot. Or his beard.
Guests enjoy comfortable accommodations ranging from private suites to cozy rooms. The shared space includes a sitting room, dining room and well-used front deck with a row of supremely comfortable chairs that get used on a daily basis. They overlook the lake and offer a chance to soak up the impressive scenery. Food is served family style with guests and staff sitting down to home-cooked meals that are delicious. Lunches are eaten on the water. A typical day includes breakfast at eight, fishing until about five, hor d’oeuvres and happy hour until about seven and a multi-course dinner to cap a brilliant day. Quality waders, wading boots and fishing gear are provided for each guest.