Big Ku is nestled on a bluff above its namesake river – the Kukaklek, overlooking a spectacular vista of river, lake and sweeping Alaskan wilderness. Built several years ago on privately-leased Native land within the boundaries of Katmai Preserve (the Branhams hold the lease rights on over 5,000 acres up and down the Big Ku River and including some lakeshore on Kukaklek Lake, as well), the lodge could not be more centrally located to the highest concentrations of trophy trout streams in the state. This isolated outpost combines the best of all worlds for the serious trout angler – four incredible rivers within quick and easy boat access, and a home-base that is as comfortable as it is remote. Guests here can walk down and fish the legendary Big Ku River anytime they would like, before and after their normal fishing day, and it is common to see massive grizzlies wading the river, oblivious to the anglers, focused intently (and with bad intentions) on the legions of spawning sockeye salmon. A week here is a bit like stepping into a National Geographic special.
The Katmai Preserve and adjacent Park play host to some of the most remarkable landscapes in the world. Stepping out the front door of your cabin and
turning your head, you will see, in turn, heavily forested mountains, vast expanses of tundra (Alaska’s underfoot Narnia), and everywhere, water.
There are active volcanoes, agate beaches, glaciered mountain ranges, wild blueberry bogs... it is no wonder this area is considered one of Americas
most precious and pristine natural resources. And the region’s watersheds, gin-clear and cold, pouring from ancient tarns, harbor some of the largest
remaining salmon runs on the planet. Lurking amidst these millions of spawning sockeye salmon swims the target of most Big Ku Lodge guests, the huge
rainbows of the Katmai/Iliamna basin. Averaging 2-6 pounds, with massive specimens over thirty inches landed every year, there is perhaps no better
place on earth to target, catch, and release numbers of these magnificent fish. There are both resident river trout, often dark and red-sided, and
chrome-bright nomadic lake rainbows that make late season forays into the streams to forage. These rivers are largely scarce of trout food as we think
of here in the Lower 48, but nature has provided them a bounty in the form of salmon eggs and decomposing salmon flesh.
The time of plenty is short this far north, and the trout feed voraciously, often putting on several pounds in a short 3-month window of opportunity. The implications for the angler are obvious! As well, some of the streams here are also home to brilliantly-colored sea-run Dolly Varden, and sail-finned Arctic grayling. Only a short boat ride from the lodge a shallow tundra lake full of big northern pike lays waiting. And for a few weeks in July, the home river is full of bright, jet-fueled fresh sockeyes, a lot of fun on a fly rod. And all are readily accessible via short boat rides from the lodge, eliminating the necessity of expensive floatplane travel, keeping the trip cost to a fraction of the area’s luxurious fly out lodges; the perfect scenario for anglers looking for modest-yet-comfortable wilderness lodging and the regions best possible trophy trout opportunities.
While predicting the weather in Alaska is a highly inexact science, there are some general trends that normally occur. Typically, June is a warm month that
is getting warmer, with some short rainstorms blowing through. July continues the trend – it is often the warmest month of the short season –
and as with June, the days are extremely long, often with little to no actual darkness during the night hours. In August the days begin to
shorten a bit, normally still with warm days but cooler evenings. Septembers are usually cool during the day and cold at night.
June and early July is a great month for those who love to swing streamers for big trout. There are no salmon around yet, and often not many
dolly varden, either; what you have is a bunch of mega-bows that have ganged up in the inlet and outlet areas of Kukaklek Lake, gorging on the
small sockeye salmon fry as they enter and exit the lake. Every trout in the region is fine-tuned to this baitfish migration, and they are waiting
and ready, feeding voraciously. The Big Ku, in particular, can offer tremendous streamer action in June, with trout pouring down out of the lake
into the first few miles of the river to feed, joining the big resident river rainbows. We love to fish weighted streamers on floating lines this time
of year, as the trout are often busting the bait on or near the surface. And because they are surface-conscience, skated mouse patterns can also
Typically around the first week of July, massive runs of sockeyes begin entering all of the rivers. While these dense schools of mint-bright salmon – averaging 6-9 pounds – are tremendous gamefish on a 7 or even 8 wt outfit, it is also true that the last 3 weeks of July are among the slowest trout fishing of the season. There are literally so many salmon, they disrupt the trout fishing! The trout don’t go away, however, and for those who like warm weather, non-stop action for sockeyes and pike, with pretty good fishing for Dolly Varden and trophy rainbows, this is a great part of the season. As with June, the trout are best fished with 7 weight outfits, as they make throwing weighted streamers relatively effortless.
By the very end of July and the first of August, the tens of thousands of sockeye salmon begin to actively spawn; overnight, the fish that had spent the past few weeks disrupting the trout fishing suddenly become the darlings of the angler’s world. Massive lake rainbows immediately flood the streams, joining their native river brethren hovering behind egg-laying salmon, gobbling the endless conveyor belt of free-floating salmon eggs. For the next 6-8 weeks this gluttony continues unabated; trout that weighed in at three pounds in June, might tip the scales at five, come September. Trophy fish that started the game at six pounds could reach the magic 10-pound mark. Inches don’t always mean a lot, this time of year, as trout are often obscenely and disproportionately obese; fish sizes are simply guessed in pounds. While streamers are still fairly effective, dead-drifting single egg patterns dominates the fishing, in all the rivers.
As the warmer August days begin to give way to the cool autumn temperatures of September, not a lot changes (except the trout and Dolly Varden continue to pack on the protein pounds). In fact, the egg fishing remains very productive through the end of the season (late September and occasionally even early October), but there is one last variable that occurs as the salmon all die, and sink to the bottom in massive aquatic graves. As in all of nature, nothing goes to waste...here, the rainbows, feeling the urgency of a long winter spent in lethargy beneath the ice with little or no feeding, turn finally from the dwindling egg supply to a seemingly never-ending source of food, drifting salmon flesh. Needless to say, this is prime time to swing or dead-drift small to giant salmon flesh streamers, and as it happens, these trout can be fairly aggressive to almost any large streamer – black or olive are favorite colors. As well, you might try skating mouse patterns again – you might be surprised how many bloated rainbows can be willing to come to the surface to savage an imitation rodent.
$5,195 per person
June thru September
Included in your angling package at the Big Ku lodge is round trip flight transfers between Anchorage and the lodge, daily jet boat access to four area rivers, personal guide for each 2-3 guests, fly fishing lessons, fishing licenses, leaders, flies, and all meals including beer, wine and soft drinks.
Not included in your angling package at Big Ku Lodge are hard alcohol (please feel free to bring your own bottle), fishing gear (though this can be arranged, if needed), optional fly out fishing at $425/person/day, and staff gratuities.
To make a reservation, please give us a call any day of the week at
(916) 722-1055 during regular business hours. We can give you detailed explanations to any questions you might have, check on availability, and confirm your reservation in minutes.