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Still in Alaska, subscriber Pete Durno has good things to say about a very different approach to fishing up that way. His trip was to Copper River Lodge, a top-ofthe-line facility in the Iliamna Lake area.
He writes: “Four of us from Michigan, Arizona, and Wisconsin fished six and a half days at Copper River Lodge in Alaska this past August 21 to 27, and we enjoyed the experience so much we are prepared to give the place our highest possible recommendation. The lodge is in the Iliamna Lake area some 200 miles west of Anchorage. It is one of the many Sweetwater lodges (www.sweetwatertravel.com). “This is strictly a rainbow trout lodge at the time of year we were there, and, indeed, the fishing for rainbows was excellent. Every day, after a 15- to 20-minute boat ride upriver from the lodge, we wadefished all day. There was no fishing from the boat. The wading was relatively easy, which was important because the four in our group were all over 75, with one being 80. We used 6 wt. rods and floating lines. It was not advisable to use a rod any lighter than that, we were told, because of the size of the rainbows. Also, the stream is literally full of spawning sockeye salmon at the time we were there. It was not unusual to have one bump your legs while wading. Not surprisingly, we all hooked three to four sockeyes each day by accident, which was a real pain with a 6 wt. rod. Usually, our guides hand-lined the salmon in and released them. We still had one rod broken while fighting a sockeye. Other ancillary catch included some Dolly Varden, a couple of pink salmon, and one grayling. Incidentally, it is not really necessary to bring any leaders and flies on this trip, as the guides furnish everything. “As for the lodge, the main building is situated on a hill overlooking the river. It has a good-sized living room, a kitchen, and a dining area. The lodge can accommodate eight anglers in four separate cabins, but six seems to be the ideal number that is adhered to most of the time. The cabins had electricity, even at night, and hot water. There was plenty of room to store clothing and ample hooks inside and outside to hang waders and rain gear. “Two cooks, Jessica and Lori, provided excellent and varied meals. Breakfasts, for example, included superb wild blueberry muffins, scones, reindeer sausage, and varied egg dishes. Dinners included rack of lamb, steak cooked on a BBQ, and a number of other great dishes. Hot soups and sandwiches were provided each day to be eaten on the river. “The two guides our group used, John and Jamie, were very experienced and capable. They were also really pleasant fellows who were a pleasure to fish with.
Manager Joe Hyde has been at the lodge for 14 years. He lives there full-time, so he is a font of knowledge about almost everything related to the area and the fishery. He has a positive, can-do attitude and fills in as an excellent guide. Overall, the lodge is superbly managed. “There are two side trips you can take from the lodge. They were fun and very productive, but the fishing was so good at the lodge it is hard to say they produced better fishing than we already had. “Getting to Copper River Lodge is an experience in itself. It starts in Anchorage, where you board Iliamna Air Taxi for the hour-and-a-half trip to the Village of Iliamna, population 150. From there, you take a 30-minute floatplane ride in a Beaver aircraft built in 1952. It had a new engine, we were told. The final leg of the trip is a 30-minute boat ride to the lodge. Despite all this, we were fishing our first day by 2 PM, and that was after a really nice lunch. “As to wildlife, we saw quite a few bears, all of which were more interested in catching salmon than catching us, fortunately. There were no close encounters during our stay. We also saw a number of bald eagles and even a wolverine, which is apparently quite unusual. One thing to be aware of is that the lodge is “dry”—that is, it is not allowed to sell alcohol. You are allowed to order alcohol, however, and/ or wine and have it shipped to the lodge. I forgot to order any, but there was so much left over from previous fishermen that I did not suffer one bit. The bottom line is if you want to catch lots of really big rainbows and you don’t mind casting with a couple of split shot and a strike indicator, this is a great place in all respects. Enjoy!” Postscript: Pete Durno gives the cost of his trip for a Sunday to Saturday stay as $5,400 including everything but tips and the Air Taxi, which cost $460.