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Claycomb: A family fishing trip to Alaska, the last frontier

Jan 09, 2024


As I type this article, I just got back from a great Alaskan fishing trip. So much happened that it will take three articles to even briefly cover the trip. This first article I’m going to hit from a great family fishing trip perspective. If you are just wanting to hear about hard-core Alaskan fishing, be patient. The next two articles will satisfy those cravings.

I’m always hard-core and hit it from daylight to dark, but since my wife, youngest daughter Kolby (seven months pregnant) and my son-in-law Joe Chappell were going, I made myself slow down so it’d be a fun, peaceful family trip.

With the above said, I lined up plane tickets so we’d hit Ketchikan before lunch. That allowed us to check into the motel and go down on the ocean front and shop. The girls had a big time. Due to the number of cruise ships that dock in Ketchikan, there are a lot of souvenir shops on the front.

But let me back up a minute. I lined up our trip with Waterfall Resort Alaska. They are the most organized guide service that I have ever seen. From day one they walked through the set-up process. The dates for the trip, which airline works best, motel room, float plane to their lodge, shipping our fish back and all of the other little details. They were very patient and helpful in walking me through the process. They have a booth in the luggage claim area and as soon as you land direct you to the ferry to be transported over to the mainland, where Mike picked us up and took us to the Cape Fox hotel.

Mike asked what our plans were and then said if we wanted, Chuck would pick us up at 3:30 and show us around. Chuck gave us an interesting tour, even taking us to the Saxman Totem Park to see the largest totem pole display and then asked what we were doing for dinner. He said Andrew would take us to dinner at the Alaska Fish House. They had the best fish and chips that I’ve had.

The next morning Waterfall Resort Alaska picked us up and dropped us off at the floatplane dock to head to the resort. If you go to Alaska, I’d really, really recommend you go to a lodge where you have to get there by floatplane, which adds one more unique twist.

We jumped on the floatplane and headed to WRA. As soon as we landed, they put us in line to get rubber boots, rain gear, sign-in, get our licenses and then it was off to the dock to meet our guide and take off fishing. The whole deal took maybe 20 minutes.

WRA is at the site of an old fishing cannery outfit. The old workers’ cabins have been updated for guest cabins, plus they have two small townhouses. They also have an awesome restaurant and a good chef. They’ll feed you breakfast and supper, and for lunch you have a choice of sandwiches, wraps etc. on the boat.

As you check in, they give you keys to your room and inform you that your luggage will be carried to your room and off you go to meet your guide. Our guide was John Casey. We shook hands and jumped on the boat. He filled us in on how the fishing had been, where we’d go the first afternoon and so forth.

As stated above, this article will be an overview and then the next two weeks I’ll get into the actual fishing. We hit the dock that evening at 5:30 and the deckhands unloaded our fish. There’s a rack on the dock so you can hang your fish for pictures.

As soon as you’re done taking pictures, they’re thrown into a plastic tub and scooted over to the cutting room where they’re filleted, bagged and frozen. The good outfits in Alaska process your fish for you. Then you carry them home in boxes just like luggage. I just smoked a fillet on my Camp Chef pellet grill. I forget every time how much better fish like this is as compared to anything you can buy in a restaurant. Katy won’t even order salmon anymore at restaurants.

I’d taken some Smith Consumer Products fillet knives and had them test them out and critique them for me. The results became obvious. The second night they had laid their regular knives aside and were using the two Smith knives.

Unique — one of the young men that volunteered to be a tester — looked at the knife and said this is a Darcizzle knife (That particular knife was the Darcizzle line of Smith’s). I asked him if he knew her and he said no but that his buddy did. Another unique deal, two of the young men working in the cutting room were from Kuna.

After dinner we spotted a sow and two cubs across the pond 60-80 yards away and took a few pictures. We then hiked down to the waterfall which is where WRA got her name. It is a unique waterfall. It is a steep wall probably 30 yards wide and 12 yards tall. The water pours over the rock wall.

This is why the original cannery was built there; they needed fresh water to process the fish. I’m always amazed at how the pioneers/frontiersmen made do with what they had at hand. In Nebraska, due to the lack of trees, they built sod homes. They plowed up prairie grass much like the rolls of sod that we plant and sod our yards with. And trappers built log cabins due to the availability of logs.

I say the above to build up to something unique that they did when the cannery was built in 1912. They had to pipe fresh water to the cannery, right? But one minor problem. They didn’t have PVC pipes back then. So, imagine this. They laid 1x2’s in a circle and every couple of inches they had a metal ring around the outside. I didn’t measure but the rings were probably 12 inches in diameter. Then they built a pipe by laying the 1x2’s around the inside of the metal ring to form a pipe. Then it looks like they brushed pitch/tar on the outside to hold the boards in place. It didn’t long with water running down the pipe for the wood to swell, thereby sealing any cracks.

So, we’ve covered a lot of the general info in this first article. How nice it is to have a chaperone from the minute wheels touch down until it is wheels up. You’re not left wondering how to catch a ride, line up a floatplane, how do I process/freeze and get my fish home. It is all taken care of if you have a good guide.

Next two articles, get ready to fish!