Rapids Camp Lodge

Rapids Camp Lodge

  • By: Greg Thomas

King salmon aren’t the only game in Bristol Bay during Alaska’s long summer days. In fact, that region offers some of the most diverse fishing on the planet with one caveat: you need a plane to access most of those opportunities, including chances to take huge rainbow trout, char and grayling. That’s where Rapids Camp Lodge and its squadron of classic Alaska aircraft enters the equation.

Rapids Camp rests on the bank of the Naknek River, just a 15-minute drive from the King Salmon airport. It’s not the only game in town—there are quality fishing lodges sprinkled around southwest Alaska—but what separates Rapids from the other camps is it allows guests to create their angling agendas, versus being held to strict outlines. Rapids can do that because it owns four planes—two de Havilland Beavers on floats, one wheeled de Havilland Beaver and a souped-up Otter sporting a 1,000 horsepower Garret Turbine engine, one of only 26 planes in the world retrofitted with that propulsion. In addition, Rapids can drive fuel to their planes, which cuts costs that the camp can, in turn, transfer into the angler’s favor.

Want to fish more than one stream per day? No worries, the plane stays with you and you say when to change venues. Say you want to rub elbows with anglers at Funnel Creek, but then crave some solitude. Jump in the plane and head for American Creek or any number of obscure rainbow fisheries. Visiting during fall and decide that you can’t go home without a picture of you and a big, pumpkin-colored Arctic char? No worries; jump in a plane and fly down the Alaska Peninsula and hit Becharof Lake or Ugashik Narrows. Visiting in June or July and decide you want to feel the pull of a Nushagak king salmon? Just say the word—Rapids will fly you to the lower Nush where they have boats waiting for your arrival.

Let’s say you’ve worn your arms out on kings, rainbows and grayling. What to do? Fly to Geographic Harbor, where boats are waiting, throw on a full-sinking line and ply the depths for halibut and lingcod. Don’t want to fly? Just fish from the lodge, on the Naknek, which sports salmon runs numbering in the millions, plus some of the state’s largest rainbow trout.

“That diversity and the opportunity for anglers to customize their trips is what separates us from the other lodges,” said Will Blair, travel director for Rapids Camp. “We keep boats on the Nushagak, the Kvichak, the Naknek, the Smokey River on the Alaska Peninsula and at Geographic Harbor. And we’re also big on hike-in streams, in July, when everyone else thinks the good rainbow fishing is over and they are all boogying for salmon.”

Rapids Camp typically opens the second week of June and closes for the season in late September or early October. Some openings remain for the 2010 season. Visit www.rapidscamplodge.com for more details. According to Blair, spending time at Rapids, no matter when you get there, is a lifetime experience. “I can only sell and market something I believe in,” Blair explained. “And I am convinced we have the best overall fishing program in Alaska. Having four planes is unheard of and all the equipment is the best. When I take my dad fishing, this is where I go.”—The Editors