Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fishing in Alaska

Fishing trip booked

We made our first booking in this “get back out” phase of life while at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, but it was for fishing. Unfortunately, I paid the full price in advance and am learning the value of a neighbor’s advice – “don’t finish the payment until you’re sure you’re getting what they told you they’d provide.”

The plan is for five days of salmon fishing with McDougall Lodge in Alaska.

The good: pictures are beautiful, salmon are supposedly prevalent and the lodge pictures show a beautiful “home away from home.” The packing list they provide is detailed and they promise great food.

It sounds like we’ll dress in chest waders (rain? And convenience debarking the boats I imagine, especially for uncoordinated – or clumsy – folks like me). We jump into boats and go out fishing for most of the day. Since three meals a day were mentioned we probably return to the lodge for lunch.

Fishing gear is provided, so there’s an opportunity for the facility to excel – or to fail. It’s a boon to us because we don’t have to try to pack fishing poles, reels and lures.

The bad: the owner spent a fair amount of time repeating how important tips were to the guides; the handouts and advertising reiterate this point as well. The lodge charges a premium for paying by credit card – pay 3% or carry a lot of cash with you. Niggling, guilting and nickel-dime approaches before we even get on the plane is disquieting.

The owner promised several times to get prices for a charter flight from the lodge to a glacier, but -- notice that we owe no more money -- hasn’t gotten around to providing it. Busy, no doubt. But, again, it’s disquieting. Rust Aviation is the firm and they have been more than accommodating. They’re a convenient source for fish-shipping boxes, fishing licenses and such – and they accept payment by credit card.

The troubling: Trip ratings note that “there was a lot of hot-rodding by so-called fishing guides, and not much fish catching.” According to the owner the posts came from a disgruntled (former) employee and have been superseded by praise from recent guests. I can’t seem to find much praise, although there is a nice (anonymous) note from a guest from Salt Lake City. That’s where the lodge owner lives, by the way.

Mosquitos are ubiquitous to Alaska, so we’re collecting repellents of various types and have face nets and gloves. The owner denies black fly problems – I remember that their stings are painful – but my only experience with the bugs was several hundred miles north and east of the lodge. We’ll see.

The lodge offers no alcohol or tobacco; that may be a business or a religious decision. However, combined with the “fines” for using a credit card and repeated “pre-guilting” about tips  . . . well, it may be that the client’s interests are not the top priority. We don’t drink or smoke anyway, so the lack is moot, but it might be suggestive.

Lake Creek Lodge and Riversong are other outfitters in the immediate area that offer similar packages. Both have a bar/liquor store.

We’ll see how it all works out.

We’ll fly to Alaska early and explore the Anchorage area for a couple of days, then catch a float plane ride to the lodge. Internet research suggests that the floatplane operation is well-established and respected.

Our Anchorage hotel has a freezer to hold our fish between when we return to Anchorage and when we depart for home. We wonder how much fish that will actually be.

We’ll tell you more about our experiences with and at McDougall lodge later.

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