Photo Essay: An Incredible Alaskan Float Trip

Written by: Chris Morgan,

The salmon fishing on the Kanektok was spectacular.
All photos by Chris Morgan

My good friend, Mike, has traveled to Alaska for more than twenty-five years to float and fish various rivers in the state’s southwestern region. Over time, he’s focused in on the Kanektok river as his favorite and has taken friends on trips there for over a decade. I’d always had a good reason not to make it on these adventures, but since he claimed this year’s trip was to be his last, I decided it was time to go.

Flying into the Alaskan bush offers stunning views of the landscape.

In early July, a group of twenty-five of us from Utah traveled to Anchorage and on to Dillingham. From there, we were ferried on two vintage Grumman Goose amphibious aircraft to Pegati Lake, where began our eleven-day float. The Kanektok flows west from the lake for over one hundred miles through the Togiak National Wildlife refuge, past our pullout at the Yupik village of Quinhagak, and on to the Bering Sea.

A raft trip allows you to explore true wilderness and cast to fish that have never seen a fly.

For the first few days, we floated through the trackless Ahklun Mountains and initially focused our efforts on sockeye salmon. As the days passed, the mountains gave way to flat tundra, and the numbers and variety of fish increased. By mid-trip, we were catching four species of salmon—there were no silvers in the river yet—as well as grayling, Dolly Varden, arctic char, and “leopard” rainbows. The quantity and diversity of the fish in the river were simply awe inspiring. Overall, we had excellent weather with some rain at the beginning and end of the float. Mike and others said it was the best weather they’d ever encountered on the river.

The sockeyes were in thick.

The most unbelievable part of our float happened at the very end of the trip. As we approached our pullout in Quinhagak, I made one final cast and felt a strong tug on my little silver flash-fly. What I initially thought was a snag ended up being a 50-pound King salmon. After a short time we successfully landed her, took some photos, and sent her on her way. It was a wonderful capstone to a trip full of memories of good friends, great scenery, and spectacular fish.

The scale of the Alaskan landscape is often hard to comprehend.

Chris Morgan is a former fighter pilot turned filmmaker living in northern Utah. You can find him online at and on Instagram @chris_twosherpas. 

This gorgeous char fell for an egg pattern.

Weather is always an issue in southwestern Alaska.

The leopard rainbow is named for its stunning spots.

Sometimes, you just have to gain a better vantage point.

Chum salmon are hard fighters and readily strike flies.

This surprise, last-cast king salmon capped off the trip nicely.

Packing up to head home, heads full of fish stories.

5 thoughts on “Photo Essay: An Incredible Alaskan Float Trip”

  1. Pingback: Friday Fly-Fishing Film Festival 08.22.14 | Orvis News
  2. Awesome report! I fished the Kanektok back in 2010; what a truly amazing river! I also loved the diversity of fish species in the river. Great photos! To catch a huge king like that on your very last cast of the trip…wow! I’m speechless. Makes me want to get back to Alaska.

  3. Pingback: Friday Fly-Fishing Film Festival 09.05.14 | Orvis News
  4. WOW! I loved em both, read all the blogs, am currently revisiting your photo collection, and have convinced myself that I need a pair of those tiger stripe Zeal glasses! Thanks Chris, had a great time. Sorry I missed the reunion party, you are the best!

  5. WOW! Is right Chris you are the man! I had such a good time fishing with you on this awesome adventure, Im digging the chum dog picture and me too need to get some zeal glasses. Thanks again for the video great memories you do good work. loren we missed you guys man see you guys around.
    King K

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