Tikchik Narrows Lodge, Day Two: The Pak

Written by: Phil Monahan

This char at a Kreelex swing through the seam at the outlet of the Agulapak.
Photo by Charles Hildick-Smith

Day Two at Tikchik Narrows Lodge began with a short but glorious flight southward to Lake Beverley, where our guide, Brendan Heselton, was waiting for us. We loaded up the jet boat and headed across the lake to its outlet. The plan was to fish both ends of the Agulapak River, which connects Beverley and Lake Nerka, as the water was still high enough, early in the season, to make the river itself too deep and fast.

This loon kept a watchful eye on us most of the morning.
Photo by Charles Hildick-Smith

Where the river dumps into Nerka, it creates a long series of seams, eddies, and boils, and they key was to find where the arctic char were holding to intercept outgoing salmon smolts. A flock of terns and gulls moved around the outwash, diving where smolts came to the surface. Brendan rigged my 10-foot Helios 6-weight with a sinking PolyLeader and a flashy Kreelex streamer, and we began drifting through the current. He explained that I should cast, give the fly 10 to 15 seconds to sink, and then begin a varied retrieve until we figured out what the fish were looking for.

This time of year, the char are mostly silver, but with lovely tints along the sides.
Photo by Charles Hildick-Smith

After a couple drifts without a bite, Brendan anchored us right where the river enters the lake and suggested we try simply swinging the fly through the current. Sure enough, we started getting fish immediately. The first two came unbuttoned, but I finally got the third char to the boat, and the skunk was off. This swinging method produced a few more fish before it was time for lunch.

After a morning on the water, a warm fire and sizzling char filets are welcome sights.
Photo by Charles Hildick-Smith

We headed upriver to a dedicated gathering spot, where Brendan and fellow guides Tricky and Tyler cooked a spectacular shore lunch of char, fried potatoes, carrots, and onions. It was a fun time, hanging out around the fire and swapping stories with the other guides and guests, before we all split up and got back out on the water.

The grayling were feeding heavily on the surface and greedily ate dry flies.
Photo by Charles Hildick-Smith

In the afternoon, we moved to the top of the river, where it leaves Beverley, and immediately we could see char chasing smolts along one bank. The fish made big wakes, and the tiny baitfish sometimes leaped out of the water to escape the predatory char. We anchored and spent the next couple hours swinging up quite a few more char, before the sight of rising grayling became too much for me. I switched to a 5-weight Recon with a floating line and finished the day by taking half a dozen grayling on dry flies. After throwing the sinking tip all day, it was a joy to cast a floating line and a small dry.

A hidden treasure amidst the spectacular scenery.
Photo by Charles Hildick-Smith

On the way back to the lodge, our pilot, Bryan Bailey, pointed out a stunning waterfall in a narrow canyon. In every direction, the scenery was simply mind-blowing, and we landed back at the lodge under a glorious afternoon sun that stayed bright all the way until bedtime.

Tomorrow, we explore the lake system that the lodge sits on.

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