Flyfishing float trips on
Alaska's Bristol Bay waters
with
Brightwater Alaska
Since 1975
briteh2o@alaska.net

KOKTULI RIVER

The Koktuli flows west from the low mountains on the west side of Lake Iliamna and feeds the upper Mulchatna River. It is one of the final destinations for salmon in a network of rivers and streams that delivers thousands of these fish annually to their upriver spawning grounds. The Koktuli is small and intimate and lacks the daily float plane and power boat traffic that has infested most of the larger Bristol Bay rivers and is one of the last truly wild Alaskan rivers….wild in the truest sense of the word. It requires a half mile portage from a tundra pond just to reach the put-in point on the river and has no houses, lodges or other human habitation for its entire 35 mile length. As a result, the Koktuli has retained its wonderful wilderness values as well as its excellent fish productivity.

The river itself is dynamic, often altering its course from year to year. The upper river flows through rolling tundra, braiding and meandering its unrestricted way to merge with its north fork, where the riparian vegetation changes to a spruce-birch forest. This forested section, which comprises the lower two thirds of the river’s length, is also meandering and braided. Clear water dances over a gravel bottom in a classic pool-and-riffle pattern. It is quintessential salmon spawning habitat.

fishing the KoktuliI use the Koktuli River as my primary destination in the upper Mulchatna country and consider it the best of what this region has to offer. The timing of this trip is schedule to coincide with the arrival of the of the chum, king and sockeye salmon and the onset of their annual spawning activity. This activity injects abundant salmon roe into the ecosystem and results in the single greatest “hatch” of the season. It draws trout, dolly varden and grayling from the larger waters into these tributaries and produces phenomenal fishing.

By the time our trip begins, the salmon will have arrived throughout the drainage, with more coming in daily, and the resident fish will be right there with them aggressively feeding on the first of the eggs from the early spawners.

Sign of another fishermanThe Koktuli is a rare and undiscovered gem, one of the few remaining rivers that are still as vibrant and undisturbed as all of Alaska’s rivers used to be. For the first 25 years that I guided on it I would not publish the Koktuli’s name, simply listing the trip destination as the “Upper Mulchatna” in hopes of keeping it under the radar, but things have changed for this wonderful river. Recently it has gained notoriety due to the impending Pebble Mine slated for its headwaters. There is no significant impact yet because the mine is still in the exploratory and permitting stages, but without intervention the change will come. In an effort to gain support for the river against the destructive development that is being planned, I am purposely putting the Koktuli’s name front and center. Additionally, 10% of the trip price of each spot sold will be donated directly to Trout Unlimited’s program to aid in the anti-Pebble efforts, www.SaveBristolBay.org.

Access to the river is from Iliamna, which is serviced daily by commuter flights from Anchorage.

For more photos click KOKTULI.

 

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