Opening the lodge each season is a little stressful, somewhat fatiguing and always exciting.
There is stress as one never knows what surprises will await on the various fronts we face; like how the weather will be, is the ice going to come off the lakes on time, will the barge show up with all our supplies and more importantly to all of us – will the fish show up.
The fatiguing part has as much to do with the insane amount of day light we have this time of year and the wicked way it plays on your brain as it does with how much physical work needs to be done to get things ready. ‘How can I be dog-tired with the sun hanging high above the mountain tops?’ Answer: it’s eleven thirty at night and you have been up and going since five am.
With the recent sale of the lodge, many have asked what will things be like at Mission. Well, pretty much business as usual since we have most of the same staff back and a mandate from the new ownership to ‘keep the magic going’. Our founder, Dale DePriest, will be around for a while to give life to the scene, but as most of you know that are close to us, his day to day involvement as been hands off for sometime now. The only noticeable change we have noticed is a new curiosity in town and more friendly waves than usual – like most small towns you have to drive with your hand on top of the steering wheel to be ready to wave.
Our first group of guests included a group of veterans that were part of the Project Healing Waters. It was a great honor to share this part of Alaska with them. They have given so much to our county towards preserving our freedom and liberty. We were truly humbled by the chance to guided them this week. To mark this event, some members of board, who are also longtime residents of this area, came out to dinner one night to help officially launch the new season, celebrate their new venture and honor these war heroes. It was a truly memorable evening and the importance of it was not lost on our guests.
In addition to hosting the Project Healing Waters group, we also brought out four of the top graduates from the Bristol Bay River Academy for some hands on training. These young anglers from the local villages of Koligenak and Naknek got to work alongside our staff to get a feel of what it is like guide here at Mission Lodge. In addition to guiding, we also exposed them to the other side of the job, like spending a night or two at our King camp on the Nushagak River, setting motors on our remote boats and more.
As the photos here show, the fishing was everything we expect of Bristol Bay. While the King Salmon fishing on the Nushagak River started off a bit slow, it built up each day into a full on catching frenzy by mid-week. The kind of numbers of salmon landed per rod can not be published in fear of being called liars. Let’s just say you could measure it in terms of ‘dozens’ of fish per person per day.
Unlike the last five years of glacial-like flows of ice in front of the dock in early June, the ice did come off the lakes on time this season. A few upper lakes were still frosted over, but the main system was clear and full of salmon smolt migrating through the gauntlet of Arctic Char, Grayling and Rainbow trout. Fishing the creek and river mouths proved to be excellent for anglers this first week with strong catches.