Friday, April 24, 2009

Caynon Lake - Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

Last Saturday, when the weather was still cold and the snow was not making chocolate slushies. Tim took me for a little adventure. First of all, thank you again Tim. Can't say it enough.

The goal of the trip was to venture by snowmachine to Canyon Lake, which is about 45 miles south of Quinhagak through the Ahklun Mountains. There we would try our hand at catching Lake Trout. A species that neither Tim or myself have had the pleasure of catching. We started out at 8:00 am and traveled across the tundra, as the Arolik River was spotty and we didn't want to deal with open water. The trail was a little rough as you can see. We picked our way along, stopping to shot Ptarmigan when they wouldn't get out of the way.

As we made our way through the pass, the scenery just kept getting better and better. The amount of Ptarmigan got larger as well. They were in the bushes, on the sides of the hills and sometimes right on the path, just everywhere. Thousands. We brought 18 home.

Around 11:00 am we crossed the Arolik and headed up the south side. Now, the mountains that I have pictured at the top of this blog are like the first layer of a cake. After that layer, their is a large, flat valley. Beyond that to the south is another set of mountains- that are a little more rugged and amazing. Together with the flat valley, they look like a dream with low clouds and these island like mountains. The snow got better as we crossed the river and that made snowmachining easier. We still stopped a few times though to gaze and rest our eyes. Snow blindness was a slight concern.

After a little while we came to a decision. Tim knew the lake was up one of two valleys. We couldn't see the lake from our vantage, so we chose the valley on the right and worked our way into a very nice area, void of any discernible lake. All was not lost as we got more good photos. We then back tracked and took the other valley to the east.

We had found the lake (Above to the right) and then set about trying to find a decent place to fish. We picked a spot, thought it was probably about 20 feet deep and started drilling a couple of holes. As you can see from the picture, the ice was really thick. We seriously almost didn't have enough drill. I dropped a line and didn't reach the bottom. I had 75 feet of line on that pole. We fished out of those holes for a while with no fish. Tim went to look for any old holes that might give us a better idea of where to fish. He found some that were really close to the shore and about that time some other folks from Quinhagak arrived and said we were in a good spot. We struggled to get a few holes drilled in this new spot. We kind of decided right there to not do anymore drilling. We spent the next 5-6 hours jigging in those holes. They proved productive as Tim came through with his first Lake Trout, in his 19th year in Quinhagak (Congrats, buddy!!). Not long after, I got my first one as well. They weren't giants, but genuine Lake Trout in one of the most remote places on earth. Extreme ice fishing was the term we coined. We caught another couple of really nice Dolly Varden later in the day before heading home.

The ride back was just unreal. The dream-like mountains were...I can't describe them and pictures seriously don't do the scene any justice. The scale of the area is what a camera can't reproduce, not by me anyway. A need to see it to believe it situation.

We got home about 11:00 pm that night and right in time for another Bering Sea sunset. All in all, this trip was one of the highlights of this Alaska experience.

Click on the all pictures for larger formats.


  1. Anonymous10:52 AM

    Wow that is awesome!


  2. Anonymous3:21 AM

    seriously... i almost started crying when i read that. I am so homesick now. not that i wasnt before, but the surreal experience you just described, the majestic all-white-in-different-hues mountains...driving home in the bundle of down to the sound of a snowmachine hummmmmm...brought me back to a beautiful memory. thank you.
    This is misty by the way, Michael Matthew's mommy in kuwait