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American Creek, Bristol Bay Alaska

Between the years of 2000-and 20011, I was not a very hard guy to find in the months of June and July. I spent these months guiding in Katmai park on the lower American Creek in Bristol Bay Alaska.  This is truly one of the unspoiled gems of Alaska.  With only 5 permits to fish this water, it is a small, exclusive club that gets to enjoy one of the most pristine “non-egg” related fisheries.  In June and July, the large, beautiful leopard trout of the American feast on wonderful, prolific hatches of insects.  When bugs aren’t hatching, they are looking for sockeye fry, lamprey and sculpins to gorge on.   This fishery is truly amazing, and each day the river offers so many unique challenging opportunities to sight cast, and catch huge trout that I never got bored once with over 500 days guiding.

For the summer of 2021 we are promoting “Dry Fly” season on the American, staying at the only lodge that is just a boat ride away – Grosvenor Lodge.  Here you don’t have to fly out, and if it’s foggy you get the entire river to yourself.  This lodge is extremely well priced, and has one the best fisheries in Alaska within minutes of the lodge.   The wildlife is unsurpassed, and the consistency of the dry fly fishing is not found anywhere else in the are of Alaska.  If you get nice sunny weather the bugs will hatch and the trout will rise.  If the weather is overcast you typically need to use streamers, nymphs, or leeches.  No matter the conditions incredible fishing can be had every single day. This is because so many large leopard rainbows call the American creek home all summer, whereas  most fisheries only pull the big trout out of the lake when the egg drop begins.

Jet boating up the American is like an Alaskan safari every single day.  It is truly Alaska’s best kept secret.

Here is a great article written by James O. Friaoli about a few days fishing the American Creek with me.

Alaska remains one of the world’s great angling destinations, and American Creek, nestled on the rim of Katmai National Park, is a thriving and sustainable rainbow fishery.

Hunkering down beside a fallen Sitka spruce, my felt-sole shoes dig into the gravel bottom of Alaska’s American Creek — one of the last great havens for resident trophy rainbows. Beside me hunkers Derek Botchford, my guide for the week.

Through his polarized sunglasses, the British Columbia native studies two lavishly spotted native rainbow trout — each about twenty-five inches — foraging in a cauldron-like pool across from us. At my feet lies enough fly line for a cast; the small of my back tightens in anticipation. The warm sun and the whooshing of the unassuming creek are hypnotic, and my mind wanders across the snow-capped peaks of Katmai National Park’s Walatka Mountains stretched out in the distance. 

“Put a cast upstream from them!” directs Botchford, snapping me out of my trance. I had been reading up and practicing my casts back home but am now faced with the ultimate test. Botchford, who has fished these sapphire waters the last ten seasons, continues to observe the leopard-like trout, which are zeroing in on anything that drifts by. I raise my right arm slowly, gently cradling the fly line in my left. Struggling for balance, I begin false-casting my White River 5-weight, hoping I don’t spook the fish in the process. “Okay, drop it,” Botchford whispers. “Now wait…wait….” The larger of the two rainbows spots my purple starlight leech drifting by after a proper mend. “Get ready…” Botchford’s voice is tense. My bloodsucker tumbles along the bottom and disappears. “Hit it!”

When I respond, my perfectly paired White River CV2 reel sings as the mammoth trout thrashes to the surface, the leech firmly locked in its jaw. The magnificent fish makes several acrobatic leaps before muscling downstream and taking me into my backing. “My first Alaskan rainbow!” I holler emphatically, now pursuing the fish on foot.

Without question, “America’s Last Frontier” remains one of the world’s great angling destinations, and American Creek, nestled on the rim of Katmai National Park, beginning from Hammersly Lake in Southwest Alaska, is a thriving and sustainable rainbow fishery. Far from the maddening crowds, the glacial water of this isolated and unspoiled creek — accessible only by floatplane — is a hidden jewel definitely worth discovering.

At roughly 32 miles long, the meandering creek provides a pristine, nutrient-rich environment as well as an exhilarating photographic encounter with a virtual barnyard of bald eagle, brown bear, caribou and moose. The “American,” as it’s simply called, is divided into three sections: the Upper, Middle and Lower, and all are exceedingly narrow, averaging several feet deep and only a dozen or so yards wide — but don’t let the diminutive size fool you. Surrounded by a dense boreal forest that offers fishermen complete tranquility and privacy — important elements that bring guests back time and again — the American is a trout fisherman’s dream, featuring some of the most productive fly-fishing imaginable.

As most anglers know, a useful measure of any trout experience is how often one can locate and catch fish. At the American, this happens a lot.

Throughout our visit, we were invited by Botchford to fly fish the Upper and Lower American, along with neighboring creeks, rivers and streams — and we caught and released dozens of trophy rainbow in every locale.

Often using the sun and bright sky to our advantage, Botchford would lead us along miles of undulating — and at times impenetrable — marshy bank to sight, stalk and cast to magnificent trout holding in gin-clear water. Sight-fishing is extremely productive in Alaskan rivers and creeping up on a trophy rainbow sure gets your adrenalin flowing.

For hours, we would scan the water for brownish-gray shadows, strategically position ourselves as close to the edge as possible, make a full cast in front of the fish, and land dozens of hefty rainbows after well-fought battles. The trout ranged from twenty to twenty-seven inches, although fish over thirty inches are reported every season. With so many impressive fish in the American and neighboring rivers, it’s easy to get spoiled, and after the third day, we found ourselves aggravated — not by the relentless mosquitoes — but landing rainbows less than eighteen inches — a memorable catch in any other river, particularly in the lower forty-eight.

On several occasions, we stumbled upon some remarkably stubborn trout and had to rely on just the right pattern and presentation to imitate the proper food and tempt the fish into striking. It’s moments like these when experienced guides make the difference between convincing a fish and frightening them away.

In the American, a size 6 purple starlight leech and durable 10-pound fluorocarbon lured many fussy rainbows out from under submerged timber and leafy overhangs. A size 14 bead-head Prince nymph is another pattern we found extremely effective.  For those thrilling moments when we detected the tantalizing swirls of rainbows rising to slurp a late lunch, changing over to a size 10 Stimulator guaranteed a take nearly every time.”


    • Thanks for your concern Karen, the internet always needs more people pointing fingers at people doing illegal things. However in this case this video was filmed long before the felt ban in Alaska. If I could go back in time and put rubber boots on instead, I would certainly do so. So thank you for reading and being concerned about a commercial operator breaking rules and openly posting them on a blog.

  1. Hey Derek,

    I am hanging at Grosvenor for the summer right now. Guiding.

    My first summer in the Katmai.

    Thanks for the great intel on this web site…feel free to call or text me @ 315.283.8871

    I would enjoy talking with you.



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