Justin Essian, Papa Bear’s Owner, Director of Operations, and Chief Pilot, brings us to Alaska and helps us lay out a plan for a full DIY wilderness float trip. Fishing Alaska.. we can’t get enough of it!

We talk about the features of rivers like Goodnews, Arolik, and Kisaralik – find out which species you can target there, the best times to fish them, and which species are prohibited to kill and cook. Justin describes what a trip would look like for a group of 3 to 6 – how you can save money for raft rental, and how much it cost per person to get all set for the trip.

Find out how the transportation system works there – the type of airplanes you ride to get to your destination and how reliable are the pilots at Papa Bear. We also dig into some Elk hunting and some other things they have going.


Click below and listen to the Podcast about Fishing Alaska with Justin Essian:

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(Read the Full Transcript at the bottom of this Blog Post)


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fishing alaska

Fishing Alaska Show Notes with Justin Essian

04:20 – Justin graduated with an aviation degree in 2009. He got a job at Papa Bear Adventures to have a little fun while waiting to “start a real life”. But then he got hooked on the lifestyle of fishing, hunting, and the outdoors in Alaska

05:20 – Ray Troll said the same thing about Ketchikan Alaska – he was on the podcast at WFS 299

05:50 – Tim Rawlins from the Line Speed Jedi was on the podcast a while back at WFS 027 where he talked about being a pilot in Alaska

07:10 – In Alaska, you use a plane to go from point A to point B – it’s like your pick-up truck

fishing alaska

11:50 – Justin walks us through what the trip would look like for a group of 4


13:50 – The third week of July is the best time in the year if you want to target all types of species. August is always fully-book because people want to target those silver salmons

fishing alaska

14:15 – Mousing is good for the early season because those fish are extremely hungry since they haven’t had enough salmon eggs yet

20:00 – The Goodnews River is 65 miles long

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20:20 – The Arolik river is famous for its fantastic early season rainbows – it’s 45 river miles

21:00 – They send their first trip on the 2nd or 3rd week of June

21:20 – Kisaralik is a 100 river miles

fishing alaska
Photo courtesy of Kristine Sowl

22:25 – You will be flying straight to Bethel Airport via Alaska Airlines

23:20 – Gold Rush Liquor Company – they call it a “bush order”, you’ll call it “gold rush” and you’ll tell them what you want, send them a picture of your license, you pay for it, they ship it out on one of the local carriers, then the Papa crew will pick it up for you

26:05 – You ride 2 Havilland beaver planes to get to the camp. They’re 1958 and 1958 model planes but they’re well-maintained and got brand new engines on them

fishing alaska

27:20 – They use the Otter series rafts

fishing alaska

29:20 – Papabear staff will take care of the grocery for you

30:12 – Tip 1: Don’t camp on a shallow island if it’s raining

31:30 – They require a satellite communication device so you can get help for emergency situations. You can rent those devices from them

32:30 – Pilots at Papabear are disciplined enough not to make bad decisions that might end up crashing your plane. When they see thick fog, they don’t fly through it, they turn around and come back to base

36:30 – You can’t kill and eat the king salmons at Kisaralik River but you can at Arolik and Goodnews. The are game wardens are on the rivers, watching. You also can’t kill the rainbows.

39:00 – Tip 2: Going in a group of 3 or 6 will save you some money for the raft rental. Raft rent costs $800 that 3 people can fit. If you add a 4th person to the raft, it becomes $2200.

44:25 – Justin tells us the difference between the Arolik and the Goodnews River

47:30 – Seth Hunter, the Operations Manager at Papa Bear, got on the call to describe what the fishing is like in the rivers mentioned – how they’re different in terms of fishing style, fish behavior, gear, etc.

fishing alaska

1:00:30 – Justin describes what a 10-day trip would look like, plus the cost per person according to what you have prepared for. But the average cost per person is about $2500, which already includes your rental equipment

1:05:45 – Justin talks about Science on the Fly – a non-profit organization, doing good things for conservation


You can find Papa Bear Adventures on Instagram @pbadventures_ak

Website at PBAdventures.com

fishing alaska


Videos Noted in the Show


Related Podcast Episodes

WFS 324 – Fly Fishing Alaska with Adam Cuthriell – Fishhound Expeditions

WFS 271 – Giant Rainbow Trout Fishing Tips with Capt. John McCloskey

WFS 078 – DIY Alaska with Brian O’Keefe – Catch Magazine, Fly Fishing Photo Tips, New Zealand, Mousing for Rainbows


Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below


Fishing Alaska Conclusion with Justin Essian

So there you go. I hope you learned a thing or two about preparing for your next Alaska trip.

Papa Bear does a great job at organizing these trips, making sure the logistics are taken care of, so you can focus on fishing and having fun.

I’ve been planning for an Alaska trip with my buddies this year as well and I’m even more stoked to get there after doing this episode. If you’re thinking of going to Alaska too, let me know and maybe we can go together!

Send me an email at dave@wetflyswingpodcast.com or message me on Instagram at @wetflyswing