Seven Non-Fishing Things to Love About Bear Trail Lodge

By Pete Robbins – Half Past First Cast

We probably wouldn’t vacation as often in Alaska if the state didn’t have such incredible fishing. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of non-angling sights and activities to explore, enough to keep us coming back several times, but it’s the world class populations of trout, salmon and saltwater species like halibut that make the Last Frontier such a compelling repeat destination.

Bear Trail Lodge, in Bristol Bay, has now hosted me three times, and led me to numerous amazing catches, from king salmon to sockeye to silvers to rainbow trout to Dolly Vardens to grayling. In addition to the constantly-changing Naknek River out their back door, they have over 20 different flyout locations available, so I’ve only tasted a fraction of their angling greatness. I want to head back early in the king salmon season, and then again in the fall for the truly jumbo rainbows – but I know that no matter when I return, or for how long, the product will be consistently excellent. Here are seven things that have next to nothing to do with fishing that mean it should be on your list, too.

It’s a Family Affair – The lodge is run by Nanci Morris Lyon and her husband Heath Lyon, and her 24 year-old daughter Rylie Booth is now a partner, along with her husband Wade. All of them are warm and inviting (along with being superior anglers and guides) and they immediately make you feel like a part of the family. Unlike some places we’ve been where there’s a very “corporate” or detached feeling, once you’re on the grounds everything is hands-on. It creates an inviting atmosphere where all of the guests and staff intermingle seamlessly.

Window on the World – The main lodge features a huge window overlooking the Naknek, mostly clear with some stained glass accents, that provides a window into the outdoors while you enjoy a libation, appetizers and conversation. Not only can you gauge what the conditions are going to be like that day, but on two of my three trips to the lodge I’ve observed bears while sitting there. You get the respite of being indoors and catered to while still enjoying the sights of Bristol Bay.

Dinner Companions – The guides and staff eat with the guests every night. It’s something that I’ve only seen happen regularly at one other lodge (in Zimbabwe) and again it makes the whole operation feel more intimate. I want to know not only about the fishing we’ll enjoy, but also about where they come from, how they ended up in Bristol Bay, and what they plan to do with the rest of their lives. We’ve become lifelong friends with some of the guides not only as the result of time in the boat or on the stream, but through these meals.

Kicking Plastic – Each guest is issued a BTL water bottle upon arrival, and there are two refill stations with filtered water throughout the lodge. Not only does this encourage you to stay hydrated, and to take a full water bottle on all of your flyouts, but it also substantially reduces plastic waste. As with Casa Vieja Lodge, we like when outfitters show respect for the environment that provides their way of life.

 Drink of the Day – In addition to free-flowing wine and beer, each day during Happy Hour there’s a bartender (usually Nanci herself) mixing up a “Drink of the Day,” something special to get the fish stories flowing. On our most recent trip, I recall Moscow Mules and the Fintip (aka, margarita) and may have had a few too many of the others to remember, but I can assure you they were good.

“Open Fridge” Policy – No one should every go hungry at Bear Trail Lodge. There’s a ridiculous breakfast buffet, the lunchtime sandwiches are too big for many of us to get our mouths around, and the pre-dinner appetizers really preclude the need for the subsequent three-course meal (although we consistently indulge anyway). Nevertheless, there is an open door policy on the refrigerator, so if you crave milk and cookies at midnight, or a pre-breakfast cinnamon bun, all you need to do is sneak into the kitchen and grab what you want.

Strong Swag Game – Most fishing lodges recognize that shirts and hats repping their brand fill a customer need, produce additional revenue, and serve as a source of advertising. Nevertheless, not all of them invest in quality or extensive lineups of gear. Bear Trail Lodge is a standout in this respect – with a wide variety of colors, styles and sizes from premium brands like Simms and Patagonia. Take what you want, tell them what you took, and they’ll add it to your bill at the end. Hanna and our friend Lisa spent a portion of every happy hour “shopping” in the hallway and they came home with some killer gear.

I cannot stress enough that everyone needs to go to Alaska at some point in their lifetime, and for many of you Bear Trail Lodge is the turnkey way to get a taste of the state’s best fishing. If you’d like to book a trip, or learn more about the experience, email us and let’s get the ball rolling.