There is a place in this world where the air seems a little purer, the landscape a little brighter, the world more primitive. Where glaciers glisten and bald eagles abound, where salmon spawn and brown bears hunker down. That place is Alaska, the last great frontier. With so many miles of unexplored land, it’s one of the greatest and wildest places a human being can experience.
There are many ways to see the last great frontier—a bus tour from Anchorage, a cruise around the Pacific—and those are fun, sure. But the really wild terrain, the really remote parts of this incredible state, the sort of isolation that Chris McCandless and thousands after him have yearned for, that’s what we wanted to see. That’s where the true Alaska begins.
Head to Angry Eagle Lodge in Pedro Bay
It’s a trek to get out there (plan for about two days of travel each way), but my goodness is it worth it. From Newark, we flew to Seattle, grabbed a plane to Anchorage, and then finally hopped into a little six person seater plane for an hour long ride (literally through the mountains) and finally, the heavens opened up to welcome us to Pedro Bay.
Crisp outlines of the volcanic Aleutian Mountain Range, turquoise blue glacial water below, and a pureness to the air like we’ve never felt. Soothing, peaceful, absolutely serenity. And underneath all that—straight adrenaline for the adventures to come.
Angry Eagle Lodge is a full service fishing lodge, operated in the heart of Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region on Lake Iliamna. The name is derived from the abundance of bald eagles nearby—and the fact that you’ll catch so many salmon, the eagles will get pissed off. Just a homespun tale to add to the excitement of the trip. The lodge is so remote they don’t even have an address, and are 180 miles from the nearest major road. That’s the kind of isolation we’re talking about. They are absolute experts—not just in super knowledgeable fishing trips, but adventures of all kind. You come to Pedro Bay perhaps with the intention to catch some Salmon, bring back a box of filets, maybe grab a Rainbow Trout or Grayling too. What you leave with is so much more.
Meet Your Private Lodge Staff
From the minute you arrive, the Angry Eagle staff welcomes you and instantly makes you feel like you’re home. You know those hotels that do a really great job of making you feel like you’re their one and only guest, a la St. Regis style? This is like that, but a touch more rustic and on an incredibly private level.
With genuine smiles and hands stretched out, you meet the team of about dozen staff who run the lodge and work seamlessly behind the scenes to make sure your every need is met, whether that’s a beer in your kayak, a mason salad jar shoreside, a fresh baked orange ricotta cookie on your pillow every evening, laundry done daily…or just taking you fishing, teaching you all about this crazy sport, cleaning your salmon, or taking you for a wild glacier tour in a float plane.
Your personal chef for the week is Miss Jeanie, who worked as a caterer in a former life before becoming ‘Lodge Boss Mom’. You won’t know how much you needed her until you wake to the scent of her breakfast every morning and eat her pan roasted Halibut in the evening, but you sure will miss her once you’re home. Your in-house baker for the week is a dangerous woman by the name of Dana—a cookie temptress whose baking skills are so superior she will break every single dieter within a 200 mile radius. Once you’ve been stuffed sufficient with ribs and crème brûlée galore, it’s time to get out there and fish.
It’s fishing. In Alaska. Surrounded by rivers, glacial lakes, and the bay. You’re bound to get wet, so gear up with wool base layers and waterproof exteriors. We had the ladies outfitted in water resistant Fjällräven jackets, and Norwegian brand Norrøna jackets and pants coated with gore-tex waterproof top layers for the men.
The fishing chic look is completed with bad ass polarized sunglasses from Krewe so you can look super stylish and also see the huge schools of sockeye at your feet.
For the sunny days in the river where you don’t need so many layers, Mizzen & Main performance menswear shirts are perfect—classic styling in a moisture-wicking, wrinkle-free fabric. DUER provides the same concept, in jean form so you look super stylish while retaining the ability to hike and fish. A solution for the gentlemen of the outdoor world.
What else should you have on the river, besides a keen style acumen? Probably a damn good knife, to protect from the grizzlies and moose and eagles and such…and to clean that fish for a fireside lunch. Medford makes some of the best knives around, with bespoke handmade blades and innovative designs that are unparalleled in the marketplace. The owner, Greg, takes great pride in each and every knife he creates and insists you ship the knives to him for perfect sharpening, every time.
Get Up Close And Personal With the Grizzlies at Katmai National Park
Uber at Pedro Bay is a little different than in the big city. Calling a ride here means just grabbing a lift via plane, gator, kayak, speedboat, you name it. You have access to so much more than you dreamt possible, like jumping in a Dehaviland Beaver float planes with Air National Guard expert pilot and guide Derek Boschma—he will have you in the clouds and conquering any fear of flight within minutes.
The nice thing about transportation to your daily adventures here is that every route is the scenic route. Derek took us on a stunning plane ride out to Katmai National Park, a staggering four million acre park with more grizzlies per square feet than anywhere in the world.
The reason for the bears? Salmon, of course. Sockeye salmon swarm here to return to freshwater and fulfill their destiny of spawning and dying—some become a bear’s lunch before they can make the athletic leap upstream. It’s an incredible reminder of the natural order of the world and the true mysteries of nature.
Katmai National Park is home to approximately 2,200 bears…and they haven’t had a mauling in decades, due to visitors respecting the wildlife and following the safety rules. It’s totally wild to realize that you can see, up close and personal, the daily antics of these coastal brown bears catching salmon, sleeping the day away, and just frolicking through the Alaskan wilderness. You can frolick with them too! Just don’t frolick alone…
With a fishing pole in hand (and one of your trusty Angry Eagle Guides) you can actually walk the river and not be confined to the ‘safe’ and ‘touristy’ boardwalks of the park. Fish as you go, but good luck focusing on your line and not at the absolutely adorable and a little too close for comfort grizzly bear to your left. We watched a Momma Bear protect her cubs, a teenager gorge himself on five fresh salmon within minutes, and a few rascals just horsing around in the water. A visit here reminds you that bears are inherently dangerous creatures, but if you respect them and their home you can witness pure magic.
Learn to Fish with the Pro’s
Daily adventures start with guides like Ken Baldwin, an enigmatic and engaging teacher who also happens to be a fantastic photographer and will help you catch those images of you very gently (never running) tip toeing away from those majestic and slightly terrifying grizzlies. He’s an advanced guide who has worked at the lodge every summer for fifteen years and even hosted his own Anthony Bourdain style ‘Season on the Edge’ travel and fishing show. No matter who you head out with, every team member is an expert at what they do and are effortless at making you feel like you can conquer the world—even if the day starts without a catch (which doesn’t happen often).
Guides will supply you with all the necessary means—fishing poles, lines, flies, sack lunches, wine and beer, a little bit of good luck and helping hands for the newbies.
By the end of the first day you’ll probably have reached your sockeye fishing license limit—five per day—and by the end of the week you’ll be at the airport checking a box chock full of the brightest, most beautifully colored filets you’ve ever seen. You can actually see those Omega 3’s glisten in every vein. Each day when you bring your daily catch back the crew pumps up the country music, gets the filet knives and buckets out, and cleans and preps your fresh caught salmon.
Arrive back in NYC a week later to throw the most enviable dinner party possible. Your private chef for the week, Miss Jeanie, will also take the salmon eggs and prepare some fresh caviar on the spot for you—from a fish you caught hours earlier. So very rewarding. Place a beer in hand and enjoy.
Leave With a Heavy Heart, Some New Friends, and a Plan to Return
When anyone here says “It’s not just fishing, it’s an adventure!” they really mean it, with all of their heart. No gimmicks or falseness here. The team lives together all summer long as a family, and they treat you like family too. It’s authentic. A farewell low-country boil is protocol for your last evening at the lodge, where you’ll have gigantic fresh crab legs in one hand and an ice pack in the other, nursing a sore shoulder from all that salmon slaying. Not a bad injury to endure.
The morning of your departure is a wistful one, but one look back at the mountains rising from the fog, a peek into the schools of salmon swimming in the water below, and you know you’ll be back. It’s a place that draws you in, that welcomes and comforts you, challenges and accepts you, and changes you a bit. You’re still you, but your relationship with nature, with the grizzlies, with the salmon, with the world…it’s changed. You understand it and respect it just a little bit more, now that you’ve had your own taste of the wild.