Ocean River at the Alaskan Peninsula. A crystal clear river flowing close to Wildman Lodge.

Alaska – Black & White

“We are because they are.” 
I found headline in an article about Africa on a flight to Anchorage. It’s a phrase that easily describes Alaska. Alaska is “Salmon”- and salmon are the basis for all life in this beautiful and wild place in the north.   Here, most all of nature lives with and because of salmon.   Salmon are, I believe, the source of life in Alaska.  Salmon are the foundation of a balanced ecosystem.  They represent health, vitality and sustenance for all life in the “Last Frontier.” You feel a reverence for them as soon as you set your feet upon Alaska’s territory, and I consider it a privilege to fish for the mighty salmon here.

Alaska’s raw character and exhaustless, wild nature captivates me as an angler and photographer.  Despite my  stance as a Bavarian tourist, with slim access to insider information or the native Alaskan perspective, it’s clear to me that this  beautiful and rough country is also a piece of heaven on earth. It’s special.  And not only for fishermen, and not only because of the salmon.  In Alaska, there is so much to explore, watch, and appreciate- particularly the wildlife.  Angler or not, you will appreciate Alaska and it’s bounty.  It’s truly a place to experience at least once in a lifetime.

Waiting for the plane. A beaver arriving at the pier of Alagnak Lodge for a fly out to …well who knows…

Water, wildlife and salmon.  Wherever there is water, there is wildlife. And where there are salmon, there are the famous brown bears. They are ever present. For example, one evening at the Ayakulik River in Kodiak I went down with two cans of beer to fish the first bend close to the ocean. When I arrived, big mama bear with her two cubs was already there.  So I just sat down and watched them for two hours from a safe distance. Beer, bears, tranquility…all by myself…what an experience!

Fishing for king salmon is my favorite. With a slow swing right in the travel lane, along the channels when they move upstream.  I swing and hope to get a damn good pull on the line. It’s not an easy game sometimes, especially on bigger rivers. But once you have a king on on, the patience and effort becomes all worthwhile. While swinging flies, you have time to look around and appreciate more than just the fish.  Often, I will actually stop fishing just to watch the bears.  I saw this bear in the twilight, against the light, while pausing during a short round for chums at the Alagnak. 

The “walking bear in twilight” along a sand bar at low tide on the Alagnak River.

When I realized this bear was on the sand bar in low tide, I took my chance.  I threw away my rod, which landed right in the mud. I grabbed the camera and took advantage of the “walking bear” in perfect light.  It formed a perfect silhouette. This is one of my favorite photos from my bear portfolio. I’ve been to the Alagnak three times, once to the Alaska Peninsula and once to Kodiak Island….by far not enough yet in my lifetime! When we make it through Covid-19, you may see me again…a Bavarian guy…somewhere in the biggest US state. 

I’ll be swinging flies for pacific salmon. These black and white pictures are a summary of what I’ve seen in Alaska. They are my interpretation and view. The photos represent another aspect of Alaska, one more observational and less intrusive.  Yet, I think photography and fishing go together.  For me they are the quiet dual sports, creating together lots of unforgettable moments. – Thomas Woelfle

Landing of chums can be tricky. Usually it is better to do it like a poacher and wind line around your hand to land it. This way you don’t break your rod.
Definitely a man’s place…Jerney of Ayakulik Lodge tying some flies for the next day.
Almost done…the power of a king is amazing.
Tom Simkowski (left), founder the intimate Ayakulik Lodge, and my buddy Michael with a nice king from the Ayakulik River. From time to time, king fishing is closed there due to poor runs.
Early morning at the Ayakulik River, Kodiak Island.
My buddy Michael doing the slow swing for kings at the Alagnak River.
Close up of a walrus. There is a nice colony along the beach near Wildman Lodge on the Alaskan Peninsula.
Big Mama is watching you. While fishing the lower part of the Ayakulik River, mama bear was always around with her cubs.
Face to face with a bear at the Alagnak River. This one I had all by myself…OK, I was with the guide…but it was great to watch him so close from the safety of our boat.
Planes are elementry in AK, especially when you want to reach hidden places. I am amazed what pilots -in this case the ones from Wildman Lodge-can do and where they are able to land. Here a group of anglers enjoy lunch at a so called “unknown” river.
Always a great moment. My buddy Michael on the Alaska Peninsula trying to land a king.
The dorsal fin of a bright king close to shore and prior to landing.
The mighty tail of a big king from the Alaska Peninsula.
Another bright king from the Ayakulik River.
Ocean River on the Alaska Peninsula. A crystal clear river flowing close to Wildman Lodge.
Coming home from a long day out…first beer is waiting, Ayakulik River.

Contributed By

Thomas Woelfle 

I was born in Wolfratshausen, a small town in Bavaria near the Alps and close to Munich. I grew up with fishing and fly fishing, since there are quite a few good trout streams around Munich where I live downtown with my family. As managing director of a very modern dental lab near Munich, fishing and photography are my ‘thing,’ my way out and compensation for a stressful job.

I am still a trout fisherman and always will be, but I like the spey community. Not because I am the greatest caster on earth. I like the approach, the art and the philosophy behind it. Meanwhile, I often go back to the basics in photography.  This fall, I mainly used a traditional 50 mm lens and just searched for the right light or moment.  I like this method, and maybe that counts the most. At the moment,  you’ll  find me along my home rivers in the Alps chasing hucho hucho.


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