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Goodnews River in Alaska

Trip Overview

We floated the lovely Goodnews River this past Aug/Sept for 13 days. We flew into Goodnews Lake with Rick Grant (Tickchik Airventures in Dillingham, AK) on a bright and sunny afternoon. The lake is very large and we had been told it had some great lake trout fishing. We saw thousands of reds near the shore and some dollies, but never caught a lake trout. We paddled the 60 miles down to the village of Goodnews Bay where we had a wheel plane return trip to Dillingham.

The river was easy going. Just swift in some spots where elevation changes were involved and a few narrowings. It was a class I float 90% of the way with spots here and there where there were boulders to avoid. We did run up on one sharp rock and cut a hole in our Ally pack canoe. As usual, it was quick and easy to repair the unstoppable Ally canoe. Made in Norway, these things are absolutely amazing. This is the third Alaska float trip mine has been on and I could not imagine living without one.

There were plenty of great campsites to choose from along the river. Expansive gravel bars littered with firewood. We saw three other groups in rafts along during the two weeks on the Goodnews. Not the solitude NW Alaska floats offer, but not bad. This is a premier fishing river in Alaska for float trippers. I mean world class fishing. Which was our primary purpose for being there. As avid fly fisherman, floating the Goodnews is a right of passage. Along the way, we caught many dolly vardon (similar to arctic char) pretty much throughout the whole river. There were spots where we would see many rainbows but it was off and on. Feeder creeks were productive in most all cases. We floated over some that were very large.

The silvers were found about half way down and fishing improved as we got towards the terminus. Many 12-15 pounders were caught and we had several wonderful salmon dinners on the campfire. Bright conditions made for pretty slow action in the middle of the day for silvers. We would find them laid up deep beside cliffs in outer curves of the river quite often. We would beach our Ally pack canoes and try to sneak back up towards the banks in order to cast at them. More often than not, they paid little attention to our flies. We had taken lots of bright pink flies and caught only a few on them. I finally got some success on a #2 olive bead head woolly bugger. The darker colors worked out well. In hindsight, I may have been better off with some smaller offerings.

We found a few rainbows mixed in with the silvers. They were being very defensive darting in and out of the mix. Hard to get their attention although we did catch a few. None larger than 22". But I saw several floating the river that had to have been 10 pound bows. The weather was unusually nice the whole trip. Bright sunny days. Dang! Good for floating and camping, not so good for the fishing.

We saw bears about every other day. All "good bears" at least. We watched on about 40 yards away fishing in the river for hours one night. He did not seem to care that we were there. Not as skittish as the bears we encountered in NW Alaska on the Kelly and Kugururok (Trip reports of those rivers are posted as well for those that would be interested).

On the final night, it was raining pretty hard and I heard an unmistakable sound as a brown bear walked across a small creek near our tents. It was 0300 and the last thing I wanted to see was walking straight toward my tent. He was about a 7.5' bear and had got to within 20 yards of my tent when I got out to take a look. Having floated a few Alaska rivers, I had been around bears a good bit. But, I was pretty scared this time. He was walking right towards me when I shined the Surefire M6 in his eyes. All 500 leumen! He froze with his front left paw in the air for what seemed like 20 seconds. OK, it was about 1/2 a second. But you get the point. Then he turned away and went back to from which he had came. I slept pretty lightly the rest of the night. Luckily it was our last night. He had come across us by chance I feel. It was a windy and rainy night.

The river was an easy paddle in our Ally pack canoes. No hazards to amount to anything. Just several places where mid stream rocks had to be avoided. No problems with unusually shallow areas. Some swift sections, but only a few that would classify as Class II. Beautiful mountain scenery all the way down. Wonderful camping sites that were numerous and most always provided abundant firewood. Just a few caribou where seen running the shores of Goodnews Lake. That herd has taken a decline of about 80% from what ADFG told me. They had stopped by one morning to check our license in a jet boat. Nice enough and they hung around for about 15 minutes chatting. They are true stewards of the land.

We had some slow fishing for the first 15 miles or so once we entered the river from Goodnews Lake. After that, it picked up pretty good and by the mid way point, we were catching dollies, grayling, rainbows, and silvers. The dollies were consistent through the whole river. Including the lake even. Most our fish were caught on Dolly Dynamite, Battle Creek Special, and Olive BHWB. Caught some silvers on a Pink Marauder (Hills Discount Flies). I feel that they would have worked even better if we would not have had bluebird skies every day. And we did much better in the evening on the silvers. Locating the pods was not hard in the gin clear Goodnews.

We will definitely go back. Perhaps even this year. I am wanting to try for Kings in early July. After floating this river, I can see where it would be a good place to fly fish for them. Good bank access and not very deep or wide. We could wade the river in many sections and could wade out enough to cast to the middle in 70% of it. A wonderful float with great scenery and very high fishing potential.

Here is a link to pictures from the Goodnews trip:

When you click on the link, you can select "view slideshow" in the upper right side.
Feel free to email me with any questions at

This is an easy do-it-yourself trip. Like any other, it just takes some good planning. Happy to help if I can.


Bush pilot was Rick Grant of Tikchik Airventures in Dillingham. He dropped us off at Goodnews Lake and picked us up about 5 miles above the Goodnews terminus in the ocean near the village of Goodnews Bay. Commercial airline from Anchorage to Dillingham and back.


Fly in only.


Call the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute for the best maps.
  • Duration: Extended Trip
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip