North to Alaska: Bush Flying in Alaska
I’m back in Alaska this week after spending the past several weeks in Michigan and Wisconsin. As always, I had a fabulous time representing Enstrom Helicopter at our booth for EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. It was a great week, and I got the warmup I was looking for. When I finally arrived back in Anchorage, the guides joked that the rain must be following me. The downpours stopped at the lodge when I left and resumed when I got back!
I spent my first day back working in a shop on Lake Hood overhauling swashplates and building up a transmission and rotor hub for a C-2. I then quickly found my way back into the usual routine at Talaheim Lodge.
We keep a consistent pace, flying eight clients each week to the lodge on a bush plane every Sunday morning. Typically, we use a Beaver and a Cessna 180 or 185. We allow them some time to settle in at our rustic (but nice) log cabins. After serving a hearty breakfast, we use the two Enstrom F-28F helicopters to fly our clients out to different spots along the rivers. These two Enstrom F-28F helicopters can comfortably transport two fishermen or two guides at a time.
Our top fishing spots include smaller rivers along the Alaska Range. Float planes can’t reach these rivers, meaning our clients usually don’t see another human being outside their group until we pick them up in the afternoon.
The fishermen like to target rainbow trout and grayling by sight fishing. King salmon begin to appear in June, and some weigh up to forty pounds. Then in July, we see more pink salmon, sockeyes, and silvers. The rainbows are considered the ultimate sport fish, and you can usually find them tailing the spawning salmon.
With so much wildlife diversity, we are easily able to switch up where our clients are fishing on a given day, providing a fresh, new experience each time. Plus, our guides are expert fly-fishermen and teach our clients the best way to cast and reach the fish. Sometimes, a guide’s catch makes a perfect lunch to cook over a fire.
Then, in the late afternoon, we fly back out to search for the fishermen, who tend to move downstream as they fish. We’ve worked out a system with the guides so that they know to stop at a location with plenty of space on the river for pickups. It’s a new location on the river every time, and it’s always a new, exciting exercise in technical helicopter flying.
We’ve learned to gauge the winds by noting the movement of tree leaves and ripples on the tundra ponds. We also look out for leaning trees, big rocks, low ceilings, and rain. Half of our landings are in totally unimproved locations. If we have decent weather, we will often make a couple trips out to land on the nearby glacier each week, as I described in last month’s update.
Until next month,
Bayard duPont is the Senior Technical Fellow Product and Technical Representative at Enstrom Helicopter.
About Enstrom HelicopterFrom Rudy Enstrom’s early designs in 1943 to initial testing in a Michigan Quarry in 1957 to aircraft operating on six continents, Enstrom Helicopter Corporation has maintained a reputation for safety, value and performance. Based in Menominee, Michigan and proudly made in the United States, Enstrom has a rich history for design innovation. The goal is to provide helicopters to the customer’s exact specification and deliver support and maintenance worldwide.