Alaska, CLUB Signature Events and the Charm of Hyperbole

killer whale followed by small boat

Alaska is a land of hyperbole. It is the type of place that resets perspective. The type of place that is difficult to describe without referencing itself. There are not many places like it.

While there is a fair bit of subjectivity when it comes to calling somewhere “the most beautiful place in the world,” Alaska has perhaps as much claim to this mantle as any. John Muir, the famed naturalist, is said to have written in his journal that “you should never go to Alaska as a young man because you’ll never be satisfied with another place as long as you live.”

boat moving across water with mountains in background

Alaska is home to mountains every bit as majestic as the Rockies. The state boasts saltwater fishing good enough to rival any place in the United States. It is home to the largest bears in the world, Earth’s largest species of deer, and the tallest coastal mountain in North America.

Alaska is wild and it is beautiful. Blessed by some of the most productive waters on Earth—humpback whales migrate to feed here all the way from Hawaii. Alaska’s oceans have been supporting humans for 10,000 years… continuously. The people who reside here have a special charm all their own.

josh and christina graves
Gustavus, Alasaka is home to wonderful hospitality, incredible scenery and one of the best saltwater fishing lineups in North America.

The setting for this CLUB Signature Event is Gustavus, Alaska (pronounced “Gus Davis” by its 300 locals). Inaccessible by road, Gustavus is surrounded on three sides by the 3.2-million-acre Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and on the fourth by the frigid waters of the North Pacific. You can get here by plane or boat.

Like every CLUB Signature Event, the trip’s hosts are accomplished in the fine art of hospitality. They are well versed in making the region’s unique charm accessible. The result is backstage pass to one of North America’s most ruggedly beautiful places and a masterclass in halibut and ocean-run salmon fishing.

fishing rod and reel setup on boat deck with alaskan shoreline
That's Chichagof Island, home of the highest bear population density on Earth... It is literally surrounded by salmon.

A quick glance at a map belies the wildness of the place. While staying in Gustavus, you’ll be fishing in places known as Glacier Bay and the Icy Strait. Names that sound like they come from an adventure novel written for the young adult demographic. Trolling for king salmon within rock-throwing distance of Chichagof Island may not sound as adventurous, until someone informs you that the place is home to the highest population density of bears on earth.

angler holding halibut

Then there’s what you came for. Gustavus lies at ground zero of one of the world’s premier halibut fisheries. The bottom is crawling with them. The seafloor is a patch work of tasty, flattened barn doors (the term for fully grown halibut), chickens (little ones), keepers (the size that come for a boat ride) and over slots (halibut that are bigger than keepers but not quite barn doors).

halibut under surface of water caught on fishing line

At the right time of year, anglers have a realistic chance to catch all five species of Pacific salmon in the same day—King, Coho, Pink, Chum and Sockeye. On our trip in mid-June, a boat caught four species in a day, falling a sockeye short of the Alaskan grand slam.

anglers holding salmon from a successful fishing trip on boat

Not only is the fishing very good, but it takes place within a wonderland of visual stimulation. While trolling flashers on downriggers out front of Glacier Bay, anglers are likely to see humpbacks and orcas. Sea lions lounge about on rocky shorelines and islands as predictably as pigeons flock to people eating sandwiches on benches in city parks.

Rafts of sea otters numbering in the dozens—sometimes hundreds—float tide lines, drifting down stream between trips to the bottom. When a running boat approaches closely enough to disturb them, the charismatic things throw both their hands into the air before porpoising themselves down into the ocean. The white heads of bald eagles punctuate the deep green of oceanside forests and the stark brown of the boulders that protrude from the sea—the color of weathered pennies, glistening in the spray of unending waves.

alaskan shoreline covered in trees with water breaking on rocks

The ocean is alive here. The tidal flux at this latitude can run the range of 25 feet. In the summertime daylight can last 20 hours or more.

The low cloud ceilings that billow through the mountains can bring with them fog or rain. There exists a perpetual mist floating through the forest. It seems to have a magical quality about it.

Oxygen factories, the forests make breathing easy here. Looking at the spruce trees and the moss that envelopes the ground in a spongy veil of yellowish green, you can imagine how people once believed in gnomes. If they lived anywhere, it surely would have been Alaska. Who knows, maybe gnomes are still here.

alaskan shore with mountain backdrop

On clear days, you can see the mountains that surround the place. That’s apparently how the Fairweather Mountains got their name. Your mind may well drift off into the wonder of fishing for giant halibut or a limit of salmon in the shadow of a giant snow-covered rock that reaches 15,300 feet into the atmosphere. Your contemplation may well also be disturbed by the exclamation that someone has spotted a brown bear, a moose or a pack of wolves on the beach.

fishing boat with mountains and glaciers in background

Alaska is marked by overstimulation, sensory overload by natural beauty. In a trip’s fishing, your focus is likely to oscillate between such wonders as breaching humpbacks, eagles trying to snatch fish out of the sea, the strange intrigue of spruce forests, and the bouncing rod tip that announces that a halibut has located the offering that sits on the bottom, 130 feet beneath your feet.

Then there are the glaciers. There is something innately peaceful about gazing upon a piece of ice that is hundreds of feet thick and 30 miles long. All in all, it is a wonderful, multidimensional competition for your attention.

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s CLUB

This place and this trip provide the essence of what the CLUB Signature Events are all about. While there is subjectivity in ranking the world’s most-beautiful places, we offer its trademark brand of curated sporting excursion to many of them.

Every year, this team takes CLUB Members to many destinations that could carry the title of “world’s most beautiful”, as capably as could Alaska. Places whose beauty and charm, while expressed using different terms, are described with the same magnitude and enthusiasm.

There are the peacock bass fishing trips in the Brazilian Amazon that are hosted from weeklong, liveaboard riverboats. Then there is plying the tropical waters of the Pacific coast of Central America, trolling for sailfish and blue marlin. Though it is entirely different and takes place half a world away, the spectacle that is a marlin in flight is every bit as perspective changing as contemplating the Alaska skyline from a salmon boat. There are also the Ibex hunting trips in the Iberian foothills of Spain, elk hunts in Wyoming, boat-based Alaskan brown bear expeditions, and many others.

anglers return from a successful halibut fishing excursion

Though each of these experiences unfolds in terms of its own and they take place in locations that are physically separate from one another— the trips are connected. Each somehow imparts unto a select group of fortunate guests the trademark CLUB Signature Event experience.

It is an experience that is curated. One that is specially designed and hand selected. The care that goes into the trips’ preparation and execution do much to ensure that the results are predictable. No matter the location or the activity, every trip is measured in charm, wonder and hospitality.

older couple in yellow rain jackets on boat

CLUB Signature Events are compiled by a team that understands the passion of sportsmen and women intimately. The lodges and outfitters chosen to conduct the trips are those whose operations gracefully connect the normally disparate concepts of “wild,” “remote,” and “exotic,” with “hospitality,” “comfort,” and “service.” Each trip is accompanied by a professional host and a world-class photographer.

The experiences included in the lineup of CLUB Signature Events are, in every manner and at every turn, crafted to make world-class hunting, fishing and adventure trips accessible. It does so reliably and predictably… many times a year, for hundreds of guests, all over the world.

There is charm in hyperbole.