Alaska Steelhead Explorer

The Viaggio Alaska Steelhead Explorer program offers Montana Angler guests an opportunity to sample the small coastal waters of Southeast Alaska in search of dime bright steelhead. Captain Trig Papenfuse and your fishing guides have one goal in mind, to put you in rarely accessed or fished streams and rivers draining from both the mainland as well as numerous islands systems. The beauty of this yacht based trip is that depending on weather and water conditions you can always be in the game for finding untouched steelhead within relatively short distances of the saltwater. The crew and guides have worked hard to learn the area waters and what it has to offer but keep in mind this is still very much an exploratory trip. The shear volume of watersheds that have potential to hold fresh sea-run steelhead is impressive. Most of these watersheds have little to no data available surrounding not only the size or flow of water but especially the presence of fish and their numbers. The experience of the search is well worth the payoff when you find a run of over sized steelhead in cold, clean, clear water within short distances of the ocean. Each day guests will hike up small waters in search of fish. Steelhead in these coastal waters move in and out quickly and fish are not found every day, but in general prospects are good for finding fish on most days of the trip.

The crew of the Viaggio know where to find the best anchor locations for each of the the different drainages so that you are never far from the water you are fishing. Every morning you will take a short jet boat ride from the Viaggio yacht to the shore or up the river before hiking and fishing your way upstream in search of fish. Each day will offer different hiking distances based on the number of fish you come across and the time you spend targeting them. These are streams that are rarely frequented and significant "bush-whacking" is often required. 

It is important for guests to understand that catch rates for wild steelhead are not high. Some days we may not find fish, and other days the fish that are found may be finicky or may break off. Landing rates can be low due to the large size of these fish, their strong nature and the challenging water that we find them in. This is truly an adventurous trip and all guests need to be in good enough shape to hike up wild rivers. 

Trips disembark from Petersburg, Alaska and take place in the Tongass National Forest. Trips are operated under special use permits through the US Forest Service within the Tongass National Forest. Guides are licensed Alaska guides.

Since we are targeting migratory steelhead the season is very compressed so only three trips will be offered each year from mid April to mid May during the peak of the run. Please see the rates tabs for specific dates. 

Group size:
Every attempt is made to run trips with groups of 4 guests. If your party is less than 4 anglers let us know and we will work to pair you with another smaller party. Although the boat can handle more individuals we feel it is important to limit the number of anglers to ensure a high quality experience so for fishing parties the maximum size is a group of 4.

2017 late Alaska Steelhead trip report

2019 Guide Scouting Week report

We have a rare opening for a prime late April 2020. Please contact us if you have interest!


$6000 per person - 7 nights/6 days all-inclusive aboard the Viaggio - based on 4 person maximum occupancy
*8000 per person if it is a party of 3

**NOTE - we require all guests to secure a global evacuation insurance package with Global Rescue for this trip (a week membership is approximately $150/person). We can facilitate this for all guests. 

Exploratory steelhead trips are based on 4 anglers and 2 guides. Every attempt is made to run trips with groups of 4 guests. If your party is less than 4 anglers let us know and we will work to pair you with another smaller party. Although the boat can handle more individuals we feel it is important to limit the number of anglers to ensure a high quality experience so for fishing parties the maximum size is a group of 4.

All exploratory steelhead trips are to and from Petersburg Alaska.

2020 Trip Dates (please contact us to be added to the 2020 wait list; return clients from the 2019 season have the first right of refusal for the following season. Open 2020 dates will be releases in June of 2019 and those on the wait list will be contacted first to book any open spaces).
April 9-April 16
April 17-April 24
April 25-May 2
May 3-May 10
May 11-May 18

Sample Itinerary:
Arrival Day - fly into Petersburg, arrive later afternoon from Juneau - pickup by Viaggio staff and transfer to boat, stay on boat overnight in port
Day 1 - desembark from Petersburg early in morning, breakfast on route to fishing grounds - fishing by late morning/early afternoon depending on location
Day 2 - fishing
Day 3 - fishing
Day 4 - fishing
Day 5 - fishing
Day 6 - fishing, travel back to Petersburg (*fishing on final day may be impacted based on weather in order to provide enough time to get back to port) - transfer to Scandia House on final night
Departure day - hotel provides shuttle late morning to airport to fly home for the early flight out to Juneau

*Itinerary Notes:
The standard itinerary provides for up to 6 days of fishing but is based on weather and conditions. Safety always takes top priority and adverse weather could possibly lengthen run times which can reduce fishing. Guests also often enjoy other aspects of the spectacular Southeast Alaska environment and may opt to enjoy glacier viewing, setting crab pots, jigging for ocean fish, etc.

Included: double occupancy accommodations on board, all meals, beer and wine (served with dinner), guides, rods, reels, flies, leaders, all taxes, vessel fuel, 2 jet boats, crab & shrimp pot bait, ocean fishing rods & bait & lures, hotel room in Petersburg on night before departure airport/hotel/charter shuttles

Excluded: Travel to and from Petersburg Alaska, hotel & meals in Petersburg on arrival and departure days, Alaska fishing license, specialty liquors (can purchase in Petersburg), waders (felt soles are not allowed by AK laws), guide and charter staff gratuities (recommend considering 15-20% gratuity)


The steelhead fishing based off the VIAGGIO is designed with the adventurous fly fisher in mind. Coastal steelheading can be as much fun as it is challenging.

All steelhead fishing is catch and release and done on the fly with single hand rods most of the time. Two handed spey casting can be done in certain places but most of the waters are smaller and better suited for single hand rod use. The fish will readily take dead drifted nymphs & eggs, stripped streamers, and swung flies. Your guides will work hard to put you in the best possible position with the correct technique to hopefully maximize your success. Suggested single hand rods are 8-9 weight rods with aggressive weight forward floating lines; two handed rods in the 7 weight range and slightly on the shorter end paired with a skagit style line can occasionally be used on some of the larger systems. A lot of the day is spent hiking and dense brush can sometimes be encountered which provides challenging for longer spey rods. Sinking lines are not needed but can be useful in certain areas at times. We fish the heaviest possible leaders and tippet to aid in landing these strong fish. We treat the fish with the utmost respect and keep them off of the rocks and in the water at all times.

These fish are wiley and hot. They have ocean sized strength that is hard to corral in the small streams and rivers, they have not traveled great distances inland so are as fresh and feisty as you will find anywhere. These wild steelhead can vary between 20 & 40 inches and 5 to 25 pounds, bigger fish have been seen and caught on occasion. Stalking and hooking them is one thing but landing them is whole other ball of wax. 

Each day brings a different adventure. All fishing is wade fishing done via hiking through sometimes mellow game trails and other times bushwhacking through dense forest. Rubber soled boots with studs are very helpful in this environment (no felt is allowed in Alaska). The daily commute on foot can be fairly physical and demanding at times. It is VERY important for anglers to be in a good physical shape to get the most out of each day.

We do not take the term exploratory term lightly, the sheer size of the Tongass National Forest is mind blowing and the number of watersheds that hold the potential for good wild steelhead is enormous. It should also be noted that while the opportunities are virtually endless, the steelhead resources are delicate and can vary from year to year as well as week to week. Groups of fish may push into the streams to stay for longer periods of time or make quick visits to spawn and return to the salt in only a matter of days.  Some fisheries will be filled with steelhead while others nearly devoid. The timing of steelhead runs is slightly different from stream to stream. Captain Trig and the guides always keep a flexible game plan and schedule to keep you on the move and in the game to offer you the best possible opportunity to maximize your fishing time and success. Although hooking and landing steelhead very day of the trip is possible it is unlikely. Anglers should understand that this style of fishing is hard work and we are focusing on quality over quantity. Guests should expect that some days no fish may be landed. Often some days we catch the run just right on one fishery but on another the fish are finicky, or the timing of the run is not perfect. Some days guests may need to cover a lot of water to find fish. This can be tough and challenging fishing but the rewards of sight casting to 30" plus wild steelhead in clear small stream waters is what this trip is about. We have other Alaskan venues where we expect high fish counts of large lake run rainbow trout - if high catch rates are important to you other trips are a better match. If you are seeking adventure in a wild place with some truly special moments possible on small clear waters for big fish then this may be a good fit. 

The opportunity also exists to target other species in the salt water including halibut, salmon and more. Often the crew will also drop crab and shrimp pots to soak overnight in hopes of an ultra fresh meal. Guests also often take time to view glaciers, whale watch, kayak, etc.


The Viaggio is a Hatteras Motor Yacht that was originally built in 1981 and has been updated and retrofit continuously since Trig purchased her in 2008. She has a main deck with covered walkarounds for easy access from the enclosed aft deck to the foredeck. We really like this feature for photo ops during damp days on the water. On the foredeck, there is plenty of room for hanging out on a built in settee or standing along the rail enjoying wildlife viewing. The flybridge deck has a spacious seating area with a couple forward facing helm seats and a u-shaped bench seat. On nice days, it's great to go up and enjoy the sun warming you and have a 360-degree view of the amazing sights. At Viaggio's stern, we have a large boarding area which makes getting on/off the sport boat, tender or into kayaks a simple and safe task for everyone.

The Viaggio is equipped with roll stabilization which is a re-directing of water flow via external fins that counteracts the rolling motion. Generally speaking, the Viaggio rolls less than comparable yachts without stabilizers.

The USCG auxiliary inspects the Viaggio annually to ensure it has the appropriate safety items including: flares, a random drug testing program, life vests, working navigational lighting and more. They request that the US Coast Guard come aboard to double check all of these items to ensure maximum guest safety in case of the rare emergency. They are very proud of their 4-star safety rating!

Captain Trig averages over 6000 nautical miles per year in Alaska, he knows the area extremely well providing intimate access and knowledge to find calm, scenic, out of the way anchorages while search for the best fishing, and wildlife view.

Viaggio's Dimensions:
Length - 72'
Beam - 18.5'
Draft - 5'
Cruising speed - 8-10 knots

Loaded onto the Viaggio for use to tour around and access the streams and rivers are a 15' Alumaweld jet boat and 4 sea kayaks (2 singles & 2 doubles). She also pulls a larger 23' Custom jet boat with 225hp outboard and winch for hauling crab and shrimp pots.

For the Steelhead Exploratory trips the Viaggio utilizes 2 guest staterooms on the lower level each configured with 2 twin berths. All of the berths are at convenient heights and require no climbing to get into. The 2 guest staterooms share a head and shower, but guests can also utilize the guides head and shower as well.

The main level includes the captain's wheel house, galley, and comfortable salon area as well as dining area on the enclosed aft deck with heat/air for comfortable 180-degree views. The salon is well appointed with a comfortable couch and chairs to enjoy a cocktail or good book and large windows for easy viewing of the surrounding scenery.

The wheelhouse provides a great view of where you are headed and you are more than welcome to join Trig to learn more about south east Alaska and piloting the boat.

You will be well fed while on board! Hearty breakfasts will fuel your days hunting for big wild steelhead. Shore lunches are packed and carried with the guides to enjoy while out on the streams. Appetizers will be ready upon your return to the boat, followed by gourmet dinners that will not disappoint. You and the crew have the option of dropping crab and shrimp pots for as fresh as you can get seafood apps and dinners.

Hotel Accommodations on Final Night
On the final night of the trip the staff will transfer you and your luggage from the Viaggio to a local hotel, the Scandia House. Hotel options are limited in Petersburg, but the Scandia house provides a great location with clean and comfortable rooms. The hotel will also shuttle you to the airport on your departure day.

Travel to Petersburg:
We recommend flying into Petersburg the day before departure. Guests can stay at a local inn near the docks. Most guests fly Alaska Airlines through Juneau arriving in the late afternoon around 3pm (and then transfer to the Viaggio in port). There is also an option to take the morning "milk run" flight out of Seattle that stops in Ketchikan and Wrangel before arriving at Petersburg. The boat departs early in the morning on the first full day of the trip. On departure day we recommend the late morning flight out of Petersburg and it is generally possible to get home the same day.