Had the Vikings been fly fishermen, bear hunters and eagle watchers, instead of plunderers and pillagers, Alaska would have been their definition of Valhalla. It certainly is mine.
My wife, who now is known as “She Who Leaves No Fish Untouched” (SWLNFUT), and I have just returned from a weeklong fly-fishing trip to Alaska. There are not enough adjectives to describe the beauty and awesomeness of the 49th state.
We stayed at the No-See-Um Lodge north of King Salmon. Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures did a superior job of sending us to a great destination. The staff at the lodge were some of the most professional and competent hosts I have ever been around. They made our trip a memorable one.
I’m sure you’re thinking, with a name like No-See-Um, the memorable part was doing battle with flying insects. To combat the bugs, I did a little research before we went and came up with a perfect formula to repel them. I first applied sunscreen. Over that I added a heavy layer of DEET-formulated bug repellent and then lit the first of several cigars for the day. The bugs stayed away; of course, so did everyone else. Well, not everyone else. The very competent guides said they had smelled worse and consented to guide me.
Their efforts had us catching rainbow trout, arctic char, sockeye salmon, chum salmon and grayling. The arctic char and sockeye salmon are referred to around here as brook trout and kokanee salmon. The big difference between here and there are the sizes of these species. They were much larger in Alaska.
To catch all of the species, 5, 6, and 7-weight rods worked great. Egg patterns, bass poppers, royal wulffs, elk hair caddises and streamers that sank like anvils were the fly patterns we used.
Egg patterns worked great for trout, char and grayling. That trio liked to hide underneath the sockeye and eat their eggs. The salmon run was just getting started, so the salmon were there by the millions and the trout and grayling by the tens of thousands.
The dry flies worked when we found rainbows and chars hiding in the riffles, by tree stumps or the underbrush. I managed to catch some really large rainbows with dries.
The bass poppers were used for the chum salmon. This became my favorite fish. They aggressively took the popper, weighted around 10 pounds, and brought my backing to the light of day. Any fish that can do that in freshwater is my new best friend.
As far as the bears and eagles go, they were everywhere every day. SWLNFUT and I showed the bears where the fish were. Sometimes it felt as if we had a 700-pound dog following us around. The bears caught and ate the salmon. The eagles ate what the bears didn’t. It was a great partnership. Only twice did bears get a little too aggressive or close. One bear wanted a fish SWLNFUT had on, and another bear wanted the spot I was fishing. Both bears were discouraged by our guides.
The bears were huge, compared with those in Durango. The bald eagles also were larger. A Park Service ranger explained that because the eagles in Alaska ate more salmon than those in Colorado, their diet was richer in vitamins and nutrients. Made sense to me.
Even if you don’t fly-fish, Alaska needs to be on your list of places to visit. It is indescribable.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.