Had the Vikings been fly fishermen, bear hunters, and eagle watchers, instead of plunders and pillagers, Alaska would have been their definition of Valhalla. It certainly is mine. My wife, who is now known as “She who leaves no fish untouched” (SWLNFUT), had just returned from a weeklong fly-fishing trip to Alaska. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the beauty and awesomeness of the 49th state. So I won’t try, except to say, “You have to see it to believe it.”
We stayed at the No-See-Um Lodge located north of King Salmon. Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures arranged the trip. As in the past, Yellow Dog did a superior job of sending us to a great destination. The staff at the lodge was some of the most professional and competent hosts I have ever met. 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 the bugs. 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 helped us catch; 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. The fly patterns used were egg patterns, bass poppers, royal wulffs, elk hair caddises, and streamers that sank like anvils.
The egg patterns worked great on the 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.
As far as the bears and eagles go, they were everywhere, everyday. SWLNFUT and I showed the bears where the fish were. Sometimes it felt as if you had a 700 pound dog just following you 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 to aggressive or close. One bear wanted the fish SWLNFUT had on, and another bear wanted the spot I was fishing. Our guides discouraged both bears.
The bears were huge, compared to those in Durango. The bald eagles were also larger. A park service ranger explained that since 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.