Fishing in Solitude, Catching up with an Ask the Pros Question
One of this years’ “Ask the Pro’s” questions came from Lucas, who was interested in what areas he should target in Alaska to find solitude while fishing for rainbow trout, dolly varden, and more. We followed up with him to see how his trip went and if he’d share any of the fishing holes he found; his thoughts are below. Send us your questions about Alaska fishing and we’ll get some feedback for you!
Where did you go on your fishing trip? Start, end? What rivers/streams did you fish?
I went into the trip with only a basic idea of where I wanted to go and planned to follow the best fishing. I arrived in Anchorage following two solid weeks of rain. Most of the rivers along the Parks Highway were a little too swollen, so I decided to head south first.
I spent the first four days fishing on the Kenai Peninsula, usually wading a river in the morning and hiking to a lake in the afternoon. The weather cooperated and the scenery was unbeatable. The highlights included Ptarmigan Creek, Crescent Lake, the Russian River, and Quartz Creek.
Growing slightly tired of the Labor Day crowds, I drove north and spent the following week fishing along the Parks Highway. The water looked good and was improving by the day. I fished Upper Montana Creek, Lower Montana Creek, Upper Willow Creek, Lower Willow Creek, Byers Creek, and Clear Creek.
Looping around back to Anchorage, I spent the last several days driving the Denali and Glen Highways. Trudging along the Denali Highway was a unique experience with incredible views and some fun fishing. I stopped and fished numerous little creeks and a few lakes for arctic grayling and lakers.
You mentioned you were going to hire a guide for a couple days a week and fish the other days by yourself. Did you end up hiring a guide?
I fished with a guide on two separate days. Adam Cuthriell from Fishhound Expeditions set me up with one of his guide Will Donnelly for a day on both Willow Creek and Clear Creek. They were the two best days of the entire trip.
Would you recommend others on a DIY fishing trip to hire a guide for a day or two? Did hiring a guide for part of your trip help you out at all on your self-guided fishing days? Any other benefits to hiring a guide?
Absolutely! Fishing with someone who knows the local waters is invaluable. The guys at Fishhound gave some great advice regarding which areas to target for the rest of my trip, along with fly recommendations and techniques. I always learn a lot from guided trips and walk away feeling like a much more capable fisherman. Also, unless you’ve got your own boat and a shuttle system worked out, one of the biggest benefits of hiring a guide is access to parts of the river you would never reach just wading around.
What was the best part about having a guide for part of your trip?
The best part of hiring a guide was simply spending time on the water with a passionate and knowledgeable fisherman. Most of the guides I’ve been around, including the ones I met on this trip, have a great respect for the resource and are eager to teach others how to take care of it. I appreciate those types of people.
Did you find the advice from your "Ask the Pros" question helpful? If so which parts were the most helpful?
Yea, the answers were definitely helpful and much appreciated. One of the unexpected benefits was finding good points of contact for the trip. Mike from Mossy’s Fly Shop and Adam from FishHound Expeditions both weighed in on my question (along with others), so I already knew where to stop in Anchorage to get flies and tackle and when I wanted to find a guide in the Willow area I gave Adam a call.
What fish species did you target in Alaska?
Since it was getting late in the year for salmon, I spent most of my time going after big rainbow trout. However, there were a few opportunities to fish for late run silvers and chums. Along the Denali Highway I was in grayling country and had a blast with some light weight gear up there.
Where did you get the flies you used during your trip? Did you tie them yourself, get them online, get them up there? And which flies ended up working best for you?
As I mentioned above, I stopped at Mossy’s Fly Shop in Anchorage on day one to grab flies and other tackle. I only brought a small box of self-tied streamers (none of which ended up being pink enough). Those guys set me up with some go-to streamers, flesh, and beads. Beads are king during that time of year and all their recommendations served me well. Some people feel as though you can save a few bucks buying online, but you’re most likely going to end up buying what you don’t need. The best colors and sizes can change throughout the summer/ fall, so I think it’s best to just get all your flies locally at the start of your trip if you can.
On your DIY self-guided days how did you decide where to fish?
Also how did you find the access points where you ended up fishing on your DIY days?
DIY days were largely based on what I was hearing from the guys at Mossy’s and Fishhound. I found plenty of water I could wade in. I brought along a few books by Gunnar Pedersen that are invaluable for finding fishing along the roadways (see the attached pictures). Based on recommendations from the local guys I used these guidebooks to find the best access points. A Gazetteer is also helpful when you don’t have cell phone signal.
Where did you stay during your trip?
I lived out of a camper van for the entire trip. It was infinitely more comfortable than a tent and much cheaper than nightly lodging. I rented through Northwest Van Campers in Anchorage. They’re a fairly small, locally-owned business with awesome vans and even better service!
How much fishing gear did you bring up with you? What size rods/reels too? And would you do anything different packing for your next trip?
I packed 3 rods: 4, 6, and 8 weight with reels of the same size, trying to cover any fish I might be targeting. I also brought essentially all the gear I’d take with me for a day on the water back home. One of the only things I left at home was a net, which was too long to fit in my duffel. Next time I’ll make sure that my wading boots are fully broken-in. I replaced a worn out pair just before the trip and they brutalized my feet!
What was your best day of fishing?
The best day of fishing was a fly-in trip to Clear Creek with the guys from Fishhound. Will Donnelly and I hopped in a helicopter in Talkeetna for single day float down Clear Creek and the Talkeetna River back into town. Top-water fishing for silvers and hooking into football sized rainbows made for an epic day.
What was your worst day of fishing?
There were some days that I caught more fish than others, but I got so lucky with perfect weather during the entire trip and met so many cool people that I honestly can’t pick out a single bad day.
What was your most memorable catch of your trip?
The most memorable catch of the trip happened at the end of the day on Clear Creek. I was fishing from the bank about 30 yards downstream of the boat. I drifted an egg through a riffle and hooked into what appeared to be the biggest fish of the day. My guide, Will, and I watched it tail-walk downstream and we knew that we would need to do some chasing. I started to run downstream while Will ran for the boat. I chased the fish for a short while in knee deep water, but soon couldn’t go any farther without crossing the river. The fish had ripped all but the last few inches of backing off the reel when Will paddled up behind me and scooped me into the boat. We chased the fish a few hundred yards farther downstream and finally managed to slow him down enough to get him to the bank and in a net. It was the biggest trout of the entire trip and a perfect end to the day.
Did you bring any fish home with you? If so how was that process?
I released all the fish during the trip.
How much did your two week semi-DIY trip end up costing?
I didn’t keep a very good record of expenses at all, but I think the whole two week trip ended up being around $4000. About $2400 went to airfare and the van rental. The rest covered guide fees, flies, gas, food, and a lot of really great Alaskan beer. Keep in mind that this was a solo trip, but you can split a lot of those expenses with a fishing buddy or two.
Were you able to fish away from crowds like you had planned?
Yes, I was able to get away from the crowds. It helped that I spent a lot of my time targeting trout and dollies versus salmon. The Kenai was a busy area but that is fairly predictable.
Do you plan to go back to Alaska for another fishing trip?
Absolutely, another trip is already in the works!
Would you mind sharing a few photos with us to include in the article?
Sure, here are some of my favorites!