Fly-Fishing Along the Alaska Parks Highway
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You may recognize the name of Mossy's Fly Shop located in Anchorage, Alaska. The owner and operator, Mike Brown, is one of the regular Alaska fishing experts answering our “Ask the Pros” questions. Mike brings a slightly different perspective in his answers to your questions because he talks to so many Anchorage locals, and so many different visiting anglers, about fishing locations, fly patterns, etc.
Mike has experience with hike-in fishing trips up and down the Alaska Parks Highway, finding remote fishing spots all over. We asked some questions specific to a road trip style Alaska fishing trip - you can check out his replies below and send your questions for our Alaska fishing experts here.
Driving from Anchorage and Getting Remote
A lot of the questions we get on remote fishing spots seem to have a starting point of Anchorage, AK. So, the following questions were based on the idea of anglers starting their trip in Anchorage, hopping in a rental car, and hitting the road for a 7-10 day fly fishing trip away from the crowds on the Alaska road system.
Is targeting the Alaska Parks Highway the best bet from Anchorage?
Yes, I believe that your best fishing option near Anchorage for solitude will be going North on the Parks Highway. You have a ton of smaller, walk-n-wade streams, but you're not limited to just the common streams you might always hear about. You can keep going towards Fairbanks and get in to Arctic Grayling country around Denali National Park. Once in Grayling country that is pretty much all you will find but you will have a ton of options and solitude. While Grayling are small, they are a beautiful fish. I think Grayling are very much underrated. You can also drive into Talkeetna and for like $60 (I think), get a boat drop off/pick up on Clear Creek as well.
Without giving away your 'secret' spots...what are some of your favorite hike-in fishing options along the Parks Highway? And, can you wade in most of these creeks/rivers?
Willow and Montana Creek, both below and above the highway, will have hike-in options on them. Troublesome also has hike-in options as well as Buyers. One thing you have to really keep in mind on these rivers that are filled with salmon is that bears gravitate to them. You need to be very bear conscious and prepared for them. In normal or low conditions, yes you can wader them but some are tough if we are having a high water event.
Q: How far north of Anchorage do you need to go to get to the fishing opportunities along the Parks Highway?
Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes drive north from Anchorage.
If you had a week to fish the parks highway how far north along the Parks Highway would you recommend going? Would you go all the way to Denali / Fairbanks area?
I would probably not venture much more than to Healy, which is just north of Denali. Not to say there isn't fishing all the way to Fairbanks but that would be my preferred turn around. Going into Fairbanks you can fish the Chena River right in town or head further north above Fairbanks to fish the Upper Chena River. It's just a long drive getting up there.
Can you describe how the fishing & species available change as you go north from Anchorage to Denali / Fairbanks along the Alaska Parks Highway system?
From Wasilla to Hurricane Gulch (about 1/3 into the Denali area) you will find Rainbow Trout and Grayling. You can fish trout/grayling from the mouth all the way up but you will be in Grayling country once you go across Hurricane Gulch. If you are targeting salmon (provided salmon fishing is open) you can only target them below the parks highway bridges.
Are the trailheads / parking areas usually well marked?
Some yes and some no. You do have to be careful of private property in some places, but in Alaska you have the natural high water mean, so you don't have to worry once in the water.
What length of hikes are you generally looking at when hiking into a creek or river along the Parks Highway? If you can only bring two fly rods, which sizes would you suggest?
For the most part a few yards to a mile at most. I'd say, for rods, go with 3/4wt for Grayling and a 6wt for trout.
Pre-Trip Preparation: timing, sleeping, etc
What would be the best months to plan a trip like this? If somebody can't get to up during that prime time, then what would be the earliest & latest dates a trip like this would make sense?
Mid-June through August would be prime time. You can start in May, but spring runoff can be a problem. September is still good but can be a little tougher to find the fish because salmon are dying and flushing the food source out.
Why should someone stop into Mossy's Fly Shop before venturing out on a trip like this?
I think it's a good idea to stop into local shops to get the latest intel on what's going on currently with the fisheries you are looking at, see if they have any bugs you don't have and what's hot and working right now. It never hurts to show the shop what you brought and make sure you are on the right track. Also being in Alaska and fishing in salmon rivers, we have a lot of emergency orders that come down the pipe so you want to find out if there are any closures or restrictions that may have come out that go against what the regulation book says. It's also a good idea to ask about what the bear activity is like in the area you are going.
What are the lodging & dining options along the parks highway?
There are a few lodges and B&B's as well as campgrounds along the way. With the decline of salmon returns in a lot of these rivers, businesses with lodging have struggled over the years and there are not as many as we use to have so I would investigate and book them sooner than later. It's really easy to base out of Wasilla, Willow, or even Talkeetna if you don't mind a little driving each day to get to the water.
If somebody doing a road-trip like this wanted to add a day or two of guided fishing into the trip, what area would you suggest they look?
Your best two options for fishing guides are going to be for the Willow area and Denali
What are some of the most important things to keep in mind for safety when venturing out on your own on a trip like this?
Bear awareness #1. I am not saying you are going to have issues, but they are around and you need to be prepared and know what to do if an encounter happens. Even though it's summer, Alaska is a cooler place than most are use to, especially at night so always have a way to make a fire in-case something happens and you have to spend an unexpected night out. On the same line, having the right clothing is critical and always have raingear.
Any other advice you'd have for someone considering a trip like this?
Come prepared for all weather conditions and have fun. Alaska is a magical place and has so much to offer for the outdoor enthusiast. Bring a camera, the mountains and rivers are stunning, there is so much to take pictures of.